Q&A: Knowing God

Knowing God

What are the main ways we can come to know God?

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Answer

Some of the main ways we can come to know God are by what theologians call general revelation – this means revelation outside of Scripture and miracles. General revelation includes the world around us. It speaks of God, it articulates God as the Psalms tells us. It also can mean special providences, history, culture, all kinds of evidence from the world outside. It includes internal revelation. We know God because we're constituted to know him. We are made after his image, and part of that image that we bear is dependent on a God-consciousness. So we know him from sure internal evidence. It can take the form of moral leanings, conscience. It can take the form of knowing that God is there. Romans 1 is extremely clear that we know God, not just we know something is out there somewhere, but we really know God himself in his attributes, his power and divinity.

And then the other way we know God is through special revelation, which includes things like miracles, prophecies, and the inscripturation of God's revelation in a form that's been handed down over the centuries and in a form which we can have in translation. We call it the Bible. The center of the Bible is Jesus Christ, so he would be the central way we can come to know God. General and special revelation complement one another; they're dependent on one another, so it's not that you start with one and end with the other. They both have authority and sufficiency and clarity and necessity, they both function appropriately for their purpose. And so, the knowledge of God is inescapable, fortunately for us, but that also means we are responsible for what we know, and we can't come up to the judgment in the day of accountability and say, "God, I really couldn't find you anywhere." The story goes that Bertrand Russell, the great atheist, he was asked, what if you go on the other side and you appear for God? What are you going to say to him? He said, "Oh, I'll say there wasn't enough evidence." I guess I don't think that ever happened. There's plenty of evidence even for skeptics and atheists. Sometimes the evidence cuts across their claims, but that knowledge of God is inescapable.

Answer by Dr. William Edgar

William Edgar is Professor of Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary.