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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: God Has Spoken to Us

Don Stewart :: Do Modern Discoveries Come under the Heading of General Revelation?

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Do Modern Discoveries Come under the Heading of General Revelation?

God Has Spoken to Us – Question 6

There are a number of people today who argue that modern discoveries made in the fields of science, mathematics, psychology, and other disciplines should be placed under the category of God’s general revelation to humanity.

Consequently, the results from these discoveries should be placed on the same level of truth as statements found in Scripture. Since “all truth is God’s truth” these discoveries about ourselves, and our universe, should fit, not contradict, what the Bible has revealed about God. If these discoveries contradict what the Scripture says, then it is usually the interpretation of Scripture that is changed to fit the latest discoveries in these fields.

There are a number of problems with this perspective. They include the following:

1. General Revelation Only Deals with Information about God and His Works

To begin with, general revelation, by the biblical definition, reveals information only about the character of God and His divine actions. No other subject should be put under this category. The psalmist wrote,

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. (Psalm 19:1-6 NIV)

Only information about His Person and His marvelous deeds fit into the category of general revelation. Therefore, any discovery in science, mathematics or psychology, does not fit into the biblical definition of general revelation. Thus, it is incorrect to refer to the content of general revelation as “general.” The subject matter is specific. It deals with God’s character and God’s actions.

2. General Revelation Consists of Information That Everyone Has Known from the Beginning

There is more. General revelation only deals with information about God and His actions that have been around from the beginning. Everyone, everywhere is aware of these truths; they are impossible to avoid. This is another reason as to why recent discoveries in the fields of science, mathematics, and literature would not qualify as general revelation. They have not been available to all people at all times and in all places.

Because the Bible defines general revelation as truths that everyone from the beginning has known about, these discoveries, that have only been made recently, would not qualify under this heading.

Furthermore, the results of modern discovery are still not available to every person in every place. This is a further reason not to classify them under the heading of general revelation. For something to constitute general revelation it must have always been available to everyone from the beginning and it must continually testify to God’s character and His power.

3. Discoveries Are the Result of Searching and Seeking: Not Something That Is Obvious to All

Furthermore, discoveries made in various fields of learning are the result of people searching to make such discoveries. However, according to Scripture, general revelation does not have to be sought after; it has always been obvious to all people everywhere. It is for all to see; not some hidden truth that awaits discovery. This is another reason to reject any recent discovery as being part of God’s general revelation to humanity. General revelation is impossible to avoid.

4. All Discoveries Have the Possibility of Being Contradicted by Later Evidence

There is something else that needs to be said about modern discoveries. While these new discoveries may be true, they are not to be considered anywhere near the same level of truth as the information that has always been available from general revelation, and certainly they are not on the same level as the specific truths God has revealed in Scripture by means of special revelation.

We must also remember that today’s scientific truth may be tomorrow’s scientific nonsense. As we are all well aware of, many so-called discoveries have later turned out to be not discoveries at all. Thus, to attempt to equate the latest discovery in science with God’s general revelation is just plain wrong. The latest discovery may be contradicted by even later discoveries.

Thus any discovery made in modern times comes with only a degree of certainty; not absolute certainty. They do not constitute God’s revealed truth to humanity. This must always be remembered. There is no human who can provide the last word on any subject no final authority exists in any field of study.

5. Humans Respond Negatively to General Revelation Not to Modern Discoveries

There is something else. The Bible is unanimous in its testimony that humans respond in a negative way to general revelation. This is due to our fallen nature; it does not want to know the truth. Paul wrote to the Romans,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18 RSV)

While human discoveries are accepted by unbelievers, the Bible says that unbelievers reject general revelation. This is another reason that human discoveries cannot be equated with general revelation.

6. Only Biblical Statements Can Be Accepted with Absolute Certainty

While modern discoveries may only be considered “certain” to varying degrees, the same cannot be said for statements in Scripture. Statements that are contained in Scripture can be accepted as being “absolutely true.” The Bible contains what is known as “propositional truth.” These are statements that are true, and will always be true.

What we observe of the world is reliable in the sense that it really exists. The Bible says,

The hearing ear and the seeing eye—the Lord made them both. (Proverbs 20:12 HCSB)

Though reliable, there are some things that must be kept in mind. The fallen world is imperfect and always liable to error or misinterpretation.

Therefore, we need special revelation to interpret it. God alone knows all the facts; He will never learn anything new. Thus, we start with what the Scripture says and work from there.

We can only have absolute certainty when we have God’s Word on the matter. He knows all and He always tells the truth. While we may be more certain about some things than other things, absolute certainty only comes from God Himself.

This is why the only things in which we can have confidence are the things that an all-knowing, or omniscient, God has revealed to us. He is the only one who can reveal true facts that can never be contradicted. Because we are finite human beings, we can never have certainty about things. Further information may come to light that would refute our previous beliefs. No one has the last word on any matter.

7. The Holy Spirit Guides Believers into All Truth regarding Scripture

There is something else. While believers are also fallen human beings as unbelievers, we have the advantage of having the Holy Spirit dwelling inside each of us. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach believers and would guide them into all truth. We read the following statement of Jesus in the Gospel of John:

“When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into the full truth. He won’t speak on his own. He will speak what he hears and will tell you about things to come.” (John 16:13 God’s Word)

It is important to realize that the Holy Spirit guides the believer into “all truth” in the understanding of the Scripture. We have no such promise of guidance into the understanding of others types of truth statements.

Two Reasons Why We Need Special Revelation

General revelation gives a true, but limited picture of God. The information derived from nature is never complete or perfect. Human beings need God’s special revelation for two reasons.

First, we need special revelation so we can correctly interpret the truths that He has revealed by means of general revelation. Fallen humanity consistently misinterprets truth from general revelation. This becomes obvious from the many religions of the world. Our sinfulness, as well as the lack of specific details revealed by general revelation, makes special revelation necessary.

There is something else. The truths revealed by general revelation are very limited. According to Scripture, the content of general revelation is restricted in what it is, and what it can do. It is imperative that we recognize this and not attempt to elevate certain truths that have been recently discovered on the same level as the truths revealed in Scripture.

Summary – Question 6
Do Modern Discoveries Come under the Heading of General Revelation?

While there are some who believe that the latest discoveries in the various fields of knowledge should be placed under the category of general revelation, this is not the case for a number of reasons.

First, general revelation is limited to information about God and His actions that testify to His character. It only tells us that God exists but it does not inform us as to how we can know Him.

In addition, the truths of general revelation have been around since creation; they are not something recent. All people everywhere have access to them.

Consequently, general revelation does not consist of new discoveries; it is truths that have been, are currently are, obvious to everyone, everywhere.

Finally, every discovery, no matter how true it seemingly is, has the possibility of being later refuted by further knowledge. This is important to realize.

In sum, we should keep the same limitations and restrictions upon general revelation that we find in Scripture.

How Has God Revealed Himself through Nature? ← Prior Section
How Does the Human Conscience Reveal God? Next Section →
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