By what process does man acquire the knowledge of God?
For an accurate knowledge of God we are dependent upon God’s self-revelation. Revelation implies a difference between God’s knowledge and man’s knowledge. Let me explain by asking and answering a few questions regarding knowledge:
- What does God know? His knowledge is comprehensive and self-contained. (God never learned anything.)
- How does God reveal what He knows? God’s revelation is both natural and special. Natural revelation is the disclosure of His power and glory in the created universe. Special revelation is the disclosure of His redemptive purposes, primarily through Scripture. In the past special revelation included appearances of God and the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
- What do men, as creatures, know? Generally, all of his knowledge is limited and derived. He is dependent upon God for knowledge.
- What can a lost man know?
a) He can know some things accurately from natural revelation;
b) He can know nothing completely – he lacks an integrated view that relates all to Christ;
c) He cannot comprehend some things (special revelation) at all. He doesn’t know God.
- What can a saved man know? He has free access to all of God’s revelation, both natural and special.
- How does a saved man know? Through the two eyes of faith and reason he looks into the room of knowledge. The Spirit of God turns the light on in the room. Through the single lens of the revelation of Jesus Christ everything is brought into proper focus. A lost man has only the single eye of reason, but even that is out of focus, and he peers into a dark room.
There are actually three views of how one can know the truth.
The first view (Secular Humanism) supposes that man is totally independent of a God who either does not exist or who is irrelevant. Man is in control of knowledge that he acquires through his senses and reason. In this view the Bible is just another book without any supernatural character.
The second view (Theistic Humanism) holds that man is only partly independent of God. Man by reason can know the world in which he lives. He depends upon revelation for “religious” knowledge that is added to what he already knows. Francis Schaefer called this a two-story view where faith and reason never intersect. This view has a very weak view of the fall and how the fall has affected man’s thinking. Often in this view human reason stands in judgment on the Bible and decides which revelation to accept or reject.
The third view (Christian Theism) holds that all knowledge is dependent upon God. Since God is Creator of all, all facts are somehow related to God and dependent upon Him for interpretation. This view recognizes that the fall causes all men to suppress the truth and that without regeneration men can never know the truth about God and men will never see any truth in its proper relationship to God.
Goldsworthy offers us five presuppositions that are the underpinnings of our need of special revelation:
- God made every fact in the universe and He alone can interpret all things and events.
- Because we are created in the image of God, we know that we are dependent upon God for the truth.
- As sinners we suppress this knowledge and reinterpret the universe on the assumption that we, not God, give things their meaning.
- Special revelation through God’s redemptive word, reaching its high point in Jesus Christ, is needed to deal with our suppression of the truth and hostility to God.
- A special work of the Holy Spirit brings repentance and faith so that sinners acknowledge the truth which is in Scripture.