Church Education Trust

Christian Belief



The plausibility of the claim.

The plausibility of the claim that God has revealed Himself to mankind is usually given the title "Presumptive evidences" because they show why it is reasonable to expect God to reveal Himself. They answer the questions, "Is a special revelation necessary? Is it possible? Is it probable?"

a.The Nesessity for Special Revelation.

At least four reasons can be given why special revelation is necessary.

  1. Firstly, neither general or intuition is sufficient to give man an understanding of the nature of God what He is and His character, nor of what humankind ought to be to be his best.
  2. Secondly, no sin had entered when general revelation was first given at creation and therefore it has nothing to say concerning sin.
  3. Thirdly, general and natural revelation has failed; man has not sought the true God not guided his life aright without the guidance of a special revelation.
  4. Fourthly, communion with God has been broken by sin and therefore it is necessary for God to reveal himself in a special way to man. To sum up, special revelation is therefore necessary to reveal the nature of God, the cure for sin and the way back into communion and fellowship with God.

b. The possibility of Special Revelation.

If God be a person and has created man with a personality, surely there can be no reason why God cannot reveal himself in a special way to humankind. Surely the one who has made man with powers of reasoning and understanding, with powers of thought and communication of thought in speech and in other ways, is able to find a way to communicate with man.

c. The Probability of Special revelation.

Some have objected to the idea of a special revelation on the grounds that it is derogatory to the wisdom of God because it seems to amend His previous revelation. As Wiley points out, however, this objection is not valid. Special Revelation is merely on a higher ground and more personal than general revelation and therefore, man being a person, it is altogether probable. It is God speaking to man specifically.

Moreover if God has created us, it is surely unlikely that he would not find a means of communicating with us. Surely the God who has supplied in that world all that is required to satisfy man`s various physical and mental cravings will supply that which will satisfy man`s spiritual cravings.

2. The Character of Christian Revelation.

Our original definition of revelation said that it was "the unveiling or disclosing of God`s redeeming purpose to humankind". The whole of the character of Christian Revelation gathers round this thought.

a.Christ himself is the Revelation of God.

This is especially so in His redemptive work. He is the "brightness of God`s Glory and the express image of His person and upholding all things by the word of His power." (Hebrews 1:3) "The knowledge of the glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ". (2 Cor.4:6, john 1:1,18).

Our Lord states clearly, "I am the way,the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the father but by me." (John 14:6). There is no other true revelation of God and there is no other way to fellowship with God than through Jesus Christ.

b.This revelation is recorded for us in the scripture.

Christ`s incarnation and redemptive acts of God in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ took place in specific times in history and  can only be known as they are recorded for us in writing.

The life and teaching of our Lord, His death and resurrection and their meaning for humankind could only be known for future generations as there came into being a recorded account of them. Likewise all the redemptive work of God in the world which led up to the coming of Christ needed to be recorded for the full understanding of God`s plan and purpose.

The only record we have of this revelation is that which is contained in the Bible. Therefore God`s revelation to mankind must be considered as identical with the Bible. The complete scriptures are the perfect revelation of Christ and become God`s word to us.

As McPherson says in his Christian Dogmatics suggests that, "Christianity owes its existence to Christ, the revealer of God, but knowledge is immediately set forth in the scriptures, which must be received and understood by the heart and mind of the believer." p.27.

It must be remembered that the personal word manifests Himself in and through the written word and this written word is therefore always subordinate to the personal living word. Thus there must be maintained a living synthesis between the written word and the personal word otherwise the Bible comes to hold a false position.

There are three dangers that arise in our approach to the Bible; that of making it inferior to the decisions of the church as in Roman Catholicism; that of substituting it for the living word which leads to legalism and adherence to creeds rather than knowledge of a person; and that of isolating it from the living word and thus making it merely a book among books subjecting it entirely to human reason as in the case of rationalism.

c.The scriptures contain and coincide with the Christian Faith.

These scriptures, therefore, as the body of revealed truth, are from an objective point of view, the Christian Faith. If they are viewed subjectively as received by the believer into his own life, they become his own in faith and assurance, in other words they become his own Christian Faith.

Wiley reflects that the Christian Faith "is the acceptance by man of the revelation of God given in Christ and recorded in the Holy Scriptures. It is the revealed truth incorporated in  the personal life, and made vital and dynamic by being embodied in human personality." (Intro. to Christian theology pp.42-43).

The Christian Revelation is addressed primarily to faith, and a word should be included here concerning the nature and working of this faith. It is not merely the exercise of the emotional side of man`s nature; it calls into action the whole of man`s personality, his reason, his will and his emotions.

The faculty of believing is therefore the highest exercise of man as a personal being. Where mysticism or the emotional side is overemphasised, we have fanaticism and where the intellectual side, we have rationalism.

