Who knows?

How / where would you guys begin to answer this question: What is knowledge when it is not rooted in Jehovah, God?


Blogger e said...

not to be too platonic about the whole thing, but is there any knowledge that is not somehow rooted in God?

lewis' train of thought here: all good things originate from God, thought is good, thought contains knowledge, therefore thought originated from God, therefore knowledge originated in (is rooted in/has its source in) God. knowledge can, like anything else, be twisted away from its original purpose.

6/02/2004 11:31 AM  
Blogger brad said...

Hm. That's interesting. I think I want to rephrase the question in light of that comment, but I'm not sure how yet. In my journal lately, I've been resting in 1Corinthians 8:1-3 as a kind of HQ for approaching the subject of knowledge:

1 Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. 2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; 3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. (NAS)

How would you compare Paul's thought on knowledge here with Lewis' thought on knowledge?

6/02/2004 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thats not the real question here.

the real question is whether or not jesus can microwave a burrito so hot, that he himself cannot eat it. when you can answer that, THEN you'll have better understanding on the nature of knowledge.

or you could just watch the simpsons...

6/02/2004 6:34 PM  
Blogger e said...

Anonymous sounds suspiciously like my old friend Seth.

But assuming that question, which in itself is nonsense and therefore unanswerable, I would say to Brad that Paul's use of Knowledge in that phrase (gnosis? in the greek) is different than how I believed you were using it in the original question.

In other words, Paul seems to be talking about secret knowledge, cultic knowledge, and saying it doesn't have a role in the Church. There is no way he could also be lumping in any and all things knowable or true.... in fact "what ever is good, whatever is pure..." those things require knowledge of Good and Evil--an important form of knowledge. So surely Paul is not lumping in, say knowledge of the theory of gravity or knowledge about God's character with knowledge of cultic customs practiced by Hellenistic perverters of the gospel.

At least, that's what makes sense to me.

And thanks for the Simpsons reminder, Anonymous (Seth)

6/03/2004 7:10 AM  
Blogger brad said...

Wow! Thanks for the vibrant feedback. I've been thinking this morning a bit about how to sift through the web of things we're talking about...

Anonymous (Annie) brings up a good point: She essentially asks, "Is knowledge the same as information? What has Jesus got to do with an instruction manual?" And E ties in well by pointing out the Gnostic heresies that make knowledge into esoteric, secret knowledge, or "super-knowledge".

But to clarify some of what I meditate on in this passage:
Paul is for sure using the term 'gnosis' in 1Corinthains 8, but gnosis in and of itself is not what Gnosticism eventually made it into. The term implicityly is simply a description of intuitive knowledge, usually oriented around general or more 'meta' principles. But by the time of koine Greek (the language of the New Testament), I'm not sure it was quite that rigidly used and may have come to be somewhat interchangeable with the other main Greek word, 'oida' which seems to be more "what you know"; many philosophical words get somewhat watered down over time. Anyway, Paul as a Jew mostly uses the term in the N.T. in line with a more Jewish, or integrated, conception of knowlege (ie, "knowledge in Christ"). Whereas the Greeks made distinctions between more propostitional and relational knowledge, it seems to me that the Jews did not.

I imagine that Latin picked up this Greek idea of a divideable analysis of knowledge (it doesn't seem to me that Greeks saw knowledge as divided the way Enlightenment Rationalism made it), since if any of you speak Spanish, you know that there are two main words for "to know": 'saber' - is to know information, while 'conocer' - is to know more relationally. In the Corinthian passage, I see Paul speaking with a high integration (integrity) of these two notions of knowing.

The ultimate theological treatise on knowledge is Colossians 2, but I like 1Corinthians 8 because of its succinct, yet broad applicability of knowledge and because of its situation in the context of an "ought" or intellecutal virtue passage around "things sacrificed to idols". Paul adds some concept of a relational end to knowledge, when he talks about "knowing as we ought to". (Perhaps something like what Postman was getting at...)

So, like Annie said, "Is knowledge just information?"
Or like a Gnositic would say, "Is there something supernatural to knowledge and our intellectual personalities?"
Did Lewis only mean, "...Propostitional thinking is good, and propositional thinking contains information?"
Or, having sorta reframed my original question, "What is knowledge when it is not rooted in Jehovah, God?"

