Revelation Empowers World-View
How can we discover more about God? Philosophers and theologians identify two kinds of evidence for God: (1) natural theology in the form of logic and science and (2) special revelation. Reason is used to explore and interpret both nature and special revelation.
Natural theology is very limited in describing God. Logic can tell us of God’s existence and the bare outlines of His Being but that’s about as far as she gets. Logic tells us nothing about the person of God. Does science do any better?
Science establishes that the existence of our world requires God as the universe’s designer and creator. Our universe did not create itself. The extreme complexity of our universe—especially the unfathomable intricacy required for life—could not arise from the random collisions of atoms. Did nature create itself? The probability of nature’s self-creation remains near absolute zero.
Was the universe created by God or by nature? By far, the most rational scientific choice is God. But, as with logic, science cannot tell us very much about God. He seems to be very smart and detail-oriented. He created the heavens and earth according to laws. These laws can be discovered by man. But what is God like? Neither science nor nature can answer such questions.
This is the role of revealed religion. A revelation from God is the centerpiece of the major world religions. These revelations are stored in holy books. Muslims have their Koran; Jews study the Torah; Hindus have a variety of books. The Bible is the source of special revelation for the Christian. Religions with such special books are called revealed religions.
Atheists hate revealed religions. It’s much easier for them to mock the vague, ephemeral God of natural theology. Atheists realize most people are confused by logic. Unstudied logical proofs are easily ridiculed. Take this one, for example, regarding the cause of first motion.
This proof starts by saying that every motion is the result of prior motion. If something is in motion, there must have been prior motion acting on this “something” to start its motion.
A good example of this is a chain of dominoes. Have you ever seen a long, long chain of dominoes? Some domino chains contain more than a million dominoes. The dominoes are set up on end so that if one domino falls over, it will hit the next domino causing it to fall over. That domino strikes the next domino and it falls over. And so it goes. Every domino is knocked over by a prior domino until all million plus dominoes are knocked down. It all started when that first domino was set in motion. This was the first motion in the domino chain. Without that first motion the dominoes would be standing today.
Similarly, there must be a first cause of motion in the universe. That first cause of motion is known to us as God.
Atheists found an easy way to defeat that argument in the mind of the average person. They ask “Well, so God created first motion, did He? Well, tell me this, who created God?” Anyone with a background in logic immediately sees the weakness of the question “Who made God?” The existence of God is a logical necessity. God must exist. He cannot fail to exist. But atheists realize most people have not studied logic. This question bewilders the person who does not understand logic. This average person thinks the atheist has destroyed the first cause argument. It seems that the atheist won. But he has not. He has only caused confusion.
But that’s what they live for. Atheists love to cause confusion. They take advantage of our ignorance of logic. Why? Well, even if the atheist can’t win the argument, his illogical statements easily confuse the issue.
Revealed religion is another matter. Revealed religion talks about God’s relationship to man. It tells us how we can please God. Revelation provides answers to many of our most important questions about God and man.
Christianity, for example, has so much to offer the empty soul. Belief in Jesus Christ can lead you to peace, joy, love, fellowship with God, and much, much more. The Bible reports the benefits of seeking God and submitting to His will. Atheists do not like to submit to anyone or anything.
The source of Revelation for the Christian is God’s Word. What is God’s Word?
When a Christian talks about God’s Word, he’s referring to two kinds of revelation. First, the Word refers to the Bible itself—God’s Written Word. The second kind is the words and person of Jesus Christ.
What is this revealed Word of God? Let’s start by looking inside the Bible–God’s written Word.
The Bible is the Written Word of God
The Bible testifies over and over again of its unique standing as the Word of God. How can God’s Word—the Bible—help us in our daily lives?
The Bible tells us how we can please God. The Bible can help us stay on the right track. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. Its central theme God’s Word—His decrees; His laws; His statutes; His testimonies; His promises. Knowing God’s laws can keep us going in the right direction.
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O LORD;
Teach me Your statutes.
