Historic Christianity’s “Two Books” of Revelation
By Kenneth R. Samples
What comes to mind with the word, “revelation”? Likely, it’s the last book of the Bible, but in historic Christian theology, revelation refers to God’s personal self-disclosure to his creatures. God took the initiative to reveal himself in two ways: through general revelation (the knowledge of God that comes via the created order), and special revelation (the knowledge of God that comes via redemptive history). Christian theologians sometimes call this dual view of revelation the “two-books theory.” God is the author of both the figurative book of nature (God’s world) and the literal book of Scripture (God’s written Word).
These two forms of revelation mutually reinforce and complement one another. The biblical worldview considers all truth to be God’s truth. Human interpretations of the two sources may conflict, but not when properly understood and correctly applied. God’s truth by its very nature always coheres.
Scripture instructs readers to take the message of general revelation seriously (Psalm 19; Romans 1). And the created order illustrates the need for the specificity and completeness of special revelation’s message (in the Bible). In other words, general revelation points toward special revelation and provides a rational context for accepting it. Ultimately divine revelation is one unity. It is appropriate to distinguish between its two forms, but they should never be separated.
Not all truths in general revelation (including math, logic, and science) are spelled out in special revelation. However, in all matters addressed by the Bible (the essence of special revelation having been embodied in Scripture), this verbal revelation should be considered final and supreme. This revelatory priority is granted because of the Bible’s specificity and its unique propositional and self-authenticating nature.
One can, therefore, affirm Scripture as the supreme authority in the life of the church and the individual believer (sola Scriptura), yet also hold a robust view of general revelation and of science overall…
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