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Two types of Revelation: 1.General Revelation 2.Special Revelation. Three questions that need to be asked: What does “revelation” mean? What distinguishes general revelation from special revelation? How are they related?
What does “Revelation” mean? The term “revelation” is from the Greek word “apokalupsis,” which means “disclosure” or “unveiling.” Therefore, the term, “revelation” is may be divine information that is disclosed or whereby God Himself manifest Himself to His creatures. The key idea is that God discloses truth about Himself; it is information that would not otherwise be known. Revelation can occur in one particular act; Revelation may be given over a long period of time; Revelation may be continuous (e.g., General Revelation).
What is General Revelation? General Revelation is information given to everyone everywhere. There are 6 “witnesses” or “manifestations” of revelation as discussed religious and theological studies: Witness of Creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Rom. 1:18-21) Witness of Human Design (Genesis 1-3; Psalm 139) Witness of Conscience (Genesis 3; Rom. 2:14-15) Witness of God-ward longings (Rom. 2:14-15) Witness of Consequences (sow and reap; reap and sow) Witness of Providence (benevolence; food; rulers; water: Dan. 2:21; Matt. 5:45; Acts 14:15-17). For those that embrace general revelation, they typically contend that no one, whatsoever, is ignorant of God’s existence, right from wrong, or the knowability of truth. Notice that this information is empirical, rational, and intuitive.
What is Special Revelation? Special revelation is more narrow than general revelation. Special revelation is specific information given to specific people as in miraculous events, Divine Speech, and Visible Manifestations. Let us take a closer look …
Special Revelation as Miraculous Events: 1.Miraculous Events: God at work in concrete historical ways within the world, affecting what occurs such as the Call of Abram (Gen. 12); Birth of Isaac (Gen. 21); Passover (Exod. 12); Crossing of Red Sea (Exod. 14).
Special Revelation as Divine Speech: 2.Divine Speech: God’s Revelation through human language: Example: Audible speech (God speaking to Adam in the garden, Gen. 2:16, and to Samuel in the temple in 1 Sam. 3:4) The Prophetic office (Deut. 18:15-18) Dreams (Daniel, Joseph) Visions (Ezekiel, Zechariah, John in Revelation) Scripture (Psalm 19:7-11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Special Revelation as Visible Manifestations: 3. Visible Manifestation: God manifesting Himself in Various Ways: Examples: Old Testament Theophanies: Gen. 16:7-14; described as the angel of G-d; Wrestling with Jacob in Gen. 32; Shekinah Glory: Exod. 3:2-4; 24:15-18; 40:34-35.
What is the relationship between special revelation & natural revelation? Special Revelation Natural Revelation Complimentary Relationship?
Thomas Aquinas: Aquinas advocates that true knowledge of God can be gained from the spheres of nature, history, and human personality pat from the Bible. All truth is God’s truth.
Thomas Aquinas: He argued that a true knowledge of God can be gained from spheres of natural revelation (e.g., nature, human personality, and history) apart from the Bible. All truth belongs to two realms: Higher realm is the realm of grace and is accepted on authority by faith (reasonable and not irrational faith (e.g., because of what we do know about the character of God, when can trust Him with the promises of Scripture). Lower realm is the realm of nature and is known by reason (e.g., the existence of God).
Catholic Theology: A revealed theology is level two. This would include, for example, substitutionary atonement, the Trinity, etc. On this level a person is brought to salvation. General Revelation provides a basis for the construction of natural theology: level one. Natural theology is built from building blocks of general revelation cemented into place by reason and evidence. This includes proofs for the existence of God. While this level is insufficient for salvation, it champions personal awareness of the existence of God, right from wrong, and the knowability of truth.
Presbyterian Calvinistic Theology: A revealed theology is level two. This would include, for example, substitutionary atonement, the Trinity, etc. On this level a person is brought to salvation via regeneration. General Revelation is level one. God has given objective, valid revelation of Himself in general revelation in nature, history, and human personality. It can be observed by anyone: Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1. Notwithstanding, sin has marred our ability (our will) to yield to accept these truths apart from His personal initiative in our lives.