Psalm 119: 9-12 (NAS)
The Bible also says in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” It’s a dark world out there. The Bible can help us find our way through life.
The Bible helps us find comfort in times of trouble. For example, the Bible says in Isaiah 43:1-3
But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
“For I am the LORD your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (NAS)
God promises to stand with us during difficult times of life. God promises that we will not be overwhelmed by life. For those who believe in God this prophecy provides peace and joy. We do not walk alone; God is with us. We do not stand in our own strength. God stands at our side and supports us.
The Bible has historical narratives to show us us how God can help us in our daily battles. In I Samuel 17, for example, the Bible proclaims victory for the person who trusts in God. When this chapter opens, the Israelites are gathered for battle against the Philistines. The Israelite army occupied one hill; the Philistine army another; there was a valley between them.
Every morning the action in the valley started the same way. The Philistine army included a huge warrior named Goliath of Gath. The Bible says he was over nine feet tall! In the morning Goliath would come into the valley and issue this challenge:
He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel and said to them, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.” I Samuel 17: 8-9 (NAS)
None of the Israelites had the courage to face the giant. Every morning for forty days this giant came into the valley, insulted the Israelites, and blasphemed their God.
David came to the army’s camp one day to bring some food to his brothers. David was considered a scrawny boy. He was not recruited for the army. After hearing Goliath’s challenge he asked some soldiers, “who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” His brothers told him to go home and stop causing trouble.
One thing led to another. Scrawny little David volunteered to face Goliath, the giant. When Goliath saw David coming to face off against him, Goliath boastfully said, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” David responded with words of courage and conviction.
“You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down . . . that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.” I Samuel 17: 44-47 (NAS)
We know what happened next. David slung a rock from his slingshot. The rock hit the giant between the eyes. The giant fell down. David cut off his head. Goliath was dead.
What does this episode teach us about God? Many things, such as, when you are facing giants, trust God for success. Also, “The battle is the Lord’s.” This includes battles in our daily lives.
These are just some of the ways the Bible reveals God to us.
But God saw that this is not enough. The Bible by itself could not fully reveal many of God’s most important qualities, such as, kindness, gentleness, and love. A special revelation was needed to reveal God’s best qualities to man.
Revelation Through Jesus Christ
God’s ultimate revelation to us came in the person of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1: 1-2 says,
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, Whom He appointed heir of all things, and through Whom also He created the universe.”(NAS)
Jesus also is identified as the Word. Consider John 1: 1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (NAS)
The Bible recognizes this Word as being with God from the beginning. The Word was fully God. And this Word, Jesus Christ, is fully God. He is fully qualified to reveal and represent God on Earth.
The book of Hebrews continues: “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1: 3, NAS) As Jesus said to Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14: 9, NAS)
And yet Jesus Christ became fully man. The Bible says in John 1: 14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (NAS)
The Word became flesh. But if that wasn’t enough, Jesus became the lowest of men. Jesus became a servant and suffered the humiliating death of crucifixion.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2: 5-8 (NAS)
But, in addition, Jesus introduced us to a new understanding of God and the Bible. He preached that love is the key to understanding and keeping the Ten Commandments and all of the Old Testament laws. One day a lawyer asked Jesus a question. He said, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus answered,
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37-40, NAS)
If you love God and love others, you will keep all the commandments. Love is the key to obeying God. Love also is the key to Christian brotherhood and fellowship.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. I John 4: 7-8 (NAS)
God’s love also is shown through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sin of the world—for your sin and for mine. According to I John 4: 9-10,
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (NAS)
This new understanding of God was revealed through Jesus Christ, the Word of God. We accept God’s revelation by faith. But it is more than just faith. God’s revelation becomes the foundation for our world-view.
The Need to Develop a World-View
The Word of God provides a stable and powerful foundation on which to build your world-view. “World-view” is a relatively new terminology. It began when Immanuel Kant introduced the word Weltanschauung to philosophy. Before long this word became a basic concept in German philosophy. This word means literally “world” (Welt) and “outlook or view” (anschauung).
