know and believe

Had a discussion with a friend recently, and was shocked and appalled to hear it suggested that knowledge is a hindrance to faith.

Not really shocked, obviously, as it’s a very common conception of what faith is. But the faith the Bible recommends, the faith that saves, is faith that has a thoroughly firm grounding in reality known and grasped with conviction. Faith always includes knowledge. You can’t rightly be said to believe in Jesus if you don’t know for a certainty that he is the Christ, the Son of God (and so on).

Certainly some things that faith (this faith, saving faith) lays hold on are unseen, beyond our senses, not amenable to empirical testing, beyond even our comprehension, and beyond what we could ever find out if they weren’t revealed in scripture. The fact that there are three persons in the Godhead is maybe the most important of these. (And of course there are many kinds of non-saving faiths which fix on propositions which are not even true – but that wasn’t part of our discussion.) But saving faith needs a foundation in reality – the reality, for example, that Christ is a suitable Saviour for exactly the kind of sinner that you are, the truth that there is mercy available even for the chief of sinners, the fact that he is able to save to the uttermost any sinner who comes to him. And the more the believer knows about these propositions the better – whatever faith builds on, is amply set out in the scriptures to be built on, and faith has nothing to fear from being increasingly better educated and more knowing.

Faith – saving faith – is completely different from ignorance, superstition, and wishful thinking. If it isn’t saying, We know and believe, it isn’t worth much.


13 thoughts on “know and believe

  1. I agree faith is not better without knowledge. Faith comes by hearing and is based on true knowledge – taking God at His Word.

    I wonder though whether in daily living we can get carried away finding things out and working things out. In the process we could end up leaning to our own understanding rather than depending upon God. In that sense knowledge can perhaps be a trap or a distraction. I am not suggesting that we put our brains away – just that we use them to focus on how we can depend on the Lord more rather than how to unravel the tangles of life. Just a thought……


  2. Hey, welcome back!

    Naturally I’m not going to argue about the need to depend on the Lord (i hope) but I think i was wondering more about the basis or foundation that we have for depending on God. Ie, what makes it safe to depend on the Lord for daily living? or salvation, or anything. Presumably, your grounds for doing so are not that you know/understand everything that’s happening in your life, but yet there are truths that you do need to know and be convinced/assured/fully persuaded about (and they really are true!).

    what do you think?


  3. Whatever way it was (and which I don’t remember either as I may not have been part of that bloggersation), I’d put faith more on a plane with trust – quite a number of promises of God, or simply His presence in my life, I take because I trust Him, not because of anything I know for sure. If it comes to knowledge, I sympathise more with Thomas – and that father’s cry “I believe. Help my unbelief!”


    • Is any human even capable of knowing with their mind only (presumably the seat of knowledge) that God’s promises are true beyond the shadow of a doubt? I doubt that.

      I remember reading an article in a scientific journal about finite minds’ perception of infinite entities. The author, explicitly outing himself as an atheist, still came to the conclusion that there is no way that one human could prove that another human had not experienced the perception of an infinite entity. But maybe, that’s neither here nor there.

      To me, there are several angles to this:
      1. In the ultimate analysis, I cannot (and should not) trust my mind.
      2. In everyday life, I have to rely on my mind regularly (trusting in the reoccurrence of observed processes etc).
      3. Taking God’s Word at face value involves more than the mind.
      4. I can worship with my mind, and I can worship with my spirit.
      5. The Holy Spirit provides me with the necessary assurance to trust but again, that’s Him speaking to my spirit and not my mind.

      Hmmm, not sure whether I’ve thought this through to the end. Does this now mean that there are things I know with my mind and other things which I know with my spirit? Certainly, there seem to be “truths” which are not amenable to rational verification.

      ANyway, I consider it part of the human condition that we don’t have a way of “knowing” whether it’ll work out. Otherwise, everyone would “know and believe”. Well, that part I’ll put into my answer to Sarah.

