16 May, 2017

Argument: “What about general revelation?”



Some say ‘general revelation’ is a form of common grace (e.g. Herman Bavinck). How do you respond to that? Does not the existence of world religions like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism etc., imply that there are people who are seeking the true and living God, though in the wrong places and in the wrong ways? What about those who have never heard the gospel? Can they not find God through His revelation in the creation? Is that not another way of salvation possible for them, though by nature they are unable to apprehend it?




Rev. Ronald Hanko

“General revelation” is the term used in distinction from “special revelation,” God’s saving revelation through Jesus Christ in the Scriptures.

General revelation is referred to in a number of passages, but most clearly in Romans 1:18-22. That passage speaks of God’s making himself known in the things of creation (vv. 20, 25) and in the conscience of man (v. 19; notice the words in them).

This general revelation, however, has no saving power. It is not even a kind of grace, although many speak of it as an example of so-called common grace. Instead, as Romans 1 makes so clear, this general revelation is of the wrath of God and only serves to leave the wicked without excuse (vv. 18, 20).

Certainly, then, general revelation does not provide another way of salvation. The idea that the wicked can be saved by a moral response to this general revelation is wholly without ground in Scripture and is just another form of salvation by works and of religious humanism.

This idea that general revelation has saving value is flatly contradicted by Romans 1 itself. The wicked do see the “invisible things of God,” particularly his eternal power and Godhead (v. 20). There is even an internal aspect to this manifestation of God. Verse 19 says that the things that may be known of God are manifest “in them.”

This has important implications. The manifestation of God in the things that are made is the reason no one will ever be able to plead in the judgment that he did not know God. There is, as far as Romans 1 is concerned, really no such thing as an atheist. Therefore, the wicked who never heard the gospel can and will be condemned in the judgment day as a result of this manifestation.

Nevertheless, the only result of this manifestation of God, as far as the wicked are concerned, is that they refuse to glorify God, continue unthankful, and change the glory of God, manifested to them and in them, into images of corruptible things (vv. 21-25).

Put simply, this means that the idolatry of the wicked is not a seeking after the God whom they do not know or an attempt, however feeble, to find him. It is rather a turning away from the true God, whom they do know.

They are not, according to Romans 1, seeking truth, but suppressing it (v. 25). Their philosophies and religions do not represent a small beginning of truth or a love of truth, but truth refused and turned into lies. Confirming all of this, Scripture also makes it clear that salvation is only through the preaching of the gospel (Rom. 1:16; Rom. 10:14, 17; I Cor. 1:18, 21). There and there alone, Christ is revealed as the very power and wisdom of God unto salvation, so that without the gospel there is ordinarily no hope of salvation.

General revelation, therefore, only serves to increase the guilt of those who do not hear or believe the gospel. To teach otherwise is to deny the blood of Jesus Christ and his perfect obedience as the only way of salvation and to slander him and his cross.



More to come! (DV)

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