Some Christians today have difficulties using this word. But don’t be afraid of it. The concept of “world-view” is becoming more and more important these days. Why? Because our society teaches us there is no truth and no right or wrong ideas. You can believe whatever you want. Thus, it’s even more important for a Christian to know what he believes and why.
There was a time when most people in a society had very similar world-views. We believed in the concept of truth. Most people believed the same things were true. People believed in the existence of God and of absolutes. Some things were good; other things were bad. The existence of right and wrong, truth and lies were considered the basis for understanding justice, the rule of law, and a citizen’s civic responsibilities. Parents taught their children these truths as soon as the children were old enough to understand. The same truths were reinforced by schools and on television.
During the 1960s and 1970s these basic truths were mocked, broken, and thrown aside. Our leaders began to waver on the existence of truth. We were told that each of us can decide for ourselves whether God exists, however, it was recommended that we reject the idea of God because that’s what most “intelligent” people were doing. Our country was “evolving” and accepting new ideas that arose in Europe.
This modern “evolution” began in Western Europe several centuries ago. During the Late Middle Ages, almost all Western Europeans believed in the Roman Catholic doctrines of Christianity. This unity began to break apart after the Protestant Reformation started in 1517. Lutherans, members of the Reformed Church, Baptists, and many other forms of Christianity sprang up almost immediately.
During the Seventeenth Century even the strained unity among Christians was shattered to pieces. In 1637 René Descartes published his book Discourse on Method. People started to see reality as split between mind and body. They wondered, “How can the mind have certain knowledge of anything in the physical world? Can we really know anything?” Skepticism developed as a legitimate world-view. The skeptic’s world-view contained no truth. Skeptics believe there is no truth.
The Age of Enlightenment began a few years later. Followers of the Enlightenment claimed Reason as their God. They believed knowledge could be gained only from the physical world. Some denied the existence of a spiritual world. Others asked “How can we really know if a spiritual world exists?”
Some people became Deists. They believed God created the world and then walked away. Their God does not care how we act or what we do. He abandoned us. We are masters of our own lives and fates. In the early Eighteenth Century some people began to call themselves freethinkers. They felt they were free to think whatever they desired. They were not bound or limited by traditions, customs, or religious beliefs. Anthony Grafton wrote in his book The Crisis of the European Mind:
The freethinker gets it into his head that he is merely doing what his enlightened desire, the logical power of his own reason, bids him do; he is the master of his fate, as he is of the universe.
People had the right to choose their own truth. What’s that? Think about that statement. “People have the right to choose their own truth?” What kind of foolishness is that? Truth is truth. Truth never changes. These new beliefs only make truth harder to find.
In our world today we face a new challenge. Each of us has the task of constructing his or her own world-view. This task is made even more difficult because there is no “accepted” or recommended world-view. Our society offers many kinds of world-views. Some are OK; others not so much; a few are absolutely horrible. But our society says they are all equal. How can we construct a world-view from this mess? How can we find the best world-view in this jungle of deception, lies, and ignorance?
This is easier for the Christian. The Word of God—both the Bible and Jesus—provides us with everything we need to build the strongest world-view. Where do we start? The Bible recommends we compare our world-view to a building. When someone builds a building, where do they start? They start with a firm foundation. Jesus spoke of the importance of a firm foundation in Matthew 7: 24-27:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”(NAS)
And what is this firm foundation? The Word of God—Jesus Christ and His teachings. As the apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3: 11: “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (NAS)
Build your world-view on that solid foundation. Use the best materials in its construction. Use materials that will stand the test of time.
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. I Corinthians 3: 12-15 (NAS)
The biblical, Christ-centered world-view stands the test of time. This world-view has a proven track record. Christianity repairs broken people and societies. Jesus Christ has the power and the words that can transform us. Christ can make us better people. This will have a positive impact on our society.
