In theology, general revelation, or natural revelation, refers to a universal aspect of God, to knowledge about God and to spiritual matters, discovered through natural means, such as observation of nature (the physical universe), philosophy and reasoning, human conscience or providence or providential history. Evangelical theologians use the term to describe knowledge of God, which they believe, is plainly available to all mankind. These aspects of general revelation are believed to pertain to outward temporal events that are experienced within the world or this physical universe.
In the course of general revelation, it is believed that God does not use specific words, or specific actions, but more general or encompassing events that occur in creation, conscience, and history. This belief in general revelation claims to have its support from the scriptures of Romans 1:20, Psalms 19:1-6, and Matthew 5:45. The idea is that general revelation is to show the works and existence of God in indirect ways.
In the context of general revelation it is believed that:
- Physical Universe - God uses the laws and nature of this physical universe to create or influence events to display God's existence, power, order, rightness, wisdom, knowledge, greatness, supremacy and goodness.
- Human Conscience - God has instilled the innate ability in all persons to discern the differences between right and wrong, to choose and act on these discernments and judgments according to free will and conscience, and to experience guilt when the act or choice is wrong. One of the arguments for the existence of God is based on the moral sense in humans.
- Providence refers to the sustaining power of God: The word providence is to mean, "divine providence; proceeding from divine direction or superintendence; as the providential contrivance of things; as a providential escape from danger."
General Revelation is understood as to the experience of life by a person, and is solely dependent on the ability of the person(s) to clearly comprehend any part of God's hand in external events or things.
General revelation is in contrast with special revelation and direct revelation, the former refers to the knowledge of God and spiritual matters which can be discovered through supernatural means, such as scripture or miracles, and the latter refers to a direct communication from God to a person.
- Olaf Pedersen (1992) The Book of Nature, Vatican Observatory Publications ISBN 0-268-00690-3, distributed by University of Notre Dame Press.
- Scripture and general revelation, by Andrew S. Kulikovsky at the Creation Ministries International website - a discussion of the evangelical notion of revelation in contrast to the common understanding.