What does it mean to know something? (1Jn 5:13) How do I know truth? (2Ti 3:7) I think I know a few things, but how complete is my understanding? (1Co 8:2) How do I grow in knowledge? (2Pe 1:5) How do I measure this? (2Co 11:6) Why is this important? (Pr 2:3-5)
The theory of knowledge is called Epistemology; it’s how we think about thinking, what we know about knowing, the study of study, what it means to have meaning.
Knowing some proposition P requires three things:  P must be true,  we must believe P, and  we must have justification for this belief. (1Pe 3:15) To have knowledge then is to have a conviction of the nature of reality based upon reason: our ability to correctly interpret data (facts, evidence) relating to P which we perceive through our senses.
Conviction is necessary in knowledge but insufficient; without good reason, we merely have an opinion; to claim knowledge in this case is merely arrogance, conceit (Pr 26:16) and presumption (Ps 19:13), even if we happen to be correct. All actual knowledge requires insight, that we correctly perceive connections and relationships between facts such that we understand reality.
This knowing can’t merely be chemical reactions in our brains or hormones making us feel certain ways: molecules can’t think, reason or understand. Real apprehension of the nature of reality is metaphysical, above and beyond Nature itself. (Php 3:12) It’s only possible because God enables us to do it (Mt 13:11), equipping the soul to enjoy Him within Nature; it’s part of being created in His image (Ge 1:27); knowing anything is part of knowing Him (2Ti 1:12) – it’s what we’re made for. (Php 3:8)
Since all knowledge reflects reality, rooted in the immutability (Mal 3:6) of JEHOVAH Himself (Ro 11:36), and since reality can’t be inconsistent with itself, all knowledge must be consistent with all other knowledge. Thus, by carefully leveraging the knowledge we already have, we can acquire more.
We can only acquire knowledge by collecting and correctly interpreting a reasonable amount of data relating to a given proposition, and finding no (zero) contradiction or inconsistency within this data. We rightly claim knowledge only under these conditions, and we ought to do so (if words are to have meaning), even though we’re finite, unable to collect all possible data relevant to any given proposition. (1Co 13:12) The key here being reasonable: deception ought to arise only as a consistently inaccurate, holistic depiction of reality is presented to our senses.
Repenting, admitting to being wrong, in error, of having an incorrect understanding of reality, is enabled and facilitated by acquiring additional facts which contradict or are inconsistent with our current perception of reality. This requires recognizing that we haven’t been as thorough as we ought in  acquiring a reasonable amount of data, and/or  correctly interpreting this evidence.
Incorporating new facts with what we already know, and developing a world view that squares with all evidence available to us, is how we grow in wisdom and understanding. The alternative, ignoring facts which contradict our view, or employing false reasoning as we interpret facts which inconvenience us, is dishonest (Ro 1:18); God condemns both as a love of darkness. (Jn 3:19)
We’re each responsible to both hate vain thinking (Ps 119:113) and also to have an accurate perception of reality (Ja 1:16), to love truth (2Th 2:10) and cry after knowledge so we can be more aligned with God. (Pr 1:28-29) This implies God has provided sufficient evidence for us to know Him (Ro 1:20), and also the ability to reason correctly as we interpret it. (Is 1:18)
Knowledge begins with the fear of God. (Pr 1:7) As we seek to know Him and about Him in humility and love, the Father Himself gives us knowledge and understanding (Pr 2:6) and Christ reveals truth to us. (Jn 18:37)
It’s a journey, for sure, the Way (Jn 14:6), a lifestyle … one with purpose and destiny … the only one worth taking.
9 thoughts on “To Know”
One of the key sources of data is knowledge claimed by others which contradicts our own. By evaluating the actual evidence others have collected, and examining their reasoning in interpreting it, we can often acquire more knowledge, and perhaps help others who think they have knowledge but are deceived.
The motivation for this blog was in wrestling with the concept of absolute knowledge, or absolute certainty, which seems to be demanded in topics such as knowing we have eternal life (1Jn 5:13), yet Paul’s statement in 1Co 8:2 suggests that our knowledge about any given point will always be incomplete.
Thinking this through helped me understand that our finiteness as humans precludes us developing absolute knowledge about anything apart from supernatural enabling, and therefore how we can leave room for being wrong and continuing to learn without actually being in doubt about everything all the time.
The things we need to know absolutely are enabled by Faith. As to the rest, our inability to collect and interpret an infinite amount of data about any particular topic, and our intellectual limitations in interpreting data, is where we leave open the possibility for learning and growing without actually living in doubt due to  any known contradiction, or  to not having considered all data reasonably available to us.
God knows our frame, and remembers that we are dust. (Ps 103:14)
The relationship between Faith and Knowledge is relevant here: Faith does not require evidence, and can be received as a gift from God apart from Knowledge. However, Faith is never inconsistent with Knowledge: any supernatural belief given by God will be always be consistent with His nature, with reality. We can therefore affirm our faith through knowledge, and rest knowing that our faith is godly, that we aren’t being presumptuous and that JEHOVAH Himself is the source of our assurance.
“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.” (Mt 13:11-13)
Knowledge is a gift of God which He bestows the more on those who seek it responsibly and obey it.
Another motivation to explore this topic is to help me understand claims of knowledge in the context of insufficient and/or contradictory data; I now understand this to be presumption and will try to avoid doing this myself. It seems, when I am not being careful, that I tend to present myself as having knowledge when I don’t have sufficient or conclusive evidence. I should state more clearly and often that I am stating my opinion, rather than asserting that it is knowledge.
It is astounding how so many willfully ignore evidence which doesn’t suit their world view or their theology. In my experience, this includes almost everyone, Christians as well. Most people don’t appear to struggle to develop a theology or a world view that incorporates all of the evidence available to them. This takes hard work, but it is essential in any pursuit of knowledge. Without doing this, we are most certainly deceived.
It is also alarming to me how so many within certain Christian sects, such the Hebrew Roots or Messianic, and Charismatic movements are actually passionately opposed to using reason in their spiritual walk. They seem to think this is carnal, that to walk in the Spirit we must shut down our mind. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Holy Spirit works primarily in and through our mind; when we shut off our intellect we open ourselves up to the demonic.
Many mistakenly refer to the forbidden tree in Eden as “the Tree of Knowledge,” and insinuate that God does not intend for us to pursue knowledge because it tends to make us proud, argumentative, etc. (1Co 8:1) They dismiss the intellect as useless, or worse.
However, the tree in Eden is not called “the Tree of Knowledge,” but “the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” (Ge 2:17) This is a particular kind of knowledge about morality, which is something only God can reveal. I think a better way to view this is that when Adam ate of the tree he died, separated himself from JEHOVAH, and set himself up as a god to determine good and evil apart from God. Man, as a rule, still does this today, and nearly universally; we make up our definitions of good and evil as we go, as it suits us, giving no thought to how presumptuous and evil this is.
The claim that our intellect is vain apart from God is, I think, partly valid. (“The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.” 1Co 3:20) The intellect itself isn’t vain as an instrument; it is God’s gift to us to enable us to know Him. However, our enmity against God moves us to abuse our intellect through dishonesty, committing logical fallacies and ignoring relevant evidence so that we can maintain a world view that suits our fallen nature.