Dutch Calvinistic Theology: Level 1: Regeneration must first take place. The elect must first be brought from spiritual death to spiritual life by means of the Holy Spirit. Salvation is a gift by God and is only given to the elect apart from any evidence. Regeneration must proceed faith. General Revelation becomes valuable for the believer at level two. God has given objective, valid revelation of Himself in general revelation in nature, history, and human personality. But general revelation can only be observed by the regenerate. Why? Original sin destroyed the image of God in man. Therefore, while truths from general revelation exist & are objective, the unregenerate is not able to receive these truths. But with salvation, the person is enabled to see clearly what is in general revelation.
Karl Barth Barth Rejects Natural Theology & General Revelation Revelation is redemptive in nature. To know God and to have current information about Him is to be related to Him in salvific experience. We are not able to know God apart from revelation in Christ for if man could achieve some knowledge of God outside of His revelation in Christ, man would have contributed in some small measure to his salvation. People that do find God in cosmos already know Him from special revelation communicated by the Holy Spirit when one reads the Word of God- which is the vehicle God uses for one to encounter God.
Inspiration: We now to turn some of the more significant views of inspiration. Some thirty-eight hundred times the Scriptures declare, “God said,” or “Thus says the Lord”: For example in the Hebrew Scripture see Exodus 14:1; 20:1; Leviticus 4:1; Numbers 4:1; Deuteronomy 4:2; 32:48; Isaiah 1:10, 24; Jeremiah 1:11; Ezekiel 1:3. In New Testament Literature see 1 Corinthians 14:37; 2 Peter 1:16-21; 1 John 4:6.
Issues regarding Inspiration of Scripture: Theories of Inspiration involve the following issues: 1.The role of the human element (individual styles and personalities); 2.The Divine element (God’s role in “breathing out” the Scriptures); 3. The result of the divine-human authorship (e.g., recorded without error in form & content).
Theories of Inspiration: Mechanical-Dictation Theory Partial Inspiration Theory Degrees of Inspiration Theory Conceptual Inspiration, Intuition or Natural Theory Illumination, Mystical, or Spiritual Theory Barthian or Neo-Orthodox Theory Verbal, Plenary Theory of Inspiration
Mechanical/Dictation Theory: The biblical author is a passive instrument in the transmission of the revelation of God. The personality of the author is set aside to preserve the text from fallible human aspects. These authors were mere secretaries who wrote only the words they were told to write.
Partial or Dynamic Inspiration: Only the doctrines of Scripture that were unknowable to the human authors were inspired This view allows for errors of various sorts in the Scripture. Typically adherents to this view believe that the message of salvation is inspired whereas matters related to such things as chronology, history, and science may be in error. Moreover, some advocates of this view contend that the general ideas may be inspired but gave the human author the freedom in the manner of expressing it.
Degrees of Inspiration: Certain portions of the Bible are more inspired or differently inspired than other portions. The view allows for errors of various sorts in the Scripture. Typically adherents to this view believe that the message of salvation is inspired whereas matters related to such things as chronology, history, and science may be in error.
Conceptual Inspiration: Only the concepts or ideas of the writers are inspired but not the words. God gave an idea or concept to the writer who then penned the idea in his own words. Thus, there can be errors in Scripture because the choice of the words is left to the writer and is not superintended by God. Typically adherents to this view believe that the message of salvation is inspired whereas matters related to such things as chronology, history, and science may be in error.
Intuition or Natural Inspiration: Only gifted individuals with exceptional insight where chosen by God to write the Bible. Inspiration is reduced to an artistic ability or a natural endowment.
Illumination or Mystical Theory of Inspiration: The human authors were enabled by God to write the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit heightened their normal powers. Thus it is not the writings that are inspired. Instead, it is the writers are inspired.
Barthian or Neo-Orthodox Theory of Inspiration: Bible is not to be exactly equated with the Word of God because God does not speak in mere propositions. God does reveal information about Himself; He reveals Himself. Thus, the Bible is not the substance of the Word of God, but rather is the witness to the Word of God. Thus, the Bible is a vehicle to take you into an encounter with God Himself.
Verbal, Plenary Inspiration: God used the individual authors and their personalities to record exactly what God wanted recorded. Inspiration extends to the very words of Scripture including tense of verb and formation of letters (verbal). Thus, the entire text of Scripture (plenary) is inspired. Verbal, plenary inspiration means that the Scriptures are the product of the mind of God expressed in human terms and conditions.
Verbal, Plenary Inspiration: For example, one proponent of verbal, plenary inspiration is Dr. Charles C. Ryrie. Ryrie writes: “Inspiration is… God’s superintendence of the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composes and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs.” ~ A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody, 1972), 38.