6/03/2004 3:02 PM  
Blogger e said...

before we float away into abstraction, lemme ask a few questions:
(1) do you know that Anonymous is "Annie"? Who is Annie?
(2) what is the end point you are trying to reach? are you asking whether or not all knowledge is always negative or has a negative essence or component because it puffs up?
(3) are we both using "knowledge" the same way? i was assuming knowledge implied "apprehension of things knowable in whole or in part". is that also what you mean?
(4) if we reject the non-biblical dualism of knowledge split into "fact" and "truth"--at times mutually supportive, at times mutually antagonistic--could we still hold that Paul is using "knowledge" in two different ways (e.g., secret vs. universally known)?
(5) the reason i ask #4 is because in verse 7 of 1 Cor. 8, Paul seems to be using "knowledge" positively: "...not everyone knows this...", which seems to suggest that Paul does know and shares that knowledge with an exclusive bunch of people and that Paul believes that knowledge to be superior in one way or another than the "not knowing" of those who consider the food sacrificed before an idol to be unclean.
(6) when Lewis discusses knowledge, is he assuming multiple kinds of knowledge (like your Spanish example)? If so, is that very different than Paul was using it?

6/03/2004 3:52 PM  
Blogger brad said...

"before we float away into abstraction..."
Good point. Let me try and think of some specific case items and get back into this from a different angle.

"Annie": I just shortened "Anonymous" into a name so that I was addressing a person. I have no idea who "Annie" is. It is secret knowledge. :)

6/05/2004 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, some of us think that god appears to be withholding the knowledge of his very existance and therefore think that maybe this "knowledge" should have a better name. like imagination. or myth. maybe a cross between the two wrapped in tradition?
if jesus can't microwave that burrito so hot or god cannot build that rock so big, then perhaps we have ran into the logic wall with how we can even attempt to perceive such a thing.
i think homer would agree....

6/05/2004 9:51 PM  
Blogger e said...

Annie it is then.
Annie: nonsense applied to spiritual subject matter is still nonsense x = not x is by definition nonsense.
Homer: d'oh!

Bd: Take a look at that passage and let me know what I'm missing (esp. since I don't know Greek).

6/07/2004 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nonsense eh? funny how sectarian allegiance instills a sense of superiority & privilege, while those not part of the spiritual elite are relegated to outer darkness...

btw- i assume when the question is asked "What is knowledge when it is not rooted in Jehovah, God?" that you are opening a door for non believers to give their 2 cents. guess not..

don't ask the question if you don't like the answer.

6/07/2004 4:53 PM  
Blogger e said...

Annie: don't take me the wrong way--i am definitely not prioritizing certain kinds of knowlege as "superior" and other as "inferior"; nor relegating anyone to outer darkness. i am simply pointing out that the rock/burrito question is not a valid/serious one in questioning the existence/omnipotence of God, etc.

the question is a good one and i think we need all perspectives. my perspective, which i think falls directly in line with the "non-believer" Plato is that there is no knowledge that does not have its root in a supreme being but there is a twisting in knowledge due to the distance between that SB and us so that, like a radio out at the edge of reception, we sometimes get a signal and sometimes it is just fuzz.

i'm not sure that you have to name your SB to discuss this, Annie, although the explanation does fall in line with historical Judaism, Christianity, Islam, as well as most of Western philosophy from the pre-Socratics on down. assuming you are willing to hang with the discussion for a while, you'll find there is not an elitest position being advocated, so far as i can tell...although it might indeed appear sectarian if you're not willing to hang in there.

6/08/2004 10:04 AM  
Blogger brad said...

Wow! I step out for a few days and return to a whole lot of good stuff! Thanks for following this conversation out, you two!

If I may, I think we need to check in and make sure that we're growing a discussion and not a spat, 'cause there is a historiclal tendency in any conversation like this to invest personal feelings and set up a "me vs. you" dynamic, which loses the point real quickly.

For my sake, at least, let me say that I am approaching your comments with a lot of "grace-space". I hope both of you feel free to say what you need and then fix it as needed when you see where I take it, especially if you feel like I'm reframing your comments inappropriately. I often do miss the mark.

So that said, comment away! I asked this question to focus on the nature of "knowledge" and think we are still hovering around that common point. If not, help me hover there. But, let's follow it where it needs to go so that we can come back to that goal as often as needed.
Annie: Please, give me 4 cents, kid. I did ask the question wanting your answer, and it seems to me like you're into adding some spice when you do. I say, Rock on!
E: thanks for not discounting us as we think out loud, and very off the cuff!

