Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"General Revelation" Again (25)

Dear Forum members,

There is one more aspect of this matter of so-called “general revelation”, to which I wish to call your attention. It is not directly related to our discussion of common grace, but it is, in my judgment, an important positive truth concerning the creation, which will give us, I think, a deeper appreciation for God’s world and a deeper understanding that God’s works in creation cannot possibly be common grace, but are for the benefit and blessing of the church.

Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion has a very well-known passage in which he speaks of the book of creation as being almost illegible to the wicked, but which becomes an open book to those who put on the spectacles of Scripture. (See Book I, chapter VI, Section 1 for this metaphor.) This is an interesting and important metaphor that Calvin uses. It is true that the wicked can read, though barely, God’s Word in creation, but Scripture’s spectacles are needed to read what is really written at large in the things God has made. By the spectacles of Scripture Calvin refers not only to the Bible itself, but to that gift of faith that enables a man to believe all that God has revealed in the Bible. Even the wicked can read the Bible itself. One university I know of teaches a course in “The Bible as Literature 302”. This means nothing.

But we must remember that Scripture is the infallible record of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. In other words, we are able to see God’s truth in creation through faith in Christ; and further, when we see God’s revelation in creation, we see Christ Himself. I want to explain this a bit more. Hebrews 11:3 speaks of faith as the way we understand creation; and faith always has as its object Christ revealed in Scripture.
The wicked, though they see God’s eternal power and Godhead in all the things that are made, suppress the truth in unrighteousness and slam the book of creation closed with disgust and hatred – and fear. Or, even though it is for them all but illegible, they claim to read it and find in it things that are not there, but things that fit their own ideas, ideas which are always wrong. Their spiritual eyesight is very poor. These are the theistic evolutionists so-called. Their attitude towards Scripture is like an architect who searches through an ancient castle to learn the origin of the castle and how it was built. He finds, when he first enters the castle, a book written by the builder himself explaining exactly how he built the castle. But he throws the book into the moat as irrelevant and untrustworthy, and goes instead to one of the high towers, to put a handful of dust in his bag in the firm conviction that a careful study of the dust will enable him to learn how the castle was built. So man sends explorers to the moon, so they can return with a few rocks, from which will be learned the origin of the universe. But the book by the Builder is mocked and discarded.

The tragedy of it is that men who call themselves Christians (and even Reformed) claim that evolutionistic theory of the origin of things is correct, while Scripture’s account of the origin of things is wrong. They justify their twisting of Scripture by saying that they can be evolutionists and still believe in Christ, for Scripture’s teachings concerning the origin of things is something entirely apart from the gospel. Creation has nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

That assertion is as false as it can be. Creation has everything to do with Christ. The whole of Scripture, from Genesis 1:1 to the last verse of Revelation 22 is God’s revelation of His work of salvation in Jesus Christ. Hence, the believer, who puts on the spectacles of Scripture, sees God in Christ throughout creation.

There are basically two reasons why wicked man cannot see God in creation in the pristine beauty in which God made Himself known in Paradise and of which He speaks in Scripture. The creation Adam saw did not reveal Christ to Adam, for sin had not yet entered the world and there was no need for a Savior. But, though God makes Himself known to all men through creation, it is a relatively dim knowledge of God that the wicked have. Calvin speaks of the fact that apart from the Scriptures it is possible to see God in creation only in a very dim way (“For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words . . . “).

The first reason for the difficulty in reading the book is that the Word of God by which the creation was formed is almost drowned by the Word of the curse. Because man fell, the Word of God’s curse came upon the creation (Gen.3:17). This word of the curse is seen and felt in the death that comes upon all creation. Animals and man die; flowers and trees die; all things do not continue as they were from the beginning of creation (II Pet. 3:4) as the evolutionist contends. The curse is violent and terrible. It is God’s Word of the curse that sends tornados, tsunami waves, typhoons, earthquakes and all kinds of natural disasters, Nature is, as the poet said, “red in tooth and claw.” Any other word than the word of the curse can scarcely be seen and heard – except through the eyeglasses of Scripture.

