How Has Humanity Discovered God?

August 10, 2022

How Has Humanity Discovered God?

Humanity has discovered God through general and special revelation, guided by the canon of Scripture. It is important to note that humans did not determine who God Almighty is but rather discovered who He revealed Himself to be. And this was guided by the canon of Scripture. The term “canon” refers to a measuring rod and declares the standard of what is divinely recorded Scripture and what is not. But how did humans discover what was divine Scripture and what was not? They were guided by the following realities.

Apostolic Authority

God spoke through certain people designating them prophets and apostles. Therefore if a document was alleged to be written directly or indirectly by a prophet or an apostle it was under consideration to see if it was true. The document was not automatically recognized just for claiming apostolic authority but was also considered along with the following factors below. The recognition of a document containing such authority happened sometimes with haste and sometimes with patience. Some books were recognized immediately (Deut. 31:26; Joshua 24:26; Colossians 4:16) and some took time to recognize (2nd, 3rd John, and Revelation). And some even recognized others (Joshua 1:7; 1 Kings 2:3; Jer. 26:18; Ezek. 14:14; Mic. 4:1–3; 2 Peter 3:15–16).


In addition to apostolic authority documents had to tell the truth about God.

Anyone can write a document and place another’s name on it—see for example the Gospel of Peter and Barnabas—but in order for it to be discovered as being from God it had to accurately reveal God and His commands.


Further, the Church discovered God through documents addressing His people as a whole. Some letters were, however, written to single individuals, but their apostolic authority demonstrated inspired value for the Church as a whole.

Traditional Use

Moreover, the Church discovered God through the widespread use of these inspired documents. The widespread use demonstrated the people of God recognized God’s Word in different places and were using it for faith and practice. Some documents were used widely but eventually discarded for failing to meet other criteria.

These realities (T.A.C.O.) helped the Church to discover which writings were in the canon of Scripture and which were not. Furthermore, these realities teach us that the Church as a whole, in its many locations in the first few centuries, was in the discovery process of God’s Word. This process was not in the hands of a few people or even one person.

And even though the final canon was not officially discovered until the fourth century, these divinely inspired books had been in Church operation for centuries. Also, it was not one criteria but several that helped lead the Church to discover God’s Word. And even more important surely was and is the guidance of God’s Spirit in the process.

Therefore, the Church discovered God through general and special revelation as guided by the discovery of the canon of Scripture. Thus, the biblical canon is of upmost importance to the world and especially the Church. And it may be summarized in the following acronym.

Commands of God (through)
Apostles and Prophets
Ordained Salvation
Necessary in Christ Alone

Dictionary of New Testament Background, 193–194

Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1.