6/09/2004 5:03 PM  
Blogger brad said...

Okay, that being said, let me join in some of the chatting:
Annie, you said, "well, some of us think that god appears to be withholding the knowledge of his very existance and therefore think that maybe this "knowledge" should have a better name. like imagination. or myth. maybe a cross between the two wrapped in tradition?"

If I hear you correctly, what you're saying is that within the realm of strictly rational logic, if a thing cannot be entirely known, then it cannot be said to be known at all.
Is that an accurate reframing?
A super popular theologian from the middle of the 1900s was Francis Schaeffer who talked a lot about the difference between knowing something fully and knowing something truly.
To Annie and E, both: What do we think about this idea in light of anything we've said about knowledge so far?

E, you said later, "nonsense applied to spiritual subject matter is still nonsense x = not x is by definition nonsense."
One of the things I wanted to feel out in this conversation was the idea of a "relational" aspect to knowledge. It's interesting to me that we so quickly want to come back to propositional statements like this one. It's interesting because I want to agree with you that we can confidently dismiss the notion of using illogic as a basis for anything logical. But to do that, I must look at knowledge as more than just propositional: To answer why I think we can be confident, is because logic is part of creation and we don't strive to judge the Creator by the creation, but rather we strive to judge the creation by the Creator.
Let me throw out some premises:
What is the foundation of logic? It's ultimately God himself, the one we are saying does not reveal himself fully "within" it; God is bigger than logic.
"In the beginning was the Word... through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made..." (John 1)
"For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things..." (Romans 11)
"In the beginning God created..." (Gen. 1)
"(and) since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities... have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1)
God is a God of order and not chaos and His creation reflects that, generally. Logic as part of his creation also reflects his character and does not work against it.
Yet, another aspect of the foundation of logic is mankind, us. We ourselves are intellectual beings - we are created in God's image: a God of order and truth, who does not lie. Mankind, ourselves, is bigger than logic.
What does that mean? We are also emotional, volitional, conscientious, active people who are sinful beyond instinct and yet redeemable by design. None of us should deny that at times we do illogical things because we let these other parts of our selves determine some of the logic. Even this conversation here on the blog has foreshadowed at times some of the potential for emotion and personal volitions to deviate our logic. And all one has to do is look at the extremes of history to be able to make the comment that lots of smart people are disasters at life. Hitler sure was commited to the "pursuit of knowledge" and he sacrificed men, women, and children through tortuous exercises to get it.
What I'm saying when I approach "knowledge" in this way, and what I'm feeling out when I beg the question "What is knowledge that is not rooted in Jehovah, God?", is a better understanding of my inclination to say that contextually, knowledge is as much my motivation, my stewardship, and my intention, as it is the content that I am handling through them. So, the point about nonsense is perfect, because it allows us this chance to dig more deeply into the nature of knowledge.

Conclusion/ Apology:
Wow, holy overload, Batman. I may be pressing up on the boundaries of how blogs are appropriately usable by putting down so much information at once... Oh well, hopefully we can sift out some soundbytes.

What do ya'll think? Is there a relational dynamic to knowledge?

6/09/2004 6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

alrighty.. sorry for being a bit rash.

brad, it sounds to me like you're saying that since we can conceive of a god in the first place, it must therefore be true. this is like trying to prove that the bible is true because it says so itself. see kissing hanks arse-


also, your reframing of my point is not quite on the mark.. the way i like to ask the question(s); is there objective truth? if so, what is its nature? is it objective 'truth' or 'law'?

or a combo?

some folks might believe them one in the same, but it depends on what your presuppositions are (and i'm really not one for paradoxes).

for example; i accept the big bang. when this explosion took place it set off a chain of events that have forged elements into what we observe now, including ourselves. cause and effect. if there is no objective truth, would it then be an objective truth that there is no objective truth? or is truth simply how nature sorted itself after the big bang and here we are sitting in our confines trying to take in the cosmos and come to terms with what we are? (notice how that excludes me from the truth-is-subjective crowd... i contend that we are all having an objective experience, subjectively)

that brings me to science and the discovery of truth through its means. true science imagines everything and accepts the true and false answers that rain down from there. for me, that is exactly where the magic of life is. i simply don't need a god dangling a carrot in front of my face in order to lead me to "knowledge" or whatever. if i do, then i can begin what is known as making shit up… it’s just too swimmy and interpretive for my tastes.

sorry, but more times than not when men claim to have heard knowledge from god (or any kind of transient know it all), dead bodies have resulted. bad things happen. knowledge from god has proven itself faulty way too many times to be considered reliable.

remember, nothing fails like prayer!

