– engaging mind & culture

Through the Glass Dimly?

“All men by nature desire to know” Aristotle Metaphysics 1.1

‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 13:12)  


 This existence of the ability to reason and reason itself is evidence that we can know things about ourselves and the world in a sort of common sense way. However, as a person begins to discover the depth of reality and knowledge, all reality and knowledge blend into mystery. Indeed, the way we “see” reality is as though we are looking through a dim mirror. At the surface, of our sense experiences, e.g. looking at and touching physical objects and describing them, the mirror seems clear. However, as our experience of the world becomes more complex, the mirror becomes dimmer. In the words of Thomas Aquinas, as we go deeper into the complexity of reality, “all things fade into mystery.”

        In view of the truth that reality is infinite, all human knowledge, because it is finite, must necessarily blend into mystery and paradox. Therefore, knowledge of reality, more specifically as it goes beyond the sense experiences, is only possible because of revelation. By revelation I mean, if knowledge is possible, then it is only so because the Infinite is somehow made known to the finite. The Infinite, is what is more traditionally called God.



        God makes himself known to humans. He has revealed himself and shown us what ultimate reality is like. There is a personal aspect in revelation, in that, God reveals himself. Our personality comes from God who is personal. If God were not personal, neither could we be. It is also propositional, in that God reveals the truth about Himself and thus, ultimate reality, in words and actions which communicate truth. Therefore, revelation is God making his person known through divine acts in history and through divinely given interpretations of those acts written in true propositional Scripture.

        God’s revelation is typically understood in two ways. He has revealed the Truth, that is, Himself in general terms and in specific terms. God’s general revelation, although distorted by various corruptions caused by sin, is the adequate yet insufficient universal knowledge of God’s existence, certain attributes, and moral law. This knowledge comes through observing the created order, the human conscience or people’s innate sense of morality, and recognizing humanity’s inner sense of God.

        God Himself in His specific revelation in Romans 1:18-32, Psalm 19, and Acts 14:16-17, communicates to us that He has universally revealed his existence and nature in and through the created order and has not left us without witness. He has also revealed his moral law in and through the human conscience (Rom. 2:14-15) and the inner sense of God found in every person gives further evidence for His existence (Acts 17:22-31).

        Though sin has negatively disturbed God’s general revelation (Rom. 8:18-25), and people’s view of and response to it (Rom.1:21). Nevertheless, this revelation is adequate in revealing accurate knowledge of God. It is insufficient, however, to enable people to properly worship, or know Him intimately (1 Cor. 1:21; Gal 4:8). Thus. The need for specific revelation and a radical change of the human being.

        In order to know God intimately and to understand reality accurately, a second type of revelation is necessary. This revelation is specific and is sometimes termed, “special.”  This communication of God to His creation is the necessary knowledge of God, which is communicated to people through particular modes. Special revelation is necessary to enable people to properly worship God (1 Cor. 1:21; Rom 3:23-24). The different modes of special revelation include historical events (Acts 2), dreams and visions (Dan. 2; Gen. 41; Matt: 1:20-25), divine speech (Gen. 2:16-17; Exod. 20:1-17), the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-3; John 14:8-9), and Holy Scripture (2 Tim 3:16).

        In order to know reality sufficiently, one must employ all aspects of God’s revelation; for he is the essence of reality and not only gives revelation, but gives us the power and potentiality to understand and receive that revelation.

May you be encouraged as you seek to know God!

Through the Glass Dimly.

Click this link for a pictorial representation of certain aspects of God’s revealed reality- Revealed Reality


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