Just as there are special and general theories of relativity, I think there are two types of revelation. Special revelation would be something like the Christian Bible, the Jewish Torah or the Quran of Islam. Such revelation speaks to a particular people at a particular time. So the first thing to notice about the Letter to the Romans is that it is to the Romans. We are overhearing a conversation addressed to someone else and must adjust the message accordingly. Such revelation is typically more personal and communal. It gives us a sense of identity and history. It is inappropriate to apply special revelation to those outside the context of our own group and version of history.

General revelation is the sense of being addressed by nature. It is a sense that we belong to the whole of things. General revelation is something almost everyone experiences at one time or another under a starry sky or on a desolate beach. General revelation yields no history or dogma, just a sense of that all things are tied together in one invisible web.

Special revelation is personal and therefore rather arbitrary. If we lost all the world’s scriptures and had to start from scratch, our reconstructed versions ¬†of special revelation would probably be very different. General revelation is intrinsic to nature and to our own human nature. If we lost every book on biology, geology and physics, we would eventually reconstitute the same truths.

Special revelation is what happens when we feel addressed by our favorite scripture, general revelation is what happens when we feel addressed by a leaf. Special revelation is gives us a songline in time, general revelation gives us our home in space.