6/10/2004 6:33 PM  
Blogger e said...

let me admit, first off, that i'm not smart enough to sort through all the points/counter-points.

let me also admit that i'm really enjoying the attempt.

if it's okay and either of you are still following this once it disappears from the "main page", could we make the entire conversation a whole blog post (copy & paste) and keep going? i just don't want to lose it simply because it's inconvenient to find it.

also also, annie/seth/whoever, thanks for hanging in there with this conversation. brad, thanks for keeping it going.

My Ha'penny's Worth:
1) Brad your premise that man is above or greater or bigger than logic i think needs some examination. if God made logic and we operate by it at times, than maybe it is a thing parallel to humans rather than over or under. I'm guessing this is what Annie means by law and/or truth--it is something that humans "tap into" but do not dictate it, nor are we subservient to it. Is that a correct assumption?

2) Annie, are you saying that there is no controling, organizing force to the universe at all? That processes are wholly random or accidental? If so, how do we account for things like the Big Bang in which an essentially discrete packet of energy infinitely small (I don't understand this myself) becomes the entire universe? I'm not Stephen Hawking, but I have read Brief History... and don't for the life of me remember if he tackled this question at all. If "laws" like equilibrium and dynamics exist, where did they come from?

3) Brad, seems like all knowledge must be relational, in that there has to be an observed and an observer. But is this exactly what you meant by "relational"?

4) If we're talking about science alongside of knowledge, we have to discuss Polanyi's concept of "Personal knowledge." If we're not going down this route, forget I brought it up.

How long can a comment be...?

6/11/2004 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

please do repost this thread. (my vote anyway)

to answer your questions-

i actually AM saying there is a controlling force that runs the universe. i just don't think its a knowing god. for lack of a better term (which i wish there was) i will call it the laws of physics. (as we perceive them up till now) i also don't accept the notion that if there is no knowing force, or god, that the cosmos must somehow be chaotic. its not. the universe that we live in is very diverse (galaxies collide.. planets the size of jupiter have 7 day YEARS whipping around their sun with a fury that makes the spider ride at your local amusement park look tame, stars explode and reform new ones etc..) but the elements take shape and form life (in rare instances).

is it a miracle? you betcha. but remember, a thousand stars forming out of one huge one that exploded is a miracle too. it has a life all its own. ours just comprehends itself and therefore, i believe the notion of god, or the gods, have has arisen from that ability. not the other way around.

funny thing here is that folks like us are in some ways 2 different sides of the same coin. we just don't know if its heads or tails until were dead.

by the way e, if you want to comprehend how the universe was born out of little, look no further than the atomic bomb. only like way way huger than that ;)

6/11/2004 11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and as far as Polanyi's concept goes.. I found this on the Harvard website & thought it was interesting-

"Polanyi’s explanation is that we know more than we can tell, or we tacitly know when we have hit upon a good problem or a great discovery. If Polanyi had left it at this, we may have accepted the explanation, believing, along with Polanyi, that there is a reasonable explanation for our knowing more than we can tell but as yet we only tacitly know the explanation. However, Polanyi attempts an explanation. “We can account for this capacity of ours to know more than we can tell if we believe in the presence of an external reality with which we can establish contact. This I do.” It is this apparently unjustified explanation that throws a shadow of sorts on Polanyi’s work, and is perhaps one of the reasons why he has never really been accepted as a true philosopher. This flaw in his argument notwithstanding, it must be recognized that wherever research is done on tacit knowledge, and no matter how distinct the research is from Polanyi’s own work, more often than not, the research makes reference to Polanyi’s work—in particular the idea of our knowing more than we can tell. Polanyi, indisputably, was a pioneering researcher in the area of tacit knowing."

Polanyi falls into the same trap most philosophers fall into, in that he attributes any mystery, or as of yet unknowable thing to a supreme being of knowledge. However, it becomes more and more obvious that the knowledge is simply there, we just need to discover and translate it into our own understanding.

6/13/2004 8:26 PM  

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