Although the Bible is necessary for knowing the Gospel (and being saved), maintaining spiritual life, and knowing God’s will, it isn’t necessary for knowing that God exists or for knowing something about His character and moral law. This is the topic of the two sections of Chapter 7, “The Four Characteristics of Scripture: (3) Necessity,” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology which my family and I read in our after breakfast Bible reading time yesterday morning.
The following Bible verses show that people, even wicked people according to the third verse given, can know that God exists and know something about His nature by observing what He has made:
– “The heavens declare the knowledge of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV).
– (Paul to a Gentile crowd in Lystra) “In past generations he [God] allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:16-17).
– (Paul to the Christians in Rome) “For what can be known about God is plain to them [unrighteous people], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).
Following the passage from Romans cited above, Paul argues that the consciences of people who don’t have the Bible can show them something of God’s moral laws:
– “For when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14-15).
The knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law which comes to all people is often called “general revelation.” It comes through observing what God has made, seeing His actions in history, and sensing His moral laws by means of their consciences. God’s words addressed to specific people, such as the Bible, is called “special revelation.”
The knowledge of God’s existence, character, and moral law that people have through general revelation is a blessing to society because it restrains the evil that they might do without it, it makes them more willing to work with Christians to improve society, and it prepares them for accepting the Gospel.