General Revelation

“Christianity is not based on speculative philosophy;” it is a revealed faith. (14)

Christianity makes a distinction between general revelation (in creation) and special revelation (in the Bible).

“The Scriptures tell us that God is the source of all truth,” not only religious truth. We “could not know anything were it not that God has made knowledge possible for us; … even those with perfect vision, if they were placed in a room filled with beautiful objects, could not see any of the beauty, if the room were immersed in darkness…. So, when scientists seek to discern truth in their laboratories while belittling us for our claim to trust in revelation for the content of our religious faith, we can simply point out that they could learn nothing from a test tube were it not for the Creator’s revelation and His gift of the ability to learn through a study of nature.” (15)

God’s general revelation is called general because it is given to every human being in the entire world. It is given in and through nature, which is why it is sometimes called natural revelation. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). God also reveals Himself directly through the human conscience. “In Romans 2:15, Paul says that the law of God has been written on our hearts, something John Calvin called the sensus divinitatis, or the sense of the divine.” (19) “God has given all human beings a sense of right and wrong.” (15)

God’s revelation in nature “is of a general sort; that is, it does not give us the details of God’s work in redemptive history, such as the atonement or the resurrection of Christ. One cannot study a sunset and see the heavens declaring God’s plan of salvation; one must go to the Bible for that.” (15)


“Natural revelation is something God does, whereas natural theology is what humans do with natural revelation.” (16-17).

But can we arrive at a true knowledge about God through nature? According to 1 Corinthians 2:14, “the natural man does not and cannot know God” in a saving and loving way. But in Romans 1:18-21, “the Apostle says that we do gain [a non-saving] knowledge of God through nature.” In verse 18, Paul says that “everyone needs the gospel because everyone has been judged guilty – not for rejecting Jesus, of whom many have never heard, but rejecting God the Father, who has revealed Himself plainly to every human being. It is our nature as sinners to suppress that truth in unrighteousness. Paul says that God is angry about what human beings do with His revelation.” Verse 19 says that the revelation God gives of Himself is clear. “Paul adds, ‘For his invisible attributes … have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world’ (v.20a) …. God’s unseen character is revealed through things that can be seen…. Those who refuse to come to God attempt to excuse their refusal by claiming that God has failed to provide sufficient proof of His existence,” but the “Bible is clear that God’s revelation of Himself in nature provides us with true and clear knowledge of His character.” (18)

“Our sinful suppression of that revelation does not erase the knowledge of God that He has given us through nature and in our hearts.” (19)

[Adapted from chapter 3 of Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]