Time has come for $5 words

by Kyle
published May 31, 2012


Read More Looking Up

Parousia — just say that nice and slow. Try this one next: soteriology. Words and phrases like hypostatic union, hapax legomina and exegesis just roll off the tongue and make theology a huge pleasure.

I love big words.

You might call them $5 words. Usually, they capture a very specific idea that would otherwise take an entire sentence to explain and make already long books much shorter. One of these words is “epistemology.”

Epistemology is knowing how to know.

Science, history, math and every other study of the world around us has a developed system about how to gain knowledge. Science involves the testing of hypotheses through experimentation, history relies upon evidence left by our predecessors and math relies upon logical proofs. Each is a different way to acquire different kinds of knowledge.

Each path to knowledge is also limited in what it can know. Science cannot prove that George Washington was the first president of the United States, history cannot teach us that 2 + 2 = 4 and more skill than pure mathematics is needed to conduct an experiment.

But does a biblical, faith-based epistemological system have its limits? First Kings 7:23 seems to get pi wrong and incorrectly calculates the circumference of a circle, Leviticus 11:13-19 groups bats with birds even though we know the former are mammals, and some of the biggest theological questions, like why does a good God allow evil to persist, are nowhere explicitly and completely answered.

It would seem biblical epistemology is in fact limited in some ways.

The Bible is not a mathematical text, and the passage in 1 Kings was probably compiled by an exilic Israelite struggling with the loss of national identity and estimating pi was sufficient to explain Israel’s predicament and reassure them of God’s promise.

Neither is the Bible a zoological text. Humans wouldn’t classify bats as mammals for another three millenniums or so, and they fit in Leviticus 11 because they are not kosher along with the other flying animals named.

The final question —why the Bible doesn’t answer why a good God allows evil — is more difficult and deserves a more complete answer. Here is where the limitation of biblical knowledge shines brightest.
Man is not meant to know everything. The Bible is not meant to expose all the innermost mysteries of God. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12, and John, in Revelation 10, were both explicitly commanded NOT to include certain things they heard in the writings that would later become Scripture. For some reason, the sovereign God has seen fit to limit what we can know, even if it is the answer to incredibly pressing theological questions.

What, then, are we supposed to learn from the Bible? 2 Peter 1:3 says that we have been granted with everything necessary for “life and godliness.” Micah 6:8 reveals that what God wants most from you and me is to “do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.” Jesus said the greatest commandments upon which the whole Old Testament Law hangs is to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,39)

The Bible points us to God and shows us how to get there.

Neither you nor I are capable of doing this by ourselves going forward, not to mention the egregious failure we’ve made of God’s standard in the past. It is not possible to do these things without Jesus first, and that’s the best part of the Bible.

This is what I’ve based my life upon, and what is only found in the Bible as your epistemological core: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Christ’s sacrifice for us is the only way to have a relationship with God, and that message is found first and most authoritatively in the Bible.

For all the big, $5 words that I really do love, only in the Bible do the truly priceless words come alive. These are words like Life and Light and Love and Mercy and Grace.

Share your thoughts:

Posted by Dona on
Well diatessaron at ya!! What a way to get the gospel in!
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