Friday, January 25, 2008

General Revelation

I've had to do quite a bit of reading recently on the idea of General Revelation and Natural Theology - basically what we can tell about God from looking at the world around us.

I still think Calvin's treatment of it is about as good as they come. He points out that we should be able to tell lots about God from creation, but that we can't see all of it, and we often get bits wrong because we're sinful and blind, and because the blindness and the sinfulness are linked, it's our fault that we don't see God more clearly in the world.

What's interesting though is seeing what the Bible tells us we should be able to tell about God from the world around us.

  • That God is real
  • That God is powerful beyond our understanding (e.g. Job 38)
  • That God is wise beyond our understanding (e.g. Isaiah 55:8-9)
  • That God is reliable (e.g. Jeremiah 33:25-26)
  • That we should obey God (e.g. Jeremiah 8:7-9, 18:13-15)
  • That God is patient

In other words, what we should be able to know about God from the world around us isn't enough that we can be saved. But it is enough that we should be able to see that we desperately need saving, and that we can trust God to do it. It's enough to point us to Jesus, but not enough to replace him.

Being able to see God in the universe doesn't mean that we have authority or power over God - it's because he graciously made us as human beings and made the universe in such a way that we could tell a bit about him from it.

Those things we can tell about God from the universe actually sum up lots of the reasons I enjoyed studying physics so much...

I could put in lots of stuff here about the Barth / Brunner debate, but I can't be bothered, and I don't think it would help that much.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

ooo, yore reely clever. i dont kno how anyone can kno so mutch about so menny things. can you tel me sume mor about siens pleese. i think you look lovly in yore pichur

John said...

If you're going to leave silly comments like that, at least use an IP scrambler.

And wow - nearly 30 minutes on my site this morning...

bcg said...

'Those things we can tell about God from the universe actually sum up lots of the reasons I enjoyed studying physics so much...'

I think that the reason there are so many physics grads studying theology at college may be for this very reason... I've always wondered why!

bcg said...

ps I know that was a horrible sentence

Anonymous said...

Bcg -though that doesn't explain all the lawyers!

custard -another thoughtful post -thank you.

I guess though there is an element of saying -even the things that general revelation should tell us are not grasped by us because our minds are darkened and hostile.

Once we have been regenerated, our eyes have been opened and we see by special revelation what it is that general revelation is telling us, then it tells us those things

John said...

To an extent, but regeneration is of course now and not-yet.

Anonymous said...

harf an our. lol you must bee crakers.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean when you say that regeneration is now and not yet -not heard that one before -other aspects like sanctification yes -but being brought back from the dead -made alive in Christ?

John said...

Regeneration in terms of being raised from the dead and made alive with Christ is participation in the Resurrection, which only becomes complete when we participate fully in the bodily Resurrection.

In terms of knowledge and so on, now we only know in part - then we shall know fully.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification -I'm not sure its quite the same as saying regeneration is now/not yet. We are definately alive with Christ -very much alive. But there is much more yet to come and you are right that this affects our knowing now. Which is why it isn't a case of now I'm regenerate I toddle off to read general revelation. Rather I keep reading general revelation through the lens of special.

John said...

And even our reading of special is incomplete and imperfect.

Anonymous said...

Agreed!