Posted by: Dan | March 17, 2005

On Ways of Knowing: Developing a Christian Epistemology

I am… the truth.
– Jesus, John 14.6

There are various ways of knowing, different means that I pursue to know certain things, and different forms that knowing takes once I begin to possess it.

When the truth of Christianity is reduced to a forceful objectivity, when the truth of Christianity is reduced to formulas, then such expressions of Christian truth will always miss the point.

This is especially true when it comes to a Christian knowledge of God and Jesus.

Christians should not (indeed, cannot) know God in the same way that they know mathematical formulas. Christian knowledge of God is not similar to the knowledge that 2+2=4. Christian knowledge of God is not static, it is relational. I do not know God like a formula, I know God in the same way that I know a person. This is true because God is not a theory that we can abstract, God is person-al, and we come to know God through relationship. Because such knowledge is relational it will always take place within a certain context, and that context will impact the way in which the relationship is expressed. However, this does not mean returning to a purely subjective knowledge of God. Rather, this means that Christian statements about God must be fully grounded within, and interpreted by, the biblical narrative – and the story of Jesus in particular. To say that, “God is love,” or “God is holy,” are meaningless statements without the context of relationship revealed by the biblical story and our own personal experience with God. Relational truth can never be divorced from the context in which it is revealed. The biblical history of God's relationship with the world acts as an interpretive lens for our understanding of the meaning of such statements.

Jesus makes this point explicitly when he says, “I am the truth.” Truth takes the form of a person, and can, therefore, only be understood relationally. That means that all Christian truth claims – ethical, theological or whatever – cannot be expressed or understand through formulas alone. Instead they are contextual expressions of a relationship that should be moving into an ever deeper intimacy. Christian knowledge is never purely informative, rather, as an outworking of a relationship, it is transformative.

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