The question, “How can we know?” is incredibly important. We can’t answer the other questions without first knowing the answer to this one. How can we say anything about God or people with any confidence if we don’t first establish how to discern what is true and what is false? And while there are a plethora of answers offered, at root what we want to know is: Who is the authority? Who owns the truth? Is it me? Is it you? Is it the collective? Which collective? The strong? The oppressed? The rich? The poor?
Once upon a time, a being from Jupiter came down to Earth and visited an art gallery. As he perused the gallery, he began to ask the curator about a specific painting of an apple orchard that he found hanging on the wall. The curator offered the Jovian many interesting facts and anecdotes about the painting, but was rendered irrelevant when the artist himself walked into the room. After a brief introduction, the artist began answering all of the Jovian’s questions about the painting. When he had satisfied his extraterrestrial admirer, the artist left the gallery.
After a moment of pensive silence, the Jovian, being an expert in Jovial botany, began to explain to the curator how the painting couldn’t possibly be an apple orchard, since he was quite certain that what the artist actually painted was a beautiful field of Jovial squash. “I am, after all, much experienced with Jovial squash,” said the being confidently. The curator said, “That cannot be right, because the artist himself has just told you that this is an apple orchard.” The being from Jupiter began to argue: “So you believe the artist’s words about the painting over my experience, just because he said it?” Exasperated the curator said, “Yes!” With a turn of his nose, the being muttered something about “closed-mindedness” and “circular reasoning” and, in an air of self-importance, got back in his spaceship to return to his hydrogen planet.
This is a silly example, but I’m hoping you see the point. The authority on the painting is the artist simply by nature of who he is, namely, because he is the artist. Therefore, whatever the artist says about the painting is true. And whatever the curator and the Jovian say about the painting is only true insofar as what they speak is consistent with the word of the artist. And this is the point. Each one of us knows that there is an “artist”. We look at the awesome vastness of space and the intricate smallness of the human cell, and we know that there is someone behind it all. Each person is aware of the Creator, simply by looking at creation. Because there is a painting there must, by necessity, be a painter. Because there is creation there must, by necessity, be a Creator. And if there is a Creator, then he is the authority of creation simply by nature of who he is.
And this is how I am answering this question: God is the Creator; therefore, he is the ultimate authority. Whatever he says is true. All truth is God’s truth. And we only speak the truth insofar as we speak consistently with God’s own words. It is not closed-minded and ignorant to say, “God is, because God says.” It is the only rational response. I think Jesus says it best when in his prayer to God he says, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
My Jovian being was clearly a fool, but he represents us all in some ways. We long to be the authority. We really think that our experiences dictate truth, even if they are in complete contradiction to the authority of God. We fancy ourselves as wise and supreme in judgement. To submit to someone else’s authority is untenable. But what about God? If he dare contradict us, would we turn our noses up and retreat back to our lived experiences, never to understand the beauty of the apple orchard, because we are too concerned with our field of squash? Are we not the Jovian fool?
Now to really answer the question: How can we know about God? How can we know about ourselves? We must look to God’s word, specifically, the Bible. Listen to what God has said about his word:
The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple (Psa 119:130).
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever (Psa 119:160).
You have exalted above all things your name and your word (Psa 138:2).
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Isa 40:8).
I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right (Isa 45:19).
It is impossible for God to lie (Heb 6:18).
This list could go on for a while, but suffice it to say, God’s word is the eternal, authoritative truth against which all other truth claims are to be judged. And to state it negatively, you cannot know anything truly about God or about ourselves apart from God’s word. We will discuss later some applications to this truth, but now that we have established our basis for knowing, tomorrow we will answer the question, “Who is God?”
Does what you know line up with what God says?
What is your relationship with God in his word?
©️Jacob Crouch 2020