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Special revelation is a theological term used mainly by evangelical scientists and Christian theologians which refers to the belief that knowledge of God and of spiritual matters can be discovered through supernatural means, such as miracles or the scriptures, a disclosure of God's truth through means other than through man's reason. The distinction between Special and General revelation was first elucidated in-depth by the Catholic systematic theologian St. Thomas Aquinas in his discussion of Revelation. This distinction was only then more widely disseminated by evangelical writers who emphasized its scriptural support (e.g. Psalm 19).
Evangelical theologians use the term "special revelation" for the belief in God's intervention to make God's will and knowledge available that would not otherwise be available through general revelation. They believe that disclosure of this "special revelation" is at specific times to specific persons, and believed by Christian Theologians, to have been generally given through scripture, miracles, and through the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Other means by which God reputedly gave special revelation were by "divine voice or writing", "angels", "prophets", "visions" "dreams", "divine dictation", "inspiration" and "Spirit's guidance or guidance from the Holy Ghost". When reviewing these examples, one can see that they refer to direct revelation, which is now the third type of revelation, as a distinction between special revelation by way of "self-disclosure through the Bible" and personal communication from God.
Special revelation is a contrast to general revelation, which refers to the knowledge of God and spiritual matters which reputedly can be discovered through natural means, such as observation of nature, philosophy and reasoning, conscience or providence.
The purpose of Special Revelation is to impart the knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ, salvation and the atonement. Essentially it is knowledge and understanding, "that is requisite to salvation, that is, an explicit knowledge of Christ and his gospel."
The forms of special revelation as considered by mainstream Christianity are
- Personal Experience
- The Earthly Life of Jesus Christ
- The Scriptures (as a source of special revelation). In divine affairs, we are saved by the grace of Christ from our sins and guilt before God
- General revelation
- Continuous revelation
- Private revelation
- Supernatural revelation
- Direct revelation