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Delve into the concept of special revelation in Christianity, examining common objections and the unique place of the Bible amongst other sacred texts.
This book is all about showing evidence for Christianity and why it’s important for people around the world to understand it. The success of Christianity relies on the core truths it teaches. The goal of this book is to illustrate its divine origin, as explained in the Old and New Testaments. It answers critical questions like: Does the Bible truly reveal God’s thoughts to us? Are the stories and teachings of Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and his disciples, as told in the Bible, accurate? Is Christianity truly a divine religion, and does it really express God’s intent? If the Bible’s historical records and statements about religion are credible, then the answers to these questions are yes.
As someone providing an argument in favor of Christianity, it’s not my job to prove God exists or to discuss the truths of religion in general. Those topics belong to theologians and are part of the broader discussion on religion and belief in God. This book assumes that God exists and oversees the universe.
No Reason to Oppose Divine Revelation
There’s no valid reason to deny that God could reveal Himself to humans. Humans are both physical and spiritual beings. Our sense of self and ability to reason are spiritual aspects, not physical, and they reside within our bodies. Our intelligence and wisdom come from our spiritual selves, not our bodies.
God’s Presence in Nature
God is a spirit, and His communication with humans is a spiritual connection between two entities, a communication between two individuals. As rational spirits, humans can receive and store knowledge, which they acquire by interacting with the outside world. The earth under our feet and the stars above are continuously offering us new thoughts and ideas, enriching our understanding with their truths. Nature might not use human language, but it communicates with the conscious soul through signs of intelligent design, revealing the eternal power and divinity of its Creator.
The Personal Revelation of God
God’s unique revelation to humans, as detailed in the Old and New Testaments, is a personal revelation, like a conversation between two people. It’s as simple as a loving Father sharing essential information with His children in a language they can comprehend. There’s nothing strange about this; it’s the kind of communication we’d expect from any loving parent.
This divine revelation implies God, as a Father, making His intentions known to His children so they can understand and follow His commands. In this relationship, there’s a moral obligation to obey, which necessitates a clear understanding of what’s required. Nature may express its ideas silently and through its normal activities, but can a historical and truth-speaking God do the same? Creating a world might show off its creator’s power and divinity, but it’s through actively governing that world that God can reveal His justice, love, mercy, and goodness.
A generic history book isn’t enough to truly understand divine revelation. While it might mention individuals, its primary focus is on humanity as a whole. Acts of divine providence often apply too broadly to provide individual conviction or a sense of peace through faith. For a revelation to truly impact people who are morally flawed and deliberately sinful, it needs to be part of specific historical events—a sacred narrative set within our flawed world’s secular history.
The Bible claims to provide this kind of historical narrative. It’s a message from God the Father to His children, detailing how Jesus Christ worked on humanity’s behalf to redeem us and reconcile us with God.
Special Revelation: Possible and Necessary
When we talk about a special revelation from God to humanity, we’re suggesting that God can give us additional information beyond what we already know, and that we have the capacity to receive this extra revelation. To deny the possibility of a special revelation is to say that God gave humanity all the information we could possibly handle right at the start of our existence. But that doesn’t match with our common sense. We know we’re capable of learning more, and we believe that God can provide this additional information. If additional information was necessary for something as significant as the redemption and salvation of the world, who would claim that we need this divine wisdom, yet also argue that God couldn’t provide it?
Special Revelation Aligns with God and Humanity’s Nature
God, as the creator of the spirit, knows how humans are structured and how we can learn and be influenced. With His omnipotence, He can choose how to interact with us in a way that aligns with His will. This doesn’t infringe on His creation; just as humans can be intellectually and morally influenced by other humans without breaking any natural or mental laws, we can receive communication from God—our Creator—without violating our own or the world’s laws.
When discussing the concept of special revelation, it’s important to remember that this is supplemental to God’s original and universal revelation: the insights we gain from nature. The evidence supporting the divine authority of this revelation may exceed but does not contradict our natural laws; it can be supernatural and immediate, adding to what we understand from nature, but never undermining or conflicting with it.
Special Revelation Enhances Natural Knowledge
Most rational minds would agree that God, in providing a special revelation, is also capable of ensuring the recipient can distinguish between what they learn from nature and what’s revealed specially. Those who accept the possibility of revelation also accept God’s ability to communicate His truths in such a way that there’s no chance of not recognizing it as God’s voice.
