Ten Turning Points: What’s So Special About Special Revelation?

From the series, Ten Turning Points That Make All the Difference

What’s so special about God’s special revelation? There’s much to be said, but I want to close this week’s study with just two words: knowledge and relationship.

Knowledge
We can know. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of that. Through God’s special revelation, the Bible, we know where we came from, what we’re here for, what life is all about, what’s behind our basic problems, what it takes to solve them, where we’re headed, and how to live a good life.

This is huge. Philosophers, poets, and thinkers of all descriptions have wondered and debated over these things since virtually forever. Since the early 17th Century in particular, one of the big questions among philosophers has been, can we know anything at all? The question is not just concerning spiritual knowledge, but matters as basic aswhether the person sitting next to you really exists.

René Descartes probably got it right when he said we can know we ourselves exist: “I think, therefore I am” was his famous proof. I can doubt everything, and I could be fooled about everything, except that I am the one thinking I can doubt or I could be fooled. But he was anxious, doubtful concerning all other knowledge.

Philosophers have had this problem because they don’t know where to start from. They don’t have a solid foundation on which to build knowledge (I’m over-simplifying, I know). By God’s special revelation, though, we have a starting point. We have something to hang our hat on. We know, for example, that God created us with the ability to know. He intended our “know-ing” to work.

From that starting point we have all the rest of the Bible to learn from: its promises, its instructions, its commands, its examples and illustrations, its biographies and histories, its prophecies. But it would be a distortion to leave it at that. What we gain from Scripture besides is room for confidence in our “know-ing” so that we’re not left lost and clueless in the rest of reality.

Relationship
God’s special revelation is not just information he has piled upon us, like some college syllabus. It’s a love letter. It’s a personal appeal from God to you and me, “be reconciled to God.” It’s a daily reminder of his love. It’s a record of how he calls on us to live in close connection with him. It’s a guide to our personal encounters with him through prayer; in fact, much of it is prayers. It is a source of strength and hope straight from God himself. It even binds Christian to Christian, across time and all around the world, in our shared heritage as people of God’s book.

And I haven’t even yet mentioned God’s most direct and clear special revelation: Jesus Christ, and the relationship with God made possible through his salvation. I’ll spend a lot of time on him, starting next week.

Comments

  1. Steven

    Hi Tom. Interesting article! I’m not a Christian, but I used to be, and I have many Christian friends. If you’re interested to know why I stopped calling myself a Christian feel free to read my latest blog post at http://perfectchaos.org/. It’s always good to talk about these things! Take care and best wishes, Steven

  2. Victoria

    I’ve come across a pretty good set of books that would make an ideal follow-up to this series:
    How to Read the Bible for all its Worth by Fee and Stuart, and its companion text
    How to Read the Bible Book by Book, same authors (Amazon has them).

    I’m using them as a refresher course myself.

  3. Melissa

    Agreed Victoria. I’d highly recommend the first one, I haven’t read the second. Very good for those seeking to read the bible intelligently who don’t have time for formal study. Excellent for avoiding common mistakes that can lead to extreme positions.

  4. Victoria

    @Melissa
    I’m enjoying the second one; they provide a paranoramic view of the entire metanarrative of Scripture (Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation). They also highlight how these threads are woven through the narrative, and point out significant additional threads that are present in each book. They don’t do the work of reading for you, rather, they alert the reader to significant details and to follow the threads that God has woven into the tapestry of Scripture.

  5. Victoria

    Speaking of knowing, I came across this article at Bible.org

    http://bible.org/article/trinity-triunity-god It’s specifically about the doctrine of the Trinity of God, and in explaining that doctrine, the article talks a lot about principles of just how we know.

    This particular snippet seemed especially relevant:

    We should not be bothered by this fact. Why? Because God’s Word tells us that we should expect His revelation, the revelation of an infinite, omniscient, all-wise Creator, to contain an infinite depth that corresponds to His infinite mind. In Isaiah, God tells us about this and says:

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

    Kenneth Boa has an excellent word here concerning the concept of God’s thoughts being higher than ours:

    It follows from all this that we cannot and should not expect to understand the Bible exhaustively. If we could, the Bible would not be divine but limited to human intelligence. A very important idea comes out of this, something over which many non-Christians and even Christians stumble: Since the Bible is an infinite revelation, it often brings the reader beyond the limit of his intelligence.

    As simple as the Bible is in its message of sin and of free salvation in Christ, an incredible subtlety and profundity underlies all its doctrines. Even a child can receive Christ as his Savior, thereby appropriating the free gift of eternal life. Yet no philosopher has more than scratched the surface regarding the things that happened at the Cross. The Bible forces any reader to crash into the ceiling of his own comprehension, beyond which he cannot go until he sees the Lord face-to-face.

    Until a person recognizes that his own wisdom and intelligence are not enough, he is not ready to listen to God’s greater wisdom. Jesus alluded to this when He said to God, “you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10:21)

    This is one of those aspects of Scripture that is too often overlooked or misunderstood, especially by its critics

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