General Revelation vs. Special Revelation

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Baptist_Pastor/Theologian, Nov 18, 2006.

  1. Baptist_Pastor/Theologian

    Baptist_Pastor/Theologian
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    In the thread on the necessity of faith for salvation some of the board members argued that general revelation was sufficient for someone to be saved. I argued that special revelation was necessary for salvation. My question for the board is this: If all one need do is respond to the light they are given then how is that salvation by grace?

    Ephesians 2:8,9 makes plain that salvation is by grace and it is not of ourself. If you do not have the gospel, but you desire to know God, is that not of yourself?

    It seems to me that those who argue that people who do not hear the gospel can be saved through desiring to know God based on the light they have, are really suggesting that in some way salvation is of yourself.
     
  2. El_Guero

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    I reckon that depends a lot upon how much of a dispensationalist that you are.


     
  3. webdog

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    Not if it's the work of the Holy Spirit in you to desire it. I recall reading in John 12:32 that this takes place with everyone, so no, it's not of ourselves.
     
  4. John of Japan

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    BPT, you are absolutely right that God's grace is necessary for salvation. And that grace is not applied unless the Holy Spirit moves the heart to faith.

    The doctrine that there is salvation through general revelation is a cancer that has worked itself into recent evangelicalism. Read the works of evangelicals up through the 1960's and you will find no such doctrine. I can pinpoint its origin, but it is recent. The old time evangelicals/fundamentalists would not have been caught dead with such a doctrine.

    Scripture is very clear about the exclusive need of Jesus Christ as the only way to the Father (John 14:6), His name being the only way of salvation (Acts 4:12), there being a need to carry the Gospel to the nations for salvation (the Great Commission), it being impossible for folks to call on God without a proclaimer of the Gospel (Rom. 10:14).

    Frankly, I view anyone who holds a doctrine of salvation through general revelation to be quite ignorant of other cultures and religions. It is incredible to me that anyone informed of the nature of such religions as Shinto, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam could ever believe a person could find enough of God through them to be saved. Buddha abandoned his family, Mohammed married a 7-year-old girl--the list could go on and on.

    Furthermore, every thing good in every society comes through Jesus Christ and His followers. In Japan: the first modern medical clinic was founded by a missionary, the educational system was formed by missionaries and their converts, the wonderful agricultural methods of my island of Hokkaido were taught to them by a Christian professor who taught all his students about Christ, freedom of religion and many other freedoms were instituted by Christian general Douglas MacArthur in the constitution he wrote for the Japanese people. (For an excellent treatment of this see D. James Kennedy’s book, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?)

    All that is good comes through Jesus Christ. Nothing that is good can come from any other source. Without Christ men degenerate into heathen tribes. There is salvation in no other source but Christ. Anyone who thinks salvation comes through general revelation is not exalting Christ.
     
  5. Tom Butler

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    John, my, my, I don't think you've left much to be said on the subject. Excellent!

    Webdog, you said:
    Not if it's the work of the Holy Spirit in you to desire it.

    Some clarification, please. Are you saying that without the work of the Holy Spirit, none will desire to know God?

    Are you saying that the Holy Spirit works in every human being to bring about that desire? Do all people have the desire to know God? Is this desire sufficient to save them? If they never hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, is there another way to heaven for them?

    Your answers will be appreciated and will help me to understand better what position you hold on the question at hand.
     
  6. John of Japan

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    Thanks for the compliment, Tom.

    As a missionary, the view that believes folks can be saved without the proclamation of Christ speaks to the very heart of what I am and do. If proclamation is not necessary, the many hours of prayer for souls, preparation and evangelism are moot, not to mention the money spent on tracts, leaflets, gasoline, etc.

    It seems to me that this view would actually destroy the motive to witness for Christ, support missions and even answer the call to missions. Anyone out there who believes folks can be saved without Christ, do you witness? If so, why?
     
