Tonight we’ll begin several weeks of studying the scriptures to explore one of the central concerns of our age, and one of the central objections people have to the preaching of the Gospel. The concern is epistemology, and the objection is an epistemological one. We’ll do quick definitions tonight. And then we’ll begin trying to answer these questions:
How can Christians claim to really know God?
How can they claim to have a true knowledge of God, especially one that is more accurate than other concepts of God?
How can we really know anything?
Francis Schaeffer was one of the leading Christian thinkers to address these questions in the last generation. Over the next few days I plan to post some thoughts from him and others to augment our studies on Monday nights. Here’s the first thought from Schaeffer. The question he’s addressing here is, “If God is infinite, and therefore so far above us, how can we claim to have any knowledge of Him at all?” The answer, he says, begins with the biblical description of God as both personal and infinite:
Let us return again to the personal-infinite. On the side of God’s infinity, there is a complete chasm between God on one side and man, the animal, the flower, and the machine on the other. On the side of God’s infinity, He stands alone. He is the absolute other. He is, in His infinity, contrary to all else. He is differentiated from all else because only He is infinite. He is the Creator; all else was created. He is infinite; all else is finite. All else is brought forth by creation; so all else is dependent and only He is independent. This is absolute on the side of His infinity. Therefore, concerning God’s infinity, man is as separated from God as is the atom or any other machine-portion of the universe.
But on the side of God being personal, the chasm is between man and the animal, the plant, and the machine. Why? Because man was made in the image of God. This is not just “doctrine.” It is not dogma that needs just to be repeated as a proper doctrinal statement. This is really down in the warp and woof of the whole problem. Man is made in the image of God; therefore, on the side of the fact that God is a personal God the chasm stands not between God and man, but between man and all else. But on the side of God’s infinity, man is as separated from God as the atom or any other finite of the universe. So we have the answer to man’s being finite and yet personal.
It is not that this is the best answer to existence; it is the only answer. That is why we may hold our Christianity with intellectual integrity. The only answer for what exists is that He, the infinite-personal God, really is there.
–Francis Schaeffer, He is There and He Is Not Silent