Is Science Part of General Revelation?

Continuing the discussion from Welcome to Terrell Clemmons: Questions on Methodological Naturalism - #515 by Ashwin_s

Science gives additional depth and sophistication to whatever knowledge is gained by just looking at a beautiful waterfall.

Quoting Wayne Grudem’s popular and fairly conservative Systematic Theology, chapter 7:

The knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law, which comes through creation to all humanity, is often called “general revelation” (because it comes to all people generally). General revelation comes through observing nature, through seeing God’s directing influence in history, and through an inner sense of God’s existence and his laws that he has placed inside every person. General revelation is distinct from “special revelation,” which refers to God’s words addressed to specific people, such as the words of the Bible, the words of the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, and the words of God spoken in personal address, such as at Mount Sinai or at the baptism of Jesus.

Grudem seems to say that general revelation comes from observation of nature, history, and human moral conscience. Science definitely falls under the first of these.


I disagree. Science is not nature. It is just one way of observing nature, only a subset of observations of nature.


I don’t think we disagree. What I said is that science “falls under” the observation of nature, meaning it is classified as that. It is a subset of nature observation.


The issue is that even if nature is general revelation, science need not be the place where general revelation is salient. There can be other sorts of observations, such as those available since the beginning of creation, that are more salient than science.


Sure… however, knowledge is not revelation.
Revelation is knowledge imparted by God to man.
You can’t be claiming that scientific knowledge is revelation?

The key difference here is the inner sense of God’s existence and his laws. Science doesn’t operate on this.
It’s precisely this inner sense which is imparted by God as well as the basis of the convicting work of the holy Spirit in all people the constitutes God’s part in general revelation.
And it’s this inner sense which is often suppressed or ignored in scientific endeavours.

The witness placed in the human heart is not a matter for Science. Hence Science cannot be called general revelation, just a history or news paper articles cannot be called general revelation.
Edit- though Science, news paper articles, history etc can all be used by God to convict the human heart.

I think scientific knowledge is imparted by God to man. This is not a novel thing to say. Ramanujan (who was a Hindu), for example, claimed that his mathematical knowledge was revealed to him by his family goddess. We don’t need to go as far as Ramanujan - we can affirm that

  • God creates nature in such a way that it makes science possible
  • God gave human beings an internal sense of wonder of nature and curiosity that drives them to keep investigating his Creation, even if they do not believe in God.
  • God sustains, encourages, and inspires people as they go about doing science. I have personally felt the encouragement and providence of God when I do science.

I think you underestimate the capacity of wonder in science…for many scientists it is far more than simply looking at a waterfall. There is an innate sense of beauty in a lot of mathematics and physics that makes people think of it in terms of divine revelation. In other words, it is amazing and mind-blowing that any of this science stuff is actually true!

Most scientists have some sort of conviction that nature is consistent and explicable. Sometimes they even think that nature is beautiful, and should be so. I think that qualifies as an inner sense of God’s laws. (I’m not talking about moral laws.)

Did you read the Grudem quote carefully? He lists three separate things that all qualify as part of general revelation. Science is a subset of the first. Unless you disagree with Grudem directly?

You seem to be confusing the witness of the Holy Spirit with general revelation. I might be speaking imprecisely, but I don’t think the witness of the HS is relevant when talking about revelation in itself. (Of course, apart from the fact that the Bible, which is part of special revelation, was dual-authored by humans and the Holy Spirit.) Rather, it is relevant when talking about one’s response to revelation (though usually to special revelation referring to knowledge for salvation, not a general sense of God’s presence).


General revelation has to be observed. A person who is blind will have more difficulty observing general revelation. Someone adept at science should be able to observe general revelation in more detail, and help others to as well.

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The tools used in observation can in themselves be beautiful and hence be part of general revelation, if that is not too circular in reasoning. :slightly_smiling_face: Mathematics, of course, of itself is, but also we can marvel at the fact of electron cryotomography, regardless of what we observe with it, and thus marvel more at God.

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I could make similar statements about music or art.
Does that make music/art general revelation?

I love it that you are passionate about science. It’s a great thing and a great blessing to humanity.

However, it’s not general revelation in itself, just as music/art is not general revelation in itself.
And just as music can be used to worship the devil as much as it can be used to worship God, science also can be used for evil purposes.
The key factor is how Human beings respond to the inner witness that God has placed in them and the convicting work of the holy Spirit.

Yes. In fact @DaleCutler has argued at length as such…

I mean, even the Bible can be used for evil purposes. Does that mean the Bible is not revelation?

See my edited post above (sorry for the late edit). You’re confusing revelation with response to revelation.


Absolutely. Music* evokes worship, as does the Milky Way.

*Conditionally. :slightly_smiling_face: Conditions have to be right for the Milky Way, too. :slightly_smiling_face:


To be clear, @Ashwin_s, I’m also a passionate musician, and I certainly can identify a lot with encountering God through the beauty of music.


Yes… it is.
The fact that this conviction cannot be proven or addressed by science should tell you why Science is not general revelation.

I don’t disagree with Grudem. General revelation is like a message from God to man. The observation of nature, art, music, history etc are contents of the message. But the revelation has a human/divine aspect which are crucial. Observation of nature and beliefs about nature are not any sort of revelation.

There is no reason to see scientific observations as more special than looking at a waterfall or listening to music.
General revelation is equally accessible to human beings two thousand years ago who did not know much science as it to today’s cutting edge scientists.
Science has not increased or improved on general revelation.

But it has expanded and improved our view of it.

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So you’re saying that the content of the message is not part of the message? :thinking:

I affirm both as part of general revelation as well. :smile:

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Has it?
If it has, then majority of the Scientists would be theists… and a cultures influenced to a greater extent by science should celebrate God more…

Do we see that?

No, science does not interpret the view for us. Robots can analyze pictures and electron cryotomography.


Non-sequitur. What makes someone (or a culture) more or less theistic is a complex question.

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Yes, they should, because they have better glasses, but that is not why they don’t. They still need to interpret what they see correctly.

Precisely . It’s no more general revelation than a historical account, or a piece of music.

In fact, it could be even less so, because it never talks about God.
A scientist tries to explain nature without resorting to saying “God did it”. It’s in direct contrast to general revelation which tells people that nature is the way it is because of God’s charesteristics such as omnipotence, omniscience etc.

Science and General revelation are different in their objectives and purposes.

Or, the glasses are not better and maybe worse… and people still don’t get it.

End of the day, equating Science with general revelation and calling it the “book of nature” is a little ridiculous. At the least it’s a great exaggeration.