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Tuesday
Mar022010

Theological Term of the Week

general revelation
God’s self-disclosure to all humanity found in the external creation and internal human experience.

  • From scripture:

    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)

    For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them…. (Romans 2:14-15 ESV)
  • From The Belgic Confession, 1561, Article 2:
    The Means by Which We Know God

    We know him by two means:

    First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.

    All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.
  • From Concise Theology by J. I. Packer: 

    General Revelation:

    From the natural order it is evident that a mighty and majestic Creator is there. Paul says this in Romans 1:19-21, and in Acts 17:28 he calls a Greek poet as witness that humans are divinely created. Paul also affirms that the goodness of this Creator becomes evident from kindly providences (Acts 14:17; cf. Rom. 2:4), and that some at least of the demands of his holy law are known to every human conscience Rom. 2:14-15), along with the uncomfortable certainty of eventual retributive judgment (Rom. 1:32) These evident certainties constitute the content of general revelation.

  • From ESV Study Bible, Biblical Doctrine: An Overview: The Bible and Revelation:

    General revelation shows the attributes of God—such as his existence, power, creativity, and wisdom; in addition, the testimony of human conscience also provides some evidence of God’s moral standards to all human beings (Romans 2:14-15). This means that from general revelation all people have some knowledge that God exists, some knowledge of his character, and some knowledge of his moral standards. This results in an awareness of guilt before God as people instinctively know that they have not lived up to his moral requirements. Thus in the many false religions that have been invented people attempt to assuage their sense of guilt.

    But general revelation does not provide knowledge of the only true solution to man’s guilt before God: the forgivenss of sins that comes through Jesus Christ. This means that general revelation does not provide personal knowledge of God as a loving father who redeems his people and establishes covenants with them.

Learn more:

  1. Don Stewart: What Is General Revelation?
  2. GotQuestions.org: Can a person be saved through general revelation?; How did people know about God before the Bible?
  3. J. I. Packer:  Guilt: The Effect of General Revelation
  4. Fred Zaspel: A Brief History of Divine Revelation
  5. Massimo Lorenzini: Can people know about God and what he requires apart from the Bible?

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it.

I’m also interested in any suggestions you have for tweaking my definitions or for additional (or better) articles or sermons/lectures for linking. I’ll give you credit and a link back to your blog if I use your suggestion.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms organized in alphabetical order or by topic.

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