Theology is "the instruction concerning God" or "the deliberation of God."(Grenz, 2000, p.2) It endeavors to disclose the identity of God, the habitation of God, and the character, origin, position and importance of God.
Humans commonly acquire information in three ways: through their senses, through their logic/reasoning, and through their faith which denotes confidence in the information given by another.(www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/theology/02rev.html) Theologians posit that knowledge of God is acquired through divine self-disclosure, e.g., God reveals Himself to humans.
He does so by means of general revelation and special revelation. This paper will explain how the doctrine of revelation, general, reveals the issue of knowing God; provide the origins of knowledge: and furnish the challenges confronted in acquiring knowledge of God. In addition, it will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of identifying truth about God through general revelation. General Revelation
General revelation is sometimes referred to as natural revelation- the disclosure of God in nature, in providential history. and in the moral law within the heart, whereby all persons at all times and places gain a rudimentary understanding of the Creator and His moral demands.(Thomas, Robert L., 1998, pp. 5-6)
The gist of general revelation lies in the fact that all humans are created in the image/likeness of God, exist in God's creation and have the certainty of God imprinted on their sensibilities. This is a non-verbal, non-saving phenomenon which fails to guide anyone to salvation awareness of God.
What general revelation accomplishes is "religion" - the comprehensive acknowledgement of humans to the closeness of God in creation, e.g., humans come to know God through the examination of nature. Consequently, it is germane to associate ideas of natural revelation or natural religion to general revelation.
(Bolt, John. 2011, p. 316) "Because this general awareness of God is universal, we can speak of a natural religion- a religious response of human beings to the presence and speaking of God in creation"(Bolt, John. 2011, p. 316). The Sources to Knowledge of God
The feasibility of knowing God is a tantalizing thought which frequently brings up the question of how. No human being can thoroughly discern God or be aware of His essential being. Any knowledge we have of Him is limited in part [not to be fully disclosed until the eschaton]. Christian philosophers submit a range of approaches as to what articulates the basic path to gain insight concerning God.(Grenz, Stanley. 2000, p. 45)
Reason Several Christian philosophers believe it is feasible to partially, yet genuinely know God by virtue of intellectual reflection. e.g., that we can discern God by virtue of reasoning or deduction.
A proponent of this method is Thomas Aquinas. According to Thomas, God can be known through the divine works or "effects" evident to all through our sense of experience of this world. Through this process we can draw certain conclusions concerning God. We may assert that He exist. And by employing the principle of analogy between creation and Creator, we can stipulate whatever must by necessity be true of God as the first Cause of the world.(Grenz, 2000, p. 46)
Thomas recommends three approaches that we can use to deduce information about God: a)via causalitatis (the way of causality)- we can assign definite characteristics to God supported by the perfection we see in nature; b) via negations (the way of negation) -advises us to get rid of any concept of God whereby negative qualities found in creatures are attribute to Him and give God the opposite perfection; c) via eminentiae (the way of eminence)- allowsus to assign to God in the most prestigious demeanor the perfections we find in humans.(Grenz, 2000, p. 46)
Religious Experience Religious experience is a theory which advocates that we do not learn about God diffusely as a result of logical deliberation or hypothetical maxims, but by virtue of an intimate encounter with God. Theology, as such, is not the categorization of scholarly thought concerning God, but the intelligent contemplation on our religious experience. The theologian, in turn, enunciates the fundamental truth supported in the experience.(Grenz, S. 2000, p. 47)
Proponents of this theory are at variance about the nature of the typical characteristics of an encounter. A religious experience can run the gamut from God talking to an individual, to an individual being cognizant of God's existence, or having a miraculous healing. Consequently it is difficult to pigeonhole them with specifics. Nonetheless, what all of these encounters do have in common is that these encounters are exceptionally distinctive from everyday run of the mill experiences.(Richards, Stephen A. 1999, p. 1)
God's Self-Revelation All knowledge of God comes by way of revelation. Human knowledge of God is revealed knowledge since God, and God alone, gives it. He bridges the gap between Himself and His creatures, disclosing Himself and His will to them. By God alone can God be known. (Dockery, David. 1991)
God's self-revelation is the third method of knowing God. It cannot be absolutely separated from the two previous methods. Theologians who posit this method of knowing god advocate diverse proposals about the position of the divine self-disclosure. Several theologians assert that God's self-disclosure can be found in nature.(Grenz, 2000, p. 48) This assertion is supported by various biblical affirmations "often cited as scriptural grounds for the existence unite in projecting one grand subject of that revelation: God Himself. A sampling of the usual passages will reflect this"(Thomas, Robert L., 1998, p. 7)-
Psalms 19: 1-6 -"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech;..."(NIV, 2009) Romans 1: 19-21 - "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them..."(NIV, 2009) Acts 17: 24-28 - "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live..."(NIV, 2009)
Other Christian philosophers, as well as fundamentalist, exhort that the centerpiece of revelation is Scripture. Scripture is from God, depicts God, speaks about God, and speaks for God. Karl Barth enunciates that divine self-revelation is conclusively discovered basically in Jesus Christ. (Grenz, 2000, p. 48; Grenz, S. and Franke, J. 2001, p.57)
Another body of Christian philosophers observe history for the domain of divine self-revelation. Focus may be given to powerful feats of God in history, like the Exodus, as the process of a divine deliverance of the enslaved and downtrodden or an account of divine self-revelation of monumental proportions. Still others, assert that universal/world history in entirety is the central point of God's self-revelation. Conclusion
Theologians employ a variety of sources/methodologies to gain insight concerning God: religious experience, divine self-revelation, and reason/logic. God intends for human beings to know Him. He accomplishes this through the auspices of general and special revelation. General revelation is frequently referred to as natural
References Bolt, John. (2011). Getting the "two books" straight: with a little help from Herman Bavinck and John Calvin. Calvin Theological Journal 46 no. 2 Nov. 2011, p. 315-332. Retrieved March 11, 2013 from ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials. Dockery, David. (1991). Revelation of God. Holman Bible Dictionary. Retrieved April 18, 2013 from http://wwwstudylight.org/dic/Hbd/viewcgi?numberT5333. Grenz, Stanley J. (2000). Theology for the community of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman Publishing Co. Has God spoken? the doctrine of revelation. (n.d.).
Retrieved March 11, 2013 from http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/theology/02rev.html Holy Bible, The. (New International Version).(2009). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Richards, Stephen A. (1999). Religious experience: an introduction. Retrieved March 11, 2013 from http://www.thatreligiousstudieswebsite.com/Religious_Studies/Phil_of_Rel/God/religious_experience_intro.php_religiousexperienceanintroduction.that religiousstudieswebsite. Thomas, Robert L. (1998). General revelation and biblical hermeneutics. The Master's Seminary Journal 9/1, Spring 1998, pp. 5-23. Retrieved March 11, 2013 from ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Serials.