Monday, March 26, 2007

One God, One Truth, Two Books

"All truth," we are often reminded, "is God's truth." Fair enough... But if God is the author of two books, the book of nature given through general revelation and the book of Scripture given by special revelation, then our well-worn slogan will need some nuancing before it will ellicit anything more than a yawn.

Few today would deny that it is the existence of some "higher power" that makes truth real and knowable by human beings (the overwhelming majority of Americans are theists, meaning the standards of qualification, obviously, are not that high). But when it comes to actually studying God's truth, and in particular his first book, the book of nature, how important is it to emphasize the God behind it all? Or to state the question with more specificity: When determining the freezing point of water, how crucial is it to highlight the fact that it is God who, before the foundation of the earth, sovereignly ordained the answer to be 32°?

Westminster Seminary California professor Dennis Johnson writes:
"... If we deny or minimize the motif of common grace, we run the risk of intellectual arrogance, a defensive isolationism from the culture in general and the academy in particular.... A devaluation of God's goodness in common grace may also foster an anti-intellectualism that despises God's general revelation in the created order and his providential dealings in history. Spiritually, ignoring common grace may foster attitudes of suspicion, antipathy, and contempt toward non-Christians" ("Spiritual Antithesis: Common Grace and Practical Theology," Westminster Theological Journal Vol. 64 [2002] 73-94).
If those subjects about which God has not spoken directly in his Word are therefore to be considered common (i.e., neither demonic nor divine), does this mean we can study them with, and be taught them by, pagans idolaters with no regard for God and his law? And will our studies in this environment be unavoidably deficient?

Or more simply, how much educational value are we to expect from the fact that all truth is God's?