Monday, April 17, 2006

How Do We Know What We Know?

We can know something through observation, experience, and revelation.

Observation is not just about seeing things, but also involves the interpretation of causes and effects. Following, there must be assumptions already present. For example, you observe that an apple falls to the ground each time you let it go. You may interpret that some physical laws are at work that cause this to happen. But you must have the assumption that physical laws are unchanging (thus they are called laws). If physical phenomenon are not unchanging, we can not discover anything. Therefore, we can not know anything.

But experience confirms some of our assumptions. In the above example, our experience of letting the apple drop multiple times can confirm that it is likely to happen an infinite number of times, given the same circumstances. So with experience and observation working together, we begin to know something about our world.

But we really don't have a point of reference for our assumptions until it is revealed to us. In other words, if we are either taught or shown how the world works and what is true, we have a point of departure to make discoveries. So, we actually live our lives based on revelation.

Therefore, assumptions about our universe are derived through the combination of observation, experience, and revelation.

Unlike the Enlightenment movement, which said that the experience and observation of men bring us truth, God would say that truth from Him puts into context our experience and observation so that we can discover truth. Thus, knowledge of God (or rather revelation from God about God) is the beginning of all knowledge. We can not know anything without this. In fact, if we attempt to deny this, our understanding will become more and more absurd as time goes by.

Why is this distinction important? It is important because the average citizen is bombarded with so-called knowledge everyday. This knowledge is derived from the opinions of men, and opposing ideas falsely called knowledge. Sometimes this "knowledge" is used to manipulate people's thinking, even Christian's, if that were possible. So discernment is of even greater importance today in our fast-paced, information-saturated culture.

If we can first understand how knowledge is really derived, we can begin to evaluate what we hear. Perhaps we can grow up in our ability to discern.

No comments:

Post a Comment