The Puritans, like the Bereans before them, regarded the scriptures as the ultimate trump card in the trilogy of God’s revelation
Truth is both revealed, and hidden. It is revealed through the word of God. As Jesus prays, in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Theologians use the term “special revelation” for the word of God—the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
But truth is also hidden, meant to be discovered. In Proverbs 25:2 we read these wonderfully playful words, “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”
In a cosmic game of hide and seek, God conceals things so that we may “search things out.” The Hebrew word חָקַר (ḥā·qǎr) means “explore, search out, discover, probe, sound out, examine, test.” Here we find the fountain of science. God has hidden things about Himself in the creation that He expects mankind to search out and discover. This explains the inquisitive minds of explorers, adventurers, detectives, tinkerers, scientists. What a profound and beautiful picture of the playful God leaving clues for His children to discover.
Human beings were placed here to govern creation (Genesis 1:26-29; 2:15, 19-20; Psalms 8:3-6; 115:16). It is important to study, search for, and discover what God has hidden to properly fulfill the cultural mandate to govern the earth.
The heavens given to man for governance of the earth
The sun, moon and stars help us in that governance. Genesis 1:14, “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years.’” The study of the heavens and the earth are necessary to govern the earth.
David the psalmist understands that God’s creation communicates! Note the verbs of communication in this text, and the things revealed through their voice.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun …
Psalm 148 reminds us of the chorus of praise to God from creation. Jesus claims that if men “keep quiet, the stones will cry out,” (Luke 19:40).
Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin spoke of two books: God’s Word – the special revelation of scripture, and His Works – the general revelation of creation. But the Apostle Paul makes a further distinction between two parts of general revelation. All humans can know that God exists and know something about His nature through the things He has made.
… because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Romans 1:19-20 KJV.
Revelation within man and outside
Note that Paul says the creation reveals truth in two ways, inside man (“manifest in them”) and outside of man (“by the things that are made”).
First, He has revealed Himself in that we are made in the image of God. We have the ability to reason – the attribute of intellect, we have a will – the attribute of purpose, and we have a heart – the attribute of moral responsibility. This aspect of divine revelation has been called Reason.
Second, He has revealed Himself outside of man in the rest of creation. This aspect of divine revelation has been called Reality. These two books—Reason and Reality—combined with the special revelation of Scripture, form the tripartite view of God’s revelation.
- The book of revelation – special revelation – the Bible
- The book of reality, or nature – science (a la Aristotle)
- The book of reason, or logic – philosophy (a la Plato)
This three-book understanding was held by educational reformers as well as scientists. Let’s look at the early proponents of the three books in both science and education.
Scientists studied revelation
Scientists included sons of the Reformation who spent their lives studying the works of God, tethered to the Word of God. As theists, they affirmed an integrated view of the universe, no separation between the word of God and the works of God.
Galileo (1564-1642) was an Italian polymath-scientist who stood at the transition of natural philosophy, that is, theistic science, and modern atheistic science. He studied both God’s word and His works. He confirmed that the earth and planets revolved around the sun. This brought a crisis in Christendom. Luther and the Catholic church had to recognize that God revealed Himself in His works, not only in His word.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English philosopher, scientist and politician, has been called the father of modern science for his emphasis on careful observation of God’s works. He used inductive reasoning to draw conclusions from observations. Bacon wrote, “Knowledge is the rich storehouse for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man’s estate.” Vishal Mangalwadi writes, “Bacon’s exposition of the Bible was the reason why Cambridge University inscribed Psalm 111:2 at the entrance of Cavendish Laboratory – history’s first scientific lab: ‘Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.’”
Scientists and educators, too
This impulse to study God’s works in creation led earlier Christian scientists to found research universities and the oldest national scientific institution in the world, the Royal Society in England. The society was established in 1660, largely by scientists who understood that human beings are meant to discover what God has hidden in creation, that is, discoveries that enable mankind greater ability in governance of creation, including the use of technology in fighting the curse of natural evil.
Isaac Newton (1642-1727), English mathematician, astronomer, theologian, author and physicist, is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time. Newton was a key figure in the scientific revolution and an early member of the Royal Society. Like other theistic scientists of the day he recognized that God has revealed Himself in creation. Newton wrote, “Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but my greatest friend is truth.”
Reformers in science were paralleled by reformers in education, especially three prominent theologians.
John Amos Comenius (1592-1670), the Czech Moravian Educational Reformer, is known as the father of modern education.
William Ames (1576-1633), the English Puritan Educational Reformer, wrote of encyclopedia (the circle of knowledge) and of the Six Arts, that is, an integrative, comprehensive form of education with God at the center.
German theologian Johann Heinrich Alsted (1588-1638) was a prolific writer known as “the true parent of all the Encyclopædias.”
We have seen the impact of their lives and educational reforms that set the high standard for what education is intended to be. As mentioned above, these reformers and their Puritan concept of education laid the foundation for freedom and flourishing never before witnessed in history.
– Darrow Miller
 Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc. .
 See Pearcey, Thaxton Soul of Science and Mangalwadi for further elaboration on this little known observation.
[GB1]This is repeated on the next page
[GB2]Suggest deleting these last two paragraphs lifted verbatim from a 2012 DMF post.