In the last post, we talked about reason so it is appropriate that we now talk about faith. Faith has various meanings in Christianity. Some have said reason and faith are incompatible, usually arguing in favor of one over the other. Some have argued that they are compatible, but describe various ways they can peacefully coexist. Since General revelation is the study of God’s works of creation and providence through the use of the faculty of reason, one must wonder if this endeavor is compatible with the notion of faith.
To help frame the inquiry, we can start by looking at the definition of faith from the Scriptures. The Epistle to the Hebrews stands out in this regard for its clarity. One verse defines faith as the “substance of things hoped, for the evidence of things not seen” (11:1 KJV). Another verse says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (11:3 KJV). Taken together, we learn that faith is not opposed to understanding. Faith instead is contrasted with seeing or sight. Abraham offered up Isaac by faith, meaning that he understood God could both fulfill his promise and demand the sacrifice. He could not see how these two things would work out but understood God could work them out by faith.
None of the above sounds like the irrational and emotive expressions of faith we find so prevalent in the Church today–called fideism (belief without proof or understanding). Admittedly, the study of general revelation can never be compatible with fideism, but it is, without a doubt, compatible with the scriptural expression of faith. This should not be surprising since all scripture is God-breathed, and the God who gave us this teaching about faith is the same God who gave us the teaching about general revelation. But more is to be said about this connection.
In short, faith and general revelation are compatible. This does not mean that they are two completely distinct things that happened to coexist but have no bearing on one another. The connection runs much deeper. We know that without faith, it is impossible to please God (11:6 KJV). And that without substantiating our hope and providing evidence of things not seen, we cannot have faith. As it turns out, general revelation was the first revelation that required faith. On what can we establish our hope without knowing the eternal power and divine nature of God, and His law written on our hearts? And when we make known the invisible God from the visible things that he has made, providing evidence, is that not a quintessential act of scriptural faith?
The implications of this are clear. If our faith is to be pleasing to God, it must be a faith that includes general revelation, not exclusively, but fundamentally. Those who would argue that faith and general revelation are incompatible, invert the truth of God. Ironically, it is by a lack of faith that someone would say this. In church history, it has been popular to talk about faith seeking understanding. This formulation need not be rejected (depending on its meaning), but it will certainly need to be augmented to capture the full truth of God. Our faith grows as our understanding grows, so faith does not so much seek understanding as much as it grows with it. It is the prayer of the General Revelation Institute that Christians everywhere will be blessed by such a faith as this.