Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Pursuit of Knowledge - A Clarification

Edit: Hmm, I managed to post this three times at first??? Weird. Blogger is strange.

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This is a follow-up to my post titled The Pursuit of Knowledge, which I posted several days ago.

In my previous post, I discussed the middle age practice of blindly accepting things as true, based on authoritative beliefs. I explained the historical shift of science to becoming a truly scientific field, using sensory experience to explain and test things. I then explained the place of reasoning and knowledge in the life of a Christian:

As Christians we should not be afraid of knowledge and reasoning, or cast them aside to believe the claims of "authorities". Instead we should recognize knowledge and reasoning as gifts from God to explore and understand His creation. The Christian faith is not a blind faith that requires us to set aside our brains at the door. We are not only allowed to explore and reason and search for knowledge, but we are required to do so. Throughout the proverbs we are entreated to search for wisdom and understanding, and in the gospels we are commanded to love God with our heart, soul, body, and mind.
Mrs. Blythe commented with a good point:
I'm all for blind acceptance really (not from 'authorities', but of God's word the only authority).

I want to clarify that I am not saying that we should never accept something unless it can be strictly proven to us or experienced by us. Christianity is not a blind faith, but it is also not just a matter of collecting data and proving the claims of Christianity! We walk by faith, not by sight. Mrs. Blythe made a good point of differentiating between authorities and The Authority - God's word. The problem in the middle ages was blind acceptance of theories held by (frankly) ignorant men, not theories laid out in scripture or theories tested properly.

I accept many things in scripture simply because I believe that the Bible is the infallible, inspired Word of God. I have no way to prove the resurrection, and data I could collect in the present would lend no support to the story of the resurrection, yet I believe it is true. Part of the danger of relying strictly on the scientific method is that it relies on the natural order of things, not taking into account the supernatural intervention of God. We are certainly not meant to only believe those things that can be proven directly. Jesus said to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe."

At the same time, the Bible does stress the confirmation of truths by sensory experience and it does encourage and command the use of our reasoning to explain and test things, so certainly Christianity is not just a matter of accepting a lot of unproven facts. There is a balance to be struck. God realizes that man responds well to physical demonstrations or representations of spiritual truths, and he uses physical proofs and evidence time after time throughout scripture. He also uses things like the sacraments (or ordinances, as some persuasions call them ;) ) to demonstrate very abstract spiritual truths. God uses the sacraments as a physical representation of much more difficult spiritual truths, to confirm the validity and reality of the tougher concept.

So yes, we are to accept many things on faith, trusting in God's Word. But we also are gifted with the ability (and command) to reason with our minds. God definitely does not dismiss sensory experience as worthless; in fact, he repeatedly uses it as confirmation of physical realities. I hope that clarifies what I meant in my first post :).

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