Epistemology: A Search for Truth
* The following are
not necessarily in priority order.
1. Simple subject
and first principle.
Epistemology for the Bible-believing Christian is a
simple subject. He accepts the Bible as the very word of God
written. If one claims to be a Christian and does not accept the
Bible in this way, he is not a Christian. The Holy Spirit who
regenerates cannot deny the Word that He wrote. Consistent with
living a life in the Spirit, a Christian will be involved in a
life-long, diligent study of the Bible (Hebrews 11:6).
... the first
principle of the Christian system is biblical infallibility,
or the proposition, "The Bible is the word of God." From
this first principle, the theologian proceeds to construct a
comprehensive system of thought based on infallible divine
revelation. To the extent that his reasoning is correct,
every part of the system is deduced by logical necessity
from the infallible first principle, and is thus equally
infallible. And since the Bible is the verbal revelation of
God, who demands our worship and commands our conscience, a
system of theology deduced with logical validity is
authoritative and binding. Therefore, to the extent that
this book is accurate in presenting what Scripture teaches,
its content summarizes what all men ought to believe, what
Christians have pledged to believe, and what is objectively
true." (Vincent Cheung, Systematic Theology,
Evidences of this acceptance include a) the Biblical account of Creation and
rejection of evolution, including theistic evolution; b)
acceptance of a worldwide Flood; c) special revelation as the
final interpreter of general revelation, d) Biblical law as the
interpreter of natural and any other source of law; e) Biblical
truth having authority over all psychological theories and
practice; f) the role of the church in individuals, families,
society and state governments; g) the priority of worship as
“the chief end of man”; h) identifying the two most important
divisions of mankind: the saved and the unsaved; i) sexuality
being permitted only in marriage between a man and a woman; and
j) existence of supernatural beings, especially Satan, known as
both the Prince of Darkness and The Angel of Light.
This is not an
exhaustive list, but one that is sufficient to challenge those
who might consider themselves Bible-believers. “The Lord our God
is one,” and His Word stands or falls as a whole. (See
appropriate Worldview Areas for substantiation and discussion of
these broad and basic concepts.)
2. Objectivity and
ultimate hope. The Bible is, epistemologically, the ultimate
hope of all serious and careful philosophers in history: an
objective source of truth that governs and interprets all other
claims of truth, never changes, and has a global acceptance as
truth (as the gospel advances throughout the earth).
If truth is not
objective, then truth does not exist because the only other
means of epistemology is to accept one authority over all others
or to let a majority vote (vox populi, bureaucracy,
committee, legislative body, council of popes, etc.). Since
individual authorities and votes change, truth by definition as
never changing, cannot exist by this means.
3. Truth, Knowledge,
Valid Knowledge, and Non-contradiction. The most valid
knowledge of any object includes a serious Biblical knowledge of
that object by a regenerate mind (person), as well as rational
and empirical inquiry. When correctly understood, Biblical
knowledge and any other knowledge never conflict or contradict
the other. There is no separation into “sacred” and “secular”
within a Biblical system. God, as a unity, created the entire
universe as a unified whole.
Relevance of subject.
consideration should be given to Biblical understanding of any
subject, even those that seem objective, for example,
mathematics, physics, and chemistry. The Bible’s relevance in
many areas of scholarly study is often easily dismissed or
overlooked by many Christians. The direct relevance of the Bible
progresses from (perhaps) minimal influence on the objective
sciences to a necessary and controlling influence on the
sciences that interpret what man is and what he does (for
example, sociology and psychology). See Stob, Theological
Reflections, pages 21-22.
Influence of time.
seems valid or “true” at one time and place may be replaced by
more careful and complete study. Only truth (see above) never
changes. The attitude of modernists that truth is only found in
modern times is blatantly false.
Biblical truth .
While the content of the
Bible never changes, Christians’ understanding may change.
Indeed, there is a sense of progressive revelation in which
Christians build on the work of those who have gone before. For
example, John Calvin greatly advanced Augustine‘s ideas and
discussion of predestination. See
The Mind of Christ.
Depth and breadth.
study and reflective thought, the depth and breath of any
subject from a Biblical perspective can be considerable. For
example, two of the authors of this website have developed a
comprehensive worldview in medicine. See
The Bible is truth that both the regenerate and unregenerate can
understand, as its words are read in the same way as any other
book. It is truth, as reality, not an analogy of truth or
correspondence to reality. However, the interest, understanding,
and obedience of the regenerate mind should immeasurably exceed
that of the unregenerate mind. The themes and definitions of
particular words must be interpreted by Scripture itself. See
Regeneration above. (See Stob, Theological Reflections,
4) The Unregenerate.
