We Can’t Know What We Won’t Know (2)
You know more than you might think.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 1 John 2.20, 21
… Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2.2, 3
Not much. You?
Humorist Michael Feldman began his weekly radio program (now a podcast) by asking the audience, “Whad’Ya Know?” To which the audience, with one voice, would reply, “Not much. You?” The program then proceeded to consider all manner of everyday things – about people, places, local histories, and things in the news – in a winsome, intelligent, enjoyable, and informative format. I enjoyed this program because it showed how illuminating and enjoyable learning new things can be, even simple, everyday things.
Michael Feldman’s question is a good one for us to consider, as those who are called to learn Jesus, Who is the treasury of wisdom and knowledge (Eph. 4.17-24; Col. 2.1-3). Just what do we know?
In our day the question of what we know, or can know, or ever will know, has largely been taken over by the disciplines of materialist science. In many ways, this is a very good thing; in other ways, it creates a major obstacle to growing in true knowledge. The process and disciplines whereby scientists come to know things are referred to as “sciences”; and “science” is regarded as the primary means of knowing truth, especially to scientists and those who look up to them.
And right there is the problem.
As Dr. Harvey Mansfield complained in a recent issue of City Journal, “To scientists, the university is divided into science and non-science; the latter is not knowledge and likely to be mush…”
On these terms, since most of us are not scientists, what we claim to know is regarded as mush – soft, squishy, unreliable, and in the end, irrelevant to real knowing. Since we do not conduct our lives each day according to carefully considered scientific theories or formulas, whatever we might claim to know is regarded by our secular age either as tentative or merely personal. Which is to say, mush.
But is it true that human beings cannot know anything truly unless and until that claim to knowledge, whatever it may be, has been subjected to rigorous testing, evaluation, trial, publication, and replication by other “knowers”? Not even the most devoted materialist would make such a claim. There’s more knowing going on in the world than the boundaries of science can contain. We may puzzle at the apostle John’s saying that we who believe in Jesus know “all things”, but the fact is, we know a lot more than we think. And in the power and perspective of the Spirit, what we actually do know can take on a brilliance that can be illuminating.
The problem of knowledge
All this points to what philosopher A. J. Ayer referred to as “the problem of knowledge”: What does it mean to know? How can we know anything? And how can we know that we know it? Obviously, these are important questions, since virtually all our conscious actions in the world, all day long, are based on what we know, or think we know.
Happily, for most of us, the things we know, and of which we are fairly well assured, typically work out as we expect: That driver in the other lane will obey the law and not suddenly veer in front of me. My employer will reward my labors every two weeks with a paycheck. My family will be waiting for me at home. My friends really do like me. Mashing this button on something called a “remote” will activate my CD player, and the particular choice I have indicated will bring pleasure and relaxation after a long day at work. And so on. We know all these things, but not because science tells us they are so.
Even more important for the followers of Christ, we know Him, know that our sins are forgiven, know that we have an eternal home with Him, know that He dwells in us and is transforming us by His Word and Spirit, and know that His Kingdom is coming on earth as it is in heaven. We know that His Word is truth, that prayer is real, and there is more to the world and reality than what we can see, hear, feel, taste, or touch. And we know all of this by means other than the latest reports in Nature or Scientific American.
Which thus begs the question, what is knowledge, what is it for, and how can we acquire it?
For the vast majority of our decisions each day, we act on knowledge which we have acquired by some means other than the protocols of science. And, since the actions we take on the basis of such knowledge combine to produce the daily routines on which we depend, we should have a better understanding of the process of knowing and the proper ends to which all knowledge should be put.
The source and end of knowing
All true knowledge issues, by a variety of means, from the treasury of knowledge which is in Christ Jesus (Col. 2.1-3). True knowledge derives from Him, belongs to Him, and is intended for His purposes. Further, everything we know, or might come to know, can help us grow in the knowledge of Jesus, which is eternal life (Jn. 17.3), and equip us to fulfill our calling as His witnesses (Acts 1.8). But we must know what we know, and use what we know consciously, creatively, consistently, and fruitfully in obedient service to the Lord. Since all that we know can enhance our walk with and work for the Lord, it behooves us to devote ourselves to learning as much as we can. We must never be content to say “Not much”, when the question of what we know is posed.
For in the end, all that we know, and everything we may come to know, can help us in knowing Jesus and making Him known in the world. And this is why He has left us here as disciples.
1. How is it evident that the world looks to science as the primary way of knowing anything for certain? Why is this a good thing? Why is this a problem?
2. John says that the Spirit within us enables us to know “all things”. What does he mean by that?
3. All knowledge derives from and leads to Christ. How can you see that in your daily life?
Next Steps – Preparation: Take five minutes – just five minutes – and meditate on what you know about the day ahead. Let this exercise lead you to praise Jesus and to prepare you to use what you know in His service today.
T. M. Moore
One place to begin learning is in understanding the times and the world around us. Our book, Understanding the Times, outlines the broad scope of what we need to understand to live as witnesses in this secular world. Order your copy by clicking here. To see how and why the small stuff of your life matters, order a copy of our book Small Stuff (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.