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Justification of Knowledge

Definitions

  • Ontology: The study of the nature of being and existence is called ontology
  • Epistemology: The study of the nature of knowledge is called epistemology
  • Aseity: referring to the characteristic of being un-derived or non-dependent.
  • Monism: the belief that everything consists of a single basic substance or element
  • Materialism: the belief that the only thing that exists is matter


God's Word shows us a completely different view of both being (ontology) and knowing (epistemology).  This view of being and knowing contrasts sharply with the view of an unbeliever.

The Christian View of Being:
There is a problem with the word "being".  It is too universal.  If we say that something exists, we are left with saying nothing, since existence applies to everything.  However, as Christians, we can think of two categories of ideas.
  1. God who is not dependent upon His universe for anything.  He is uncreated.  This characteristic is also known as His "aseity".
  2. That which God has created, which is dependent upon God and derived from God.
Scripture Passages:
  • Neh. 9:6 - You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You. 
  • Ps. 100:3 - Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. 
  • Col. 1:17 - And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
  • Acts 17:28-29 - for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, “For we are also His offspring.’  Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.
  • Rev. 4:11 - You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.
In contrast, many unbelievers (especially materialists) believe that all things consist of the same basic substance (monism).  They would also assert that man is not contingent upon God's upholding power in any way.  Even pagan polytheists are monists, since they do not believe in one God who created and upholds all things.  Their deities are simply interdependent "higher powers".  As a side note, a materialist would have no problem with the word "being" or "existence" since physical objects are the only things that are real and have existence.  The word being, for them, distinguishes that which is made up of physical matter from the idea of something.

Discussion:
  • Can you think of expressions of monism (all things consist of the same basic substance) within our modern culture?

The Christian View of Knowledge:

The Christian also makes a distinction between God's knowledge and man's knowledge.  It is important to point out that this distinction in knowing truth is mainly a quantitative distinction and not a qualitative distinction.  This avoids the neo-orthodox error that would say that our knowledge and God's knowledge do not intersect at any point (mutually exclusive).

God's Knowledge:

  • intuitive - never had to learn anything because he has always known everything.
  • non-sequential - God's thoughts are not progressively or sequential thought out.  He doesn't think one proposition and then another, since this would destroy His omniscience.  Instead, He knows everything at the same time in one continuous eternal thought.  He never needs to recall anything from His "memory".
  • extensive - knows all things visible and invisible, in heaven, hell or earth, all spirits, all authorities, all matters past, present and future, all thoughts of every mind, all words of every tongue, all activities of every creature living or dead, all purposes, plans, all causes, all mysteries, all true propositions as true, all false propositions as false, all valid conclusions as valid, all invalid conclusions as invalid
  • all-encompassing - His knowledge encompasses all created things and all things happen according to His eternal plan.
This last point leads to the following axiom regarding apologetics:
Unless there is comprehensive knowledge of all things somewhere there can be no certain knowledge anywhere
If nobody has a comprehensive knowledge of all things, then all knowers are finite in their knowledge.  Therefore, the next datum he might examine could force him to have to re-evaluate everything he had ever concluded.

Since the Christian knows that there is comprehensive knowledge with God, and that God has imparted some of that knowledge through the scriptures, he knows that real and true knowledge is possible for man.  Such finite knowers must be humble enough to receive such assistance from God, which requires him to admit his own weakness, ignorance and complete dependence upon God.  This is something that is not possible, but through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.
  • 1 Cor. 2:10 - But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
  • Col 1:26-27 - the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
  • Col. 2:3 - in whom [both Father and Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 
  • Deut. 8:3 - So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. 
Man's Knowledge:
For the Christian, the following is true about his own knowledge:
  • his knowledge is receptively reconstructive instead of creatively constructive.
  • his knowledge is secondary and derived from God.
  • He thinks God's thoughts after him
  • God's Word is the final and ultimate "court of appeal".  God's Word forms the basis for defending any knowledge claim
Discussion:
  • How does a biblical view of God's knowledge change how we think about life?
  • How does a biblical view of our own dependence change our attitude and approach to reading and studying scripture?

The Justification of Knowledge

Efforts to find knowledge by beginning with man instead of the Bible usually lead to either, rationalism, empiricism or existentialism (experience).  Rationalism forms nothing but logic.  It lacks any specifics about the real world.  Empiricism cannot justify any general proposition at all, only possibilities.  Neither can empiricism say anything about the future, God, ethical value, or beliefs.  In fact, empiricism can not defend empiricism, since it is a belief about knowledge.  Existentialism rejects knowledge all together in favor of irrational experience.
All this the Christian man eschews in favor of the epistemology graciously given him in the fact and propositional content of Holy Scripture.  The intelligent Christian recognizes that in the fact of Scripture itself he has a true profound solution for man's need for an infinite reference point if knowledge is to become a reality.  He understands that because there is comprehensive knowledge with God, real and true knowledge is possible for man since God who knows all the data exhaustively in all their infinite relationships and who possesses therefore true knowledge in in the position to impart some portion of that true knowledge to man.  The Christian believes that this is precisely what God did when he revealed himself to man propositionally.  - Robert Reymond, Faith's Reasons For Believing, p. 336-337

John 8:31-32 - Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
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