How much do I know?

November 23, 2011
Adam Klassen |

How much do I know?

Not very much, I suspect.

While I was getting my B.A. I often felt that I was only learning enough to know how much I do not know. For every text I could point to, for every thinker or philosopher or theologian that I felt had gotten it, had expressed fully something I had always just suspected to be true, someone else could point to another who would effectively dismantle whatever idea or argument I found so compelling.

This extends to my faith, and the scriptures. For every moment of proof-texting there can be another verse that can be used to argue the opposite. Anything can be proven if you are agile and forceful enough in your arguments.

This is of course not true, but it is a fear of mine. I fear that the beliefs I am attempting to base my life around, that I am potentially ready to die for, could be taken apart by one well cited quote.

I wonder if this has something to do with the way I have been trained to think. My mind has been trained to praise empirical knowledge above all others. Proof, data, precedence, these are the catchwords of truth. The scientific method is one of the great defining theories of our world, and I have little hope of breaking away from it. If something can be proven with facts (or “facts”) how can we possibly say it isn't true (or “true”).

So I wonder, how can I reconcile this with faith? Not only my faith, but the idea of faith at all?

My answer to this may not be good enough, but at this point in my life at least, it is all I have.

In these times, when I allow my mind to go down these roads, I lean back on an understanding of faith as hope, or at least a type of hope. For many of the things I believe I cannot say, beyond a shadow of an empirical doubt, that I know them to be true. Or at least I am not able to disprove all other possible answers and come up with a bright shiny morsel of complete, indisputable truth.

This inability to appease empiricism does not take away these beliefs. I do still have belief. Nor do I think they are lesser.

What I do have is hope that these things are true.

I cannot prove that the Christ of the trinity has brought me into communion with that trinity and other believers, but I do believe this has happened. And perhaps this belief is nothing more than the hope that this has happened.

I answer this way because often I have nothing but this answer. Sometimes I have nothing but hope.

There are other hopes entwined in all of this. I hope to some day be able to understand belief as something larger than empirical data. That belief is an odd conglomeration of experience, teaching, observation, witness, trust, mystery and faith. I hope to understand that data or empirical proof may often play a part in belief, but are not required.

I hope is that this way of understanding faith leaves me open to continually learning. To realize that I will never know anything beyond a shadow, and therefore be willing to take in new ideas, to change and possibly grow.

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