Knowing God by Revelation

Knowing God by Revelation

Copyright 2019 by Joan Berry

The matter of knowing God or rather his revelation of himself to us comes through the process of two sources: general revelation (nature, history, and human experience), and special revelation through the events and reflection within the scope of our scriptures — vision, dreams, angelic messengers; God walked and talked with Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses and other prophets Genesis; Exodus NIV). According to Grenz (2000), general revelation is God’s self-disclosure, in part, to everyone through the natural world whereas; special revelation is disclosed supernaturally by God or his messengers which mankind is incapable of doing on its own by reason or observation (p.133). General revelation, in a nutshell, is meant to make us aware of God as our Creator while special revelation is meant to bring us into a fellowship with God through salvation (p.133). Mankind, being finite, and God, being infinite mean that we cannot know him or be in fellowship with him until he reveals himself to us (Erickson, 2001, p. 43).

Some of the challenges to general revelation have come through such movements as deism, cosmological, and theological arguments. Placing an importance on human reasoning came as a result of the Enlightenment rationalism with deists claiming that reason was fundamental to God and everything else. Some posited that God made the world and then left it to fend for itself). Cosmological arguments are based on the cause and effect nature of the world with God being the first cause. Another argument suggests intelligent design due to the complex nature of the make-up of the completed world. Karl Barth, Swiss Protestant theologian, expressed his dislike of general revelation because he believed it “subverted the necessity of divine revelation,” meaning it was an effort to know God under conditions set by man, not by God (McGrath, 2011, p.164).

Weaknesses noted, especially by theologians, suggest man’s reasoning alone through general revelation cannot lead to sufficient understanding of God because this method conceals important facets of God’s nature and purposes. They posit that God’s goal of salvation is not clarified and that his love through Jesus is not adequately expressed. In addition, because of man’s sinful nature, his observation and reasoning will be inaccurate..

While there have been challenges to general revelation, human experience throughout the history of the world reveals knowledge of God because of an assumption that the earth was created by God and He remains active in it. History is not only a verification of God’s feelings toward his creations; it is a verification of His purpose and ultimate objective of history — the doctrine of eschatology. One example of a trend of God’s hand in history is that of the preservation of Israel; it has a remarkable pattern of survival as God’s chosen people (Erickson, 2001, p. 43).  Revelation’s strongpoints remains in that it serves to show that it is part of God’s self-revelatory actions; the Creation reveals his existence (Romans 1: 19-20; Psalms 8:1 NIV); it serves to make man aware of God and it makes man sensitive to the gospel messages. 

According to S. C. Guthrie, Jr. (1994), the world is not self-explanatory – there must a God; the universe displays a purpose – there is order and harmony; history and experience indicate God’s existence; humans have a moral sense (conscience); humans have spiritual awareness of a divine presence; the natural world functions in a logical and rational way indicating a Great rational mind is in control (pp. 42-43).  He summarized this analysis by saying this is evidence of God’s foundation of wisdom, power, goodness, and eternity revealed by him to us (p.43).

Dr. S. L. Johnson (2009) agrees with Guthrie because in the creation of nature is the indication by God that he wants to be known and in nature we discover him as Creator. Johnson goes on to say that God is an infinite spiritual being and we cannot know him by human (finite) searching. He can only be known if he reveals himself to us.


Although general revelation cannot stand alone as revealing everything we want to know, we must remember that revelation, general or special, is at God’s discretion. It is his self-revelation to us that he reveals what he considers appropriate. We must first start with the basics and he deems when, what and to whom special revelation will be revealed. Through general revelation, we are exposed to the handiwork of God in the natural world and through our experience and history. In this way, we become aware of him and receptive to the gospel messages. . It is God’s way of preparing us to get to know him not only as a spirit but as a person.                                                                 



Erickson, M.J. (2001). Introducing Christian doctrine. (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academi

Grenz, S. (2000). Theology for the community of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Compan

Guthrie, S.C., Jr.  (1994 . Christian doctrine.  (revised). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Pres

McGrath, A. (2011). Christian Theology: An introduction. (5th ed.). West Sussex, UK: Wiley-  Blackwell

Electronic sources:

Johnson, S.L. Dr. (2009). Revelation, or has man a word from God. Retrieved from


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