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Knowing and Truth in the Bible
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Knowing and Truth

God is the God of Truth (Psalm 31:5, Isaiah 65:16), but how do we know truth?

“The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.” (Proverbs 15:14)

Psalm 31:5

5Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.

Let's first look at a passage from Job 9 (below, on the left).

Job 9:2-12

2Indeed, I know that this is true.  But how can a mortal be righteous before God?  3Though one wished to dispute with him, he could not answer him one time out of a thousand.  4His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.  Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?  5He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger.  6He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble.  7He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars.  8He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.  9He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.  10He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.  11When he passes me, I cannot see him; when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.  12If he snatches away, who can stop him?  Who can say to him, ‘What are you doing?’

Why is it that the mountains do not know they have moved?  Obviously, mountains are inanimate and cannot know.  Perhaps Job meant both that God is so powerful as to move even huge mountains and that mountainous people (strong, powerful, controlling people such as kings) are also moved by God, even when they do not know it.  So why do they not know when God is moving them?  Why do we not know when God has moved us?

“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” (Proverbs 19:2)

Psalm 15

1LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?   Who may live on your holy hill?   2He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart 3and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, 4who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, 5who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.  He who does these things will never be shaken.

“The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.” (Proverbs 14:6)

How does anyone really know what is true versus what they merely think or hope is true?

In the southern US in the 19th Century many Christians “knew” that it was right to keep slaves and to beat them and break up their families.  We know they were not right.  Why did they think they were following Truth?

Psalm 25:4-6

4Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  6Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.

“A wise man has great power, and a man of knowledge increases strength” (Proverbs 24:5)

Clearly we humans do not know Truth naturally.  We guess at what is true; we study and debate and probably, in time, come close to Truth.  David, in Psalm 25, says we must be guided and taught what is true.

That applies not only to spiritual truths and truths about God, but also about what is true in our world.

We all know now that the world is a globe, hanging in space.  Clearly, God, who always has and will know all, has known forever that the world he created here is a ball hanging in space.  Yet people persisted—even Christian leaders—for centuries to believe that the world was flat; and to even persecute those who had the audacity to suggest otherwise.  Strangely, those Christian leaders seemed to ignore Job 26:7 that tells us the earth is suspended over nothing, the evidence of lunar eclipses that show a curved shadow, and the evidence (shown originally by Plato) that at noon on the same day the sun is higher in the sky in Egypt than it is in Greece or Italy.

We often don’t know because we don’t want to know, but we also don’t know because we haven’t looked or we have looked and not yet learned.

We need to be guided.

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.” (Proverbs 18:15)

Some might say that they know God, so they know Truth.  Yet people are not limitless in knowledge, as God is.  These people say “I know God, therefore I know Truth.”  Of course, knowing God allows you to know the source of truth, as Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge”, yet it is only the beginning of knowledge.  People have to learn on their own.  As Proverbs 23:12 says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.”

Psalm 51:6-7

6Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Thus, the scientific method, which is based on Christian theology, becomes an extremely useful tool for finding truth.

Psalm 119:30

I have chosen the way of truth.

“The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1 Corinthians 8:2)