Responding to Hume’s Skepticism Towards Miracles
These days, skeptics who question the supernatural elements in Christianity don’t have much sway over honest seekers of truth. As we get further away from the era of David Hume, their influence steadily wanes. Their main argument is that testimonies are more likely to be false than people’s overall experiences, so no miracle can be genuine. But this kind of reasoning could undermine all truths, whether they’re natural or supernatural. Most people see the flaw in this argument: it’s simply too broad to be reliable or accurate. Skeptics often overlook a key aspect of the miracles described in the Bible: they were directly experienced and then reported by people who were present at the time.
While it’s debatable whether someone defending Christianity has to prove the need for a special revelation before exploring its truths, it’s hard to deny that there has been—and continues to be—a real need for it.
The State of Religion Among Pagans Shows the Need for Special Revelation
The religious conditions of non-Christian cultures, both past and present, offer compelling evidence of humanity’s need for special revelation. Despite nature’s light being freely available to all, its religious teachings haven’t been enough to guide the world out of sin and towards true civilization. At least, it hasn’t managed to do so yet. It’s not just devout non-Christians who complain about a lack of divine guidance in religious matters and the afterlife. Even with the addition of Christian revelation, no reasonable person would claim that we have too much information about immortality and our duties as humans. It’s been clear to serious thinkers throughout history and across cultures that humans can’t guide their own paths. When ancient societies had reached the pinnacle of their philosophical and academic achievements, their wisest individuals expressed a need for a teacher who could reveal God’s thoughts to humanity. As the respected philosopher Socrates once said, “We need to wait until someone comes to teach us how we should behave towards God and man.” He added, “Oh, when will that time come? Who will that teacher be? How I long to meet him!”
The Gospels Show the Need for Special Revelation
Even after reading all that Jesus says in the Gospels about the afterlife, immortality, and what we need to do to reach heaven, don’t you wish He’d shed a bit more light on the future world, on heaven, and on the relationship between the dead and the living?
Addressing Some Concerns
Let’s consider this: if humans need a special revelation from God, if God is capable of providing this revelation, and if humans can understand it, then it follows that if God is wise, fair, and kind, such a revelation must exist. A parent who has the means to meet their child’s needs but neglects to do so is not wise, fair, or kind. The same principle applies to God, our heavenly Father. As it is written in the Old Testament, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”
If a special revelation doesn’t conflict with God’s wisdom, fairness, and kindness (which we believe it doesn’t), then disagreements about what this revelation should contain before it’s given aren’t a significant problem for logical thinkers. Their faith won’t likely be shaken by such disagreements. The argument that a revelation isn’t divine because it wasn’t given to everyone simultaneously doesn’t hold up either. Critics who raise this point overlook the fact that the special revelation in the Bible was originally given to all humans. But when people stopped acknowledging God, He let their minds become corrupt. The same argument could be made against scientific truths, as their light doesn’t shine equally on everyone at the same time. Would anyone argue that a medicine isn’t effective because its benefits were only recently discovered and aren’t known or enjoyed by everyone? The fact that not everyone is gifted in the same way or enjoys the same benefits from scientific discoveries doesn’t undermine the truth of scientific findings or the value of individual talents.
However, if a document that claims to contain a special revelation doesn’t deliver on its promises, or if its impact on humans contradicts or opposes its teachings, then its claims of being a divine revelation could be rightly doubted or even dismissed. But if the document stands up to fair criticism, contains everything it promises, has an impact on people that aligns with its teachings, and its teachings are wise, fair, and kind, then it’s highly likely that it is indeed a special revelation, which any rational person should consider seriously.
Examining Claims of Special Revelation
If a special revelation has been given to humans, it must be in either the sacred texts of non-Christian religions or the Bible, Christianity’s sacred book. But anyone who thoroughly studies the Vedas of Brahmanism or the Quran of Islam, or any other sacred texts outside the Bible, will see that their claims lack a solid foundation in truth. These texts simply don’t compare to the Bible.
Pagan religions are ancient, and their religions are supposedly based on special revelations, but considering the current state of paganism, can anyone reasonably argue that it is a divine revelation based on its outcomes? After five thousand years of human sacrifices and other horrific rituals, its followers are extremely oppressed and miserable. The only condition that could be worse would be to have no religion at all.
