by Herman Bavinck
Principium externum. Revelation, as this term is used in religion, and taken here in its broadest sense, is all action emanating from God to bring mankind into that peculiar relationship with Him which is indicated by the name of religion. It is important, first of all, to understand this revelation always and everywhere as an action, an act of God. God never does anything unconsciously; He does everything with a thought and has a purpose in everything. Revelation is never an unconscious emanation, an involuntary appearance of God in His works; but always a conscious, free, active making Himself known to mankind. Religion and revelation both rest by their nature on the foundation of theism, i.e. on the belief that God and man are not separate but distinct. In strong terms, revelation always presupposes that there are two worlds, a supernatural and a natural one, a heavenly and an earthly one. And revelation is any effect that emanates from the other unseen world into this visible world, to make man think of the things that are above. The ways and forms in which God reveals Himself can differ, just as one human being can make Himself known to another in different ways. God can reveal Himself directly and immediately; and He can do so by ordinary or extraordinary means. These forms are, in a certain sense, of secondary, if not instructional, significance. But always the revelation, whether it comes to us in an ordinary or in an extraordinary way, is an act of God. Whoever understands it in this way is in principle a supranaturalist; he may or may not accept the possibility of a miracle. The question of naturalism and supranaturalism is not first decided at the time of so-called supernatural revelation, but in fact already here at the entrance, at the concept of revelation in the general sense. Deism is untenable. There is only a choice between theism and pantheism (materialism). Pantheism has no revelation and therefore no religion. Theism is naturally supranaturalistic, not in the his¬torical sense of the word, but in the sense that it recognizes an ordo supra hanc naturam and assumes an operation of the outside world in it. Religion, revelation, supranaturalism, theism stand and fall with each other. The purpose of revelation is no other than to awaken and cultivate religion in the man. Everything that serves this purpose is revelation in the true sense. Revelation coincides with all God's works of nature and grace. It encompasses the whole of creation and re-creation. Everything that exists and happens is a means for the pious to lead them to God. The usual definitions that Revelation consists of the communication of doctrine or life, etc., already appear to be much too narrow in this case. It is God's purpose in His revelation to place man in a religious relationship to Him. Religion, however, embraces mankind with all his faculties and powers. In revelation God approaches man as a whole, to win him completely for His service of love. Revelation cannot aim to place man in a religious relationship with God. Mankind is one whole. It is the object of God's love. Revelation's ultimate goal, therefore, is to make mankind itself as a single whole into a kingdom, a people of God. Revelation is not an isolated historical fact. It is a system of acts of God, beginning with creation and ending in the new heaven and the new earth. It is instruction, education, guidance, government, renewal, forgiveness, etc., all of these things together. Revelation is everything that God does to recreate mankind in His image and likeness.
Table of Contents
1. GENERAL REVELATION
-- A. Concept of revelation.
-- B. General and special revelation
-- C. Inadequacy of general revelation.
-- D. Value of general revelation.
2. SPECIAL REVELATION
-- A. Means of special revelation.
-- B. Concept of special revelation.
-- C. Revelation and Supranaturalism.
-- D. The special Revelation and Naturalism
3. THE HOLY SCRIPTURES
-- A. Revelation and Scripture.
-- B. The doctrine of inspiration.
-- C. The inspiration according to the Scriptures.
-- D. Concept of inspiration.
-- E. Objections to inspiration.
4. PROPERTIES OF SCRIPTURE
-- A. The properties of Scripture in general.
-- B. The authority of Scripture.
-- C. The necessity of Scripture.
-- D. The clarity of Scripture.
-- E. The sufficiency of Scripture.
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