Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Revelation

Revelation - Theology - Doctrine - Dogma - Religion - Relationship


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One thing in which scripture is abundantly clear is the fact that God has gone out of his way to ensure that we have everything that we require to find Him should we only but open our eyes and our ears to see and to hear Him. In this section we will explore those ways in which God has revealed Himself and how we might go about finding Him.

God has revealed Himself and made Himself known to us in a variety of ways. The books that you read and your Sunday school class materials will usually split His revelation to us up into two main categories: General Revelation and Special Revelation. I like to add a third category and split out what I call Personal Revelation. Strictly speaking, personal revelation can either be a subset of special revelation or of general revelation but to keep things simple and to make the topics easier to discuss we are going to separate the three of them out.


General Revelation

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge." ~Psalm 19:1-2

A friend of mine recently told me that she's not very religious but when she is out hiking or fishing she can definitely feel the "oneness" of nature. I think that all of us at one time or another have been in a place, either on the beach, in the woods, up in the mountains, in the desert, anywhere where we may take a moment and just breath in nature, where we can just feel the "oneness" as my friend called it. What I think she was describing is the undeniable feeling when standing amidst the awe-inspiring beauty of nature that there is more to life than ourselves and that there is some purpose to it all.  There we feel a peace that passes understanding. There we feel right with creation even if just for a moment and even if we can't put that feeling into words and explain it.

This is the beginning of God's general revelation to mankind. God designed us to have an innate understanding that He exists and an unshakable sense that we are incomplete without Him. He designed the world, indeed the universe, to declare Himself to us. In the book of Romans Paul takes it a little farther. He says:
 "...since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1:19-20)
This feeling or sense that we get through nature is not intended to be the end of God's general revelation to us but rather the very beginning of it. He calls and beckons us to more fully explore and understand the world that He has created for us. 

In this era where popular culture falsely makes the claim that science and religion are incompatible we tend to forget that many of our most renowned scientists - those that were most responsible for scientific discovery - were devoted men of God seeking through science to draw nearer to their Creator by understanding His creation.

Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Newton, Faraday, Pasteur, and Kelvin are just some of the well known scientists who saw the world through their faith and were driven to find God through what He has revealed to us. Today, an increasing number of scientists are coming to the inevitable conclusion that the naturalistic world view - the presumption that all things can be explained and understood without God - simply does not stand up to close scrutiny. While the scientific community at large has yet to determine if they wish to allow God a seat at their very exclusive table, one fact remains: God has revealed Himself to us through all that He has made. His entire creation screams to us that He is there and when we are alone and surrounded by the majesty of nature's beauty, each of us knows deep down inside of us that it is true.

The fact that the scientific community and even society at large struggles with recognizing God through all that He created in His general revelation is not surprising. Rather, this confusion is to be expected based on what we know of the story of God and of our own nature. We are living in open rebellion against God and are separated from Him due to our own selfish - or sinful - nature. On our own and in our current state, we are unable to even seek God for who He truly is and to see Him in all that He created. We are blinded by our own sin and willfully suppress the knowledge of Him.


Special Revelation

Since we no longer walk in close personal relationship with God as we did in the garden (more on that later) and since we refuse to see Him in all that He has created, we require some remedial revelation in order to come to know Him. God's special revelation to us is His Word written for us: the Bible.

More than a book, the Bible is more like a library of books. There are 66 books of the bible that all Christian denominations agree on as canonical and several others that are also recognized by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox divisions of the Church. The Bible was written over a span of 1500 years by over 40 different people. Its authors were kings, shepherds, fishermen, men both great and insignificant. While each book of the bible was penned by a human author, each was given by divine inspiration of God through His Spirit.

There are all sorts of secular objections to the claim that the Bible is anything more than a collection of ancient writings by human authors and I will address those questions specifically in another post. For our purposes here we can summarize by saying that the Bible is the living, breathing, fully interactive Word of God. The words of Scripture are exactly those that God intended for us to have in order to know Him. It is primarily through His Word that God both reveals Himself to us and personally instructs us both individually and corporately as a people.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
~2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Bible is the beginning foundation and the final word on all questions of life. That said, not every issue that we face in life is fully described in God's Word. Primarily, God has left us a letter to tell us who He is; to document His history and interactions with His children; to reveal to us His plan of salvation; and to instruct us in how we were designed to live in love and in personal fellowship and relationship with Him and with others. It is through God's written Word that we may come to truly know God personally.


Personal Revelation

As I mentioned earlier, most people will teach that there are two divisions of God's revelation and that any personal component can be divided between general and special revelation. To me, however, it makes sense to split out the way in which God interacts with us personally and individually.