It’s true that there are a few bright spots in the otherwise dark history of paganism. But these are points in history where it came into contact, directly or indirectly, with God’s Word as delivered by Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and his apostles. Aside from these bright spots, the history of paganism has been marked by sorrow and degradation. If you look at pagan laws on morality and the family, they’re shockingly bleak. Examples from history, like laws condoning unfaithfulness, parents sacrificing their children in religious rituals, and many others, only highlight the horrors and superstitions of paganism.
Despite the wisdom of philosophers like Socrates and Plato, it’s important to remember that they were all younger than Abraham and Moses, and some, like Plato, were born after the death of David, Solomon, and Isaiah. Isaiah had already written his stunning prophecy about the coming of Jesus before either Socrates or Plato was born. We don’t know how much these ancient philosophers knew about the writings of Hebrew sages, but we do know that people traveled from far and wide to hear Solomon’s wisdom. In our next article, we will investigate the Bible’s claim of divine origin.
EXCURSION General Revelation
General revelation refers to God’s revelation in nature as opposed to his revelation in Scripture (see Natural Theology). More specifically, general revelation is manifest in physical nature, human nature, and history. In each case God has disclosed something specific about himself and his relation to his creation. General revelation is important to Christian apologetics since it is the data with which the theist constructs arguments from the existence of God (see Cosmological Argument; Teleological Argument). Without it there would be no basis for apologetics.
God’s Revelation in Nature. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1), the psalmist wrote. “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory” (Ps. 97:6). Job added, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord had done this?” (Job 12:7–9).
Paul spoke of “the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:15–17). He reminded the Greek philosophers that “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24–25).
Paul instructed the Romans that even the heathen stand guilty before God “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:18–20). In view of this the psalmist concluded, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ” (Ps. 14:1).
God is revealed in nature in two basic ways: as Creator and as Sustainer. He is both the cause of the origin as well as the operation of the universe. The first speaks of God as the originator of all things. “By him all were created” and “in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16–17); God “made the universe” and he also “sustains all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:2–3); he “created all things” and by him “all things have their being” (Rev. 4:11).
In addition to Originator, God is also the Sustainer of all things. He is active not only in the universe coming to be but also in its continuing to be. The psalmist referred to this latter function when he said of God: “He makes springs pour water into the ravines.… He makes grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth” (Ps. 104:10, 14).
God’s Revelation in Human Nature. God created human beings in his image and likeness (Gen. 1:27). Something about God, therefore, can be learned from studying human beings (cf. Psalm 8). Since humans are like God, it is wrong to murder them (Gen. 9:6) and even to curse them (James 3:9). The redeemed human self is “renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10). Paul affirmed that God created:
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” As some of your own poets have said, “We are his offspring.” Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. [Acts 17:26–29]
By looking at the creature we can learn something about the Creator. For “Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches man lack knowledge?” (Ps. 94:9–10). Even Christ in the flesh is said to be an “image” of the invisible God (John 1:14; Heb. 1:3).
God is manifested not only in the intellectual nature of human beings, but also in their moral nature (see Morality, Absolute Nature of). God’s moral law is written in human hearts. For “when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, their conscience also bearing witness” (Rom. 2:12–15). Since moral responsibility entails the ability to respond, man in God’s image is also a free moral creature (Gen. 1:27; cf. 2:16–17).
God’s Revelation in Human History. History has been called “His-story.” It is the footprints of God in the sands of time. Paul declared that God “determined the times set for them [the nations] and the exact places they should live” (Acts 17:26). God disclosed to Daniel that “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17). God also revealed to Daniel that human history is moving toward the ultimate goal of the kingdom of God on earth (Daniel 2; 7). So a proper understanding of history informs us about the plan and purpose of God.
God Is Revealed in Human Art. The Bible declares that God is beautiful, and so is his creation. The psalmist wrote: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1). Isaiah beheld a marvelous display of God’s beauty when he “saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isa. 6:1). Scriptures encourage us to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Ps. 29:2; cf. 27:4).
