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Epistemology, Part 6

June 30, 2012

So far we have looked at various epistemologies people base their lives on. The ones we have looked at are reason, experience, science, and feelings. Even though each of them contain ways we learn and know things, in the end they can never bring certainty to our knowledge of themselves. At best they can only be ‘most likely’ true. They may be true in what they tell us, but we have no way of knowing for sure (aka having certainty).  We need to have an epistemological basis (how we know what we know) that gives us certainty in our knowledge and rids us of doubt. But before we cover what that epistemology should be, we need to first ask and answer: why, other than having certainty in knowledge, is it so important to have the right epistemology? In short, it’s sinful and rebellious against God to do otherwise.

Before going any further, please read Genesis 3:1-7. Did you read it? Good! Now we need to think carefully about this account in Genesis 3. The same tricks and deception Satan used then are the same tricks and deception he seeks to use today. (See 2 Corinthians 2:11) There are many lessons to learn from Genesis 3 but for our point think of the temptation Adam and Eve faced in light of our current discussion of epistemology (how we know what we know). But one more thing first!

In the beginning God created man without sin. No fall, blemishes, nor animosity towards God. Man didn’t have any issue with his environment. Now what is of particular interest in the account even before man had sinned or had a broken, cursed environment to live in, man NEEDED according to God’s design for God to SPEAK to Him! (See Genesis 1:28-30, 2:16) Why is this important to our discussion? Because man was NEVER made to be an independent knower apart from God’s revelation. Even in a state of innocence, man NEEDED for God to interpret reality to him. He needed the Lord to give him KNOWLEDGE about reality. Knowledge that was certain and true at all points. Knowledge that allowed man to not only to know, but to know how he knows. How’s that? By the Word of the Lord!

God gave man the epistemology he needs: revelation! Think of this: nothing is more real than the reality of God’s word! The entire fabric of the universe is predicated and built on the word of God! (See Genesis 1, John 1:1-3). An amazing thought! It’s why God’s word must have first place in all things, especially our epistemology. Reason, experience, science, feelings, and whatever else man may use as the basis for his epistemology is all part of creation that is itself dependent on and owes its existence to revelation.

This is why having any form of knowledge as our ultimate basis of knowing apart from revelation is sinful. It is elevating the creation above the Creator. (See Romans 1:25) So the problem is not only having uncertainty as a basis for knowledge but it is absolute treason and rebellion against God Himself to base our ultimate knowledge on anything other than revelation. God who knows all things and how all things relate to each other is why we can have certainty in our knowledge when we base it on God’s revelation. The world will never have certainty due to the inherent limitations of basing their knowledge on something in creation (reason, experience, etc) rather than the Creator. (Again, Rom. 1:25)

Now look again at Genesis 3:1-7. What does Satan really offer man? He offers reason, experience, feelings, and scientific experiment as the way to find knowledge apart from the revelation of God! Did not God give reason, experience, science, and feelings as ways of knowing? Yes and no. They are valid ONLY as they are related and grounded in revelation. We only have certainty in these forms of knowledge IF they are based on revelation. For example, reason can be certain IF it is based on the revelation of God. It can’t give certainty otherwise. Again, using them independently is absolutely sinful. (Consider 2 Corinthians 10:5 in relation to this whole discussion) It is in essence anti-Christ knowledge! (See Prov. 1:7, Colossians 2:3) This is the whole point of Satan’s temptation. He offers knowledge and goodness AS IF they are independent of God (that is, as if they are something outside of God that God Himself needs/has access to) when in fact all knowledge is found in Christ!

Is this not our current state? Think of what this affects if we take seriously revelation as our ultimate epistemology. What ramifications does this have for counseling? What about ‘public education’? What about the role and limits of government? What about the Christian life and our pursuits? How’s it relate to how we govern the church? How should it affect how our homes are managed? (See Deuteronomy 6:1-25) What about our engagement with culture? How will it shape what we ‘say’ to them?

If Christians would really get the impact of this truth, it would change the church and our culture. We need to call ourselves to repentance for seeking knowledge apart from grounding it first and ultimately in the revelation of God. No longer does experience, autonomous reasoning, the ‘experts of society’, feelings, or the latest science to have hold or govern our lives. It is time for the church to once again regain its prophetic voice of ‘Thus says the Lord!’ There is more to that phrase than most have realized! Speaking ‘Thus says the Lord’ is the most certain thing we can do. God even promises to bless His word over anything else! (See Psalm 147:15, Isaiah 55:11, John 6:63, Hebrews 12:26-29 ‘His voice’)

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