I’ve been enjoying this book by T.M Moore on general revelation. I like what he had to say about worship and creation based on Romans 1:18-23. But first a note about revelation and what Paul is addressing in Romans 1. If there is ever a word that I think has been misused and even abused, its revelation. Revelation simply means disclosure and it is up to the one revealing. It is not contingent on our understanding. It comes from God.
In Romans 1:18-20, Paul gives us a glimpse of this revelation
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the foundation of the world. So they are without excuse.
That God has made himself know is clear. It uses no words or pictures, as Moore observes, but demonstrates God himself in what he has made. The problem is not with creation, but with the suppression of truth. And Paul goes on to describe the nature of this suppression in vv 23-32 that results in worship of creation rather than worship of God.
So we need special revelation of Christ to open our eyes to the truth so that we can turn our affections towards God through the work of the Holy Spirit. We know about this special revelation because of Scripture as it is the testimony of Christ. So once our eyes have been opened to God’s beauty and truth, what do we do with general revelation, seeing God in the things he has made? I love what Moore says here;
Now with this word from Paul, the doctrine of general revelation should take on something of a greater urgency for us. For it is apparent from Paul’s words that they are foolish and ungrateful who do not take the time to observe what God is revealing of Himself in creation, to acknowledge with thanks His glory, and to consider what use they ought to make of this revelation in worshipping and serving Him. And they come under His judgment as a result, and can expect something less than the full and abundant life promised by our Savior so long as they continue to tread the earth unmindful of the grandeur of God on display all around them.
Further, Paul makes no distinction among me in this passage; he does not say, ‘Of course, the redeemed are exempt from any proper acknowledgment of God’s glory in the things He has made, and though they many consistently fail to praise Him for His revelation in creation and providence, they need not expect Him to treat them with disfavor.’ Rather, Paul wants us to believe that anyone and everyone who takes for granted, ignores, or denies the glory of and grandeur of God in the things He has made is , at least in some measure, outside the will of God and in danger of coming under His rod of discipline. (48-49)
Moore, who writes from a Reformed perspective, brings out something has kind of bugged me for awhile, especially with those who have a high view of Scripture and knowledge of Scripture very serious. That is once our minds are enlightened to accept the truths of God’s redemptive plan through Christ, we focus so much on the Word that there might be a lessened view of general revelation. In other words, we’ll focus on the Word but not on the world that God has made. I speak in generalities of course but that has been my observation. If we do, we may get cautious not to get too caught up in the experience of it.
Special revelation provides the corrective lens to interpret general revelation. So if anything, we should have a greater appreciation for God’s creation. And that is not just nature, but the products of God’s creation from his creatures. I’m speaking of creative products such as art, music, literature and film without the classification of the ‘Christian’ adjective. The imago Dei leaves fingerprints on the handiwork of man even, those who do not worship God as God. Is it any wonder that you can hear a musical arrangement or read a good piece of literature or see a film that makes you reflect on the goodness of God and make your heart soar? This is discovering beauty in what God made.
Otherwise, I fear we put God in a word box when we say only his word matters for worship. In fact, I think that is what makes much Christian music vapid is that it is focused on the words rather than the art form of the music itself. But I digress. I think Moore is right in that we need to recognize and appreciate God’s handiwork in creation and that should magnify our worship of him.
That means taking time to smell the roses…and maybe hear some music or visit a museum.