Solomon pointed out that God has made everything “beautiful in its time” (Eccles. 3:11). The psalmist speaks of his city of Zion as “perfect in beauty” (Ps. 50:2). What God created is good like himself (Gen. 1:31; 1 Tim. 4:4), and the goodness of God is beautiful. So, insofar as creation reflects God, it is also beautiful. Not only is God beautiful and has made a beautiful world, but he has created beings who can appreciate beauty. Like him, they can also make beautiful things. Human beings are, as it were “sub-creators.” God endows certain humans with special creative gifts which reveal something of his marvelous nature.
God Is Revealed in Music. God apparently loves music, since he orchestrated the angelic choir at creation when “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). Angels also continually chant the tersanctus in his presence, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 4:6; 6:3). Furthermore, angels gather around God’s throne and “in a loud voice they sing: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain” (Rev. 5:12).
Moses’ sister, Miriam, led the triumphant Israelites in singing after God delivered them through the Red Sea (Exod. 15). David, the “sweet psalmist of Israel,” set up a choir for the temple and wrote many songs (psalms) to be sung in it. Paul admonished the church to “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).
We learn something more about God’s nature through the human voice, a God-ordained instrument of music. Even the Jewish high priest entered within the holy of holies with bells on his garment. And the psalmist commanded that God be praised with trumpet, harp, lyre, tambourine, and cymbals (Ps. 150:3–5). In heaven the angels play trumpets (Rev. 8:2) and others play harps (Rev. 14:2). Music too is a gift and manifestation of God. Like the rest of his creation, it is a manifestation of his glory.
So even apart from God’s special revelation in Scripture, he has manifested himself in general revelation in nature.
General and Special Revelation. While the Bible is God’s only written revelation (see Bible, Evidence for), it is not God’s only revelation. God has more to say to us than is in the Bible. His general revelation in nature, man, history, art and music offers vast opportunities for continual exploration. The following chart summarizes this relationship:
God as Redeemer
God as Creator
norm for church
norm for society
means of salvation
means of condemnation
The Role of Special Revelation. Special revelation contributes uniquely to Christian theology. The Bible alone is infallible and inerrant (see Bible, Alleged Errors in). Further, the Bible is the only source of both God’s revelation as Redeemer and his plan of salvation. Thus Scripture is normative for all (see Revelation, Special).
The Bible alone is infallible and inerrant. The Bible is normative for all Christian thought. It is a revelation of Christ (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Heb. 10:7). The task of the Christian, then, is “to bring every thought captive to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) as revealed in Scripture. We must think as well as live Christocentric lives (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21).
The Bible alone reveals God as Redeemer. While general revelation manifests God as Creator, it does not reveal him as Redeemer. The universe speaks of God’s greatness (Ps. 8:1; Isa. 40:12–17), but only special revelation reveals his redeeming grace (John 1:14). The heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1), but only Christ declared his saving grace (Titus 2:11–13).
The Bible alone has the message of salvation. In view of God’s general revelation all are “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). For all who sin apart from the [written] law will also perish apart from the law” (Rom. 2:12). General revelation is a sufficient ground for condemnation. However, it is not sufficient for salvation. One can tell how the heavens move by studying general revelation, but not how to go to heaven (see Heathen, Salvation of). For “there is no other name under heaven [except Christ’s] given to men by which men must be saved” (Acts 4:12). To be saved, one must confess “Jesus is Lord” and believe that God has raised him from the dead (Rom. 10:9). But they cannot call upon someone of whom they have not heard, “and how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom. 10:14). Thus, preaching the Gospel in all the world is the Christian’s great commission (Matt. 28:18–20).
The Bible is the written norm. Without the truth of Scripture there would be no Church, for “the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). The revealed Word of God is the norm for faith and practice. Paul said “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, training, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). However, not all unbelievers have access to a Bible. Nonetheless, God holds them responsible to his general revelation. For “all who sin apart from the [written] law will also perish apart from the law,” since they have a law in their hearts (Rom. 2:12, 14).
The Role of General Revelation. While the Bible is all true, God has not revealed all truth in the Bible. Whereas the Bible is only truth, it is not the only truth. All truth is God’s truth, but all God’s truth is not in the Bible (see Truth, Nature of). General revelation, then, plays an important role in God’s plan, and as such it has several unique roles.
