December 3, 2021


Revelation and reason are equally about wonder. Choosing one over the other is a function of finitude. It is a way for fallen angels and humans to misapply the truth of free choice, and manipulate God by giving Him creaturely boundaries. He must be this, and He can’t do that. It is proof of how little we know of God.

Revelation, special revelation, is indeed different from rational inquiry. Computational photography allows Ramesh Raskar’s camera at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to take pictures every two picoseconds, with an exposure period 1 billion times shorter than any normal camera. It lets him watch, and show us, the movement of light photons. Computational photography is the stuff of rational inquiry. And it is a matter of awe and wonder.1

Revelation, special revelation, is no less real, no less historical, than the movement of light photons. Special revelation is God telling Moses, and Moses telling us, that somewhere in space-time a few thousand years ago God said, “Let there be light,” because light did not exist until God made it. Light is not eternal. God is. Saying “God is light” is only metaphor. But light is a created thing; both the light of Genesis’ “let there be,” and all the other light that shines throughout the eternity that deity and creatures inhabit. Special revelation is the psalmist exulting on how nature (in every photon) proclaims the work of God’s hands (Ps. 19:1). And special revelation is Paul rigorously reasoning that it is inexcusable to oppose that truth (Rom. 1:20).

Special revelation is different from rational inquiry. It is more authoritative. It is the voice of the God who makes light photons move. It is wonder.

Richard Schiffman offers insight on the difference between revelation and reason in a contribution to the newsletter of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, June 7, 2013. Reason, specifically “rational inquiry,” fuels science. Valuing “historical revelation,” etc., gives support to religion.2

Under the title “Fear of Death Makes People Into Believers (of Science),” Schiffman writes about a study he encountered in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Title notwithstanding, his article reports no research on moribund or recently resurrected people, only selected subjects with “weak religious beliefs” from two British universities. Compared to other subjects questioned about dental pain, these interviewees expressed more trust in science when asked to write about their own death. The research allegedly demonstrates that the more stressed you are the more you believe in science.

Evidently, thoughts about dental pain are automatically more consoling than reflections on mortality. Too, “weak religious beliefs” is a valid variable for studying the impact of fear on attitudes to historical revelation. Maybe so. Interestingly, revelation’s effect on science or faith is unexplored.

Schiffman’s treatment and title do seem to say that faith in science grows with increased appreciation for reality, even if it be a fear-inspired, fear-defined, or fear-enhanced reality. He seems to be promoting the misconceived choice between reason and faith. He does not know, perhaps, that fear is antithetical both to clear thought and to sound faith in God.

Being scared is neither the best way to thinking straight nor to finding God. In fact, the God we all need is love, not fear (1 John 4:8, 18); He is reason, not mental confusion (Isa. 1:18); and He is so full of wonder that it’s in His name (Isa. 9:6). Reason and revelation are equally about wonder.