      It’s also part of following Jesus. He too didn’t know whether it would work out but he simply trusted his Father. The glory came later – but first the agony, the uncertainty of the future. If he couldn’t avoid it, why are we even trying? I guess it boils down to human nature not able to stand ambiguity, the possibility of failure. Nah, trust doesn’t follow from knowledge. Have seen too many cases where trust, even conviction was built even against better knowledge. I may have mentioned it before, the passage in C.S.Lewis’ “Silver Chair” where the Marshwiggle Puddleglum answers the suggestions of the Green Lady that Narnia and Aslan were just a figment of their imagination.

      Well, I let you ponder that (or read it up). This comment has become long enough already.

      Greetings from Nairobi!


      • Interesting that you see a role for the Holy Spirit in granting assurance, but not that he works in the mind, and that you don’t see knowledge as playing a role in trust. In the original post there’s a point about some truths being beyond our comprehension and even unknowable apart from scripture – would it not be possible to agree that it’s part of the work of the Holy Spirit to grant conviction to the mind of someone who is familiar with what he has himself revealed in his scriptures?

        You and I may independently have already had a discussion about whether truths are amenable to ‘rational’ (empirical?) verification :)


  4. I suppose unbelievers think “faith is blind” while to believers they are ignorant of things unseen. I suppose that we are simply looking in different directions.

    I wonder if people could see both which they would say they wanted to choose. People are often asked “do you believe in God?” – but I wonder what they would say if the question was “would you like there to be a God or not?”

    Surely everyone has to admit in theory that between a world of only physical and temporal things and a never ending world with a loving just God the latter is much more fulfilling and desirable. Whether they want to pay the cost – take up the cross the daily – is another matter.

    A person who finds the cost too great presumably has to make themselves believe there is no God – I don’t know of anyone who would say they know there is a God, they believe what He says is true but they have decided they want to live without Him.


    • Sarah, you’re blessed not to know anyone who knows God to be true, yet decide against him. My best friend once went through that – it’s sheer agony. I can only thank the Lord that my friend was enabled to overcome his feelings of unworthiness and rededicate himself to the Lord.

      Also, the mind can come up with a lot more alternatives than just the two you’re giving. There are worse options than a simply material world (and in the blessed state you’re in, I’d hate to give you nightmares). So, no, not “everyone has to admit in theory” – never ending doesn’t sound very comforting to quite a number of people. And reducing God’s attributes to loving and just doesn’t do Him justice. It’s terrible to fall into the hands of the living God.

      Although, imho, it’s even more terrible to fall into the hands of those who try and indoctrinate me with their “truths” about God. Jesus had a lot to say about those who were sure of their salvation, and those who counted themselves among the people of God in his days even were convinced that they were doing God a favour. So, let’s keep a healthy alertness against doctrine while, seemingly paradoxically, uphold our trust in Him.


      • Don’t want to put words in Sarah’s mouth, and am also inclined to tread gingerly when discussing people’s spiritual experiences, but i wonder how relevant is the case of a person who decides against the Lord on the grounds of feelings of unworthiness, as compared to someone who decides against the Lord knowing (as i think Sarah is speculating) that he is holy and good & therefore presumably desirable. A person saying ‘I’m not worthy that God should love/save me’ is rather different from someone saying ‘I fully realise God deserves my love but am still going to persist in my antagonism against him.’ Or something like that.

        Also inclined to think your 3rd para veers into another slightly separate issue, ie whether a person can legitimately be sure of their own salvation. Ie as distinct/distinguishable from whether a person can be sure of anything, & whether a person can be sure of the truths God reveals.

        But that’s not to stop Sarah having her say should she wish :)


        • Don’t really have time to reply – just to let you know that it’s impossible to explain in a comment the complex situation of a third person which was a process of 2+ years. Apart from feeling unworthy or undeserving, my friend definitely knew that God loved him, would forgive him and that that would be much better for him. He still didn’t want to.
          Also had another friend who understood the Gospel but still wasn’t willing to make the effort even though ackowledging it would be better for him.
          Only goes to show that human beings choose inertia and avoid change even *against* better knowledge. If it happens in everyday decisions why not in spiritual matters?
          Finally, assurance of salvation was just one example of people taking God’s promises at face value (and at times with dire consequences).
          I presume we’ve reached the spot of agreeing to disagree (same on above issue of the Holy Spirit). Sorry to cut this short. I’m being called …


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