It is a saying that God has written two books, the book of nature and the book of Scripture. These are otherwise known as general and special revelation or natural and supernatural revelation. Only through the divinely-inspired writings of special revelation (the Bible) may we come to know God in a saving way. Only the Bible reveals that God is Father, Son, and Spirit. Only the Bible reveals that the triune God is the Savior of the world through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, who is God the Son partaking of our nature and paying the ransom for our sins with His own blood. Amen! Only the Bible reveals the gospel to us. And without the gospel, we cannot be saved from the judgment our sin deserves. We must hear the good news of eternal salvation through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and believe, or we are lost forever.
What then is natural revelation? It has been called a book, so let’s draw from a book to illustrate. The question brings to mind Lucy Pevensie’s question to Mr. Tumnus, “Narnia? What’s that?” The faun said to her, “Where we are now.” In the movie he says more matter-of-factly, “You’re in it.” Just so, you and I are in the book of God’s natural revelation. It is literally the universe in which we live. In the movie, Tumnus adds, “Every stick and stone, every icicle, is Narnia,” or in our case, natural revelation.
The Plutos and planets, plants and trees, and birds and bees that make up our universe are not just orb, arboreal, and animal. They are revelations of their Creator. What David says about the skies may be said of every creature: “Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:4).
Their message is not only uttered but true. It can’t save, but that does not mean it has been compromised or lost upon its hearers. Because natural revelation is revelation from God, it is therefore infallible revelation. That is to say, in it, God speaks. Paul says that He Himself makes sure His message gets through to everyone:
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 creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:19–20).
The message of natural revelation is God. His divine nature (omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc.) and His invisible attributes (wisdom, power, goodness, justice, etc.) are legibly woven into the fabric of creation. The God of nature is the God of the Bible.
Natural revelation includes not just the world in which we live, but we who live in it. By nature we “know God’s righteous decree that those who practice [sin] deserve to die” (Romans 1:32). Again, Paul says that all the peoples of the world “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:15).What is Christian maturity but God’s work of patiently bringing the eternal truths of special revelation to bear upon our experience of everyday life in natural revelation? Click To Tweet
In other words, the very same standard of God’s righteousness that He wrote on the tablet to Moses is written upon the tablet of every human conscience. Although the law of God rings out clearer in the writings of Moses than in the script of the human heart, it is nevertheless found in both volumes. God’s eternal, moral law is written upon the heart of every man, woman, and child on the planet (and on others like Mars if the owner of Twitter gets his way).
Natural Revelation and Evangelism
Natural revelation is a common ground upon which to reach unbelievers with the saving truths of special revelation. Not only do they know that God exists, and that He is righteous, and that they are not—they also know that He is good. The food they eat and the joys they experience are brimming with God’s goodness to them. Paul said as much to the lost at Lystra: “He did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:18). In the creation, His creative goodness is on open display for all to see—in fact, to touch, taste, smell, and hear as well. Just as the waters of the Fifth Day teemed with swarms of living creatures, so too the qualia of our sensory experiences teem with revelations of the good Maker of heaven and earth. In His good gifts, we taste and see that He is good. These avenues provide countless entry points through which to declare God and His gospel goodness to our unbelieving friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, and even enemies.
Natural Revelation as a Gift
But evangelism isn’t the only reason God gave us natural revelation. It is a gift for believers. In Christ, He has unlocked the riches of the creation. Our Lord is the cosmic Logos, the governing Principle of the universe. And now, through the guidance of His special revelation and the indwelling presence of His Spirit, we can interact with the natural world in a new way. The goodness of creation is not a witness to condemn us for rejecting God anymore, but in Christ, it is now an expression of God’s fatherly love for us. When was the last time you considered the ants with Solomon, or the lilies with Jesus? Paul goes so far as to say that some of the best earthly things, like food, drink, and marriage were made especially with Christians in mind: they were “created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:3).
It seems to me that Christian sanctification is the process of merging these two books together. What is Christian maturity but God’s work of patiently bringing the eternal truths of special revelation to bear upon our experience of everyday life in natural revelation? Growing in Christ means walking with Him where we are here and now; faith in Him holds the key to unlocking God’s smiling presence in every good experience we have. There isn’t a single creation in this world that doesn’t invite us to partake in the glorious company of our Maker and Redeemer in and through our lawful experience of it (that’s another article!). For now, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, let us do it all to the glory of our wondrous Maker.
Luke Walker is the lead pastor of Redeeming Cross Community Church in Minneapolis. He is the author of six biographies on historic Christians, and a book entitled He Gave Them Judges: Jesus in the Book of Judges. Luke is an MDiv student at Reformed Baptist Seminary. He is married to Angel and is the father of three children.