Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Science and General Revelation

Is science a form of general revelation? Most Christians would probably think so. All truth is God's truth, after all. So when scientists say that the earth is billions of years old... it's a truth as valid as John 3:16, right?


I was reading an article regarding psycology and general revelation (Christian psycologists make the argument that the truths of psycology are general revelation that we can use to help people). The article blew that theory out of the water, and incedentally it applies completely to science. So how did the article accomplish this refutation? Definitions my dear Watson, definitions.

The term "General Revelation" has undergone an identity crisis today. Most people probably assume that Truth = General Revelation. Whether that truth comes from science, psycology, history, or whatever subject, any truth that does not come from Special Revelation (Scripture) is considered General Revelation.

There is at least one problem with that: by definition science (of any kind) cannot be General Revelation.

The phrase General Revelation is made up of two words which either separately or together are antithetical to science in their meaning. If by science we think of specific truths that we can discover, test, theorize, and perhaps even absolutize (that's right), then science is neither general nor revelation.

According to Webster's, some meanings for "general" are: 1) involving, applicable to, or affecting the whole, 2)not confined by specialization or careful limitation, 3) belonging to the common nature of a group of like individuals, etc. In other words, when we think of the word "general" we understand what that means, and it certainly doesn't mean "specific."

Now it says of "revelation": 1) an act of revealing or communicating divine truth, 2) an act of revealing to view or making known, 3) something that is revealed. In other words, "revelation" is not "discovered." Notice how the receiver of the revelation is passive? The receiver does not contribute any effort to the information being revealed. He simply receives it as that which he could not discover on his own.

Putting those concepts together we find that General Revelation is broad information provided to us that we could not otherwise discover.

Now, that is not the end of it. For now I will only summarize the facts of Scripture and what it has to say about the subject. In essence, the "doctrine" of General Revelation derived from Scripture teaches us that General Revelation is limited in its scope. It is limited in its subject and its impact. The subject of General Revelation is God (Psalm 19:1-6). The impact is that it is enough to damn a person, but not enough to save them (Romans 1:19-20).

That's the scope of General Revelation. It cannot be extended to the field of science and psycology because scientists don't read a book to learn, they test, scrutinize, experiment, hypothisize... do everything it takes to discover that which is unknown.

One final thought. Someone might say (as I mentioned to start) that all truth is God's truth. True enough. The question then becomes, which truth is True? If "truth" is discovered by science or other fields that contradict Scripture, which has the upper hand? "Truth" discovered by fallen man driven under the noetic (sin's impact on the mind) affects of the fall, or Truth clearly revealed in Scripture?

Wait. Don't stop there! What if Scripture isn't clear and our "truth" can fit with Scripture... maybe our understanding of Scripture is flawed!

Indeed, that is possible. However we must ask ourselves: does that thought come from an underlying belief that our discovered truth/theory IS Truth?

Let's say in the field of science. There is no absolute Truth that science can come up with regarding how the universe developed. We can observe the results of the created universe, but we cannot test theories of how it began or how long it took. Yet untested and unproven theories about what happened in the past simply cannot give us definitive proof of what they state. Therefore we are best to stick with the Word of the One who was there and actually caused it himself.