A Statement on the Christian View of Knowledge
Not only do we only know God through Jesus Christ, but we only know ourselves through Jesus Christ; we only know life and death through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ we cannot know the meaning of our life or our death, of God or ourselves. Thus without Scripture, whose only object is Christ, we know nothing, and can see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of God and in nature itself." Blaise Pascal from his book Pensées.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Our infinite personal Creator called into existence the time, space, mass continuum that we refer to as the universe. Within that universe innumerable phenomena take place. Man is witness to the tiniest fraction of these phenomena, for the vast majority of them are beyond his observation.
Man’s knowledge of himself and his planet appears much more comprehensive than his knowledge of the rest of the universe. But, even man’s knowledge of himself and his immediate environment is limited and prone to error. For man’s knowledge involves interpretation. Since facts are related to one another, man is forced to answer the question, "how is a particular fact related to other facts?" "What correlation or relationship do they bear toward one another?"
As soon as that interpretive process begins, man quickly reaches the boundaries and limitations of observation and empirical science. For human origin, meaning and destiny are beyond the reach of the human senses. Apart from God, all of man’s speculations concerning these ultimates are folly and irrationality. It ought to be clear that the nature of reality and the nature of knowledge are necessarily joined. If they are not joined, knowledge has no rational basis. Ontology has everything to do with the nature of knowledge. For in God, what is real is rational. It is His omniscience that makes rational human knowledge possible.
The final standard of truth is the Word of God; the Bible. Human faculties of sense and reason were created by God that man might take in God’s revelation and thereby think God’s thoughts after Him. Man was created to interpret knowledge by dependence upon God’s revelation. All things in the universe must be interpreted in relation to God and his plan. The universe, its purpose and unfolding history have meaning only in relation to God’s eternal plan to glorify Himself.
If the facts of the universe are not interpreted to the glory of God, man is left with an atomistic concept of knowledge. In that system of irrationality, facts have no meaningful relation to one another, no significant contact. But knowledge is not an endless sea of unrelated facts. God’s absolute comprehensive knowledge is bound up in His purpose and plan for the universe. There is unity to knowledge. God is the ultimate reference point for all knowledge. His control of all things demands the coherence of knowledge.
Every transaction in the realm of knowledge necessarily has an ultimate reference point. God’s knowledge is the basis for all coherent thought. The coherence of God’s thought is the very foundation of human knowledge. Only the Christian can claim ultimate rationalism. The believer interprets all things by means of God’s revelation. That is his basis for unified rational thought.
Sin has had a destructive effect upon knowledge. It has darkened man’s understanding of God and of self, and it has plunged man into irrational speculations. All unregenerate men by reason of their sin, worship and serve the creature instead of their Creator. Creature worship is the height of arrogance and folly. The creation itself cannot provide its own origin, meaning, sustenance nor end. God alone upholds what He has made and gives it purpose. He also executes His plan for the work of His hands. Only He is worthy of the creature’s worship.
In the sin of Eve, there was a radical corrupting of the human thought process. Eve was tempted by Satan to think univocally. By attributing powers of autonomous reason to her mind, Eve in effect negated God’s being as self-sufficient. She usurped that place, making herself the final determiner of knowledge. She arrogated to herself what only belongs to God; the right to be the final court of appeal. By that act, she put all being on one level. She declared independence from God. The lie that sin could gain a kind of freedom or independence from God only produced death. Man’s moral separation from God did not change his metaphysical dependence upon God. Man remains a dependent creature. Adam’s sin perverted both his own thinking and that of his entire progeny.
Since the fall, man’s approach to knowledge has consistently shown adherence to the lie sown in Eden. The epistemology of Eve is practiced by every unregenerate sinner. The Scriptures attest to the fact that man uses his God-given faculties of reason to suppress the truth of God in order to believe a lie.
The natural man, like Eve, thinks univocally. He assumes self-sufficiency. He interprets all he contacts without reference to God. His acknowledgment of God’s knowledge is at best correlative. He sees God’s thoughts and his own thoughts as all necessary pieces of the same pie. Like Eve, the natural man sees all being as equally ultimate. He puts himself on the same level as God. By assuming that all being is equally ultimate, sinful men conclude that knowledge is equally ultimate as well.
This view of knowledge makes God only one among many interpreters. It destroys any distinction between knowledge that is absolute (God’s) and knowledge that is derivative (that of redeemed men). All finite categories of knowledge are viewed as self-sufficient. By embracing the above, the unbeliever rejects the need for an absolute universal in order to know with certainty. He holds his own mind to be ultimate and normal. In that state, he remains blind and deceived.
It is this author’s biblical conviction that the non-Christian’s consciousness is totally incapable of accepting the truths of Christianity apart from regeneration. Without the new birth, even the most intelligent natural man will never rise above ultimate irrationalism. Men must have God’s knowledge in order to have their own knowledge. The only alternative is folly.
Man was created in God’s image in order to realize the goal of living for God’s glory. That image, if not marred by sin, assures a true, but not comprehensive knowledge of God. Those who know God by regeneration and the Scriptures will reach that end of living for His glory.
God has placed in Christ all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). It is the Christian alone who can appraise all things (1 Corinthians 2:15). He has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians. 2:16). As such, he is enabled to think God’s thoughts after Him. Though the Christian’s knowledge is finite, his epistemology is that of ultimate rationalism.
In the final analysis there are really only two epistemologies, that of Eve and that of Christ. Man’s great need is for regeneration, for without it there is no knowledge of God and thus no rationality.
The Christian’s mind is renewed by Scripture. It is his wise caution to steer clear of every philosophy that has its origin in this world (Colossians 2:8). Christ alone is God’s light, and Christ alone is the saved man’s epistemology (Psalm 36:9, John 8:12).