Wednesday, April 8, 2009


I know that 2 + 2 = 4.

I know that South Carolina actually had a good snow this past winter.

I know that my wife is pregnant.

I know that Dennis Rodman and I have the same birthday.

What if you could know every fact that has ever been?

What if you knew every sports stat from every team and every player that has ever existed. You knew every touchdown, homerun, tripple-double, hole-in-one, and championship in history. Let's say that you know every war that has ever been fought and the victor in each battle. Let's even say that you knew the names of all of those lost in each battle. Perhaps you could list the birthdays of each president, dictator, ruler, and czar the world has ever seen.

Obviously I could go on forever. Bear with me.

Let's say that you knew all of these things. You would be a human computer. Your friends call you Google Thompson. You can spit out every factual reality possible. Do you then have real "knowledge"? Have you exhausted "knowledge"? Does the epistemological buck stop with you?

Not a chance.

There are several reasons why. FIRST, you may know all possible facts, but what about the motives, intentions, emotions, and ideas behind them? Does knowing that Roberto Clemente died with exactly 3000 hits mean that you can know how he felt? Doubtful. Who cares if you know that the Berlin Wall fell if you don't know how people thought about it? My simple purpose is this... Part of the essence of knowledge is that it is inexhaustible. This means that the essence of knowledge cannot be fact-knowing. Then what is real knowledge? Hmmm?

SECOND, because we are products of the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and the Scientific Method we have come to think of "knowledge" as observable and tried actuality. This seems to operate under the assumption that objectivity and subjectivity can be divorced. Tis folly, my friends.

THIRD, Adam knew Eve; then came Cain. As is clear, this is far more than informed mindfulness. This is an experiential knowing. The Hebrew word for "know" is "yada." If you continue to trace this idea you will find that "knowing" has historically, theologically, and spiritually transcended awareness to experience, and transcended experience to relationship.

So, when Jesus says, "Depart from me. I never knew you" [Mt 7.23], He is not talking about being cognizant of a person's existence. He is talking about relationship. Or... "All those that God foreknew, He predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus" [Rom 8.29-30]. The point here is that real, right, and true "knowledge" is being intimately bound to someone. This is the source from which fact-knowing springs.

All of this makes Jesus' words in John 17 a little more poignant and fresh.

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

God giving Jesus shows how He desires to be known [Jn 14.6, 6.44]. For me, this ripens the old Christian adage, "Know Him and make known."

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