  7. Tom Butler

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    John of Japan: If proclamation is not necessary, the many hours of prayer for souls, preparation and evangelism are moot, not to mention the money spent on tracts, leaflets, gasoline, etc.

    John, if people can be saved without the gospel, please come home now. You're wasting your time and your preaching is sealing the doom of those who hear you and reject your message.
     
  8. webdog

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    My response was in relation to this...
    I believe God is the first means of salvation, and that the Bible doesn't lie when It states He draws ALL men. All men also have the longing to be immortal (Ecc. 3:11) instinctively, something only God can put within and complete.
    If this is what you mean by the drawing of the Holy Spirit, yes.
    Desire isn't sufficient to save anyone. Only faith in Christ is sufficient.
    Absolutely not. I do believe, though, that if God has given the command for everyone to turn to Christ, He equips everyone with the ability to do so, meaning they would have to know the Gospel.
     
  9. Amy.G

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    I think the point I am trying to make is this...If there is one person that truly seeks God the creator (Romans 1:20) and has no one to tell them the gospel...God will do whatever it takes to make a way for this person to hear the gospel and make a choice, even possibly going to this person Himself. I do not limit what God can do. This does not mean we stop all missions because we are commanded to spread the gospel, and we do not know all of God's ways and do not need to know. We are to be obedient. I believe that God does give light to every human. If that light is rejected, no more light is given and even what they have will be taken away. But to the person who responds to the light..God will give more light, and will provide by whatever means necessary the opportunity to receive Christ. I hope this helps clear up any misunderstanding about my beliefs.
    Except for the insults thrown at me, I think I have learned a lot. :saint:
     
  10. Tom Butler

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    webdog, thanks for your comments. Although I disagree with the concusions, you are certainly consistent.

    Rather than copy and paste from another thread, my response is he same one I made to LeBuick in the thread "Is Faith Necessary for Salvation?"

    It's in post #154, which cites a number of scriptures, including Matthew 11:27, which Jesus thanks the Father for hiding the truth from some and revealing it to others.

    By the way, we have two threads going on this subject. What's say we pick one and not have to jump back and forth? Either way, I think we're about done with this, unless we want to debate the same points over and over.
     
    #10 Tom Butler, Nov 20, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2006
  11. skypair

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    BPT -- First, can we agree that not everyone has "special revelation" available to them in this day, much less in times past (900 BC, say)? Do you thing no one was saved back then? Wouldn't you even agree that the gospel of the "special revelation" was different then (since the gospel in the OT was different than that of the new)?

    I'm with Amy on this one. God has revealed Himself to ALL mankind that ever lived, Rom 1. Justification is received by trusting God in the light that He has given you.

    What "light" has He given to ALL? Scripture says that His 7 spirits that have gone out into the whole world, Rev 5:6. They are 7 "eyes" to see and be seen and 7 "horns" of His authority in our lives by which to "see" Him. I realize this is a very sophisticated notion but nonetheless true -- God has given us nature (innoncence), conscience (in our soul), earthly authorities (masters, gov't, etc. "ministers for good"), family (parents), Mosaic law, church, and knowledge of Christ's kingdom. In these, God reveals truth about Himself wherein even a Roman centurion, for example, can understand God!

    The one problem with being only "justified" is that you won't be raptured pretrib. These all find out about Christ when they are resurrected into the MK postrib.

    The other thing about "general revelation" is it is not very productive. Nobody wants to leave salvation of anyone else "to chance." But I believe as Amy proposed, God's Spirit does work apart from the "special revelation" to change men's hearts toward God and maybe now you can see how that works.

    skypair
     
  12. John of Japan

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    Salvation Through General Revelation


    Absolutely, not everyone has special revelation available to them. That is exactly why I am a missionary. God has ordained that souls are saved through special revelation rather than general revelation. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). Since people must hear the Word of God to be saved, the work of us missionaries is vital in God's plan.

