Epistemology And Faith*
You should think about things worthy of thinking about. One of the things you can think about that will be worth your time is the question, how do you know what you know? It’s an old question, one that dates back to the ancients. And just so you know, there is a name for such contemplations. It’s called epistemology. For the thoughtful, which is to say, for those who think about things deeply, it will ever be a question worth pondering.
The word “science” is an epistemological word. It means “a state of knowing” and it employs methods to distinguish between assumption and knowledge. That kind of science is what brought us cell phone sized computers, the existence of which, by the way, I am old enough to remember a time in which they did not exist which gives me good reason to marvel over them. But as man marvels over his accomplishments he can begin to think that since he knows a little more about a few things, he knows a lot about a lot of things. His great leaps in knowledge, therefore, can blind him to his actual poverty in knowledge.
One of the things new knowledge reveals to us is that what we thought we knew before, we didn’t know at all. We can see this in the study of the history of science. For much of this history, for example, doctors practiced a thing called bloodletting. This was a practice of “bleeding” patients to cure them of illnesses. For the scientist, in that time, I’m sure it all seemed reasonable based on what they thought they knew. I’m sure doctors learned all about its advantages in medical school. I’m also sure that anyone who opposed such a procedure would have been ridiculed for going against a very old and accepted practice. These scientists did not know that they did not know and presumed to know something to be true that wasn’t. My father used to say, “It’s what I learned after I knew it all that counted most”. The Bible says that knowledge puffs up. It makes man proud. Knowledge, properly handled however, ought to make us humble.
With this in mind, consider one of the deepest questions a man can ask himself: how did I come to be? The answer to such a question has profound consequences no matter how one answers it. There is an answer acceptable to man in these days that displaces a creator, but what do we really know concerning that answer? As it turns out, not much. It is based on made up stories of how it could have happened. But made up stories do not constitute science.
So, what can we know concerning the consequences of the acceptable answer to that question in our day? Well, we can know that if man, by happenstance, evolved from dirt into sacks of chemicals, blood, flesh and bone, and those chemicals reacted in ways that made him ask questions like, how did I come to be, then the questions are as absurd as the man. For if man came from nothing meaningful, and he will return to nothing meaningful, nothing the chemical reactions in his head do in the meantime are meaningful. Knowledge itself is in fact meaningless and whether the chemical sacks attempt to create meaning, or they instead do something else like go on a killing spree just for the fun of it, in the end it is still meaningless. We can know this. It is not logical to deny it.
But man wants to insist that he does have meaning. But so what? His insistence is inconsistent with his “knowledge”. Such instances are mere meaningless chemical reactions. This is called epistemological inconsistency. If a man who has an innate desire to remain alive knows the building he is in is on fire, and he goes to bed as if it is not, then his actions are not consistent with his knowledge. He is being epistemologically inconsistent. In the same way, if a man knows that his existence is ultimately meaningless, and his actions are contrary to that knowledge, he, again, is being epistemologically inconsistent. So, it would only be fair to say that for the man in the burning building to remain epistemologically consistent with evolution, it would be absurd whether he stayed and burned up, or whether he ran out. In fact everything he says and does is meaningless, for it is simply the result of the chemical reactions of non-thinking and unfeeling cosmic dust.
But dear children, man does not know from where he came, as man counts knowing. In the grand scheme of things man fares much better when he is humble concerning what he thinks he knows. He should be content that no matter how much he knows, in reality he knows very little. Beyond that he must have faith. We can know that it is a man’s faith that informs him of his origins, whether that faith be placed in men, called “scientists”, or in religion. But make no mistake, do not be mislead, in the end it is faith no matter what name man hangs on the door of it, and no matter how arrogant, puffed up and proud the man is who says it is not faith. Man cannot prove that he evolved from dirt. It can’t be done. The belief in evolution is a religious belief, and you ought to always consider it as such. And it is the basis for the predominant religion of your time and place, Secular Humanism. It takes faith to believe and live according to it. Come what may we can know that all have faith in something.
But my dear children faith is not a bad thing. The more you know the more you ought to know that you do not know, which ought to humble you rather than inflate your opinion of yourself. You must have faith. You must have faith that there is good and evil and that man is not the arbiter of which is which. (Isa 5:20) You must have faith that God gave a law unto man. (Rom 1:19) Once you know God’s law, you can know that man, and you, rebelled against it. (Rom 3:9-18) You must then have faith that God loved the world in such a way that he gave his only Son to redeem rebels like you while maintaining consistency with His justice.(Rom 3:26) You must have faith that God poured out His wrath against you on His Son instead. (Rom 3:25). And you must have faith that His Son, Jesus, rose from the dead. (1 Cor 15:17) And you must have faith that your life is not meaningless, no matter your lot, which God in his providence, good or bad, bestows upon you. (Eph 2:10) It is by faith that you are saved. (Eph 2:8)
To believe these things is to be epistemologically consistent and reasonable. Think about these things: There is good and evil. All men are by their nature depraved, and man is accountable to his Creator for his evil. We can escape God’s wrath by hiding in Christ through which we have access to joy in this life, and we have hope for the life that is beyond the grave. We do not have to be slaves to sin. We are able to forgive. We can do all these things through Christ who is in us. Life has purpose. This is both reasonable and consistent, and it is faith.
But it is not blind faith, as some will say. For 2000 years there have been those who have tried to undermine and destroy God’s Word with no success. A study of this magnificent work, the Bible, will reveal many reasons as to why it has stood the test of time against a massive onslaught.
It has been my prayer for you since you were young that God would have mercy on you and save you from His wrath. It remains my prayer today. I pray also that you would be wise in the fear of the lord, and that you would not presume to know things that cannot be known, and which set themselves up against the knowledge of God.