Theology Thursday: Compare and contrast the Bible and its authority to general revelation and its au
We live in a very spiritual area of the country. People literally come from all over the world to worship here, particularly during certain festivals and events, but year-round you can find people devoted to worshipping nature. We’re thankful for their commitment to growing clean food because we reap the benefits of their love for the earth. But sometimes, I am overcome with emotion as my efforts to introduce my friends to the Creator seem futile. I am thankful that God has designed His creation in such a way that it stirs up a desire for spiritual knowledge. My prayer is that we are in the right place at the right time to open God’s Word and show His Truth to the people we love.
The Bible’s far reaching authority does not exclude the fact that many in history have seen God’s hand without ever having read from its pages. Of course, it is the Bible that explains that wonder, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). How can one look at a blazing sunset (the photo is of the Sea of Galilee) with its rainbow of hues and not be overwhelmed with the knowledge that there is a Creator? Acts 14:16-17 and Romans 1:19-21 also testify to the fact that creation points people back to the Creator.
Therefore, it also holds true that though one may not subscribe to biblical principles, he is bound by them, to some degree. For example, non-believers talk about being plagued by a guilty conscience. This is a gift from God, a display of His authority in their lives, though they have not asked for it. God’s common grace to all mankind puts stops in the minds of all men to hold back the evil in the world. As the Bible says, “The law is written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:15). Because God exercised this authority over mankind, He also intends to hold man responsible for the sin he does, though he may not ever read a Bible outlining the specific infractions of the law.
The Bible’s authority, however, when it is known is sharp and cutting (Heb. 4:12), revealing not just the actions of a man that sin against God, but the wickedness of his heart that shows him who he really is, even when he is able to suppress his outward foolishness. The special revelation given through the words of Jesus and the Word of God as recorded by His servants, can take root in the hearts of unbelievers because they have personally experienced some of the grace of God through general revelation. The mere ability of the unbeliever to hear the words of Scripture being read, or to process them in his mind, is evidence that God’s common grace is at work in his life (“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both.” [Prov. 20:12]). It is clear that there are times when God does not allow a person to understand His truth, as demonstrated in Romans when Paul refers to Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10, “Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day’” (11:8). And this verse shows that the opposite is also true; it is He who opens the eyes of the spiritually blind. The intensity of God’s goodness as shown in general revelation is so powerful that all are without excuse when it comes to knowing God personally. In Acts 14:17, Paul states, “Yet, He did not leave Himself without witness, for he did good by giving your rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Romans 1:20 tells us, “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” As one person states, “Paul is stating as clearly as he could possibly have stated, exactly what Immanuel Kant says is fundamentally impossible. He is saying that they invisible qualities of God are clearly seen in the created order.” Yet, fully understanding the need of man for a Savior and God’s plan for man’s salvation through Jesus Christ is not possible simply by observing nature; after Jesus’ ascension (and now not being able to hear it directly from Him), the Bible is the only way a person can enter into a right standing before our holy God. Since God requires saving faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for one’s sins, such knowledge is not possible to obtain outside of the inspired Word of God.
General revelation’s authority is in submission to the authority of the special revelation of God as revealed in Scripture. Scientists will not “discover” anything that contradicts Scripture. Therefore, because we are human, we must be careful when “interpreting” general revelation because our own vision is skewed by the simple fact that we are human (1 Cor. 13:9-12). Special revelation has the final authority because it is the Word of God (Jn. 1:1-5). General revelation is somewhat passive in nature by God because it must be obtained by man, but God is actively revealing truth in special revelation (Ps. 33:8). General revelation is available to all; special revelation is only available to believers. Yet, general revelation does not give anyone enough specific information about the gospel that one could become a believer; that must be found in the Bible. That is why Jesus left us with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).
 Sproul, R. C. (1994). The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans. Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.
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