General is broader than special revelation. General revelation encompasses much more than special revelation. Most of the truths of science, history, mathematics, and the arts are not in the Bible. The bulk of truth in all these areas is found only in God’s general revelation. While the Bible is everywhere scientifically accurate, it is not a textbook on science. The mandate to do science is not a redemption mandate; it is a creation mandate. Right after God created Adam he commanded him to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Likewise, there are no mathematical errors in God’s inerrant Word, but then again there is very little geometry or algebra and no calculus in it either (see Science and the Bible). Similarly, the Bible records accurately much of the history of Israel, but has little on the history of the world, except as it bears on Israel. The same is true of every area of the arts and science. Whenever the Bible speaks in these areas, it speaks authoritatively, but God has largely left the discoveries of his truths in these areas to a study of general revelation.
General revelation is essential to human reason. Not even an unbeliever thinks apart from God’s general revelation in human reason (see Faith and Reason). God is a rational being, and humanity is made in his image (Gen. 1:27). Just as God thinks rationally, so human beings were given that capacity. Brute beasts, by contrast, are called “irrational” (Jude 10). Indeed, the highest use of human reason is to love the Lord with “all our mind …” (Matt. 22:37).
The basic laws of human reason are common to believer and unbeliever (see Logic; First Principles). Without them no writing, thinking, or rational inferences would be possible. But nowhere are these laws of thought spelled out in the Bible. Rather, they are part of God’s general revelation and the special object of philosophical thought.
General revelation is essential to government. God has ordained that believers live by his written law, but he has written his law in the hearts of unbelievers (Rom. 2:12–15). Divine law in Scripture is the norm for Christians, but natural law is binding on all. Nowhere in Scripture does God judge the nations by either the law of Moses he gave to Israel (Exod. 19–20) or by the law of Christ he enjoins on Christians. To think otherwise is the central error of theonomists. Nowhere, for example, were non-Jewish nations ever condemned in the Old Testament for not observing the Sabbath or sacrificing a lamb. Strangers and sojourners in Israel were, of course, required to respect the civil and moral laws of Israel as long as they were in the country. But this no more means the Jewish law was intended for them than that Christians are under the Quranic law because they must abide by it when in Muslim lands.
The law of Moses was not given to the Gentiles. Paul said clearly, “the Gentiles who have not the law” (Rom. 2:14). The psalmist said “He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation: they do not know his laws” (Ps. 147:19–20). This is confirmed by the fact that, in spite of the many condemnations of Gentiles’ sins in the Old Testament, never once were they condemned for not worshiping on the Sabbath or not making pilgrimages or bringing tithes to Jerusalem. This does not mean that there is no law of God for non-believers; they are bound by the law “written in their hearts” (Rom. 2:2–15). While they have no special revelation in holy Scripture, they are responsible to general revelation in human nature.
General revelation is essential to apologetics. Without general revelation there would be no basis for Christian apologetics (see Classical Apologetics). For if God had not revealed himself in nature, there would be no way to argue from the design evident in it to the existence of a Designer, known as the teleological argument for God’s existence. Nor would there be any way to argue from the beginning or contingency of the world to the existence of a First Cause, known as the cosmological argument. Likewise, unless God had revealed himself in the very moral nature of human beings it would not be possible to argue to a Moral Lawgiver (see Moral Argument for God). And, of course, without a God who can act in creating the world, there could be no special acts of God (miracles) in the world (see Miracle).
Interaction Between Revelations. Since it is the task of a systematic thinker to organize all truth about God and his relation to his creation, both general and special revelation are needed. However, since special revelation overlaps with general revelation, it is necessary to discuss the interaction between general and special revelation. God has revealed himself in his Word and in his world. His truth is found both in Scripture and in science. The problem arises when they seem to conflict. It is too simplistic to conclude that the Bible is always right and science wrong.
When dealing with conflicts between Christianity and culture we must be careful to distinguish between God’s Word, which is infallible, and our interpretation of it which is not. We must further distinguish between God’s revelation in his world, which is always true, and current understanding of it, which is not always correct and is likely to change. In the past, Christians have frequently given up claims to biblical truth for scientific theories that are no longer held to be so.
Two important things follow from these distinctions. First, God’s revelations in his Word and his world never contradict each other. God is consistent; he never talks out of both sides of his mouth. Second, whenever there is a real conflict, it is between a human interpretation of God’s Word and a human understanding of his world. Either one or both of these are wrong, but God has not erred.
