THE REVELATION OF GOD
God Communicates Himself To Man
Abraham Kuyper (circa 1890’s), a Dutch Theologian and Politician said: ‘ In the study of all other sciences, man places himself above the object of his investigation and actively draws his knowledge by whatever method may seem most appropriate. However, in theology, he does not stand above his object but he stands under the object of his investigation. In other words, man can know God only in so far as God makes Himself known to him. God is therefore both the subject communicated and the knowledge conveyed to man through revelation.
Without revelation, man would never have been able to acquire any knowledge of God and even after God has revealed Himself, it is not human reason that discovers God but it is God who discloses Himself to the eye of faith. However, by the application of sanctified human reason to the study of God’s Word, man can, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, gain an ever-increasing knowledge of God.
Karl Barth, a Swiss Theologian, stresses the fact that man can know God only when God comes to him in an act of revelation. He asserts that there is no way from man to God but only from God to man. Revelation is given once and for all in Jesus.
Theology, however, would be utterly impossible without a self-revelation of God and when we speak of revelation, we use the term in the strict sense of the Word of God. Revelation is not something inactive or motionless but is God actively making Himself known to man. Therfore God can only be known insofar as He reveals Himself.
NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL REVELATION
The Bible testifies to a two-fold revelation of God.
a) a revelation in nature and in human consciousness and the providential government of the world; and
b) a revelation embodied in the Bible as the Word of God
Natural revelation can be clearly seen in the following Scriptures:
The heaven declares the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night, showeth knowledge (Psalm 19:1-2) (NATURE)
When I consider the heavens the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou has ordained (Psalm 8:3) (NATURE)
That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good (Psalm 104:28) ( GOD’S PROVIDENCE)
You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:16) (GOD’S PROVIDENCE)
And yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rain and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness (Acts14:17) (HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS)
Supernatural Revelation (The Word)
There is abundant evidence in both Old and New Testaments to the revelation of God through His Word
Yet Jehovah testified unto Israel, and unto Judah, by every prophet, and every seer, saying, turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statues according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent you by my servants the prophets (2 Kings 17:13)
He hath made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel (Psalm 103:7)
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (John 1:18)
God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers through the prophets in different ways and in diverse manners, hath at the end of these days spoken to us in His son (Hebrews 1:1-2)
On the basis of these Scriptures it becomes customary to speak of natural and supernatural revelation. Natural revelation is that which is communicated through nature, that is, through the visible creation with its ordinary laws and powers. Supernatural revelation is that which is communicated to man in a higher, supernatural manner, for instance, when God speaks to him either directly or through supernaturally endowed messengers.
Supernatural revelation is rooted in the redemption plan of God and is addressed to men as sinners. It can be properly understood and grasped only by faith and serves the purpose of securing the end for which man was created in spite of the disturbance wrought by sin. In view of the eternal plan of redemption, it should be said that this revelation did not come as an after thought but was in the mind of God from the very beginning.
Some of the early scholars were guided by the slogan ‘Credo ut intelligum (I believe in order that I might understand) . this was a phrase coined by Augustine (monk and bishop). After accepting the truths of supernatural revelation by faith, these scholars considered it necessary to raise their faith in order to understand the demonstration of those truths.
Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), a 13th century philosopher and monk from Italy, whose theological teachings are still accepted by the Catholic Church, considered that supernatural revelation contained truths which also formed a part of natural revelation. In his opinion, the mysteries which formed the real contents of supernatural revelation did not need any logical explanation. He held, however, that there could be no conflict between the truths of natural and those of supernatural revelation. If there appears to be conflict, there is something wrong with one’s philosophy.