General Revelation vs. Special Revelation in the Indigenous Community

As I Was Saying

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A lot of Indigenous people feel connected to nature. My wife and I, who are Indigenous, really love going to British Columbia when we have a couple of weeks to get away. The nature scenes are what it’s all about: the mountains, rivers, lakes, wildlife, and even small things such as the big acorns that come from only a select type of tree and habitat. Yet what really makes our trip is when we see an eagle flying in the air. One time I kept stopping, trying to get a close shot with my camera, but the eagles never got close enough to get a good picture. The only eagles I have ever seen up close are from pictures or nature shows.

Eagles are a special and unique bird, and many people groups have used the eagle as a symbol of strength and power. I believe it’s because of their majestic stature and grandeur and how they glide with such ease. Yet, the eagle is not a perfect creature. Even the eagle doesn’t catch its prey on every try. Even the eagle eventually dies. Many Indigenous people across this continent use the spirit of the eagle in ceremonies and feel the eagle feather has special spiritual healing powers.

Romans 1:18-20 says that God has revealed himself and his attributes in and through nature. Because of that, each human being has no excuse not to believe in God. Many Indigenous people feel connected to nature because their worldview is based on an interconnectedness of all things through nature. Although this worldview of my fellow people is rich in moral teachings and values and possesses deep spirituality, there is a need for more. Some people see God as divine and as the Creator, but they don’t always see the connection between God and his son Jesus. He is, according to John 1, the very Word of God and is the special revelation that makes a picture and revelation of God complete.

Some Indigenous people have a lot of intergenerational trauma, a result of harm done by missionaries, the church, and the government, that has blinded them to the truth of this complete picture of God. Some of my fellow Indigenous people feel that Jesus and the Word of God is meant for the “white man”—that Indigenous people have their way and their own ceremonies separate from Jesus and the church. Some Indigenous people in North America, even say that they don’t have a native word for “sin,” and so all this talk about sin doesn’t apply to them either.

Some Indigenous people say that the sweat lodge is their church. Like many people in the world, I know when people say these types of things, they are looking for a reason not to be more committed to God through Jesus Christ. This line of thinking is prevalent with many people from all levels of society and ethnic groups.

The challenge for all people, from all tribes and nations is to see that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and Holy Spirit is the Spirit that helps us soar through life with better ease. Jesus is the very Word of God. He is living and active and searches out the hearts of humans. Jesus is the complete and special revelation of God, that we all need to truly flourish as believers: to completely acknowledge that Jesus became flesh and lived among us and wants to live in our hearts as the special revelation of God. Jesus is the Creator. The Creator is a word used by many Indigenous people to refer to God, but what they often miss is that Jesus must be part of that definition and revelation to understand the true nature of God.

When my wife and I go to British Columbia and see an eagle, even if the eagle is far off, gliding in the sky, it’s what makes our trip complete. When we look at the holy Scriptures and see Jesus talked about and described in the gospel of John, we see more than a general revelation of God. We see the Word who became flesh and dwelt amongst us. Jesus is the very word of God, who was part of the biblical creation story, and makes our lives complete. In this life and the one to come, he is the highlight, focus, and reason for our spiritual journey. He is the final, complete, special revelation of God.

About the Author

Parry Stelter is originally from Alexander First Nation that is part of Treaty Six Territory. He is a doctoral candidate in contextual leadership with Providence University and Seminary who offers workshops on grief, loss, and intergenerational trauma. He is a member of Hope CRC in Stony Plain, Alta. His website is wordofhopeministries.ca.

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Thanks, Parry, for sharing the Christian perspective on the general and special revelations of God and how they differ.  Creation is the general revelation of God, and the Bible is the special revelation, especially in that it’s only the Bible that reveals Jesus Christ as the Christian way of salvation.  Of course, most religions have their own way of gaining salvation with God, based on their own God inspired Scriptures. But isn’t it strange that other religions have no place for Jesus in their Scriptures.  Or some religions, such as the ones of indigenous people you mention, only rely on God’s own natural and creational revelation to point them to God, much like David of the Old Testament, who often pointed to and gave praise to the God of creation.  And even though David was a great sinner, God considered him a man after his own heart.  And this was all pre-Jesus.  It might seem that the indigenous people are following the example of David, rather than the Christian example that you espouse. Might they also, like David, be accepted by God and considered a people after his own heart?  It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

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