    The "Gospel of the special revelation" before Christ, as you put it, looked forward to a coming Messiah, as we look back to a Messiah who has come. One could be saved in 900 B. C. by converting to the Jewish faith and learning about the Messiah to come, just as one can be saved now by learning about and believing in the Messiah Who has come. There is no provision in Scripture--absolutely none--for salvation in any other.
    This is a complete misreading of Romans 1. It specifically says that the lost are without excuse because of general revelation, but it nowhere says that they can be saved through general revelation. It is a huge mistake to read that into Romans 1 or any other passage on general revelation. Example: Psalm 19 says the heavens declare the glory of God--not His salvation.
    Once again you are reading into Scripture that which is not there. Rev. 5:6 says the seven spirits were sent out into the earth, but does not say what they were sent to do. That is one of God's secrets, and if you say they were sent to give the Gospel you are going much further than Scripture does, and that is very dangerous.
    No offense intended, but all I can do about this is shake my head. I haven't a clue where you got this. Maybe I've been in Japan too long and haven't heard this one. But that doesn't matter. This doctrine does nothing to prove your points, especially since you give no Scripture to back it up.



    Exactly. General revelation is not very productive because it is not meant to be. It is simply designed by God to reveal the glory of God so that folk will be open to the Gospel when we missionaries get here.

    For your position to have any kind of validity, in my view, you need to answer three questions.

    (1) What Scripture teaches that general revelation reveals salvation?

    (2) What Biblical character was saved through general revelation without coming to the God of Israel? We have a number of OT examples of heathen who believed in the God of Israel (Rahab comes to mind). Where are those who were saved without knowing the God of Israel and His promised Messiah?

    (3) What example from human history can you give? Is there anyone in history you can prove became a monotheist with a belief in a Savior without knowing about Jesus Christ? I know of no such examples, but I can give you examples of those who saw the glory of God through nature, sought God, and then believed when the heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. See Cowboy Boots in Darkest Africa, by Bill Rice, for an example of a pygmy who did this. :type:
     
    #12 John of Japan, Nov 20, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2006
  13. Baptist_Pastor/Theologian

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    Hebrews 1 makes it clear that God has always revealed himself in order for those who do not know him that they may know him. The difference is one of degree and not kind. What I mean is that the fullness of God's love was not fully known until Jesus hung on the cross. Yet the need for God to reveal himself has not changed.

    The light revealed through the general revelation is the law. The law only has the power to condemn but not to give life.



    Yeah, he knew that with the very Son of God before him. By definition to look on Jesus was to see God himself. This last statement of yours shows your lack of understanding about what constitutes revelation. Jesus is the Word of God.

    You lost me.

    Just know that what you believe does not accurately represent what the Bible teaches.
     
  14. skypair

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    John in Japan,

    Wanna rethink that underlined statement? What about those in China? Native Americans? preJudaism?

    I know what you are saying. The CHURCH (justification AND sanctification) IS passed Christian to non-Christian -- person-to-person, right? Dr. Rogers used to stress that.

    But so far as a universal rule, you are getting ahead of yourself. Believers can be "justified" before seeing Christ. The OT saints were all JUSTIFIED in their faith. When they are resurrected (postrib "resurrection of the just"), they will be "born again" and sanctified in the flesh as we are.

    But what about infants who die? Are they not "just?" What do you suppose happens to these infants? And how does that factor into your sotierology?

    See, in my way of thinking the are "just" according to innocence, will be resurrected and have a chance in the MK to receive Christ just like OT Israel.

    Maybe I don't understand how you interpret Rom 1. What does it mean that men are "without excuse?" "without excuse" for what? I would understand that they are without excuse for then not turning to Him, wouldn't you? Do you not consider that any revelation of God to men is for the purpose of salvation?

    I want to suggest something from 1John 5:6-8 -- there has always been the witness of "the Spirit and of the water and of the blood." That is, the Spirit working through water/natural birth and blood/llife for new life.

