Examining Sources of Knowledge

How we come to know what we know is at the center of an often fierce battle being waged against religious belief. Several leading writers have recently authored books with the intent of showing that belief in God is irrational, one even describing anyone so disposed as “stupid.”

In this battle the lines are drawn between knowledge that is based on scientific method and that which is not. The atheist says that the rational process of identifying a problem, collecting data through observation and experimentation, and developing and testing hypotheses yields humanity’s base of useful knowledge. And, they claim, it is our only way of acquiring such knowledge. We are, after all, physical beings who rely on five senses, and what we receive this way is knowledge of the world and the universe we inhabit.

It is a process that in many respects serves us well. We have made, for example, enormous medical and technological advances by following the scientific method. Human knowledge of the universe has expanded. But is it the case that all knowledge comes only through the physical senses?

Consider for a moment that the attack on religious belief is not new. God’s supposed death is not a recent occurrence. About three thousand years ago, the psalmist David wrote, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalms 14 and 53, English Standard Version throughout). There were deniers of God back then and no doubt well before. But David and other ancient wisdom writers knew that not all knowledge is derived from physical sources, through the five senses. Do they have something to offer us today? What if some knowledge is only available from a nonphysical source, and that is where the sages direct us?

Biblical figures such as the Apostle Paul were well aware of the philosophical issues of their time and had some interesting things to say about sources of knowledge.

David Hulme

Tags: religion, the bible, bible history, knowledge