Faith vs. Knowledge (2)

As Dallas Willard begins to study Knowing Christ Today, it’s imperative that we define or redefine what we know as knowledge.  Willard offers the following definition: We have knowledge of something when we are representing it (thinking about it, speaking of it, treating it) as it actually is, on an appropriate basis of thought and experience.  In other words, Willard maintains that our life experience leads us to evidence about that which is true.  One’s experience with his oncologist might lead him to know the doctor knows what he is talking about.  We can know the sun will come up tomorrow because it rises in the East on a consistent basis.  On the other hand, knowledge has nothing to do with luck.  You wouldn’t want someone operating on you just because they’ve proven to be lucky.  It’s important that we use his definition of knowledge throughout the discussion.

This is where it gets a little confusing.  Willard argues “knowledge” and “belief” are not the same.  Belief is largely based upon emotions and carries with it one’s will whereas knowledge does not.  For example, you might hope it doesn’t rain so that a picnic you planned might occur (belief).  Belief is not based upon previous experience, but on a desire.  Too often, we get knowledge and belief confused.  Even further away from knowledge are things like commitment and profession.  How often do we see or hear of people professing something they believe and learn later they’re not even committed?  Bad theology might cause one to say, “Maybe you ought to say you believe in God just in case He exists.”

The importance of how one defines is obvious.  Within religion, knowledge means living your life differently than before.  It carries with it responsibility – a responsibility to act and share what you’ve learned with others.  A Biblical example that comes to mind is Genesis 12.  God told Abram to leave his country for an unknown land.  Although all the details weren’t readily available, Abram went based on his knowledge of God’s goodness and faithfulness.  He acted upon what he knew.  Later, he tells his servants, “The boy and I will worship and then we will return.”  Again, based upon his knowledge of God, Abraham did what he was told.

Too often, we think of faith as a blind leap in the dark.  And because Christendom (especially in the West) has adhered to the “leap in the dark argument” , the responsibility for what we do or don’t do is no longer realized.  Willard believes that’s the very reason one can say, “All religions are the same (without knowledge).”  That kind of thinking is contrary to Scripture including 2 Peter 1:2-3.

2 May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  3 His divine power has given us everything for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Next time:  How Christians have bought into the idea of a leap of faith.


7 Responses to “Faith vs. Knowledge (2)”

  1. Brother, I admit that knowing something and believing something are two different things.. I know my birthday, wedding day, dates of my wife and chidrens and grandchildrens birthdays and other important dates in my life. I believe that I understand some of the things I read and study. But, I have a certain amount of knowledge about a lot of things that I deal with everyday. This knowlege comes from a lifetime of experiences. My knowledge of GOD’S word is limited by my understanding and life experiences.. I know that GOD lives in me! I know that Jesus died for my sins and conquered death so that I could have eternal life! These things I know because I have faith in the Word of GOD!

  2. Yes Larry. Knowledge is based on past experiences and carries with it no emotions. Belief has emotions involved. Throughout this discussion, we will follow Willard’s definition.

  3. I once believed in a religion because it was all that I was taught since I was very little. I had faith in a belief because my parents believed – but I had no knowledge of this religion and why they believe the way that they did. As I grew older, I asked a lot of questions and a lot of scripture was given to me and I could see why they believed that way – but it wasn’t until I was even more older and continued to search out God’s Word and God’s Will that my knowledge of what they believed was no longer my knowledge – and therefore no longer my belief. I love how the introduction of this book ends: “One reason why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.” We have a responsibility to KNOW Christ – and he left his Word for us to seek and know. I can’t wait to read more of this book with you! This is exciting 🙂

    • What a blessing Maria! Thanks for sharing. My testimony is much the same. I also love how you say, “we have a responsibility to KNOW Christ.” Thanks so much.

  4. So, to boil this down, is this what you (via Willard) are saying:

    knowledge = thought + experience
    belief = thought + experience + emotion

    knowledge is not equal to belief because it is missing the element of emotion

    Is belief = to faith?

  5. Knowledge is the “top rung” of a continuum. It’s followed by belief, commitment, and profession. People profess a lot of things. But when “pushed” a bit, they really don’t believe it, aren’t committed, and of course have no knowledge of it. Thanks for reading. I hope this helps. If not, give me a shout.

    • FYI, the Greek word “pistis” is translated into the English as “belief”. However, every time it carries with it the meaning of action. In other words, don’t tell me you believe something if you don’t act on it!

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