Friday, August 28, 2009
How do we know what we know?
God alone is omnipresent and infinite in knowledge and truth. Men are finite and limited in their ability to acquire and understand knowledge. Our limitations were further complicated by the fall of man and his corruption by sin. Because of our sin nature, we tend to corrupt true knowledge and twist the truth. Indeed, we “turn the truth of God into a lie.”
Because it is our nature to corrupt truth and twist knowledge, we need supernatural intervention to arrive at the truth. This idea leans toward mysticism, or the availability of knowledge without effort. It seems there can be a mystic element in acquiring knowledge and truth but I don’t believe knowledge can be achieved without effort.
Do ideals exist in the world apart from our own thoughts and existence? Truth originates in an absolute God. Therefore, knowledge and truth existed long before man was created. Our effort is not to determine if it is real, our mission is to discover the truth and knowledge that is already there. How do we discover knowledge and truth?
The Skeptic says it can’t be done. They believe that actual knowledge and truth are not available to the human being. Some actually claim that nothing can be known.
The Empiricist believes that knowledge can only be acquired through our five senses. Aristotle was a proponent of this idea. Whatever enters the mind must first enter at the gates provided by the senses. The English philosopher, John Locke, took Aristotle’s theory and ran with it. He compared the mind to a blank sheet of white paper. When a person is born he knows nothing but throughout his life he fills in the paper by the experiences he has through his five senses. These philosophers believed that only the objects that were perceived by the senses actually existed. This brings to mind that age-old question, “Does a tree that falls in the forest make any sound if there is no one there to hear it?”
The Rationalist believes that the mind can perceive innate truths that are independent of our senses. The mind is capable of comprehending some abstract truth, perhaps, in a mystical or spiritual way. Plato believed that ideas existed independently of the human mind. There is a whole realm of knowledge and truth that exists out there and our mission is not to write knowledge or create truth but simply to discover it.
Surely, God gave us our five senses to help us interpret the experiences we have and these experiences help us to accumulate a volume of truth and knowledge but Ecclesiastes 3:11 states that God has “set eternity in the hearts of men.” Because men are created in the image of God they have a portion of eternity in their hearts. God seems a bit crafty here because he put within us a very strong desire to know him, to acquire knowledge, but he put limitations on our ability to gain knowledge. Therefore, we are always longing to know him more and more because that aspect of our nature can never be satisfied. Indeed, we will discover that an eternity is not enough time to learn what there is to learn about God.