Dr. Pope suggests that "faith is to the other world what the senses are to the world which now is; the eye; the ear; the taste; the touch that perceives what the physical cannot perceive." Wiley sums up the relationship between Christian experience and the word of God in the following words, "The experimental aspect of the knowledge of God is to be checked at all times by the body of Christian Truth as given in the Bible and by the voice of reason, humbled and purified by the indwelling Spirit.

Faith honours reason when thus restored to soundness and gives it perfect authority in that field over which reason should preside. The scriptures of revelation and the voice of sound reason blend into one perfect and harmonious whole." ( Christian Theology.p.43).

3. The Credentials of Christian Revelation.

The credentials are the evidences of the Christian revelation as presented to reason. The scriptures tell us to give a reason for the hope that is within us.(1 Peter 3:15) These credentials are for this purpose and are mainly for the unbeliever.

They are not mathematical and unanswerable and the unbeliever may not always accept them but they do at least demonstrate that our faith is a reasonable one. The believer does not really need them; he has evidence in the witness of the Holy Spirit. Only the combination of the two gives convincing proof. These credentials are those of the Christian Faith as such and not of the scripture as the record of this revelation. These will be dealt with under the section "The Inspiration of the scripture."

The credentials can be considered as five in number, miracles, Prophecy, the unique personality of Christ, the influence and permanence of Christianity and the witness of the Holy Spirit.

a. Miracles.

Miracles are not a violation or suspension of the natural laws. God, as a free personality, is quite at liberty to intervene in the normal course of events according to His own will. Bowie gives a definition of a miracle which is worthy of reflection, "A miracle is a phenomenon, designed by God for a spiritual purpose, of such a character that it would not have happened in the natural course of events without the direct agency of divine power. (Introduction to Systematic Theology p.29).

a.1. Miracles and the laws of nature.

The laws of nature are not so inevitable as to make God secondary to them. The laws are mechanical, God is personal. He can therefore intervene as surely as can man when he lifts an object from the ground preventing temporarily the exercise of the law of gravity, through the law itself is still functioning as the feeling of weight in the object declares.

Hume`s rationalistic argument states, "since miracles were so contradictory to human experience and since it is not contradictory to human experience for testimony to be false, no amount of testimony should be accepted for the reality of miracles." This is false logic. The testimony of all cannot be discounted because some are false; also Hume could only speak of his own experience and the few of whom he knew.

The question is summed up by Bowie, " firstly, God as creator of the universe is not conditioned by the laws of order which he himself instituted, but is transcendent and independent of them. Secondly, He as a personality, can initiate action without external compulsion. Thirdly, He can intervene at will in the ordinary course of nature in such a way as to bring to pass consequences which would not have occurred otherwise.

Fourthly, He acts not by suspending or breaking laws, but the use of higher laws, or by His own supreme power consistently and rationally and in accord with divine wisdom. Fifthly, miracles should be allowed consideration when attested by testimony of such a nature as would be accepted in establishing other truth." (Introduction to Syatematic Theology pp.30,31).

a.2. Miracles as credential.

Revelation in itself is miraculous and therefore it is not surprising that it is attested and supported by miracles. Miracles are expressed in scripture by three terms "miracles" or "powers" signifing divine action; "wonders"; signifing the effect on the  spectator; and "signs" signifying their seal on the authenticity of the message. (Acts 2:22; 2 Corinthians 12:12 & 2 Thessalonians 2:9).

The words "works" which is used only by John in his gospel signifies that the miracles were nothing but normal working as far as Jesus was concerned. Miracles are signs to convey truth as well as to attest it. They must therefore firstly be an integral part of the revelation itself and thus always be faithful to God`s character.

Secondly. Miracles must authenticate a mission worthy of God and thirdly, they must be adequately sustained. As far as the Christian faith is concerned no events are better substantiated or more circumstantially attested than the central miracles, especially that of the Resurrection which is a crucial one. Even the miracles of the Old Testament, while clearly miracles, are described in the same reasonable terms especially when compared with the fantastic activities of pagan dieties.

Sabatier suggests that "the worship of one god, invisible, spiritual in whom centres the idea of wisdom, reason, righteousness, conceived by the prophets, joined by the lack of imagination in the Hebrew race, has freed the Bible from the luxuriant growths of oriental mythologies and theogonies. (in the posey of Greece" Phil. of Religion. p72). 

Two other points need mention. First, it seems clear from the scriptures that miracles are more in evidence at the commencement of a new era in God`s  administration or for the permanent demonstration of new truth. Secondly  miracles are credentials of the Christian faith are not the only type of miracles. The scriptures speak of "lying miracle" and supernatural powers exercised by beings beside God."


Prophecy is similar to miracle in that  it is the intervention of divine power in the realm of knowledge, as miracle is a like intervention in the realm of nature. It doesnot violate the law of knowledge any more than miracle does the law of nature.

