Ways to Know God

How does God make himself known through special revelation?

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I have appreciated in recent years the writing of a college professor of philosophy. His last name is Budziszewski, and he wrote a book about natural law and the notion that it is sort of inscribed in us that there is a God, but that we cannot know him unless he makes himself known. And a long time professor here at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Martin Franzmann, wrote an essay, a series of theses on what he called Reformation hermeneutics, principles of interpretation, and they really sort of boiled down to three ways in which God has made himself known. One is and I'll work from sort of the broad to the narrow and see whether I can move back out. From broad to narrow, the broadest is through the Word, the Scripture. Christians believe that we have two Testaments, one Bible, and that God makes known his character what kind of God is he? One of my favorite portions of Scripture is Isaiah 4048 in which God, in a sense, puts himself in the dock, sort of in a courtroom setting and puts himself on trial, as it were, and sort of systematically, in some respect, dispels any notion that there is another God. And he's, you know, there, he, through the prophet is speaking his Judahite people and trying to get them to remember this is the God who has acted on our behalf, and we can count on him to act in the future. So, from Scripture I move to the gospel. The gospel has a message: the word about Christ, the word of Christ, what it entails, why we need a gospel in terms of our alienation from God because of sin, and how God has provided the remedy for that. And then the central way in which God has made himself known, and this is sort in a historical sense as well, is in the person of Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." And, now, in a sense, sort of, I don't know, existentially or ontologically, it's knowing Jesus, knowing the gospel; those things come first because the Going back to the center, existentially, I think that we actually begin with Jesus. It's hard in some respects to distinguish Jesus from the gospel, because he is the enactor of the gospel and the object of faith. But from there, you know, when we have learned who God is by the one who has uniquely made him known, then the other elements of what constitute or what describe the gospel, and then finally the Scripture. The character of God is, we find out what is the, you know, the sort of the right side of God, the way in which he wants to be known. Even in the Old Testament, we find out how God wants to be known by his Old Testament people by viewing him through the lens that is Jesus Christ. And so that's crucial. As Christians that's what we clean to is knowing that when we know Christ of Savior, because we know God as Savior, now we know the only one who is God and declares himself so.

Answer by Rev. William W. Carr

Rev. William W. Carr is a professor emeritus of exegetical theology of Concordia Seminary.