The very fact of the curse itself demonstrates to the wicked that God brings the fury of His wrath upon all those who will not worship Him.
The second reason why the Word of God’s creative power is not clearly heard anymore is the sinfulness of man. The curse has come on him as well, darkening his understanding, blinding him to the truth, making it impossible to see clearly, and robbing him altogether of his spiritual sight. He holds the truth in unrighteousness. This paucity of knowledge that man possesses is his blindness. Sinful man is not only blind spiritually; he is also nearly blind in his powers of mind. He thinks he knows so much and boasts of his accomplishments. But in fact he knows very little of the creation and there are untold mysteries that he cannot solve.

Only Scripture enables a person to see God in creation. Scripture, as the revelation of Christ, gives eyes to see and ears to hear. Scripture works faith in the hearts of God’s people. To put on the spectacles of Scripture is to have faith, by which one holds for truth all that God has revealed in His Word, for “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb. 11:3). The object of faith, which is first of all the sacred Scripture, is also Christ. Faith lays hold of Christ. Faith sees Christ and clings to Christ. And so, putting on the spectacles of Scripture, we see Christ revealed also in creation. This is a great blessedness. That evidence of Christ in the creation sounds loudly to the believer so that the awful word of the curse is no longer so loud.
In a certain sense of the Word, the original creation in which Adam lived for a time was already adapted, according to God’s plan, to God’s purpose in Christ. A few instances of this are the following. The creation of Paradise pre-figured the plan of the temple: the land surrounding Eden was comparable to the outer court; Paradise in the east of Eden was comparable to the Holy Place; and the tree of life in the midst of the garden was comparable to the Holy of Holies. It was at the foot of the tree of life that God came to Adam and had fellowship with him.
Adam was already created with an immune system – though he did not need it. Carnivorous animals were created with a digestive system that could eat and digest flesh, although they did not eat other animals before the fall, for there was no death. The fall did not happen outside God’s plan. The first Paradise was the building of the “stage” on which was to be enacted the drama of sin and grace, damnation and salvation in Jesus Christ. God saw all that He had made and behold it was very good. That is, God did not only see that the creation was morally without defect; God saw that the entire creation was perfectly adapted to serve His purpose in Christ.

And so Christ is revealed in the creation. It is true that one cannot see Christ without believing in Him as revealed in the sacred Scriptures, what Calvin called the eyeglasses of Scripture. But putting them on, Christ is evident in all that we see.

This truth is the reason why Christ Himself is given names taken directly from creation. He is the Bright and Morning Star that announces the dawn of the perfect day (II Peter 1:19, Rev. 2:28). He is the Lion of Judah’s Tribe (Gen. 49:9, 10). He is the Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1). He is the Sun who runs His course in the Heavens as the Bridegroom coming forth to meet His bride, the church (Psalm 19:4-6). And He is the Sun of Righteousness who arises with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2). And so we could go on. I once heard a Christmas all-school program of one of our Christian schools in which a dear friend of mine, one of the teachers, prepared the entire program around the many names taken from creation and given to Christ. It was profoundly moving.

There are many Psalms that sing of the creation itself praising God, but always in the context of God’s people singing the praises of the great Creator (Psalms 147, 104, 145, 148, 29 and many more.). He who sees God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ through the Scriptures, is then in all creation moved to the depths of his being by God’s marvelous works. Even the events in the creation (earthquakes, destructive pestilences, floods, and all the other judgments God sends on the earth) are signs of the coming of Christ, for Christ comes through all history in judgment on the wicked and for the salvation of the church: Zion is redeemed with judgment (Isaiah 1:27). Christ is coming again; the whole creation groans and travails in pain waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the children of God (Rom. 8:19-22).

God’s creation is a marvelous place in which, with the spectacles of Scripture firmly in place, one sees God’s power and majesty; and bows in humble worship with the words on his lips: “My God, how wonderful thou art.”

Creation is not a revelation of grace to all – only to those who by faith lay hold of the Christ of the Scriptures.

With warmest greetings in the Lord,

Prof Hanko

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