Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God
We know him by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.
Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.
This article of the Belgic Confession is an important one because it establishes how we can know the God that was talked about in the first article of the confession. To know this God we experience him from two sources. These two sources are commonly known as general revelation and special revelation.
General Revelation is what is revealed to us through what we see in creation. As the confession states it is "before our eyes". There are many things that I think of when I think of general revelation. The beauty of a tree as it's leaves bud anew in spring. The sun setting over the horizon on the prairie. My children when they were newborns grabbing my big finger with their tiny little hands. These are the types of things that can show us that there is a God who is a grand designer who put the world together and upholds it by his power. We can also observe this majesty of God through the lens of a microscope when we see the complexity of cells or through the telescope lens when we see just how vast and complex the universe is.
The Belgic Confession points us to Romans 1:20 that tells us that all people can see these types of things and therefore all of humanity is without excuse. This passage in Romans helps us to understand that deep down everyone knows that there is a God because he has made himself clear to us in the way that he has ordered the universe. The Apostle Paul tells us that even though we all know this deep down some people suppress this truth in unrighteousness. This is not a place for us to have pride that we are somehow more righteous or open to God because we believe. Instead these verses in Romans 1 should drive us to praise God for taking our fallen minds that were dead in sin and bringing us to life so that we are able to see the majesty of God in creation and understand who he is.
This faith that we have to understand God and his work in creation points us to special revelation. Special revelation is what God has revealed to us about himself in his Word. While we can see and learn much about God by looking at his creation we cannot know of the saving work of Jesus Christ on our behalf in the majesty of a slow prairie sunset. We need a word from God in order to know that. That is why special revelation is so important. It informs us who this God of creation is and how he has made himself known to us. In his word we learn how creation fell into sin and how since that time God was working to restore creation back to himself through the work of his Son. Without us hearing this Word and God giving us the gift of faith we would not know God's saving work in Christ and we would be lost and without hope.
It is important to note that when the Belgic Confession talks about how we know God it points us to two things that are outside of us. We do not know God because of anything inside of us but we are dependent on God coming to us. As sinful and fallen creatures we need a Word outside of us because what is inside of us in broken by sin. God comes to us from outside of us and he rescues us. In this way he renews our minds with the gift of faith. Only then can we hear and believe this good news that comes to us about the God who is gracious and merciful and saved us by the work of his Son taking on human flesh, living a perfect life, dying for our sins, and rising again that we may have everlasting life.
This also protects us from those who would claim to speak in the name of God and wish to deceive us. We know God through creation and his Word. We do not need to succumb to the person who tells us that "God told me". God reveals himself to us through his Word and the message of salvation that we read there is sufficient for our salvation and all that we experience in life. This revelation from God is what unites the universal church with our church in the small town of Edgerton. God's Word is our only source and it contains the gospel that we proclaim to a world that needs to hear it.