And why is it important in studying Theology?
By Jeff Dominguez
Have you ever heard of the term, Divine Revelation?
You may be familiar with the words divine and revelation, but not exactly divine revelation. Well, the meaning of the term is not that far. As the words imply, divine revelation is a revelation from God. It is an act where God reveals or uncovers a divine truth. Now, why is this important in studying Theology?
Let’s get straight to the point. Theology is the study of God. And the reason why Divine Revelation is important in studying God is because what we can only learn about God is what He only chooses to reveal about Himself. We did not discover God. The only reason why we know anything about God is because God has chosen to reveal that knowledge to us. As my professor in seminary taught me, “without divine revelation, divine knowledge is impossible.”
This is why divine revelation is very important in Theology. It is the foundation of all the knowledge we can learn about God. A person who seeks to study and learn about God must respect and acknowledge this truth in his heart. If he doesn’t, it will be extremely dangerous not just for him, but also to whoever he will teach.
I have three reasons why Christians should value and respect divine revelation.
- Divine revelation sets the only source of information
- Divine revelation sets the limitation
- Divine revelation sets the approach
Let’s explore these.
DIVINE REVELATION SETS THE ONLY SOURCE OF INFORMATION
The first importance of divine revelation is that it sets the only source of information about God. Just as I’ve said, what we can only learn about God is what He only chooses to reveal about Himself. Now the question is, WHERE CAN WE FIND THIS DIVINE REVELATION?
There are two kinds of divine revelation: General Revelation and Special Revelation. (These concepts are deep which is why I will discuss them in separate articles. But for now, I will provide a brief explanation). As the name suggests, General Revelation refers to God’s revelation of Himself to all people at all places at all times. Passages such as Psalm 19:1-6 and Romans 1:18-32 speaks of this. In simple terms, this means that God reveals His presence to mankind. The other one is Special Revelation. This refers to God’s revelation of Himself to specific people at a specific place and time. These are the cases where God showed Himself to certain people like Moses and the Prophets. While both revelations are important, special revelation is of more significance. While general revelation only reveals His presence and moral compass (Rom. 2:15), special revelation reveals God’s will, plans, and commandments. To put it simply, special revelation reveals more information about God.
So what now? Where is this only source of divine information?
To cut it short, God’s special revelation is what we NOW call as the Bible. When God had spoken to His people to reveal divine knowledge, He also commanded them to write it down (some were prompted by the Holy Spirit). The final product is the 66 canonical books of the Bible. This is why THE BIBLE IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF DIVINE INFORMATION. NOTHING ELSE. The Bible confirms that God will not reveal any additional divine information anymore other that what He already revealed in the Bible. This is why He gave a very strict warning that no one should add or remove anything from the Bible.
“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”Revelation 22:18-19
And so, if anyone would seek to study and learn about God, he must focus only on the Bible. We cannot learn anything about God outside the Bible. The reason why we have a lot of heresies nowadays is because there are many who study God outside the Bible. They study God by using their imaginations, human wisdom, secular culture and thinking, science, and any other worldly source of knowledge. This is one of the reasons why I’m advocating for the importance of respecting divine revelation in Theology. Before anyone would try to learn about God, he must first learn to acknowledge and respect the only source of information about God.
DIVINE REVELATION SETS THE LIMITATION
As I keep on saying, the only reason why we can learn anything about God is because God has chosen to reveal it. Therefore, this also means that if He doesn’t reveal it, we can never learn about it. This is why divine revelation also sets the limitation in Theology. We can never go beyond what God has revealed. This also implies that divine knowledge is limited. As it is beautifully stated in Deuteronomy 29:29,
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
As you can notice, this verse states that there are two kinds of divine information, the “secret things” and the “things that are revealed.” General and Special Revelation belongs to the latter. But clearly, this verse reveals that there are divine knowledge that are purposely kept from us. We can never know why, but what we can safely conclude is that what God has revealed to us is enough for us to know Him and to accomplish His will and purposes. And so, an aspiring theologian must also respect this limitation. Unlike the other sciences, the limitation is often set by one’s skills, methodologies, or resources. But in Theology, it is different. It is God who sets the limitation. So no matter how smart or talented an aspiring theologian is, he can never go past that limitation. This is very important to avoid disappointments or frustrations in studying Theology. God is the biggest mystery in this world and because of that, someone who studies Him must accept in his heart that he will not learn everything about God. He must accept that some of his questions about God will remain unanswered (at least in this life).
DIVINE REVELATION SETS THE APPROACH
Lastly, divine revelation sets the approach on how we should study God. Everyone who studies God must always keep this in mind: whatever God reveals is final and authoritative.This means that we should respect and submit to whatever we learn about God. This is important because in studying Theology, surely, you will not like everything that you’ll learn. Some of it may sound unreasonable or hard to accept. But like I said, it is important for everyone, not just theologians, to learn to submit to divine revelation. If we won’t, we will surely have theological biases which won’t be healthy not just for us, but for the church as well. A good Christian must study the Bible with an open mind and heart, without any preconceived biases, if he is to truly learn the truth about God.
In addition, someone who studies God must also learn to refrain from putting his personal intellectual inputs to divine revelation. Many Christians have this unhealthy attitude of adding their intellectual inputs to the Bible to make sense of what they are studying. I remember my professor in seminary. He always tell us: “Don’t tell me what you think, tell me what God says.” and I agree. This is the approach that I’m talking about. A good theologian is someone who has this attitude in studying Theology. Likewise, we must also learn to refrain ourselves and allow God to speak. And whatever He reveals, we must respect and accept.
Through the reasons I’ve presented in this article, I’m hoping that you are already convinced of the importance of divine revelation in studying Theology. Many aspiring theologians are too excited to learn Theology that they immediately proceed to study all sorts of doctrines out there and ignore divine revelation, the source of all that doctrines. I also want to remind you of this: before you fill your mind, you must first align your heart. This is similar to pouring liquid to a vessel. Before you pour liquid on it, you must check first if that vessel is aligned. Otherwise, you will spill the liquid and waste it. Similarly, before you study God, you must and you should align your heart first. If you don’t, all that theological knowledge will just become head knowledge and will not produce any useful fruit in your life. So, just as I’ve taught you, you must acknowledge and respect that the Bible is the only authoritative source of divine information, that you won’t learn everything about God, and that whatever God says is final and authoritative regardless of your opinion. This is the character of a true and effective theologian.