The Scope of Revelation

The Scope of Revelation August 31, 2015

In the first volume of his Reformed Dogmatics (435-6), Herman Bavinck notes that the final end of everything is “God Himself,” since “he can never come to an end in creation but can only rest in himself.” Revelation’s purpose is consistent with this overall aim. 

Thus “the object of revelation cannot only be to teach human beings, to illuminate their intellects (rationalism), or to prompt them to practice virtue (moralism), or to arouse religious sensations in them (mysticism). God’s aim in special revelation is both much deeper and reaches much farther. It is none other than to redeem human beings in their totality of body and soul with all their capacities and powers; to redeem not only individual, isolated human beings but humanity as an organic whole.”

Even this is too limited because it is anthropocentric: “the goal is to redeem not just humanity apart from all the other creatures but along with humanity to wrest heaven and earth, in a word, the whole world in its organic interconnectedness, from the power of sin and again to cause the glory of God to shine forth from every creature. Sin has spoiled and destroyed everything: the intellect and the will, the ethical and the physical world. Accordingly, it is the whole person and the whole cosmos at whose salvation and restoration God is aiming in his revelation.”

For Bavinck, this means that special revelation’s scope is as broad as salvation, which means it encompasses the entire cosmos. Special revelation culminates, to be sure, in Christ, but everything is summed up in Him: “when in Scripture and in the church the revelation of God that appeared in Christ has become a constituent of the cosmos, a new dispensation begins. Just as up until this time everything had been prepared with a view to Christ, now everything is traced back to him.”

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