    See below.

    Adam, Abel, Seth, Noah,... Need I say more? You've limited God's witness to 2 religions, friend -- Judaism and Christianity. But what were Abel, Noah, etc. doing? Just trusting God and obeying Him, right? Where does it say that Abel knew about Jesus Christ? I read he "offered a more perfect sacrifice than Cain," Heb 11:4.

    skypair
     
  15. skypair

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    Excellent! "that they may know Him." Right on! And knowing Him, they can repent and receive Him unto "justification," right?

    You are aware that we have a "3 phase" salvation, aren't you? Justification, sanctification, glorification. Justification is being given the righteousness of God by faith -- sanctification is being "born again" in Christ, not by the blood of animals but in His name, and receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit -- glorification is receiving our perfect bodies. That 2nd phase for OT saints and heathen who trusted God comes after the "resurrection of the just" to Christ's throne postrib.

    I like this too -- "the fulness of God's love was not known until..." It's all about KNOWING first, right? Here's what I see that they DID know preChrist -- they could know God, right? He revealed Himself to all, like you said. So they trust in Him having the testimony that they made a blood sacrifice. I mean, even the heathen had some knowledge of this from creation, didn't they?

    Much too restrictive, don't you think? What about before the law? Like I told John, there seem to be 7 "witnesses" who testify of God's "law"/authority and by which even the heathen Gentiles "see" God.

    I think this bears more discussion. Seems that John and you maybe have a general idea about salvation but no particular details such as that we are justified in our soul, sanctified in our spirits, and glorified in our bodies AT DIFFERENT TIMES OT to NT.

    skypair
     
    #15 skypair, Nov 22, 2006
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  16. Amy.G

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    And why did Abel offer a sacrifice? Had God commanded him to? Or did he know in his heart that he was a sinner in need of a savior?
     
  17. John of Japan

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    Naw, I think I’ll keep that statement just as it is. :smilewinkgrin:

    Let me give you an example from extra-Biblical history. Contrary to the prejudiced opinions of liberal religious historians, the original religion of all Humankind was monotheism with a belief in an efficacious sacrifice, going all the way back to the family of Adam.

    In 900 B. C., the primary religion of China (since you mention it) was the monotheistic worship of Shang Ti, complete with sacrifices, just like Judaism. Even Confucius (c. 551-449 B. C.) worshipped Shang Ti, referring to him as Tien (meaning “Heaven,” a Chinese name for God) in his writings.

    Interestingly enough, the Chinese character for righteousness (as still used in all of the Chinese and Japanese translations) has as the top radical a sheep, with the bottom radical being the character for “I, me,” which consists of a further two radicals of a hand grasping an ax.

    Gradually, the Chinese developed an elaborate pantheon of various gods by elevating their patriarchs to deity. However, an argument can be made that those patriarchs correspond to the Jewish patriarchs. (See The Chinese Paua, by Ong Hean-Tatt).

    So what happened? What does this history mean? It means that, exactly as Romans 1 teaches, the Chinese once had the truth (centuries before Christ) as a nation but as a nation rejected it, descending into terrible wickedness.

    Now what about Japan? A book was written some years ago entitled The Japanese and the Jews detailing how similar the two cultures are. Indeed, Shinto, though it has no real theology, has many similarities in its rituals to the OT Jewish faith, such as having sacred objects in the inner room of the shrine. Like the Chinese, the Japanese once had the truth and abandoned it, becoming more and more wicked just exactly like Romans 1 says they would. It would take too long to tell the whole story, but the samurai era was full of cruelty, legalized murder, pederasty, etc. etc.


    Friend, you should have listened to Dr. Rogers more on this matter. I dare say he would never have taught salvation outside of Jesus Christ, strictly from general revelation.


