General and Special Revelation

Studies in Genesis 1

And it was so. (Genesis 1:30 ESV)

God makes Himself known to those seeking to know Him. We must look at the evidence of God’s work in creation. More importantly, we must listen to what He says in Scripture.

God shows Himself in general and in special revelation. Revelation is an act of God where He partially shows Himself to those given the ability to see Him and to know, both intellectually and intimately, truth. However, He has hidden Himself because of sin, covering Himself in mystery. Yet all people, created in His image, are given the tools needed to know God. Sin does not destroy the given image of God but does corrupt the vessel containing the image. Man is corrupted, unwilling and unable to know Him but still having the image of God which drives them toward Him.

General revelation is God showing Himself through nature, history and the individual’s conscience. God’s creation shows His work and the intricacy and intelligence of His mind and heart. History shows the direction of God’s continued involvement in the lives of those He created in His image. Conscience directs the attention of the individual toward Him and His moral law. Yet, sin has corrupted Man’s desire to see God in nature, history and especially in conscience. We hate Him therefore we want to not see Him in anything.

In special revelation God speaks specific truths about Himself none could or would know unless He decides to tell. He reveals Himself and His eternal characteristics we could not otherwise know. He tells us about Himself though Scripture. Yet, there are many statements in Scripture which are not about Him but about creation, history and the individuals created in His image.

Genesis chapter one is special revelation. Had He said nothing we could surmise, from studying creation, God’s existence. God tells us creation operates according to the laws of nature He devised and put in place. Creation works the way He wants it to work. Our place is to study creation to know Him. We do not get to ignore the evidence of general revelation simply because it does not fit our idea of special revelation. Nor do we get to ignore special revelation because it does not seem to fit general revelation.

An illustration, even an imperfect illustration, is in order. An event happened in the mid-20th century known as the Holocaust. There is substantial evidence the Holocaust occurred and those who deny it happened are not viewed as having all their reasoning abilities in place. I lived in Europe in the 1960’s when I was a child, yet old enough to see and remember the evidence of what had happened 20 years earlier. I was not part of it but saw the evidence. I stood on the concrete slabs and peered into the ovens. I saw the pictures and read the words. You could say I was exposed to the general revelation of the Holocaust.

I know a man who, when he was a child, lived in the Lodz ghetto, went in a cattle car with a hundred others to Auschwitz where he and his father were separated and sent to Dachau. They were liberated and he came to the United States. He was there. I have helped him publish six books on the Holocaust. He and thousands of other survivors give first-hand accounts, special revelation, about the Holocaust. Will their first-hand accounts cease to have value or tell the truth after they are dead?

God does not die so His special revelation is of eternal consequence. God tells us about Himself because He only knows Himself. God tells us what happened in Genesis 1 because He only was there. We must carefully and prayerfully study His words and study creation. More important is our desire to know God intimately.

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