God chooses to reveal Himself to His creation.
The General Revelation of God
Because humans are finite and God is infinite, we cannot know God unless he chooses to reveal himself to us. Without that ‘revelation’ we would have no way of knowing of his existence and no way of interacting with him. God is knowable to us only by means of the actions he takes to make himself known. We could search the cosmos for eternity future and never find him if he were to choose to remain hidden. Thankfully God has chosen to reveal himself to us.
There are two basic classifications of revelation.
General revelation is God’s communication of himself to everyone at all times and in all places.
Special revelation, on the other hand, involves God’s specific communications and appearances of himself to particular persons at particular times. These special revelations we can find written about in the text of the bible.
General revelation is a reference to the multitude of ways in which God has self-declared himself through nature, history, and personal interactions with individuals. It is referred to as general revelation for two reasons:
1. It is universally available, having been made accessible to all persons at all times.
2. The content of the message is not specific to individuals or people-groups but can be ‘generally’ witnessed by all who see it.
There certainly are questions which can and should be asked about any supposed revelations from God.
• Is the revelation genuine? Has it truly come from God or is it a creation from someone’s imagination?
• Is it really there? As an example, the moon is clearly seen by all who gaze upon it in the evening sky, but the face of the ‘man in the moon’ is not. The face is imaginary but the moon is not. God’s general revelations are real not imaginary.
• Can we construct a meaningful understanding of God from these general revelations?
The three types of general revelation
3. Human interaction
Scripture teaches us that at least a partial knowledge of God is available by observation and study of the natural world around us.
In Psalm 19:1 we read.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the sky shows his handiwork.”
Paul the Apostle writes:
“The invisible things of him (God) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20
These and numerous other passages suggest that God has left clear evidence of himself in the world he has created. The person who views the beauty of a sunset and the biology student dissecting a complex organism are exposed to clues regarding the glory, complexity, and greatness of the creative God.
The second method of general revelation is history. I like to refer to it as HIS-story. God is telling the story of history and putting his mark on every age and era of time past, present, and future. If God is indeed at work in the world it should be possible to identify the fingerprints of his touch in events that occur as part of human history. An example often mentioned of God’s revelation in history is the preservation of the people of Israel. This small nation has survived over many centuries within a basically hostile environment, often in the face of severe opposition. Individual historical events can appear to display God’s influence but are more subject to differing interpretations than are the broader longer-lasting trends of history, such as the preservation of God’s special people.
The third mode of general revelation is God’s greatest creation, humans. In today’s discussions it is common to think of humans being more of a scourge upon the planet rather than its most special creation but the bible places a much higher estimation of value on humans. Sometimes God’s general revelation is seen in the physical qualities and mental capabilities of humans. But more importantly humanity’s moral and spiritual qualities best depict God’s character and provide insight into him. Humans make moral judgments about what is right and wrong. We don’t see clear evidence of any such decision-making among any of the animal kingdom. These moral choices involve something more than our personal likes and dislikes, and something more than mere convenience. We often feel that we should do something, whether it is advantageous to us or not, and that others have a right to do something which we may not personally like. The phrase, “It’s just the right thing to do”, expresses a human trait which is a shadow of the holy character of God.
General revelation is also found in humanity’s religious nature. In all cultures, at all times and places, humans have believed in the existence of a reality higher than themselves, and even of something higher than the human race collectively. While the exact nature of the belief and worship practice differs greatly from one religion to another, many see in this universal tendency toward worship, a reflection of a past knowledge of God, and an internal sense of God’s existence, which, although it may be distorted, is however still present in human experience.
What form of general revelation do you trust most? Are you more inclined to trust what you see in nature, read about in history, or see reflected in humans?
If you were God, (crazy question I know.), how would you have chosen to reveal yourself to humanity?