Written by Todd Mangum
Friday, 18 January 2013 00:00
I made a presentation to the Christianity and Culture Study Group at the Evangelical Theological Society Conference on the topic of general revelation and Reformed theology; my title was, “Reformed Theology is Right about Romans 1 . . . well, except. . . .” I’m working on getting the piece published, so I won’t post the whole paper here. I will give you some excerpts as a “teaser,” though — and would welcome any conversation or engagement. I’m even willing to send you a copy of the full paper if you ask for it — just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Fair enough?
Here are the basic points of my thesis:
Romans 1 does reveal that the wrath of God is revealed against faithless humanity who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”; the “truth” revealed in view here is (commonly and rightly agreed to be) what theologians have called “general revelation” — creation and conscience.
This fact should be read as point of lament, even frustration, though — not as a point of a satisfied plan on God’s part that he orchestrated.
General revelation may be genuinely revelatory; and “common grace” may in fact be genuinely gracious; what is called “general revelation” may be a gracious provision to humanity on God’s part, genuinely designed to reach them (not just damn them or add to their culpability).
Traditional Reformed theology has rightly teased out implications of Romans insofar as concerns human depravity. However, Reformed theology may have neglected the gracious intentions of God toward undeserving, depraved humanity “in general,” and have not thought enough about what could happen if the potency of “general revelation” were combined with the eye-opening, mind-opening, and heart-opening supernatural work of the Spirit.
Romans 10’s “How can they hear without a preacher,” and “faith comes by hearing,” is followed by “But have they not heard? Indeed they have — in fact, the voice/sound has gone out to all the earth and their words to the end of the world.” This is a quotation of Psalm 19’s description of “general revelation” . . . Hmmm. What are we to make of that? (Evangelicals, Reformed interpreters particularly, have not made enough of it; their consideration typically stops at v. 17, and that’s a mistake.)
What on earth does this have to do with the conference theme, “Caring for Creation”? Here’s how my paper ends:
“If Creation still serves as a divinely designed “lighthouse,” then we can, with Paul, genuinely lament and be appalled at the needless carnage left by foolish captains whose ships are now wrecked on the shoals and jagged rocks inevitably run into just beyond what the lighthouse constantly, faithfully warns against. But we — we maintain the lighthouse, even knowing the discouragingly vast number of ships still that will wind up as wreckage on the hazards that lie just past its beaming lights. We continue to care for Creation, not because we know how many will heed its beacon, but in part because we hope some may; and because we know our God is sending forth its voice into all the earth, its words to the end of the world for a reason.”
So, what do you think? Anything here pique your interest?
Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical. He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention. Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.