An end all within itself. A conclusion that is derived not from previous beliefs or assumptions.
In Hindu mythology, there was the idea that the world rested on the “World Turtle.” It is similar to Atlas holding the world. I had a professor tell a story about how it may have asked what the world rested on. The Hindu circles may say the world rests on the backs of one or multiple elephants. The follow up question would probably be, what did the elephants rest on, which the answer might be either more elephants or a giant turtle. The follow up to that question would just repeat the question on what does the turtle rest on, and so on, and so on…
Epistemology is the study of human knowledge. It’s mainly philosophical, but its theories have brought on many other methods of experimentation and observation within other fields. A couple of people in specific became what is largely the source of foundation though/modernist thought. Of course now, we live in a post-modern era where truth has become relative to the person you ask.
René Descartes and Immanuel Kant are two that I want to focus on. After researching them to refresh my memory, I found out that I was quite off on who did what, so for the sake of the post, I left links to their Wiki page so you can look at them individually. I will obviously be synthesizing their ideas to make my point.
Descartes is accredited with the quote of “cogito ergo sum” or “I think therefore I am”. His theory involved him trying to find the source of human knowing, an absolute truth, if you will. The body and the mind are separate entities, but the mind was the being that did the thinking. He thought about the problem of there possibly being an evil demon that might trick his body/senses which would mean that his sense/body could not be infallible. The only way to find this undeniable truth was to doubt everything, and eventually he came to the conclusion that he could not doubt that he was a doubter. He could not doubt that the thinking being existed and thus could doubt, therefore he thinks, therefore he is.
Immanuel Kant is different in that he believed that knowledge/truth must come from a source that is an end within itself. In simpler terms, the foundation was the last turtle that was not perched on anything. This goes against the empiricists idea that knowledge comes from observations. To Kant, true human knowledge is innate that is present in all humans, and is evident to all.
So with the two stated above, here is my synthesis. There was a thought that:
- Knowledge comes from nothing and is innate.
- There there is only one truth
- Knowledge does not need a God to exist
Today we know a few things:
- Truth is becoming relative regardless of the facts or proof.
- Ex: dismissal of media from opposition sources
- Ex: dismissal of information due to personally held beliefs
- Some truth is relative according to it’s context.
- Things do not develop in a vacuum
- There are multi-dimensional approaches to many things.
- Biblical truth is starting to take a hit with post-modern thought.
Light may be the same speed regardless of what context it is in. In simple terms, light be not be relative. That might be the ultimate truth, but I think the absolute truth is God, and light is relative to him.
Welcome to my developing theory of Epistemology.
We start in Romans 1
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:18-20
The foundation of all existence is not that “I think, therefore I am,” nor is it a giant turtle holding the many turtles that hold the world, but instead it is that there is something out there. “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Our two philosophers may have tried to find the basis of human knowledge without God, but that is where they failed. It is impossible.
Cultures throughout time have always look up, or witnesses the world and wondered about the presence of something greater. It’s evident for children as it is for adult, but not every culture came to the same conclusion.
“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Romans 1:21-23
Our philosophers tried to find knowledge apart from God, but in doing this, they became fools. That is why we must be careful when professing the word, and be humble when we study it, as we might become fools.
This is enough to conclude human knowledge, but I must continue in order to establish God as truth and attack those that profess false theologies.
Welcome to Biblical Epistemology
Today, if you drive down the road how many churches can you count? Are they all the same kind? In my hometown, there are more sects of Baptist churches than one can count. So why do we have so much disunity? Doesn’t the Bible teach about unity? Doesn’t Paul specifically address in 1 Corinthians 3 the issue of people dissenting and trying to be “of Apollos” or “of Paul”? The solution to this disunity is what I want to tackle in this section.
When we ask people where they get their Faith (knowledge of the Bible and God) you will usually get one of 3 answers popular today:
- Their parents
- Their church
- Their feelings
Many people go through the motions of Christianity and never challenge their beliefs because it is comfortable. They may have been taught something because their parents specifically would teach them that. When challenged, they become defensive and fight back.
