Defining the Terms: General Revelation & Natural Theology

termsMost people who stumble across the internet and land at this blog are probably convinced that God does reveal himself to us in the pages of the Scriptures That God reveals himself in the Bible is what is known as special revelation. The word revelation indicates that God reveals himself. The adjective special is used as a contrast to the word general.

General revelation is the revealing that God does which has both a general audience and a general content. The general audience is all of humanity. This is distinguished from special revelation which is God revealing himself only to those who read or hear the Bible and God grants them the understanding of it.

The content of general revelation is that God exists and he is powerful in glory. Here is how the psalmist puts it.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

(Psalm 19:1-4, ESV)

Paul goes a little farther by declaring the content of this speech.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

(Romans 1:19-20, ESV)

This general revelation consists of the message that God exists and he is powerful.

A related term is natural theology. Since theology is our study or knowing about God, Natural theology is how we describe what we know from what God has revealed.

If you are like me, you probably stroll through our natural world without paying attention to what God is telling us through it. When we pay attention, we can hear the voice of God as we sensually experience the natural world. When we see the wonders of this physical world, we should be aware that God is telling us that he exists and he is powerful.

Are you listening? Are you paying attention? Or better yet, let’s use a biblical word – are you heeding the voice of God as he shouts from heaven that he is and he is mighty?