The Summit Lecture Series: Loving God With All Your Mind
- Date: 7/1/2014
- Occasion: Presentation of the Summit Lecture Series [video uploaded and notes by Jefferson Drexler]
- Media Type: Streaming Video
- Audience: Beginner, Intermediate
- Kingdom Categories: Life of the Mind
There are certain things you need to learn and know that will help you become a mature and flourishing adult. If you get married, you want to be a good spouse, you wan tot learn how to be a great parent. These, along with being a great friend an neighbor are all things you want to strive for. Now, in order to gain these things, you need to attain knowledge about a number of things.
Knowledge give people the right to act in society.
For example, we give lawyers the right to draw up contracts and arbitrate in courts of law, but we don’t allow plumbers to do the same. And it’s not because lawyers have certain feelings or beliefs, but rather that there is a certain level of knowledge they have mastered that entitles them to engage in certain legal activities.
Plumbers have other kinds of knowledge and it’s on the basis of what they know that they are allowed to perform certain duties of their own. And we listen to their expert words in regards to our plumbing, where we wouldn’t do the same if a lawyer were to advice us about our pipes.
The reason is because the plumber possesses knowledge about what he is talking about.
So, you can start to understand that what gives people the right to act in public is not faith, but knowledge. Having faith in contracts or other legal reasoning doesn’t hold water. Having beliefs doesn’t matter. The same runs true regarding plumbers. If a plumber came to me without any knowledge but full of faith and beliefs in how my pipes should work, I wouldn’t hire them.
So, you can see, in light of this, why the worldview struggle is escalating in the manner that it is today.
People’s worldviews – whether they can articulate them or not – affect their whole orientation toward family, work, life, finances, time management and even the type of person you become.
In my view, there are three competing worldviews today. The first is Post Modernism, which is roughly based on the concept that you cannot truly know reality; and that everything is ultimately just a social construction that we create.
The second is Christianity – a widely adopted worldview amongst our American culture, which makes me proud and optimistic for our future. We have a lot of work to do, but there are great things happening on behalf of God’s kingdom.
Thirdly, there is Scientific Naturalism, which is the dominant worldview in universities and in the media. You can see proof of this by simply seeing whom the evening news quotes to speak with authority about the problems of our country. It’s largely scientists.
Scientists are the people we often turn to to speak with authority about what’s happening in the teenage culture, how we should solve our economic problems, social issues, etc.
Post Modernism tends to dominate a large percentage of the humanities in our society: communications, entertainment, literature, sociology, art, and even history.
The point is that these worldviews aren’t just in a book somewhere. They are day-by-day shaping your potential spouse, boss, children’s teachers and government officials.
And Christianity is at odds with these other two worldviews and there are fundamental differences between them. Because, while Post Modernism and Scientific Naturalism don’t agree on a lot, they do agree that there is no such thing as a non-scientific knowledge of reality.
Christianity is at odds with Post Modernism and Scientific Naturalism, and there are fundamental differences between them. Because, while these other two worldviews don’t agree on a lot, they do agree that there is no such thing as a non-scientific knowledge of reality.
Therefore, what they assume is that when you are dealing with science, the concepts of right and wrong become evident. There is no guesswork, only certainty. So, if a chemistry teacher gets in front of a classroom and says, “There is hydrochloric acid in this beaker. Be very careful whenever you are near it, because if you touch it, it will burn you.” Nobody would protest and say, “Stop legislating chemistry!”
However, if you were to stand up and say that abortion is wrong or that Jesus Christ really is the Son of God, then people will respond that you are attempting to legislate your views upon other people. And the reason why they feel that way is due to the premise that when you are dealing with something outside of science, no one could differentiate or dictate what is right or wrong.
You might be right, it’s just that you can’t know you’re right.
The important point is that, with the result of marginalizing Christianity and preventing Christians from becoming leaders within the culture, our society is being led to believe that Christianity is not a source of knowledge of reality – that within the Bible and the Creeds of the Church, we are not given knowledge.
And, sadly, the Church has often agreed with this.
If you were to ask many pastors or laypeople across our country, “What do we have in the Bible?” the answer would most often be, “Truth”. But, when you follow up that question with, “Can you really know that it is true?”, the reply is often, “No, you have to accept it by faith.”
So, according to this view, the Bible’s truth is must be accepted by an act of faith. It logically follows, then, that the Bible is not a source of knowledge, but instead a tool for personal faith. It’s claims, then, then are marginalized to the degree that even many Christians say that we do not know that God exists, but we believe He exists. We don’t’ know that Jesus is the Son of God, but we have faith that He is.
There’s really no difference between these statements and a plumber not knowing anything about plumbing, but having faith in his pipes or a lawyer not having any knowledge about contracts but believing that he knows the right way to structure a legally binding document.
You’ve got to understand that this type of thinking cuts the Church off at the knees.
So, what I want to establish the fact that Christianity has always understood itself to be a source of Truth and of knowledge of reality – genuine knowledge just like chemistry or American history.
So, that raises the question: What exactly is knowledge?
