I will waste no time in bluntly saying that everything about Christianity resorts back to divine revelation in one way or another. In Essentials of the Christian Faith, R.C. Sproul says that “Christianity is a revealed religion,” meaning that it cannot exist or be sustained outside of God’s own self-disclosure. I think we forget this sometimes; at least I know I do, from a personal standpoint. As much as we affirm with our mouths that the Christian faith is totally and objectively true where all of reality is concerned, we may still harbor the idea in the back of our minds that religion - even our own - is something human beings have organized over the course of history. But the real truth is that the Christian faith is defined and established by God Himself, through the means of revelation. This is why we specify and call it divine revelation.
Let’s take a step back and pretend we’re in school again: When we think about the word “revelation,” what comes to mind? If you’ve never explored the concept of divine revelation before, you might think about the book in the Bible called Revelation. This doesn’t tell us very much about the meaning of the word, however, unless you have or would like to look into the reasoning behind the book being given this title. I would encourage you to do that, actually. But what I really want us to notice is the root of the noun “revelation” - the verb to reveal.
It wouldn’t be necessary to reveal something to a person if they can already see it clearly. You could even say revealing is synonymous with uncovering. In the same way, everything we need to know about God must be shown to us, because we aren’t naturally aware of all there is to comprehend about Him. He’s infinitely more powerful, knowledgeable, unchangeable, and uncontainable than we are. If we want to know who He is, how He intends everything to work, and how He expects His creation to relate to him, that information has to be revealed to us by Himself. There’s a gap that needs to be reconciled. The Higher must inform the Lower. God must give, and we must receive.
This might be one of those moments where you’re scratching your head and thinking, “Okay, fine. But why do I need to know this? How on earth does this apply to my life on a broader scale, let alone on a daily basis?” Hang tight, my friend. Think about those times in your life where you become confused about how things are supposed to be. How do we respond to suffering? Where do we run when we feel as though we’re alone in the world? How should we react to people who mistreat us? Why do we turn on the news and see abuse, negligence, violence, scandal, perversity, and deceit? And will it ever end? When will we experience reward for good and wrath toward evil? If this person says God is one way, and another person contradicts them, who is speaking the truth? What is the right way to raise a child? Why can’t I get my finances in order?
And then there are the most important questions (and the answers to these questions can often resolve the ones I just mentioned). Who exactly is this God? Is He kind? Does He love me? Why does He love me? How do I talk to Him? How are we similar? How are we different? Where exactly is He? If He establishes the guidelines of morality, how do I follow them? What exactly are these guidelines? Why are they so difficult to stick to? If I can’t keep them perfectly, what hope do I have? What reconciles me to this God? Is He a personal God, or a distant and uninvolved God? How much control does He have? How much freedom do I have? What do I do when I don’t feel His presence? How do I change to be more like Him? What does it mean to say that I am a child of God? Can God have children? And on that note, who is the Son? What does the Holy Spirit have to do with anything? What is the difference between the universal Church and the local church? Do I even need to go to church to be a Christian?
Where do we find the answers? Certainly not by looking within ourselves, or by asking our friends for advice, or by studying evolutionary science, or by guessing off the top of our heads and going with whatever we come up with in response. The inescapable fact is that there are things that exist outside of our control, outside of the bounds of our natural comprehension, and outside of our ability to reach and grab. We desperately need to be given a leg up by something stronger and more stable than ourselves. We need the blindfold to be taken off. And this is the very essence of divine revelation. God was not incomplete without us, and He has never been obligated to establish a relationship with us, but He did. He sent Jesus Christ, the Son, as the perfect representation of God’s nature (see Hebrews 1:3). He gave us His written Word - the Holy Scriptures - as a reliable reference, instruction, and view into His very own mind, so that we can know and love Him (see Psalm 19:7-11, 2 Timothy 3:14-17, and Hebrews 4:12-13).
Thank God that it pleased Him to open our eyes to the knowledge of who He is and what His intentions are for everything He created. Without divine revelation we would have no basis for anything, really. We could simply decide what we wanted God to be and define for ourselves what He should expect of us. But God is a Person, not a concept - there are things we say about Him that are true, and things we say about Him that are false. Would you be unphased by a stranger coming up to you and declaring, “I could ask you who you are, but I’m just going to decide for myself. I’ll be the judge of your attributes, your priorities, your likes and dislikes, and all your intentions.” They don’t seem to be interested in hearing your objections when they list off things about you that aren’t right and true. And even if they had good intentions, it’s safe to say that as long they have this mentality, there is no hope of them ever actually knowing you. If this isn’t how we’re supposed to relate to other people, why would we think we can approach God in such a way?