I recently read Jonathan Edward’s sermon entitled “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” based on Matthew 16:17, where Jesus calls Peter blessed because it has been revealed to him that Jesus is the Christ. In short, Edward’s main thesis is that the knowledge of the truth and goodness of Christianity is a knowledge that cannot come from purely human understanding. It must come from God’s direct revelation to an individual, who can only see the goodness of Christian truth when the Holy Spirit reveals it to them.
This knowledge cannot come from conscience or imagination. These are human faculties that everyone shares, although God can and does use these faculties in revealing the truth. This spiritual light “primarily consists in the . . . real sense and apprehension of the divine excellency of things revealed in the Word of God.”
In other words, if a person does not have this spiritual light, then the Bible is just another book, containing some interesting stories and moral truths. A “great book,” but not divine. But when someone becomes a Christian, the Bible suddenly takes on the characteristic of actual divinity. Now, the words of Scripture sound as if they actually come from the mouth of God!
There is another important point that Edwards makes about this doctrine of supernatural light; it’s rational. What he means is that it makes rational sense if God has spoken through the Bible, that it takes upon itself a divine quality held by no other book. Additionally, it is rational that this type of revelation should not come from purely human efforts. If we are all sinful and naturally blind to the truth of the Bible in and of ourselves, it only makes sense that God would have to supernaturally intervene to show us His goodness through his Word.
I think that two important conclusions can be made from what I think is a correct understanding of divine revelation:
1) Christians have no right or reason to be proud for knowing the truth. If truths such as the divinity of Christ, the realness of sin, and the veracity of the Bible, are truths that can only be fully revealed to an individual through the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit, then we do absolutely NOTHING to receive salvation, and therefore have no reason to claim that we are somehow “special” in knowing the truth. It’s 100% an act of God. We should NEVER look down on people who don’t know the truth. Every single one of us would be ignorant of salvation if God had not supernaturally intervened.
2) Christianity is rational, AND irrational. What I mean is that when the truth is revealed to us, the Christian worldview makes rational sense. The problems of the world are easily seen to be caused by sin and it makes sense that there needs to be an atonement, etc. BUT if the truth has not been revealed to us, then Christianity does not often make much sense. This is the ‘irrational’ aspect of Christian faith. A better word is probably super rational. It is impossible to understand the truth of Christianity from a purely human effort, therefore, if someone assumes (emphasis on assumes), that there is no supernatural realm, then Christianity really seems like complete foolishness! In fact, this is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1, where he says that to the Gentiles in his day, the cross of Christ was foolishness. It just does not make sense that a god would die in such a bloody manner, and then be called a “victor” by his followers! Now, I would say that there are many purely rational evidences that can point to the truth of Theism and Christianity (why is there something rather than nothing, Jesus’ resurrection seems to be the only rational explanation for the rapid growth of Christianity, etc.), but no one can be fully convinced of the truth unless God will supernaturally reveal that truth.