What are the comparisons and contrasts between the Bible and its authority and general revelation and its authority?
When comparing and contrasting the Bible and its authority to general revelation and its authority, it is important to understand that the Bible is in the category of special revelation. The nature of special revelation is such that it is not observable or discoverable by natural means. It must be told—revealed—to us by God. Therefore, there are many things revealed to us in the Bible that we would never know otherwise, such as the knowledge of the gospel, how to live a life pleasing to God, and God’s will. Even if we tried to find these things out, we could not on our own.
General revelation is knowledge given to all mankind through nature. Because God created everything, creation bears His marks and points to who and what God is. In fact, Paul tells us that that which is known about God is evident within [mankind]; for God made it evident to them; for since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that [people] are without excuse (Romans 1:29-20). This information about God is discerned through our physical senses—sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch—and then reflected on in our minds to bring about knowledge. Everybody can and should know these things about God. Therefore, this general knowledge about God is sufficient enough to leave every person liable to know God and to worship God, such that no can say, “I knew nothing about God and had no idea He existed.”
So, general knowledge is enough to make us accountable to God, but given our fallen nature, all mankind suppresses this truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). When general revelation meets human depravity, idolatry is birthed, leading mankind to worship creation instead of the Creator. Therefore, while general revelation is a blessing, it alone is insufficient for deriving truth. It doesn’t tell us the gospel or instruct us in as to what is right and wrong. While it’s true that mankind who is made in the image of God is born with an innate sense of right and wrong called the conscience (Romans 2:14), sin has so tainted our consciences that they’re not trustworthy in themselves.
For this reason, special revelation is essential to right knowledge. General revelation is like having raw data. Special revelation gives us the right interpretation of that data, leaving the Bible as authoritative over general revelation. The Bible as special revelation delivered to us from God is objective truth from above and not prone to the influence of sinful mankind. Therefore, all general revelation, even that data that is derived through modern hard sciences like biology and soft sciences like psychology, is subject to Scripture. Again, the Bible is the authority over general revelation.