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Knowledge Defined
December 19, 2008, 10:56 am
Filed under: Christian Doctrine, Epistemology

Knowledge is that risky human activity whereby we reach out and make contact with reality.


Every living thing—even the tiniest single-cell organism—knows, in a modified sense.  Tiny amebas constantly reach out from themselves and into the world in one of the many directions available to them at the time.  Some of these ‘reachings-out’ work out well for them.  Others don’t.  Yes, of course, amebas are not conscious.  But, in a sense, whenever they reach out, they trust themselves to the path chosen and commit themselves to it.  This ‘reaching-out-and-trusting’ is a kind of ‘proto-faith’ that’s constantly exhibited by all living things—and only by living things. 


We can see this much more vividly in higher creatures like dogs.  We see quite clearly how they invest themselves in their ‘reachings-out’ and exercise this proto-faith.  Think of your dog sniffing around in search of a bone.  He passionately reaches out to the world by trusting his nose.  He knows where the bone is by reaching out to it and making contact with it by smell.


We can engage in spiritual and intellectual inquiries which tower over those of dogs.  But these higher and distinctly human ‘reachings-out’ will still be rooted in faith.  That’s simply how knowledge works, whether we like it or not.  


Knowledge is matter of passionately reaching out and making contact with the world.


Can we further define this “passionate reaching out”?  Not really.  The best we can do is to say “‘reaching out’ is this.”  (Then you lead them through the performance of a ‘reaching out’.)


Faith in God is a kind of passionate reaching out to God.  Once we understand the role faith plays in all knowing, faith in God takes on a different light.  The same intellectual passions which drive our ordinary ‘reachings-out’ also raise our gaze to God.  We can make contact with God by so reaching out.  Though making contact with God is not like making contact with merely one more object that happens to populate the world.  God is not merely one more thing to be collected with all the rest in a giant bowl labeled ‘absolutely everything that exists’.  To make contact with God is to make contact with the source of all things—that in which all things hold together—not merely one more thing.


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