The Atheist World-View Versus Christianity
How does the Christian world-view compare with that of atheism?
Atheists begin with the claim there is no God. Most atheists are angry because they know their first “truth” is a lie. But atheists are materialists. They believe the physical world is the only world that exists. No part of our existence is linked to a higher being in any way. There is no conscience. There is no soul. Love is the brain’s response to chemicals. There is no higher aspect to love. Darwinism says love is evolution’s way to trick us into continuing our species. Life is meaningless. It has no purpose. When we die we cease to exist.
Everything atheists believe is drawn from these assumptions. They believe science is the only path to knowledge. There is no truth. There are no standards or absolutes because there is no God to set standards. Good and bad; right and wrong are defined by each person according to the need of the moment. Reason cannot take part in theological or metaphysical speculation. Metaphysics and theology are foolish superstitions, according to atheists.
Atheists do not believe in peace or joy or love. For an atheist, these feelings have no basis in reality. An atheist believes life is empty, without purpose or meaning. He forbids the use of reason in all religious thinking. “Reason is part of the physical world alone,” he says. “Religious people are trying to steal it away from me and apply it to religion. But it’s mine! It belongs to me alone.!” No wonder he is angry!
Let’s start building our world-view again with Christianity at its center. How does world-view develop for the Christian? Our first assumption? God is real. This is based on our experiences in this beautiful world. For example, belief in God’s existence grew out of a biology class where for the first time our eyes were opened to the amazing complexity of life.
Our conviction matured as we saw dedicated Christians sacrifice their lives to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. Christians donate money to help people in need. Christians build hospitals and schools. God must exist! There must be something or someone to inspire these selfless acts. Where are the hospitals and schools built by atheists? Christians are different in a wonderful way. Their God must be real. This is our first assumption.
Christians also believe that God revealed Himself to the world through the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ. They believe in the Bible because it holds true over time. But it’s more than this. As they follow the teachings of the Bible their lives become better. They learn to trust God regardless of the circumstances. Their lives become filled with a new kind of peace and joy that defies description.
Following the Bible’s direction, Christians enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Then they are never alone. The Bible is true. Christ is with them. The Word of God–both in the Bible and in the person of Jesus Christ–is God’s special revelation to people. This is our second assumption. And, yes, it’s based on faith.
Christians also believe in the reality of God’s Creation. According to Genesis 1: 31, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (NAS) This is our third assumption. Why is it so important? For at least two reasons.
First, Christianity assumes the world is exactly as God made it to be. God created the heavens and the earth, the stars and the universe. God declared that it was good. When I look at a bird, for example, I can have confidence that the bird is really there. My five senses provide me with reliable information. The world is real.
This may seem an unimportant point. For most of us on most days, it is. However, for philosophy in our present age it is huge. A moment ago I wrote about Descartes and the split between mind and body. Remember? Descartes published his book during a time when non-believers were searching for an idea, a system, a method, anything to help them break away from belief in God. Although Descartes was a strong Christian, they found a way to use his philosophy to drive a wedge between God and His creation, between reason and belief.
Descartes asked how we can know whether the things we see are truly there. His answer was, “No, this knowledge is not beyond doubt.” Descartes decided all he can know for certain is that he exists (I think, therefore, I am). Non-believers grabbed onto this and propelled it to unimagined heights. The questioning of reality became the central theme for skeptics, freethinkers, and atheists. Their argument: “If we cannot truly know anything, how can we truly know anything about God?” Atheists are not concerned with answers. They delight in causing confusion.
This new interpretation of reality soon spread over Europe. It continues to dominate discussions when Christians talk to unbelievers about God today.
Some philosophers tried to strike a blow for common sense. More than 150 years after Descartes a Scottish philosopher named Thomas Reid proposed an answer to Cartesian skepticism. In Reid’s book An Inquiry into the Human Mind: On the Principles of Common Sense, he called Descartes’ theory the “wisdom of philosophy.” Reid wrote, “Thus the wisdom of philosophy is set in opposition to the common sense of mankind.” Reid also called Descartes’ dualism “metaphysical lunacy.”
