Thursday, June 14, 2012

Condemnation But No Justification: The Purpose of General Revelation

Early today, I highlighted both Millard Erickson's implications of general revelation and Charles Ryrie's values of general revelation. Both are worth highlighting and comparing with each other. We should note here that this discussion has limited itself not to what we can learn about general revelation from general revelation, but the reason for general revelation as found in Scripture - i.e. special revelation. That is what makes this a Christian conversation for it is likely that what is laid out here and what is argued by both Erickson and Ryrie will mostly be considered rubbish by he who does not submit to the written Word of God.

With that said, I offer the following oversimplification of the purpose, value, and implications of general revelation.

1.  The Revelation of God Who Ought to Be Worshiped & Obeyed

 Two passages are worth exploring briefly here. First is Psalm 19:1, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands." Pointing to creation (one means of general revelation), we are told something about God - He is glorious. Thus the created human being ought to be able to observe the skies, the expanse, the seas, the stars, and all of creation and marvel at who God is. Psalm 19 is not the only passage to point us to creation with the suggestion that He ought to be worshiped, but Scripture is clear, because God is Creator He ought to be worshiped by His Creation.

Perhaps we could say this. Creation, by definition, is subject to its creator. This is why the debate over origins is so important. When God is robbed of His role as Creator, creation turns to other forms of worship. But when we see ourselves as Creation of God, we are left with no other option than to submit to His authority, marvel at His majesty, and praise His Holy name.

2.  The Justification of This God Who Condemns Those Who Disobey Him

The second purpose of general revelation is judgment. If we refuse to obey the Creator and in turn rebel against His holiness, then there is no other choice than judgment. That does not make God a simple-minded deity, but just. Here we turn to Paul's argument in Romans 1:18-23:

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22  Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Paul argues both that God's general revelation reveals God as Creator (later in chapter 2 he will highlight our conscience which reveals God as Holy) and deserving of obedience and worship and that to rebel against that revelation leads to judgment. Those who reject this gracious God who has revealed Himself is to be judged - they are without excuse.

For Paul, this is an issue of idolatry and the true worship of God. We suppress the truth in unrighteousness so that we can feed our appetites for sin. That is what idolatry does. Idolatry is a convenient way to have our cake and to eat it too. It allows us to fashion God (really god) in our own image as a means to rationalize immorality and unrighteousness. As a result, though professing to be wise, we become fools and exchange the glory of the incorruptible God for an image of corruptibility.

All of this is to say, and we are only being selective and brief here, is that general revelation reveals something about God and something about us - He is Transcendent, Good, and Holy and we are not. And without special revelation - both Scripture and the incarnated Christ - the gap between Him and us will never be bridged. General revelation can condemn us, but it cannot save us.

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 1 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 4  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 5

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 4

For more on Erickson:
Blogizomai - Where to Begin?: Calvin on the Starting Point of Theology - The Knowledge of God & the Knowledge of Man
Blogizomai - Wherefore Art Thou Theological Giants?
Blogizomai - On Special Revelation: Dreams, Visions, Theophanies, and the Word of God
Blogizomai - Where is the Gospel? Charles Hodge & the Insufficiency of Natural Theology
Blogizomai - Is Hell Real?: The Difference Between Emergent Agnostic Doctrine & Orthodoxy

For more:
Blogizomai - Repost | "Life's Biggest Questions" by Erik Thoennes
Reviews - The Top 5 Essential Works of Theology of the Past 25 Years
Reviews - "Doctrine"
Reviews - "The Good News We Almost Forgot
Reviews - "Dug Down Deep" by Josh Harris
Reviews - "Heresy"
Reviews - "Christianity's Dangerous Idea" by Alister McGrath
Reviews - "The Theology of the Reformers"
Blogizomai - Repost | Schreiner on the Practice of Inaugurated Eschatology
Blogizomai - We Are All Theologians:  The Root of Everything We Are and Do
Blogizomai - Lewis on Practical Theology
Blogizomai - The Meaning & Implications of the Resurrection
Blogizomai - Lewis on Practical Theology
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