final paper: Universal Revelation
How Is It Possible, According to the Wesleyan Theology, that Revelation about God Is Universal, i.e. that Any Person Can Know God?
People have been looking for some kind of higher power or being since time immemorial. Considering there are countless religions, cults, and other belief systems in the world and most of them (though not all) claim to have a god or gods, eventually every one of us, even if just for a second, had posed this question to himself or herself – “Is it possible that there actually is a God?” And if we have questioned that, chances are that we will find what we were looking for. But why do we keep looking for something (someone) beyond this world? Could it be because of the “God-shaped hole” (more commonly known as Imago Dei, the Image of God we were created in) inside of us that has been there since God decided to create the first human being and which we lost after the Fall?
In Christian thought, there are two ways God has chosen to reveal Himself to the people – two types of revelation. One is called general and another one is special Except for possible miraculous conversions, most of us have experienced general revelation before special. Waking up in the morning at dawn and looking out the window to see the sunrise, listening to children’s laughter, falling in love and gazing at your beloved… David described it in one of his psalms, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship ” and before that, he also penned, “Only fools say in their hearts ‘There is no God .’” Personally, I find it incredible that there are scientists who, after studying the amazing wonders of this world we live in, still remain atheists. It takes much more faith to believe that there is no God rather than believe that there is God who loves us all – especially when you know such things like the statistics of life randomly appearing on the planet Earth (or, even the possibility of the Earth being there in the first place!) The other extreme also seems confusing to me – when Christians start fighting against the scientific discoveries by claiming that God has created this world and all scientists are necessarily wrong. If one truly believes that God has created this world, then is it not logical that He is the author of the gravitational lensing, black holes, and maybe even evolution? If He is the God Almighty, would it diminish His creativity if it took 13.7 billion years to create the universe as we know it instead of the literal six days, as the Genesis claims?
Moving from the science to everyday life and to the Wesleyan dimension, one of the general revelations is so called prevenient (or, preventing ) grace. It is the grace that gently guides us towards God even before we start consciously thinking about “Every one has, sooner or later, good desires; although the generality of men stifle them before they can strike deep root, or produce any considerable fruit. Everyone has some measure of that light, some faint glimmering ray, which, sooner or later, more or less, enlightens every man that cometh into the world. ”
John Wesley also called this prevenient grace by its more common name: conscience. Even the worst of the criminals have their codes of honor, which, if we think about it, is basically a set of “commandments” that dictate to take care of their own, to not kill those who are in the clan. It is a twisted set of commandments, yet they are intrinsically good – and everything that is good comes from God (or “a being that is the ultimate source of goodness, because of which we know the difference between good and evil and strive for good.”) When talking to the Christians in Rome, Paul said, “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. ”
Take the mirror analogy that Calvin came up with – our vocation as Christians is to be reflectors of the Imago Dei. A mirror can only reflect something if it is turned to what it should be reflecting. Therefore, if we are turned away from God, then we do not reflect Him. However, I think, prevenient grace can be compared to God peeking around the mirror and looking at Himself in us – hence bringing us brief glimpses of His glory in our lives even before this prevenient grace becomes saving grace.
And this is where general revelation transforms into special revelation, which is God revealing His qualities like love, forgiveness, and mercy. This is getting to know God personally, not just reading about Him in the Bible or hearing Sunday School stories. The center point of this special revelation is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world .”
If I believe that our God (the YHWH of the Judeo-Christian Bible) is the only God, the Creator of this Universe we live in, then it is logical to conclude that what other people have claimed about God may also be true because they, essentially, have found the same God. However, Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me .” He is the reason why we can strive to restore the Imago Dei in us and succeed in the end. Paul says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus .” Two Adams had the true Imago Dei so far – the first Adam, before the Fall, and Jesus, the “second Adam.” This shows that we can reflect God, we have been created in Their image and according to Their likeness. The day when the image will be restored will be the day when we shall finally be completely saved (while now we are “already, not Therefore, if all humans are good in the essence, but in existence distanced from God , the distance can be overcome and that is exactly why Jesus, the God, became a man.
The great news about the Wesleyan theology is that everyone has a chance to be saved. We do not believe in predestination (even if God and we would love everyone to be saved and not perish) and we believe that everyone is given a choice to make.
God has made His general revelation shine throughout the world, so that even remote tribes of African deserts can marvel at the gloriousness of creation and start to wonder about the existence of Someone above. The universality of the special revelation is demonstrated in the fact that God loves everyone and is not partial to people. Jesus said, “He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers alike.”
So what are we to do? Our task as Christians is to share the Good News with everyone we meet – our family, colleagues at work, even random people on the street sometime. The good news about the Good News is that salvation is available to all who are willing to listen and make a step towards eternal happiness.
Passages & quotes from:
John Wesley, Sermon 85, “On Working Out Our Own Salvation”
Ray Dunning, “Grace, Faith, and Holiness,” p. 142 (Russian edition)
Ray Dunning, “Grace, Faith, and Holiness,” p. 147 (Russian edition)