Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paul on the General Revelation of God

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things."
-Romans 1:18-23

The Bible clearly declares that God has revealed Himself in His creation. Theologians refer to this as "general revelation", as opposed to the "special revelation" found only in the Bible. It also insists that the failure of unbelievers to acknowledge that fact is not a matter of ignorance, but rather of the active suppression of the knowledge.

The same point is made in poetic form in Psalm 19:1-6, especially verse 1, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."

I suspect that this is what we see in Adam, just after the Fall (Genesis 3:8), when he hides in terror from his offended Creator. The same verse says that "he heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden." Now, since we know God is a spirit (John 4:24), we also know that He has no body. Thus,I take this to be a christophany, a preincarnate appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity, in His mediatorial office. I think that the effort to hide refers to Adam's awareness of everything around him in the Garden as testifying to the sovereignty of God. That certainly should put him in terror, as everywhere he turned, he was reminded of his rebellion and the holiness and wrath of God! It also explains why it is His Redeemer who comes seeking him, now a fallen sinner.

Since Adam's Fall was only minutes old at this point, I think that we can assume that he still retained a greater sensitivity to the general revelation of God in everything around him, than would come naturally to us his posterity. Being far removed from that event in our own time, sin has increased our deafness, blindness, and willfulness, rendering us far less sensitive to God's presence. Thus was necessitated the special revelation in the Bible, which alone gives us the knowledge that leads to salvation.

The writers of the Westminster Confession of Faith (I:1) got it exactly right: "Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence, do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation; therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto his Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased."

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