Our relationship with our creator began in a very personal way. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth specifically for man. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden (yes, literally) in personal physical relationship. Adam lost access to the garden and to God through his willful disobedience and it is only through our own sin that we are separated from God today. God's ultimate plan is a restoration of the close personal relationship with His children on a new earth devoid of all sin.

God's plan and purpose begins and ends with us in close, intimate, and personal relationship with Him in a physical world and interacting with Him in His physical form in the person of Jesus. While this is the ultimate and final personal revelation of God to man, it is not the only way that God has and will reveal Himself to us.

The Vacuum Inside
God designed each person to have an innate knowledge of His existence and an insatiable longing for His presence. We all know that longing even if we can't place it. Blaise Pascal put this way:
“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing.  It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”
Without God, we attempt to fill that vacuum inside us with all manner of things. We try to fill it with money, material possessions, our children, our jobs, drugs, alcohol, sex, hobbies, sports... anything to try to satisfy that deep longing but everything leaves us thirsting. That God-shaped vacuum will consume everything we feed it and will never be satisfied apart from God.  Like a puzzle missing its central piece, we too are never complete until we fill that hole inside of us, that space that God designed to be only for Him. That space can only ever be filled, we can only be complete, with Jesus Christ.

This is God's general and personal revelation to each of us. While we may suppress and deny it, each of us knows deep down inside that God exists and we can sense that were designed for more - that we need more - than this world can give us alone. That restlessness that you feel inside you, that is your God and your true Father calling you to come to know Him in close, personal, and intimate relationship. God called. He wants you back.

My God, My Father
While God created each of us to innately understand and know of His existence whether we choose to acknowledge Him or not, His personal revelation for those who call on His name does not stop there. More than anything that He desires from you, what God desires most is you yourself. God created us to know Him in close intimate relationship. That relationship is fully available to you today if you will simply accept His free gift of salvation.

One of the common objections to Christianity, especially in our post-modern, everything goes culture, is that Christians are so arrogant. They claim to know the truth when clearly no truth can be known (see the post on absolute truth here). Telling me that God does not exist or telling me that I can't know Him is no different than trying to tell me that my wife is a figment of my imagination and that I can't possibly know her. My wife is real and I have real interaction and relationship with her. My relationship with God is no less real, no less interactive, and no less personal than that with my wife. I can tell you that God exists and that His word is true because I know Him personally. He is my Father. He actively directs my life.

There are many people who spend a lifetime learning a lot about God. Knowing about someone, however, is not the same as knowing someone (see here). If the special revelation is the foundation of all understanding about God then personal revelation is the purpose behind that understanding.


  

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge." ~Psalm 19:1-2






Today scientists, mathematicians and philosophers in the intelligent design movement are challenging a certain view of science---one that limits its investigations and procedures to purely law-like and mechanical explanations. They charge that there is no scientific reason to exclude the consideration of intelligence, agency and purpose from truly scientific research. In fact, they say, the practice of science often does already include these factors!







We tend to forget that many of our most renowned scientists - those that were most responsible for scientific discovery - were devoted men of God.





A provocative collection of acclaimed films that have helped define major arguments for the theory of Intelligent Design! Darwin's Dilemma examines the origin of complex living organisms. Unlocking the Mystery of Life presents the case for ID based upon molecular biology. And The Privileged Planet reveals how the universe and Earth are finely tuned for life. Three DVDs, 3.25 hours total.





The Bible is the living, breathing, fully interactive Word of God. It is through God's written Word that we may come to truly know God personally.





B.B. Warfield is counted among the great theologians of the 19th century. As a Reformed, Evangelical scholar he approached the scriptures as authoritative. This volume is a collection of his writings on this topic of Biblical authority. He approaches the ideas of inspiration, oracles of God, and Canonicity. Some of his greatest writings are found here, useful for all who wish to defend the scriptures in a modern, critical world.





"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
~2 Timothy 3:16-17





You can't argue the pedigree of a 17th-century philosopher whose contributions in science and mathematics still influence the way we live and think today. Blaise Pascal was a genius by any definition. Moreover, he was a genius who experienced an intense, near-mystical conversion to Christianity and began applying his intellect to theology. A selection from his masterwork, Pensées, Pascal Foundations of the Christian Religion is more than a defense of the faith. It remains some of the finest literature in the Western canon.





"But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ~John 4:14




The God of the universe is crazy about you! His love is the most powerful thing in the world and He wants to give it to you, so you can live for Him. If you have made a commitment to follow Christ, then read Crazy Love to be reminded and challenged in your walk. Sharing from his own life struggles and sacrifices, author Francis Chan issues a call for selfless, Christ-like living. Let the love you have received from God impact your life like never before.




Knowing about someone is not the same as knowing someone.



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1 comment:

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