Maybe they have been committedly been going to a church since they were little and are an active member, and maybe all they know about God and the bible are from the sermons, studies, and teachings of the church. When confronted they do the same.
Or maybe they view their faith as what they think is right, or how it feels. These people often love the sermons about love and forgiveness, but reject those that preach about the wrath of God. This view is increasingly popular today, and may be possibly the reason for the increase of non-denominational churches.
How do we find unity?
Maybe if all those people sat down, turned off all their electronics, dropped all their previously held beliefs, and studied the Bible, I believe we will hit unity. If the Bible was our ruler – our standard of measure – we would see less types of churches, and more cooperation with one another.
Let us establish authority of the Bible*
*This relies on both Faith in the Bible, and Faith that God wants us to know him.
We can make logical arguments about the Bible, that many people will refute, but most of those arguments you must take it on blind faith. Get ready for tons of verses.
2 Timothy 3:14-17
“You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
- Paul may not necessarily be thinking of himself a writing scripture, but his statement about how Timothy has continued in the things he learned and from whom he has learned them from. This gives support that Paul might be assuming he is writing scripture, thus his letters are God breathed.
- Peter in 2 Peter 3:16 also thinks of the writings of Paul to be authoritative.
- Acts 20:23 suggests that Paul is aware that he has the Holy Spirit.
God wants man to know him, thus he has made the Bible not difficult to understand
- 1 Timothy 2:4 – God wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth
- 1 Corinthians 14:33 – God is not a god of confusion
- Psalm 119:130 – God’s word is not difficult to understand. Even the simple can understand.
- Titus 1:2 – God cannot tell a lie. Thus by Faith we should believe that the verses I shared are true, and his whole Word is true.
Dangers and warning of straying from his Word
- Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32 – God warns the Israelites to not add or take away from his word.
- Revelation 22:18 – God warns not to add or take away from the words in Revelation.
- Thus we know God does not like people doing that.
- Galatians 1:6-9 – People are turning way from the original Gospel and Paul warns them about anyone – angel or man – preaching a gospel contrary to the original, they are cursed.
- 1 Timothy 4:1-2 – Paul warns of a time when people will listen to doctrines of demons
- 2 Timothy 4:3-5 – Paul warns of a time people will not put up to sound doctrine and follow teachers that say things they like to hear.
- Matthew 7:15-16 – Jesus warns of false prophets
- 2 Peter 2:1-3 – Peter warns of false teachers
- 1, 2, 3 John – All those epistles of John discusses false teachings
- Jude – Discusses false teachings being inserted among them.
I could keep going with all of this, but the point that God does not like for his word to be changed. Romans 9 discusses how we are the pots and God is the potter, we have no right to call injustice on God for something he does, because he is always righteous. As pots, we have no right to think we know more than our creator and to challenge his word’s authority. If God says something, so be it. That is that.
Paul is the best example of humility to God’s truth. Saul of Tarsus was born into a pretty cush life. He was educated, a Roman citizen, and was trained as a pharisee. He would even claim himself as the pharisee of pharisee. He would persecute Christians like it was no one’s business. So it was not that he did not know his Hebrew Bible. He just did not humble himself to see that Jesus was truly the Messiah, and this pride drove him to do all the bad he did. When God backhands him, that was his wake-up call. Paul pulls a sick 360 no-scope in Faith (it was more like 180 because 360 would leave him where he was at). Then he is completely humbled by God’s word, and changes even though he probably was very uncomfortable since he challenged his previously held beliefs.
This is the theme of The Ponder Zone. That is why I gave all the verses above so that we can humble ourselves and use the Bible as our standard of measure. I believe that God’s Word is not hard, and he never meant it to be. Scholarship today often makes it harder to understand, but with honest, humble approaches to the Bible, we can find that Unity that was lost early on.
So after you have read this, I hope that maybe in the near future, probably right after reading this, pray that our Father may soften your heart so the Spirit can produce fruit of humility. Pray for humility and to get knocked down. It will hurt. I promise you. I fear praying for humility because God has answered it every time with a swift and stiff backhand to my spiritual face.
Grace and Peace be to you.