This post continues on from these three posts, to provide some juicy quotes from the first section of Myers’ paper “Christianity, Culture, and Common Grace.” This first section, I. Reason and Revelation spends some time on the topics of A Definition of Culture, Cultural Apathy, and Triumphalism & Theonomy before getting down to brass tacks with the subheadings General & Special Revelation, Insufficiency of Reason, Insufficiency of Scripture, and finally Authority of Scripture.
Myers’ main point in this section is not to delineate the distinction between general and special revelation, so much as it is to distinguish the category of Reason from the category of Revelation (whether general or special):
Some people believe that there is a battle between reason and revelation. But to pit reason and revelation against one another is to misunderstand what they are.
In an essay on Jonathan Edwards, John Gerstner wrote the following: “Revelation is a means of communication (and secondarily that which is communicated); reason is the means of apprehension of that which is communicated. Really the only means by which anything is communicated is revelation (unfolding or disclosing). The only way anything revealed is apprehended, grasped, or understood is by reason. There is no other way of communication but by revelation. There is no other way of apprehension but by reason. Without revelation there would be no knowledge; without reason there would be no apprehension of knowledge.”
Gerstner’s point is that there is no antithesis, no conflict between reason and revelation. Reasoning is what we do with revelation. We may do it badly, but then it is unreasonable reasoning, and it may be so unreasonable as to be nonsense. But there is at least an attempt at reasoning.
More important than the fact that “General Revelation” is general, and “Special Revelation” is special, is the fact that both are revelation — even more, both are revealed by God! Based on this understanding, Myers goes on to explain that the phrase “from reason alone” is meaningless:
What they mean is reason acting only on general revelation. And general revelation is, as we have said, limited. But it is not impotent. … Paul, in Romans 1, says that unregenerate haters of God are nonetheless capable of knowing that many things are contrary to God’s will… (Rom. 1:21, 28ff.). If only that standard of human behavior was established in our common culture, a standard that Paul says is known even by those that God has given over to a depraved mind, our culture would be much improved.
As this article was written in 1989, Myers’ use of the term “Insufficiency of Scripture” predates (and anticipates) T. David Gordon’s more famous article from 2002. Myers’ take (my emphases):
We don’t hear much about the “insufficiency of Scripture.” But it is an important point to keep in mind when thinking about Christianity and culture. Scripture does not present itself as the only source of truth about all matters. It does not even present itself as a source of some truth about everything. It presents itself as the only authoritative source of truth about some things, and they are the most important things. But the Bible does not claim to teach us the fundamentals of arithmetic, of biology, of engineering, or of music. About most of the matters of culture, the Bible has little explicit to say….
The belief that all the blueprints for all of life are in Scripture is in part derived from the notion that reason and general revelation are not to be trusted.
I would call that a lack of faith; using Myer’s non-dichotomy above, we understand that general and special revelation are both revealed by God! Myers concludes part I on Reason and Revelation as follows:
The Church has been given the mandate to speak from God, and as Protestants we affirm that the source for that speech is in Scripture. Individual believers may offer their own opinions on complex and controversial cultural matters, and those opinions should be given careful consideration by those competent to consider them. But the Church does not have that liberty.
Perhaps one reason there is virtually no respect for the Church in our culture, even among Christians, is that the Church has abused its authority so badly.
…If the doctrine of the authority of Scripture is to mean anything at all, it must mean that what Scripture teaches is authoritative, and Scripture teaches some things and not other things, certainly not all things.
It is common to note that modern education’s tendency to reinforce self-esteem at the expense of performance is self-defeating: if everybody’s special, then nobody’s special. And so it is with Scripture: if special revelation teaches everything, then it isn’t actually special at all.
Continue on to part III…