    Well, that’s a new one on me. Every orthodox theologian I’ve ever read would disagree with this one. Personally, I’m born again, sanctified and saved right now. :jesus:

    We are not far apart on this. However, I don’t really think it is germane to the current discussion, since there is so little Biblical support for our position.


    I interpret Romans to teach that the entire direction of Humankind is depraved, and they are without excuse because of their depravity, because that is what the passage majors on, not salvation. They head away from God and not toward Him, they do not seek God, they do not want Him. (And no, I’m not a Calvinist.) Thus, every person without Christ in the world is without excuse in that they did not seek Him based on the knowledge they had of Him from nature. Any who seek Him will find Him, because He will send them a messenger like myself to the Japanese, or Bill Rice to the pygmies in the book I mentioned in a previous post.

    In that book, a pygmy elder told Bill Rice about climbing a tree, looking up at the stars and saying, “God, if you be there, show Yourself to me.” God sent the pygmy messengers years later in the form of American evangelist Rice, a missionary and an interpreter. He then trusted Christ and was saved. But he was not saved until hearing the Gospel message of Christ.

    Okay, that was a failure. I goofed and assumed we were on the same page. I’m in the New Testament era, and was asking for examples from AD history, the current age. You do believe there is a difference between God’s old covenant (testament) and new covenant (testament), don’t you? Okay, give me an example from AD of someone who became a monotheist with a belief in a Savior without knowing about Jesus.

    Since you are in the OT, though, we’ll talk about Abel, Seth and Noah. They all responded to God’s special revelation, not general revelation. They had: (1) a clear knowledge of sin from how God dealt with Adam and Eve; (2) a clear knowledge of the necessity of sacrifice from how God dealt with Cain and Abel; (3) a clear knowledge of a coming Savior Who would bruise the serpent’s head from the protoevangelium, the “first Gospel” of Gen. 3:15.

    In short, the OT saints before Moses had a full-blown faith with a Savior and a sacrifice, and it was not based on general revelation but on special revelation. So, they DID have a knowledge of Christ, though He had not come yet.

    I’ll repeat my question. “What example from human history (in particular AD) can you give? Is there anyone in history you can prove became a monotheist with a belief in a Savior without knowing about Jesus Christ? I know of no such examples.”

    Actually, no, I don’t limit God’s witness to two religions. I don't see God's witness in any religion per se. I limit it to general revelation (which the Bible never says can lead to salvation) and special revelation (necessary for salvation).

    Human religion is so corrupt that it can never give a right witness to God. Do you have any idea what filthiness can be in and on a Hindu Temple? Are you aware of the filthiness of some Shinto festivals? Do you know about what the religion of Diana of the Ephesians was about with its shrine prostitutes? Any truth in human religion comes from the original revelations given to Adam, and they distort that beyond belief.
     
  18. Amy.G

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    John of Japan, thank you. Your last post made much more sense to me. The story of the pygmy is exactly the type thing I was talking about. He obviously did respond to general revelation and was seeking God. God sent him the messenger. God provided a way for this man to receive the gospel. :godisgood:
     
  19. John of Japan

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    Amen, sister! :jesus:
     
  20. John of Japan

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    If Amy or anyone else wants to read the pygmy story, the fascinating book Cowboy Boots in Darkest Africa, by Bill Rice, is available for just $10 at:
    http://www.swordofthelord.com/osb/showitem.cfm?Category=126

    Bill Rice, as well as being the founder of the first deaf ministry in history, was a unique character in the history of evangelism. Just to give you an example from the book: "I mentioned my pet lion named Noel. The Princess (what he called his wife) and I bought her out in El Paso, Texas, when she was just three days old. We raised her on a bottle and she made a wonderful pet. We just loved her! However, when she was about one year old it took about fourteen pounds of horse meat a day to keep her happy and I thought every horse on the ranch was going to have a nervoous breakdown! So, we loaned her to the zoo in Memphis, Tennessee" (p. 110). :laugh:
     

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