There are three types of knowledge, the first being known as “Knowledge by Acquaintance” (aka “Knowledge by Direct Experience”). This kind of knowledge comes when you are directly aware of something. For example, if you see or witness something, you are made aware of it and therefore know it. It’s a form of knowledge by experience. This type of knowledge does not require critical thinking. Newborn infants can know who their mother is, without the ability to critically reason who this woman is who is holding him.
Now, it’s important to realize that Knowledge by Acquaintance is not limited to your five senses. A clear example of this is introspective knowledge of your own consciousness. This applies to thoughts that you have or are having, assumptions you make regarding information you receive and responses from external triggers from your five senses. This also applies to knowledge of your own beliefs (i.e., whether or not George Washington was a good president). All you have to do in any of these is to pay attention to your own thoughts, beliefs, or consciousness and you can report one way or another truths in regards to your knowledge.
Knowledge of your own consciousness is a form or non-sensory knowledge by acquaintance. It is an example of where you can have knowledge by acquaintance with things you can’t see, touch, taste, smell, or hear. And that’s very important.
Now, when I claim that Christianity provides us with knowledge, one of the things I mean by that is that it gives us knowledge by acquaintance, in that we can be directly aware of God. Sometimes God shows up and we can experience Him directly. We are aware of Him. We sense His presence immediately. That is a form of knowledge by acquaintance, where I can actually perceive God and be aware of Him with the eyes of the heart and the eyes of the soul.
The same thing is true with demons and angels. I know people who have had encounters with seeing angels. They’ve been aware of their presence. I have been aware of demons. I’ve been involved in exorcisms, where I’ve helped cast demons out of people. I remember years ago, I was in a meeting in a gymnasium where a Christian speaker was going to speak at a secular campus. There were 2,500 people who came to hear him. I was sitting in this basketball arena at the half-court line, talking to some people. And I perceived or sensed the presence of evil walk in the door. I looked over and saw three guys walk in. I noted very carefully where they sat. After the meeting was finished, I made a bee-line to them to talk to them. And I came to find out that all three of them were heavily involved in the occult and had come to the meeting that evening to see if they could find a way to disrupt something.
They were demonized. And I had knowledge by acquaintance with the demonic.
Now, the fact that people in our culture are not aware of the demonic is an oddity of our culture. It’s not the way Christianity is worldwide.
I had two students from Africa, who came to study with me at Talbot School of Theology, who tell me regularly that they see and are aware of demons as well as angels even at Biola University’s campus. They’re able to perceive these things because they learned that it was okay to do so as a child. And they’ve developed the ability to see into the unseen world. Whereas we tend to treat all that as psychological and so on.
So here’s the point: Does Christianity provide us with knowledge of reality?
I believe it does, and the first kind of knowledge that Christianity gives us is knowledge by acquaintance.
What do I mean by that?
There is a form of knowledge where we can be directly aware of God and the unseen world. There are times in worship where God literally manifests His presence in a special way and you can sense that He’s there. You can sense His presence. That is knowledge of God. You are aware of Him being there. That’s the first kind of knowledge.
The second kind of knowledge is extremely important. And it’s the kind of knowledge that receives most of the discussion in today’s universities. It’s called “Propositional Knowledge”.
Here is a simple definition of propositional knowledge: It is a true belief based on adequate reasons.
Now, in order to understand this type of knowledge, I need to clarify three things:
1) What is truth?
2) What is a belief?
3) What is meant by “adequate reasons”?
Firstly, a simple definition of truth: It is when things are the way one takes, says, thinks, or believes them to be. Another way to define truth is a matching between thought and reality.
Truth is a matching between thought and reality.
To illustrate this, consider a podium and a ball-point pen. The podium exists and it has certain attributes. It’s brown. It’s rectangular. It’s four feet tall. It weighs 40 pounds. These are all attributes that are true about the podium. Not only that, but all these attributes are true independently of any other object.
Likewise, my pen has attributes: It’s black. It’s five inches long. It weighs two ounces. It’s shaped as a cylinder. Again, all attributes that are true regardless of any other truth or object.
But there are truths about each of these items that are not captured by their attributes. For instance, the fact that the podium is larger than the pen is not captured by the podium’s attributes. “Larger than” is not an attribute of the podium. “Larger than” is actually a relation between the podium and, in this case, the pen.
In order for “larger than” to apply to a situation, at least two items must be involved.
Truth is a relation, similar to “larger than”. It is a “matching” relation.
So what objects need to be present in order for truth to be involved? The answer is: Reality and Thought (or Belief).
Here’s an illustration:
If I had a thought that there was a clock in the room, that thought would be true if reality supported it. In other words, if reality matches the thought, then the thought would be true. Now notice, it’s not my belief alone that makes the “clock in the room” true. That would be Relativism. Contrarily, reality is what makes my thought true.
A thought could be true, and you could have absolutely no way of knowing that it’s true. Suppose everybody was born blind. And suppose that one man (let’s call him Joe) is walking about with a cane and God suddenly puts a thought in Joe’s mind that grass is green. Joe’s thought would be true, even though he would have absolutely no way of knowing that it was true or not. You see, despite his blindness and not being able to visually see the grass, his thought would still match reality and thus his thought of green grass would be true.
