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Biblical Epistemology, Part 1

May 20, 2012

“You don’t even know what you are talking about.” How often have we heard this phrase? Better yet, have we ever thought about how we ‘know’ something? And not only that, how can we be certain that what we think we know is really there and really knowable? Christians used to trouble themselves about such questions but now we are too lazy to exercise our intellectual, spiritual minds. Instead, we would rather ‘feel’ something or ‘I just know’ that something is true. Well, in a world of skepticism such appeals to your sense of certainty in knowledge falls on deaf ears. And because such appeals fall on deaf ears, people don’t ‘know’ about Christ or come to ‘know’ Him in a saving relationship. The whole study of how we know what we know is called epistemology. And we are in an epistemological crisis in both the church and the world. In all honesty, if we do not settle the issue of epistemology ‘counterfeit certainty of knowledge’ will be imposed on humanity by bombs and guns. The ‘powers that be’ will decide what is knowable because they will tell you what to think and what is wrong thinking.

So why is this important? This is just philosophical mumbo jumbo, right? We all know that we know stuff, isn’t that enough? The answer may surprise you: no, it’s not. Understanding epistemology is important for several reasons.

First, epistemology concerns and is related to the doctrine/nature of God. For example, is God knowable or not? Is knowledge of Him real knowledge? Or is our professed knowledge about God merely human attempts in trying to describe such a God that we can’t even relate to in a real way because He is so different?! In short, can we have knowledge about God and can we be certain about that knowledge about Him? How you answer the questions of epistemology (how you know what you know) is of utmost importance here. To state that we have a crisis in society today about the knowledge of who God is I hope is self-evident. Part of the fault lies at the church’s feet for not thinking deeply about issues. It’s time we repent of our intellectual laziness. God’s fame and glory are at stake. We sin against the Lord when we don’t love Him with all our minds. Even if our efforts to grasp everything seem to fall short of the ideal, we should still earnestly seek for it as we would mine for silver. (Prov. 2:1-7)

Second, it concerns the Person and work of the blessed Lord Jesus. He is the Word. And the Word is about communication, knowability, etc. How can we know real truth about God and reality (aka, the world around us) without grounding our basis of knowing in the revealed Son of God? The Logos (the Word) told us, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

Third, what role, if any, does the Holy Spirit play in knowledge? Is His role to epistemology related only to knowledge about God, the bible, and spiritual things, etc.? What does the Holy Spirit have to do with knowing that 2+2=4? Or the chemical composition of water? Isn’t the Holy Spirit’s work only related to ‘inner spiritual experiences’? Or is any and all knowledge have to relate back to God through the Son by the Holy Spirit?

Fourth, since it takes knowledge to grow in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), epistemology is very important to our sanctification and growth in godliness. Our knowledge must be twofold here: a) knowledge of certain information b) personal, experiential ‘knowledge’ of known truths. Often we want to experience knowledge of God without information knowledge. Yet, this type of knowledge is not possible and leads to very shallow (baby) Christians. But the other extreme is also wrong. Some think that just having biblical informational knowledge automatically leads to spiritual growth knowledge. Biblically, we will see both are necessary for spiritual  growth and epistemological certainty!

Fifth, though not exhaustively, we must have minds shaped after what Scripture says about things (aka a biblical worldview) and not buy into the assumptions that our culture feeds us on a daily basis. Most of us buy into some worldly assumptions and don’t even know it. Studying biblical epistemology will help us overcome faulty assumptions about life and reality.

Now that we’ve introduced the topic, maybe it would be better to rephrase the opening statement to this one: “You don’t even know how you know what you are talking about.” I’m sure if you tell someone that they will give you funny looks. But trust me. It’s worth the effort to think about this topic of epistemology a little more deeply. Therefore, for the next several weeks we’ll take a dive off into the deep end of ‘knowing’.  So put your thinking caps on and we’ll see the beauty of how we can know, how we can know with certainty, and how we can use this to help others see their need for the Logos, the Lord Jesus Christ!

This bulletin along with other future/past bulletins can be found online at hckilgore.wordpress.com

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