Reid believed in a common sense reality. He explains
“Common sense and reason have both one author; that Almighty author, in all whose other works we observe a consistency, uniformity, and beauty, which charm and delight the understanding: there must therefore be some order and consistency in the human faculties, as well as in other parts of his workmanship.”
God placed us in this world. He gave us five senses for exploring this world and reason to help us explain it. Skeptics who believe in Descartes’ mind-body dualism need to practice what they say they believe. After arguing about our inability to have real knowledge of the physical world, the skeptic goes to his real home, makes himself a real sandwich, and sits down on a real chair to watch his favorite television show. He does not live according to his own philosophy.
Christianity assumes the world is as God made it. God is not playing any kind of epistemological trick on us. We can trust the messages received from our senses. God built a world that is real.
Christians assume the world is real for a second important reason. The Bible is confirmed by real events that happened in history. The historical accuracy of the Bible and fulfilled prophecy provide strong evidence in the Bible’s favor. They prove the Bible is trustworthy and dependable. If we can rely on the provable parts of the Bible, the argument is strengthened in favor of the parts of the Bible accepted by faith.
Revelation and the Discovery of God
These three assumptions form the basis for a Christian world-view. But without special revelation there is no possibility of building a Christian world-view. There are just too many gaps—too many unanswered questions.
But we also need a personal relationship with God. We need God to reveal Himself to us. “Dear God,” we plead, “please draw back the curtain; walk through the mist and reveal Yourself to me. Speak to me.” We long for God’s personal touch. Why is this so important?
Nature reveals God through His works. But this revelation is not very specific. It’s like footprints across a sandy beach. Imagine one day that you are walking along a quiet beach. No one else is on the beach. Suddenly you notice one set of footprints leading along the beach. How exciting! Perhaps this will lead you to a true friend! You won’t be lonely any more.
But how much can you know about this person from his footprints? You know someone was there but you don’t really know anything about him (or her). This person has five toes on each foot, is barefoot, and seems to have normal size feet. You know the person must exist (and that he has feet) but that’s about all you know.
This is similar to natural revelation. Natural revelation proves God exists but tells us almost nothing about Him.
You continue to follow the footprints along the beach. Several people approach. Perhaps they can tell you about the person who made the footprints. Yes, they know him. He spoke with them. He is their closest friend. They begin to reveal information about their friend. How do they know these things?
The Bible tells us in Amos 3:7: “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets.” For the purpose of this scenario, these people represent the prophets and the apostles.
This is the second kind of revelation. God reveals Himself to us through the Bible – His holy Word. This kind of revelation is called special revelation. According to I Peter 1: 10-12, God revealed His message to the prophets. This revelation came many years before the events took place.
As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.
How do we know that God talked to them? Atheists say these people were crazy. Atheists theorize that some of their visions were only fits of epilepsy. Other visions and prophetic sayings are the result of “magic mushrooms” or other hallucinogens. “These people wasted their lives,” they remark. “Drugs ‘spoke’ to them, not God.”
But their prophetic words came true. These words continue to change lives today. This is one difference between a godly-given prophecy and a drug induced hallucination. Drug induced hallucinations do not come true and their teachings to not pass the test of time.
You walk along the beach with these apostles and prophets. Before long you spot another figure on the beach. He’s walking toward you. As He approaches, closer and closer, excitement grows within you.
This person is special! He is like no one else you ever met. You understand intuitively that He is the one who left the path of footprints along the beach. He is the one who inspired the apostles and prophets. They wrote down His words in order to bring you to Him.
He looks into your eyes. Instantly, you know who He is. You whisper, “My God,” and fall to your knees. He takes your hand and raises you to your feet. “My brother (sister),” He says.
It’s Jesus Christ, your Savior, Lord, Brother, and Friend for the rest of eternity.