Monday, February 13, 2012

General Revelation and Truth

The issue, then, is not whether it is possible that truth might be discovered by human investigation of the natural and moral universe; rather, the issue is whether truth thus discovered can be assigned to the category of general revelation, and to prove that such material discovery can effect spiritual change.

My contention is that by reason of the proper definition of the theological category "general revelation" and by reason of the intrinsic and divine integrity and authority that must be granted to any truth-claim that is placed under that category, it is erroneous and misleading to assign to that category humanly deduced or discovered facts and theories. The issue is larger than appropriate taxonomy. In fact, to assign such humanly determined truths to the category of general revelation introduces a twofold fallacy into the argument when it is used as a rationale for the integrationist position.

First, there is the fallacy that might be termed falsely perceived validity. Revelation is from God; thus it is by definition true and authoritative. To assign human discoveries to the category of general revelation is to imbue them with an aura of validity and consequent authority that they do not, indeed, they cannot merit. Thus, to assign a concept to the category of general revelation when that concept is in fact a theory concocted by a person is, in effect, to lend God’s name to a person’s ideas. That is fallacious, no matter the intrinsic truth or falsehood of the theory under consideration.

The second fallacy might be called crippled accountability. That is, once it is acknowledged that these theories are revelatory in nature, the issue of challenging them becomes moot. Much may be said about testing the ideas thus derived before acknowledging them as part of that august body of truth that God has communicated in the natural order of things, or about honoring the distinction in intrinsic authority between general and special revelations, but to craft an argument for integration based upon the equal merits and authority of general revelation and special revelation is functionally to short-circuit such efforts and to deny such distinctions. Very simply, if it is revelation, then God said it; if God said it, then it is true; when God speaks truth, mankind’s responsibility is not to test that truth but to obey it. It is self-contradictory to insist that general revelation can include truths that must be "studied and examined for their trustworthiness."

In summary, then, the integrationist rationale that arises from the claim that perceived truths established by human research constitute a subset of the category general revelation, and thus possess the authority and dependability native to revelation, is flawed first of all in its misdefinition of the term revelation. Inherent to the biblical concept of revelation is the idea of nondiscoverability.

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