So far in our series, we've considered the following in our study of the doctrine of God,
1. We talked about where to begin with the study of God. We made mention of what I called "a map of the doctrine of God". By basing the map loosely off of Wayne Grudem's systematic theology, we noted how we start with God's existence. Whenever we consider the whole scope of the doctrine of God as typically presented in various presentations of the doctrine of God (a.k.a "theology proper"), what we have covered in posts leading up to today's posts represents only the beginning of our post series. Readers may review the first post in this series here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2023/07/post-1-doctrine-of-god-map-to-explore.html
2. In the second and third posts, we looked at the main names for God which translate as "God" and "LORD" in the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament. We noted how those names point us to understanding better God's nature as the One living and true God, as well as His identity as the Triune God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We noted three questions that can aid us in considering the doctrine of God,
a. What kind of God is God? (this has to do with His Divine nature).
b. How is it that God is God? (this deals with His perfections or Divine attributes).
c. Who is God? (this handles His Triune identity and thus the doctrine of the Trinity).
Readers may review the second and third posts here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2023/08/post-2-doctrine-of-god-gods-existence.html
3. In the fourth post we talked about how all humanity possess an "inner awareness of God". We first considered how this inner awareness is due to our being made in God's image, along with our ability to detect God's existence in creation and our conscience. We discovered this is the primary and most common way people come to know about God. This fourth post is found here
4. Then in our last post (post # 5), we once again looked more at mankind's inner awareness of God by understanding how we can show that God exists through various theistic arguments. This represents a second method of knowing about God or providing warrant for belief in God (the term "warrant" refers to the grounds for holding rationally to a certain belief). Interested readers may review the last post here http://www.growingchristianresources.com/2023/08/post-5-doctrine-of-god-role-of.html
What we mean by revelation.
To say "revelation" means "to make known what was previously unknown". We've discussed already in prior posts of the two sorts of revelation. There is general revelation in which we "know about God" in creation and the conscience (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-20; 2:14-15). Then, there is "special revelation" that God has made known His will, His Personal identity, and plan of salvation in the Bible (Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:20-21). God by nature is the revelatory God (Exodus 3:14).
Even within the Trinity, the doctrine of eternal relations tells us of how the Persons of the Trinity are in a revelatory relationship to one another. The Father perpetually makes Himself knowable and relatable to the Son, the Son doing the same thing to the Father, and then the Holy Spirit reciprocating in like kind with the Father and Son and they with Him (see Matthew 11:27; Romans 11:33-35). Even before creation, God Himself in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was relating and inter-relating, making known and being known within Himself (Psalm 2; 110; Proverbs 30:4; John 14:10-11; 16:28).
God's knowability through the revelation of Himself.
So far in the first five posts, we have considered God's existence, and the ways mankind possess an inner awareness of Him through their natural innate awareness or by way of theistic arguments. What we are doing now is moving on to understanding how awareness of God is possible. Such a possibility is grounded in God being by nature the God of revelation.
In Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, his section on "The knowability of God" is outlined as follows,
A. The Necessity for God to reveal Himself to us.
B. We can never fully understand God.
C. Yet we can know God truly.
These three main points nicely frame the discussion, and so we will use them in helping us grasp what we mean when we talk of God as "The revealing God", and why that is crucial for the possibility of knowing anything about Him and ultimately coming to know Him in the truest sense. For this post we only have time to unpack the first point.
The necessity for God to reveal Himself to us.
The late author Francis Schaeffer wrote a trilogy of books in the early seventies that shaped the thinking of Bible-believing Christians for a generation: "The God who is there"; "Escape from Reason"; and "God is there, and He is not silent".
The first of these traced how Western culture changed its view about truth and crossed what Schaeffer called "the line of despair", a philosophical shift he detected in Europe beginning in 1890 and in the United States before 1935.
This so called "line of despair" had above it the possibility of knowing God, and he making Himself known in terms of truth, reason, and revelation. Then below this "line of despair" we see various disciplines that acquire knowledge of the world and (should at least) be able to infer knowledge about God in all He has made (philosophy, literature, art, music, theology).
As Schaeffer pointed out in his first book, Western man rejected what was above the line and through a steady progression, beginning with philosophy in the nineteenth century and progressing through the radical theologies of liberalism and "death of God" theologies of the twentieth century. In short, humanity came to believe in the impossibility of revelation.
In Schaeffer's second book, "Escape from Reason", he traced in more detail this journey below the line of despair, beginning as I said with the philosophy of the enlightenment and the nineteenth century, through the disciplines of literature, art, music, and theology.
It is then in Schaeffer's third book, "God is there, and He is not silent" where we see the triology reach its ultimate conclusion (and which is relevant to the necessity of God's revelation). Schaeffer writes,
"We can say it another way, that the infinite Personal God, the God who is Trinity, He has spoken and He is not silent. There is no use having a silent God. We would not know anything about Him. He has spoken and told us what He is and that He existed before all else, and so we have the answer to the existence of what is. He is not silent."
The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 41:21-23 writes of how the God of the Bible alone is, to imitate Schaeffer's point above, "the talking God",
“Present your case,” the Lord says. “Bring forward your strong arguments,” The King of Jacob says. 22 Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; As for the former events, declare what they were, That we may consider them and know their outcome. Or announce to us what is coming; 23 Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods; Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together."
The Psalmist in Psalm 115:2-9 writes further of the necessity of God needing to reveal Himself if we are to know anything about anything or about Him,
"But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. 5 They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; 6 They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; 7 They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. 8 Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them. 9 O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield."
Unless the infinite, personal God has reached outside of Himself to our world and to us, as well as designed our world and ourselves with the capability of awareness of such revelation, we would not know anything about anything nor anything about God. This is why the Apostle Paul writes what he writes in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6,
"Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him."
In our next post we shall consider that although we can never fully comprehend God, we can nonetheless truly know Him.