Which gets the priority? When conflicts in understanding God’s general and special revelations occur, which one gets the priority? The temptation might be to give precedent to the biblical interpretation because the Bible is infallible, but this overlooks the crucial distinction just made. The Bible is inerrant, but interpretations of it are prone to error. The history of interpretation reveals that God’s infallible Word is as capable of being misunderstood as is anything else, including the arts and science.
This does not leave one at an impasse. Whenever there is a conflict between an interpretation of the Bible and a current understanding of God’s general revelation, priority should generally be given to the interpretation that seems more certain. Sometimes this is our understanding of special revelation, and sometimes it is our understanding of general revelation, depending on which one is more thoroughly proven. A few examples will help illuminate the point.
Some interpreters have wrongly concluded on the basis of Biblical references to “the four corners of the earth” (Rev. 7:1) that the earth is flat. However, science has proven with certainty that this is wrong. Therefore, in this case the certainty in interpreting God’s general revelation takes precedence over whatever uncertainty there may be in interpreting these biblical references. “Four corners” can be understood as a figure of speech.
Others have claimed that the sun moves around the earth on the basis of Bible references to “sun set” (Josh 1:15) or the sun “standing still” (Josh. 10:13). However, this interpretation is not necessary. It could be only the language of appearance from an observer’s point of view on the face of the earth (see Science and the Bible). Furthermore, since Copernicus there is good reason to believe that the sun does not move around the earth. Hence, we assign a higher probability to the heliocentric interpretation of God’s world at this point than to a geocentric interpretation of his Word.
Unfortunately some are willing to believe in a given interpretation of God’s Word, even if it involves a logical contradiction. But general revelation demands (by way of the law of noncontradiction) that opposites cannot both be true (see First Principles). Hence, we cannot believe that God is both one person and also three persons at the same time and in the same sense. Thus, both monotheism, so defined, and Trinitarianism (see Trinity) cannot be true. We can, and do, believe that God is three Persons in one Essence. For even though this is a mystery, it is not a contradiction. Therefore, we can be absolutely certain that any interpretation of Scripture that involves a contradiction is false. However, there are times when an interpretation of Scripture should take precedence over even highly popular views in science.
Macroevolution is a good example (see Evolution, Biological; Evolution, Chemical). It is virtually certain that the Bible cannot be properly interpreted to accommodate macroevolution (see Geisler). The Bible teaches that God brought the universe into existence out of nothing (Gen. 1:1), that he created every basic kind of animal and plant (Gen. 1:21), and that he specially and directly created man and woman in his image (Gen. 1:27). Hence, in spite of the prevailing and popular (though not highly probable) evolutionary views to the contrary, the Christian must give priority to this highly probable interpretation of Scripture over the improbable theory of macroevolution.
Mutual Enrichment. Often there is no serious conflict between widely accepted Bible interpretation and the general understanding of the scientific world. Rather, there is mutual enrichment. For example, a knowledge of the content of the Bible is essential for much of western Art and Literature. Further, biblical history and world history overlap significantly, so that neither should be ignorant of the other. More neglected is the connection between modern science and the biblical idea of creation. In this connection it is important to note that the biblical concept of creation helped give rise to modern science. Of course, in the study of origins there is a direct overlap and mutual enrichment of the scientific and biblical data.
Conclusion. The Bible is essential to both systematic thinking and to apologetics. It is the only infallible writing we have. It speaks with unerring authority on every topic it covers, whether spiritual or scientific, whether heavenly or earthly. However, the Bible is not God’s only revelation to mankind. God has spoken in his world as well as in his Word. It is the task of the Christian thinker to appropriate the information from both and to form a worldview that includes a theocentric interpretation of science, history, human beings, and the arts. However, without God’s revelation (both general and special) as the basis, this task is as impossible as it would be to move the world with no place to put one’s fulcrum.
In theology the interaction between biblical studies and other disciplines should always be a two-way street. No one provides a monologue for the other; all engage in a continual dialogue. Although the Bible is infallible in whatever it addresses, it does not speak to every issue. And while the Bible is infallible, our interpretations of it are not. Thus, those in biblical studies must listen to as well as speak to the other disciplines so that a complete and correct systematic view can be constructed.
 Norman L. Geisler, “Revelation, General,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 670–674.
About the Author
Ezekiel Boring Kephart was a writer, preacher, and educator in the church of the United Brethren in Christ. He is the author of Apologetics: A Treatise on Christian Evidences.