Unregenerate man cannot know truth, except as he willing and
able to understand clear statements of Scripture. For example,
he may understand “Trinity,” that God is three Persons in One,
as that simple statement (proposition) conveys a truth. He may
not know as much fullness of that meaning as a regenerate person
and embrace its personal significance, but the statement
(proposition) is true whether understood by a Christian or a
The first chapter of
Romans is clear that even the unregenerate have an inexcusable
knowledge of God and his moral law. Precisely what is that
knowledge is debated. Yet, Christians should interact with the
unregenerate on the basis that he has a responsible
understanding of these concepts.
Unregenerate man can
know a great deal of facts (functional or valid knowledge) about
various subjects to the extent that he can achieve great
accomplishments from a human perspective.
Regeneration imparts no knowledge, not even knowledge from the
Bible. Regeneration is of the heart, not the mind. See
Regeneration. Therefore, a Christian is called to
a lifetime of serious Bible study “that he may be transformed by
the renewing of his mind” (Romans 12:2). That is, that his mind
may fully inform the heart what God requires of him. (See Stob,
Theological Reflections, page 236.)
of the mind does not mean that man can know truth in the way
that God knows truth. Even when we no longer “see through a
glass darkly,” we will not have omniscience, knowing everything
or anything exhaustively, as God does. This difference is both
quantitative and qualitative, yet this difference does not
diminish the reality that man can know truth, as truth, not an
analogy of truth.
Non-contradiction. Knowledge (within general or special
revelation) that seems contradictory is wrongly
understood. Serious and systematic study in both areas,
particularly special revelation can often resolve these apparent
Knowledge of the Bible must conform to certain basic rules of
interpretation. I strongly believe, along with many other
pastors and theologians, that many disagreements among
Christians and churches could be resolved by following these
rules consistently. See
Hermeneutics - Principles.
Danger of “agreeing to
“Agreeing to disagree” is a most serious and divisive step for
Christians. The Mind of Christ is one mind. Within the
constraints of other responsibilities, Christians should work
harder to resolve these differences.
Christian life. A full life of faith and practice in all the
areas (family, church, vocation, etc.) to which God has called
His people enables a depth and breadth of knowledge that can be
developed in no other way. That “practice” includes serious
Bible study with theological helps (commentaries, lexicons,
9. Influence of age
and culture. Even the best theologian and Biblical scholar
cannot escape the influence of the general thinking of his age
and culture. The challenge is to apply the Biblical worldview to
10. Only two
worldviews. Ultimately, there are only two philosophies or
worldviews: Biblical Christianity and all others. Or, the two
categories could be: Biblical Christianity and individualism, as
the content of the Bible is fixed, while all other religions and
philosophies are subject to the choosing of the individual. (See
Clark, A Christian View… 3rd Edition, page
The quest for truth is not as complex as secular philosophy
seems to make it. Words that denote a quest for ultimate truth
and are virtually synonymous in concept are: religion,
worldview, ethic, reality, ultimate reality, value, fact,
ontology, metaphysics, cosmology, epistemology, faith, knowledge
or valid knowledge, facts, being, critical philosophy, essence,
existence, monism, speculative philosophy, substance, and ground
of meaning. Again, there are “ultimately” only two: Biblical
Christianity (in all the fullness of sound theology and
worldview [ethics]) and all others.
worldviews. The large majority of worldviews, held by
individuals including Christians, are unexamined. Principles and
“facts” are simply accumulated over one’s lifetime, randomly
existing in one’s mind, and applied situationally with
inconsistency and according to personal desires. Socrates
said that "the unexamined life was not worth living."
While certainly the Christian life is "worth living" (on earth
and in heaven), even for those who are mostly Biblically
illiterate, they will lack the power and love of God that brings
about the "abundant life" of power, peace, love, and good works
that God calls His people in "working out their salvation."
All worldviews, religions, and philosophies are based upon
“givens,” also know as presuppositions, premises, axioms of
life, first principles, etc.
Ultimately, truth is both objective and subjective, a Person,
Jesus Christ. “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”
Science (in its modern sense) is always (A) a construct of
axioms, theories, premises, and other assumptions and (B) strict
limitations of experiment. As such, science is never a source of
truth, while it may achieve great functional value.
For a full discussion
of truth, Scripture, and epistemology, see
The Bible and
Truth: Comprehensive Review
Clark, Gordon. God’s
Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics. Chapter 2. An excellent
review of the Bible as truth, based upon epistemological