Full Text for Dogmatics 1- Volume 16 - Are there two ways in which God makes Himself known? (Video)

FILE: DOG16.WMV NICK RIVKIN: Are we saying then that there are two ways in which God makes Himself known? Why is that? DR. ROLAND ZIEGLER: Indeed. There are two ways in which God makes Himself known. I said before, there's natural or general revelation and special revelation. On the one land, God makes Himself known to everybody through nature, universally, and then on the other hand you have God acting at a specific time in a specific place with certain people. So natural and special revelation differ in the way they are communicated and their extent. They're different in the way they are communicated because natural revelation is, again, universal and averbal. Natural revelation does not present us God as the God who speaks. Whereas in special revelation that is, of course, one of His main features. In the Old Testament, that's one of the characteristics that distinguish the true God from the idols. The idols are mute. They cannot talk. They are dumb. Whereas the true God is the one who talks. Who talks to mankind. So God has to reveal Himself as the God who speaks additionally to natural revelation. Natural revelation is also, as we have said before, rather rudimentary. As Paul says, he consents to a knowledge that there is a God and of His invisible power, but that's about it. Not even that God is the creator is, strictly speaking, part of natural revelation. Because natural revelation is so vague, it is also not sufficient for 10 salvation or, actually, for true worship. To worship God truly, we have to know His name. That's the basic condition. We have to have His name to call upon Himself. Natural revelation doesn't tell us whom we have to worship. And as I said also before, natural revelation is corrupted by sin. Mankind was not content with what was known from God by natural revelation, but added concepts to it and thereby exchanged the glory of God for idols made in the likeness of man or beasts. That's the state of natural man. And because that man is sinful, and because God does want to draw him back into a relationship with Him, he has to start a different way of communicating to man. That is special revelation. Here God reveals Himself in a way that is far more complete, far more definitive than anything we can know by natural revelation. Therefore, special revelation is absolutely necessary for the salvation of mankind. Or, to put it differently, God is accessible to us in a salvific way only in Christ. Only here God can truly know who God is. Only in Christ and through Christ we worship the true God. Only in Christ we receive God's saving grace. That is, forgiveness of sins and life eternal. All of the other religions are dead ends or ways that lead into perdition. All human efforts to find God outside of Christ, again, by speculation, or by delving into nature, do not lead us to the one true God. So, again, to know God, we have to look where revealed Himself. And that has a certain exclusivity to a certain people. Israel. In a certain person. Jesus Christ. Now, such an exclusivity is regarded nowadays by quite a few people as not good for the peace of the world or rather narrow minded. It's exclusive. It seems to be a rather high claim. Why can you say that you only worship the true God? Other models are favored, nowadays, which say that there is true access to God in all religions. That the different religions which we have today are just kind of lenses through which we perceive the same object, the same God, because lenses are different colored. If the glass is a little bit different it distorts the view. That's why the picture is different. But the object is the same. Or, because that's not a really new idea, as an Indian parable goes, when a maharaja led four blind men to feel an elephant and describe what this animal was like, he got four different answers. The first one feeling the trunk said, oh, this animal is like a snake. The second one, feeling the leg of the elephant, said, oh, this elephant is like a column. The third one felt his body, his side, and said, oh, this animal is like a wall. And the last one, feeling the tail, said, oh, no, you are all wrong. It's like a rope. So who was right? Well, it was all four who would have been right because they saw a part of the animal -- I mean they felt a part of the animal. But they 11 were wrong in saying this is all there is to the animal. So our different views of God are just complimentary. But truly, God is present in all religions. We have to see that such an approach to the different religions rejects any notion of revelation as divine self-disclosure under God's control. It doesn't see that God actually does talk. Rather, it sees religions as products of human reflections on some kind of religious experience. It doesn't see that God is active. That He, Himself, is in charge about His revelation. Such a view of God also really does away with Jesus Christ in His unique position as the Son of God. It might see Jesus as a great prophet, as a great teacher, as an inspired man, but no longer as the one indefinitive revelation of God. These theories, therefore, are essentially anti-Trinitarian. Nowadays, again, as mentioned before, you have that in the so-called pluralistic theory of religion. And one of its proponents is the theologian and philosopher John ******* (Heyan). ******* (Heyan) discusses the question of the exclusivity and divinity of Christ and comes to the conclusion that the idea that Jesus is God incarnate is a mythological expression of the experienced fact that He is our sufficient, effective, and saving point of contact with God. But of course, for us, He is a kind of contact with God but not exclusively. There are other points of contact. Again, such an approach, and we have to hold fast, that God reveals Himself in that history, in that person, Jesus Christ. There He wants to be found. No where else. Another approach that sees natural revelation in a rather opt optimistic light is in the Roman Catholic church. In the second Vatican council, 1961-1965, the Roman Catholic church stated in one of the documents, the dogmatic constitution on the church, "Finally those who have not received the gospel are related to the people of God in various ways. There is first that people to which the covenants and promises were played and from which God, Christ was born according to the flesh. In view of the divine choice, there are people most dear for the sake of the Father's for the gifts of God are without repentance. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the creator in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims. These profess to hold the faith of Abraham and together with us they adore the one merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day. Nor is God remote from those who in the shadows and images seek the unknown God since He gives to all men life and breath and all things and since the savior wills all men to be saved, those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or His church but who nevertheless see God with a sincere heart and move by grace trying their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience. Those to 12 many achieve eternal salvation." The last sentence is the most important sentence. "Those to many achieve eternal salvation." What the Roman Catholic church said here is that the natural knowledge of God may lead to salvation. Now, that contravenes what we said before about the way how natural knowledge of God was actually handled by mankind and it was distorted. It also doesn't take into account again why it was necessary that God had to reveal Himself besides natural revelation. In special revelation. Because He had to start that history of salvation with Israel. Again, going to Christ and continuing, of course, among us when Christ is proclaimed. If natural revelation would be sufficient, then Christ really would be superfluous. Such an understanding does not take into account that man, natural man, after the fall was sinful. And that's not only moral sin but, again, it's the corruption of the natural knowledge of God. And it also opens the door to an understanding whether the Trinity is accidental. We can't actually know the true God simply by knowing that there is a God who is all powerful. The Trinity -- oh, that's additional. No. No. As Christians, we say to know God is to know Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To say less is not only missing something, but missing it all. (End of DOG16.WMV.)