General and special revelation

Revelation is when something that was hidden becomes known.

For many religious people, revelation comes from God and reveals something about God. There are two types of revelation.

General (or indirect) revelation

This is called ‘general’ or ‘indirect’ because it is available to everyone. This is often used to describe the way God is revealed through the natural world. This can come through:

  • conscience (an inner sense or ‘voice’) which communicates what is right or wrong in one’s behaviour
  • people
  • awareness of morality
  • scripture (a piece of writing that has religious significance)
  • reason

An example of general revelation is how God can reveal Himself through the natural world. For Christians, the fact that nature is so beautiful shows that God must be the creator and what is important to God can be seen in the world. Just as artists are reflected in their paintings, so God is shown in His creation.

For Christians, qualities such as harmony and beauty must come from God and be found in God. Similarly, the laws of science that describe the way in which the world works so perfectly show that God must have designed the world.

Special (or direct) revelation

This is called ‘direct’ because it is revelation directly to an individual or group. It is often used to describe the way God is revealed through:

  • a dream
  • a vision
  • a miracle (something that breaks the laws of science and which Christians assume to be caused by God)
  • experience
  • prophecy (a prediction of what will happen in the future)

The scriptures of some religions are regarded as the result of special revelation.