The Salvation of Knowledge
by Burk Parsons
The postmodern era is coming to an end, and a new age is beginning. In this new era, pluralism is considered simplistic and elementary. Whereas pure relativism was the reigning mind-set in the postmodern era, in this new age, conceptualism has become the accepted system by which we determine what we know and what we believe. As far as I know, conceptualism has not been formulated by any philosophers or sociologists, but can be defined, at least in the way I conceptualize it, as that system of thought by which an individual, or a society, determines reality based upon his own, subjective suppositions of reality and, having determined reality, imposes his created reality upon everyone and everything.
Our culture has put aside the philosophy that suggests truth can differ from one person to another. The adherents of conceptualism have demonstrated that there is no longer any need for our culture to be “united” based upon the governing ideal that truth is relative and that knowledge is in the mind of the beholder. These proponents of conceptualism have labored long and hard to prove that when it comes down to it, concepts rule the day. Therefore it is no longer necessary for a person to say “I believe” or “I know.” According to conceptualists, such statements are no longer necessary, no longer valid; they possess no value whatsoever in this age of conceptualism. Today, one needs only to say: “I conceptualize.”
In order for something to be true, it is no longer necessary to have knowledge of a particular something, and it is no longer required that we qualify everything we say with the statement: “What may be true for you is not necessarily true for me.” In this new era, to conceptualize is to validate truth. That is to say, in order to propagate truth, a person needs only to conceptualize.
As Christians we are called to stand firmly in truth, yet it is not our own conceptualized reality in which we are to establish ourselves. Rather, we are called to establish ourselves in the reality that God almighty has set forth. His reality is founded upon truth — His truth. For we are only established if the truth upon which we stand is God’s truth and not some system of reality that is a result of our own vainly fantasized suppositions. Indeed, the truth of God is founded in God Himself and has been revealed to us so that all men are without excuse: “For what can be known about God is plain” (Rom. 1:19a). Paul does not say, “What can be fantasized about God is plain.” Rather, it is what is “known” about God that is plain. At the heart of our sustained existence on earth is knowledge that has been revealed to us by God; at the heart of our relationships with one another is knowledge from God, and at the heart of our relationship with God is knowledge from God.
While many attempt to slander the pursuit of knowledge, we must stand our ground on the Word of God and defend the right use of knowledge. For it is through knowledge that truth is confirmed as truth, and it is through knowledge that reality is understood as reality.
At the beginning of his second epistle, Peter confirms the importance of knowledge. In verses 2–8, Peter uses the word knowledge five times. In verse 2, he writes, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” Then, in verse 3, he writes, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” At this point, Peter has used the word knowledge as a means through which grace and peace are provided and as a means through which God has granted to us all things pertaining to life and godliness.
In verse 5, Peter charges us to supplement our faith with virtue and virtue with knowledge. It is no small matter that Peter includes knowledge as a “quality” of the Christian life, for he promises that “if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8). If we possess the qualities that Peter lists in verses 5–7, we will be sustained in our effectiveness in the knowledge of Christ.
While knowledge can indeed “puff up,” it is mere human knowledge that puffs up. Knowledge without God is not knowledge, it is cerebral correspondence that has no meaning beyond itself. But, knowledge, true knowledge from God almighty, is the foundation of virtue, the establishment of love, and the means by which we are able to glorify God as He has revealed Himself.
At the very end of his epistle, Peter writes: “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (3:17–18). We are commanded to know God — to know His Word, and we have been summoned by God almighty to know the truth in order to be set free from our bondage to our own, subjective reality so that we might glorify God and enjoy Him forever.