By the way, in case you’re interested, this is called the Correspondence Theory of Truth, and it’s the main theory that’s been held since the days of Aristotle and the Old Testament. It was pretty much the standard of defining truth up until the late 1800’s when other views sprouted up.
To defend this theory of truth, consider a bookstore.
If I order a book and the bookstore calls me to tell me that it has arrived and can be picked up, I then can go to the store and see that it is, in fact on the shelf waiting for me just as they said. At this moment, I have an experience with the book. My experience is “seeing the book”. I also have a second experience at that moment that’s very different from seeing the book. I also have the experience that my thought about the book being at the store is true. The object of this second experience is not the book, nor my thought about the book, but the matching relationship between my thought and the book.
If I were to go home and my wife says, “You’re angry.” To which I reply, “No, I’m not angry.” And we go back and forth – I need to take a second and decide whether or not what my wife is saying is true.
And, on this particular situation, I realize that I actually do have a seething rage down deep inside of me that my wife picked up on.
Now, I have my thought: “I am angry”; I also encounter anger through introspection. And, when I compare the two, I say to myself, “There’s that thing again – the matching between my thought and what is real... also known as TRUTH.”
You see, we need to have reality and a belief about the subject in question in order to derive truth.
So, what is a belief?
A belief is a thought that you take to be true with somewhere between 51% - 100% certainty. If you are only 52% certain about something, you believe it… but weakly. On the other hand, if you believe something with 80% certainty, you have a pretty strong belief in it.
So, if I have a true thought (which matches reality) that I believe with some degree of certainty, I still don’t have knowledge – I simply have what’s known as true belief.
To prove that this is not knowledge, consider this story:
In Newport Beach, CA, there’s a public restroom. Nearby, there is a resident drunk who has formed the habit of believing everything that gets written inside the second stall of the men’s room at Newport Beach. His idea is: “If the stall says it, he believes it, that settles it.”
So, one day, he walks into the men’s room and sees on the second stall the words, “George Washington was the first president of the United States.”
Prior to this, he had never heard of George Washington. He doesn’t have a clue. But, the stall says it, so therefore (to him) it must be true. And he believes that George Washington was the first president of the United States.
Now, compare and contrast this guy to an historian who has congressional records, personal letters and newspaper clippings from the time when George Washington was made president.
These two gentlemen have two things in common: they both have the same belief; and they both have the truth that Washington was our first president. Both of their beliefs match reality. BUT, the historian has knowledge, but the Newport Beach drunk is just lucky.
What’s the difference?
The historian’s true belief is based on good, adequate reasons, whereas the Newport Beach guy doesn’t really have any good, adequate reasons supporting his belief.
So, knowledge is a true belief that’s based on adequate reasons.
If I claim to have propositional knowledge that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, which I do, I claim that I have a true belief that Jesus rose from the dead based on good, solid, adequate reasons – in this case, historical reasons.
The same applies if I claim that God is real.
Now, there’s something very important here that I don’t want you to miss: Propositional knowledge does not require certainty.
You can know something without being sure that you’re right.
This is due to the fact that you can have propositional knowledge: a true belief based on adequate or good reasons, not necessarily conclusive reasons. In other words, you can know something, but still be able to admit that you may be wrong.
I know that God is real.
If someone were to ask me if it’s possible that He isn’t, I could admit, “yeah, it’s possible. I could be mistaken.”
It’s also possible to know something while still having unanswered questions or doubts about it.
Therefore, when we claim that we know that God is real, we claim that we experience God through knowledge by acquaintance; and that we have propositional knowledge – true belief based upon adequate reasons.
A third kind of knowledge that we should be aware of is knowhow or skill. This is the ability to do something well.
Now, the Bible is an incredible source of knowhow or skill at life. If you want to learn how to be a good parent or spouse, if you want to learn how to become a forgiving person or honest businessperson, if you want to learn to give and receive love better and better, the Bible is full of wisdom when it comes to these life skills.
So, to sum up (including the last five videos):
It’s important that we Christians know that Christianity claims to provide knowledge of reality and not just truth. We actually claim to know the things which we talk about. Firstly, we have knowledge by acquaintance with God by directly experiencing Him and His attributes (love, joy, peace, forgiveness, righteousness, etc.). Secondly, we have propositional knowledge that Jesus is the risen Son of God through good, adequate reasons – even if those reasons are not 100% conclusive. And, the third kind of knowledge Christianity provides is knowhow, skill, or the ability to do something well.
So, when I claim that Christianity is a source for knowledge, I’m claiming that it provides these three kinds of knowledge for us in different ways.
- It addresses important relevant distinctions between the nature of knowledge and beliefs.
- It overviews competing worldviews to Christian theism (e.g., scientific naturalism).
- It clarifies what it means for Christianity to be a source of knowledge of reality (not merely a source for beliefs about reality).
- It underscores the benefits of thinking about the role of reason in the life of learning to trust God.