Prophecy is more important than miracle in that its evidence is cumulative and ever increasing whereas the witness of miracle pass away and it becomes history. In general some prophecy means "forthtelling" which covers everything in nature of an authoritative message from God. Its narrower meaning is stated as a credential of Divine revelation. "Prophecy is the foretelling of future events whose certainity could be know only by God Himself."

The scriptural declaration is found in Isaiah 41:21-29 and 46:9-10. In the first, Jehovah challenges the false gods and idols and shows up their inability to know what is taking place are going to take place in the world.

In the second, Jehovah states clearly, "I am God and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying my counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure."

Dr.Pope suggests that there are four laws of prophetic prediction,

  1. Christ is the supreme object.
  2. The law of progression i.e. each age is under the sway of some governing prophecy, the accomplishment of which introduces a new order of prophetic expectation.
  3. The law of reserve-by this he means that every prediction and every cycle of predictions contained sufficient proof to encourage hope and anticipation, but enough is concealed to shut up the prediction of faith.
  4. Prophecy has been constituted a sign to each suceeding generation. Each prophet has an inexhaustible fund of information and instruction apart from the predictable elements and therefore the prophecy is intended to be an abiding credential. (Compendium of Christian Theology Volume 1page 80-84).

To be a true credential the prophecy must be far enough away from its fulfilment to exclude any possibility of the dependence of the one upon the other and it must be sufficiently definite not to be ambiguous. Prophecy also takes on an added significance when the fullfilment seems completely impossible at the time of the prediction.

Most Old Testament prophecy seems to have a threefold interpretation. There is reference to the immediate situation; there is reference to a more remote fulfilment which  the prophet himself may not fully appreciate and understand; then there is also a generally spiritual interpretation. 

An illustration of this is found in Isaiah 7:14-16 and 9:6,7 which refer in the immediate future to the birth of a son to Isaiah but are clearly also meant to refer to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ as Matt.1:22,23 makes clear.

c.The Unique Personality of Christ. 

Christ Himself is the supreme credential of Christianity. He is the great fulfilment of all prophecy. His advent was a miracle which was the fulfilment of a long chain of prophecies which gradually unfloded the events and the character of the Messiah who was to come.

All that followed the advent was but a continual extended miracle. The wealth of His person, however, far transcended all that prophecy could tell and even the prophets obviously did not understand the full significance of many of the predictions they made.

Herman Schultz`s comment on Isaiah illustrates this, "the figure which he beholds is embodied in an ideal figure in which he sees salvation accomplished and all the riddles of the present solved. If it is true anywhere in the history of poetry and prophecy, it is true here, that the writer, being full of the Spirit, has said more than he himself meant to say and more than he himself understood."

Our Lord Jesus was the very centre of redemption and in his unique personality was manifested the "full range of the divine and human attributes in glorious harmony." Reference should also be made to the IVF handbook ch 14, on the subject of the "Messianic Hope". some of the references mentioned there alluded to in this section are Ps.2:7-8;110:4;72:2,8,17; Isaiah 11:1-3, 42:7, Luke 4:18-21; Jeremiah 23:5,6; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9, Daniel 7:13;14.

d.The influence and permanence of Christianity. 

The influence, spread and permanance of the Christian faith have been remarkable and in view of the heated and fierce opposition it has repeatedly received, it is difficult to account for it apart from the fact of its divine source and power. The most important points to note in this connection are as follows:-

  1. The miraculous spread of the faith at the commencement and its final conquest of the Roman Empire and this took place without the use of force. The comparison with the spread of Islam is quite out of place. Islam spread by the sword.
  2. The persistance of faith in spite of the corruption which has so often attacked it from within.
  3. The continuance of a pure witness, however small, in the midst of the corruption.
  4. The resurrection of that pure witness into power at the reformation and since.
  5. The influence of Christian teaching throughout the world. No other religion has had the same influence. Much that has become the teaching of other religions in later years and also political parties has been borrowed from Christianity. Its influence exceeds its numerical extent.
  6. The permenance of the power of the Christian faith. Whenever it and its book go, there is something in it which meets the heart need of mankind. 

e.The witness of the Holy Spirit.

The last and highest evidence is found in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church and His witness to Sonship in the hearts of individuals. The Holy Spirit wasnot given to supersede and make more effective the work begun in the incarnation. (John 16:7-8).

This testimony was recognised by the early church as the strongest evidence (Acts 2:32-33;5:32, 1 Corinthians 12:3-4, 1 John 5:6, Hebrews 10:12-15, 12:25-26). The practical side of this witness and work of the Holy Spirit is the making known to us the limits of our own obligation.

The Holy Spirit has his work to do and it is for us to cultivate absolute reliance on the certain secret divine testimony infallibly given to every truth we declare. It behoves us, too, to take care that we find our own full asssurance of faith in the conscious inflence of the Spirit of Christ.

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