Epistemology-The Search for Truth
Do you believe in absolute truth? Mankind has an innate desire to know. We ask questions concerning our existence, future, and purpose. We always have. But no matter what questions we have asked, finding the answers to those questions always lead us to the most important question of all--the same question that Pontius Pilate asked Jesus Christ in John 18:38 when he said, “What is truth?” To answer this question, “each person must develop a valid theory of knowledge” (D. Gayman). What is the beginning point in our search for truth?
I take an unpopular approach to answering this question, and it is my belief that there is only one conclusion. The simple, unfettered answer is found in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life…” It simply is a presupposition of the Christian faith. However, what may be a foregone conclusion to a Bible-believing Christian is wholly different to the non-believer. The 21st Century, Postmodern thought process regarding truth and knowledge has nothing concrete upon which it rests. Even suggesting a concrete anchor to truth goes directly against the grain of modern thought that anything can be true, and truth is relative. That approach allows the flexibility of both lifestyle and belief. The Christian and biblical perspective allows for little flexibility as it rests upon belief in a Creator and can therefore change only as much as He. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” Malachi 3:6 reads, “For I am the LORD, I change not…” As you can see, we are left with little wiggle room for personal opinion since we believe in the God of the Bible and accept His Word as absolute truth. The Christian theory of knowledge can be described best by the very first verse found in Scripture: Genesis 1:1 reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” There has never been a louder preacher of the existence of God than His own creation. This too requires an essential presupposition: that what exists was actually made by an intelligent being rather than finding its existence through an evolutionary process of chance. “The intricate design of the world presupposes an intelligent creator” (D. Gayman). This essential belief to a Christian is starkly contrasted by the very first tenet of Humanism: “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created” (Kurtz). The religion of Humanism has become quite popular in circles of contemporary thought and is often taken for fact. Indeed, to humanists, it is taken as fact, as their basic premise for knowledge is that the world is a constant and continual process of evolution with no creator whatsoever. This leaves no room for concrete ideals or beliefs. But Christians believe the words of Hebrews 11:3: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The modern world has not changed much since Pilate’s day. Pilate was standing inches away from truth itself (Jesus Christ), yet so far away. Similarly, we find ourselves near the truth, as the truth is all around us in the created world; but often, we too cannot see past our own polluted logic. “The covenant man realizes progressively how that world of knowledge rests on God" (R. J Rushdoony). Psalms 19:1-3 reads, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth KNOWLEDGE. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” For the Christian, there can be no clearer destination for truth than in Jesus Christ our Lord or the Creator Himself. To that point John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life, no man cometh to the Father, but by me.” These words from Jesus Himself illustrate that within Him existed all truth. To know God is to know truth. Jesus Christ is and always shall be the beginning point of all knowledge. One cannot know truth except he knows Him. Logically, His spoken words then become the reality of truth, and we know that they can be found only in Scripture. Our foundation for absolute truth, then, is the Word of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24 says that “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God”, and again in 1 Corinthians 1:30 we read, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom…” Philosophy is this very study. No civilization in history sought it more than the ancient Greeks. Greek philosophers wrestled with knowledge and the search of truth until St. Paul eventually introduced them to the ultimate source. Paul proceeded to show them that their search would culminate in the understanding of Jesus Christ as the personification of wisdom. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle paved the way to a monotheistic worldview for the Greeks and the idea that “truth existed perpetually and is a reflection of divinity” (R. Benson). This logic readied their minds for the arrival of the gospel and the revelation of Christ, as in John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” It may have started there for the Greeks, but we know that “In the beginning God….. created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Again we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). For the Bible-believing Christian willing to have faith, truth begins and ends with a Sovereign Deity Who is the author of and responsible for an unchanging, everlasting, and reliable truth upon which all faith can be based. “It is knowable, definable, and should be sought out” (R. Benson).
Before the fall, Adam (mankind) was commanded to cultivate knowledge. Indeed, he needed it to fulfill God-given responsibilities. But there was never a doubt that what God told him was truth, and he took it as such, thereby developing a valid theory of knowledge. That is to say, his knowledge database was derived from God’s own words. A crucial change happened to him then and is still occurring to this day. The war on truth and knowledge began. “The tempter…raised the first epistemological question, 'Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'" (Gen. 3:1 - R. J. Rushdoony). Modern humanism has not fallen far from the tempter’s tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This provocative thought counterproductively caused doubt to enter in. Henceforth mankind “....has a problem of knowledge. He cannot accept God’s word about the world or anything. Indeed, in time he distrusts every bit of knowledge which points to God and calls the very existence of God into question” (R. J. Rushdoony). Today, “man seeks to escape from the law requirements of God and to establish his own law and to control the whole of reality by his fiat word. He therefore excludes the sovereignty of God and the authority of His law word, because man cannot allow such a God to exist in his world and to speak with authority to man” (R. J. Rushdoony). It all begins simply by casting doubt on a given truth by attempting to discredit it with a lie or human reason. Doubt is the simple opposite of faith. Faith is something we all must maintain to have a valid theory of knowledge because our faith is in the Invisible. (Heb. 11:1). The basis for a valid theory of knowledge and truth can be found only in “Sola Scriptura” or “The Bible Alone.” “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). “It was to the Bible that the great minds now appealed and entertained no other competing sources of truth….underlying everything was the basic assumption that absolute truth existed” (R. Benson). The “Rebirth of Knowledge” was a movement that Martin Luther led, called the Protestant Reformation. “The Protestant doctrine of God requires that it be made foundational to everything else as a principle of explanation. If God is self-sufficient, He alone is self-explanatory. If He alone is self-explanatory, then He must be the final reference point in all human predication” (Van Til). “Divorced from God and the Bible, autonomous man could never know truth, but would be ‘ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth’" (II Tim. 3:7 - D. Gayman).
It is clear that a valid epistemology can only be found when the assumption is made that God is, and that He alone provides a foundation for all knowledge. Having confidence in this, that “God…cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), we can boldly rest in His Word for all truth and understanding (Hebrews 6:18). If we do not trust God’s integrity, we are left with ours and our flawed consistency and fallibility. Our reason soon will become inept and our rationale quickly polluted. “…yea, let God be true, but every man a liar…” (Romans 3:4). “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37). Thus, we conclude that the quest for knowledge finds its resting place in the presence of Jesus Christ, the “Author and Finisher of our Faith."