Two kinds of Knowledge about God

Look up at the heavens. Look at the skies. Be still and listen because their voice and their words go out to “all the earth,” to “the ends of the world.”

Their voice and their words are accessible to every language on earth as they testify to the glory of their Maker and proclaim the work of His hands!

“Every human being on the planet is known by God, considered and evaluated by God, called to account by God. To be human is to be addressable by one’s Creator—with no regard for ethnicity or covenant status. God can speak to an Abimelech or a Balaam or a Nebuchadnezzer as easily as an Abraham, a Moses or a Daniel. Human beings are confronted daily with the reality of God simply by inhabiting the planet.” “…all humans inhabit a glory-filled earth that reveals and declares something of its Creator and theirs. What we have done with that experience is another matter, of course.” (Christopher Wright, The Mission of God)

It’s helpful to distinguish two levels of knowledge from and about God. Although both kinds of knowledge are from God, the first is universally accessible. 

  1. General knowledge – universally accessible to rational beings (Psalm 19:1-4; Acts 14:15-17; 17:24-28; Romans 1:21-25, 28). (see: “He Shines in All That’s Fair” by Richard Mouw)
  2. Special knowledge – specifically revealed or sometimes concealed (Matthew 11:25-30; John 1:1-3,14; 6:44,65; II Thessalonians 2:10-12; II Timothy 3:15-17).

Four considerations on the two kinds of knowledge

  1. God, the Creator, made Himself rationally accessible through the material universe in a way that can be understood by all people in all places at all times.
  2.  This knowledge about God is sufficient to render those who reject it—“without excuse.”
  3.  This knowledge alone will not reveal the way one can know God in a personal and relational way, based on forgiveness and reconciliation.
  4.  A specific or special revelation from God is necessary for a faith response to God ( John 1:1-3, 9; 3:16; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:1-3).

God has made Himself known—generally in creation, the material universe and in the conscience of every person–the moral impulse common to all people (sense of justice and awareness of goodness). Although this universal accessibility to God is not always received and is often suppressed, as a shared  reality it can offer a starting point for turning to God. It is also adequately sufficient to make those who reject it accountable to God for turning away from it.

Think about it

“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life blindfolded, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way you can waste your life and lose your soul” (J. I. Packer, Knowing God).

For discussion

  1. How could God’s general revelation of Himself influence our approach to those who have never trusted Christ?
  2. How could general knowledge about God provide a helpful starting point toward the gospel?
  3. How could the two kinds of knowledge be reflected in the ministry of a local church?

My approach (the plausibility factor)

I believe a Christian worldview offers the most logically consistent and plausibly realistic understanding of life. It simply does the best job explaining the world we encounter each day. And it offers the best explanatory frame for the most extensive range of evidence in the world and in the human spirit. It speaks in deeply satisfying ways to shared human intuitions about meaningful and hopeful existence and specifically addresses universal human needs regarding matters like love, forgiveness and peace.

I simply cannot find an alternative worldview that corresponds with reality as comprehensively as what I find in Christianity. This doesn’t mean that I find everything easy to understand and explain because of Christianity. Life is painfully complicated and parts of the Bible are difficult to comprehend. Some biblical passages are written in cryptic prose; others are hard to receive on an emotional level. Some of what is written is just beyond the reach of finite minds. Yet none of this necessarily calls into question the truthfulness and profound relevancy of the primary message of Scripture — of the gospel.

Steve Cornell

This entry was posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Atheism, Atheists, Christian worldview, Common grace, Elentics, Evangelism, Questioning God, Seeking God, Wisdom and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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