Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Faith is Epistemic

“Faith is epistemic.”

So I said at a recent introductory meeting for a men’s theological reading group at my church. As simple a statement as it is, to fully expound on it would take more time than our brief hour warranted with much more ground to cover than just the idea that we require faith to understand theology (and that theology likewise informs our faith).

Even secularists can understand the role of faith in epistemology 1. (Although the author is a Christian, his article is published by Princeton.) That is, a faith in the continuity of the universe and our perceptions that is experiential at best is necessary for apprehending empirical data. Read the article for details.

Paul Manata explored a similar model 2 with regard to the Christian Faith a few years earlier.

My previous article likewise discussed the nature of faith as being informed, rather than by the notion proliferating in the popular philosophy of these days: “blind faith”.

The model of epistemological faith that these articles discuss is the need for an apologetic of one’s epistemology that necessarily requires a modicum of faith. But the need for faith is also required to understand information that has already been apprehended.

I discussed many of the principles I have discovered in a couple of series of articles within the past few months that can be found in the following articles:

Understanding the Bible

Glorifying God: Leveling the Theological Battlefield
Examples of this principle:
I won’t rehash the discussions here, but if you are interested in how faith is necessary to know God and understand him better, the articles referenced here may serve a good primer.

In the future I plan to discuss more in depth the formation of faith by knowledge obtained by faith. however, that discussion will be part of a much larger series investigating an apologetic for Biblical hermeneutics.

For now, I will only offer an example as to how faith is both informed by and informs our knowledge of God.

My wife is leaving next week for a trip to Uganda and Kenya to help with a Christian mission as well as visit some friends from our church who are currently serving in Kenya. She approached me last month with the sense that she should go against all other considerations. I'm wary about such subjective "leading of the Holy Spirit", but I'm also quickly supportive of any desire to go and serve given spiritual fitness and giftedness to do so. Without any support up front, we took savings money and purchased tickets. My wife sent out a support letter expressing her need for expense monies. Enough came in that the money we took out of our savings account was reimbursed and all trip expenses are virtually covered. Such it is that we glorify God in faith exalting him for his provision to do his work.

When we were first married, I planned to continue in school such as to finish a degree. Degrees have a way of opening doors and my intention to go into some sort of ministry was the driving factor. However, no jobs were available where the school was and I was subsequently resigned to find a job in our hometown where I work to this day. God didn't provide what we needed for us to live in such a way that I could continue my direction. Should I say that God is not faithful? No. Rather, my faith informs me that God provided for me not to continue my formal education. Although I continue to study on my own, I realize that God has no apparent use for me in this way. My faith, therefore, is not in God fulfilling my desire, but in my seeking to fulfill God's desire. I can understand that Paul's admonishment to "earnestly seek the higher gifts" is not a promise that we will recieve those gifts.

And so in either case, God is glorified. We are not. God is revealed. We are not. God's purposes come to fruition. Our purposes must be changed to agree with his. This is the foundation of Christian epistemology. This is how we know God.


1. Park, Joung. "The Role of Faith in Epistemology." Revisions. Princeton, 30 Sept. 2011. Web. 22 Jan. 2014.
2. Manata, Paul. "The Epistemology of Faith." The Epistemology of Faith. Triablogue, 30 Aug. 2007. Web. 22 Jan. 2014.

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