He Is Not Silent

Francis Schaeffer spoke of God, He is there and he is not silent. God has revealed himself to us, so that we can know who he is. Just as importantly, he has revealed his purpose for us. If God had not spoken, how could we ever know the meaning of our existence? Because he has spoken to us, we have a vantage point that transcends our own perspective and enables us to see things as they truly are.

God has spoken to us both in the general revelation of creation and in the special revelation of his Word. The Protestant Reformers liked to say that God has given us two books. One book is creation; we know God by what he has made: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1–2). “Every fact in nature is a revelation of God,” wrote the Scottish novelist and theologian George MacDonald, and each fact “is there such as it is because God is such as He is.” Even the bright blue flash of the kingfisher and the soaring flight of the eagle testify to the beauty and the majesty of God. Yet creation is not the only place where God has revealed himself. In order to help us know the way of salvation, he has also given us the book of his Word. As the psalmist went on to say: “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7). God is revealed in the words of Scripture as well as in the works of creation. The righteous law and saving gospel of the Old and New Testaments are part of his divine revelation—the true and trustworthy words of God. Galileo had both the Bible and the book of creation in view when he stated that “the Holy Scripture and nature derive equally from the godhead. . . . God reveals himself no less excellently in the effects of nature than in the sacred words of Scripture.”

The main theme of Scripture is the saving work of Jesus Christ, God the Son, who is the Word of God incarnate (John 20:31). This claim is unique to biblical Christianity. Christianity is the only religion or worldview to claim that God himself has become a man by taking on the flesh of humanity in the person of a single individual. Through the mystery of the virgin birth, at one and the same time Jesus of Nazareth is fully divine and fully human. This is essential to the whole story of salvation, as we shall see. For now, it is enough to say that God is revealed to us in the person of his Son. “In these last days,” the Scripture says, God “has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:2). Indeed, to see the Son is to see the Father (John 6:46). Therefore, in Jesus Christ we have true knowledge of the living God.

It is only because God has revealed himself that it is possible for us to have a Christian view of the world. How can we know anything true about anything? Most importantly, how can we know the truth about our own purpose for life and place in the universe? We know these truths because God has revealed himself in what he does and what he says, in his works and in his Word, both written and incarnate. Furthermore, in coming to know Christ we gain access to an explicitly Christ-centered view of the world. He is the starting point for all of our thought. If we believe that Jesus Christ is the true Son of God—the one who is the truth (John 14:6)—then we will accept his view of God and of ourselves in sin and salvation.

Unless God had revealed himself to us, we would be limited to our own merely human perspectives. This is precisely what many non-Christians believe: that God has not spoken. The film critic Roger Ebert explained it like this: “Let me rule out at once any God who has personally spoken to anyone or issued any instructions to men. That some men believe they have been spoken to by God, I am certain. I do not believe Moses came down from the mountain with any tablets he did not go up with.” Some postmodern thinkers press their rejection of divine revelation to its logical extreme by denying that we have any transcendent perspective on reality at all. According to the philosopher Richard Rorty, there is “nothing deep down inside us except what we have put there ourselves,” and “no standard of rationality . . . that is not obedient to our own conventions.” Truth itself is socially constructed. It is subjective, not objective, so all worldviews have an equal claim to the truth. There is no single, objective, overarching perspective that gives us a true and comprehensive explanation of the world. “Your worldview is just your opinion,” people say. “You have your story, and I have my story, but there is no story that holds everything together.”

Christianity rejects such relativism because God has revealed himself, telling us one grand story of salvation and teaching us what is true, in distinction from what is false. Christianity is true to the way things are. It is “not a series of truths in the plural,” said Francis Schaeffer, “but rather truth spelled with a capital ‘T.’ Truth about total reality, not just about religious things. Biblical Christianity is Truth concerning total reality—and the intellectual holding of that total Truth and then living in the light of that Truth.” Another way to say this is that the Christian faith is a unity of thought—truth that is interconnected. Christianity “is not just a lot of bits and pieces—there is a beginning and an end, a whole system of truth, and this system is the only system that will stand up to all the questions that are presented to us as we face the reality of existence.”

This does not mean, of course, that we have a perfect grasp of the truth or that we always do a very good job of living it out. We are culturally and historically situated, and thus we bear many of the limitations of our own time and place. Our finitude limits our knowledge, just as our fallenness distorts our understanding. This is as true for Christians as it is for anyone. We have only a partial grasp of the total truth.

God himself does not have the same limitation, however. He does not have a point of view; he has the complete view. And because he has revealed himself, we can see things from his vantage point—not perfectly yet truly. All truth is God’s truth. That is to say, whatever things are true are things that God knows to be true, wherever we find them. Therefore, as Jonathan Edwards rightly said, all knowledge lies in the “agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God.” We are able to come to a true understanding of the world by thinking God’s thoughts after him—however imperfectly or incompletely—and knowing the truth as he knows it to be.

“Once we grasp this principle”—namely, that all truth is God’s truth, wherever it may be found—“then the worlds of literature, philosophy, history, science and art become the Christian’s rightful domain.” Indeed, everything in the world becomes the Christian’s rightful domain. Christianity is a God-given, Bible-based, Christ-centered worldview that gives us a coherent and comprehensive view of reality. This worldview begins with the infinite, personal, triune God who is there and is not silent, who was living in love before anyone or anything else ever existed. This loving God has revealed himself in the world that he made, in the inspired Word of the Bible, and in the incarnate Word of his Son. All meaning and purpose—including our own meaning and purpose—are defined in relationship to him. Thus the Christian worldview is not merely a set of propositions but a perspective on life that flows out of our friendship with a personal God, whose love writes our story.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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