"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Disintegration: Worshipping the True God in the Wrong Way | Main | Images of the Savior (5 -- Noah's Ark) »

    epistemic hubris

    Have you heard this from someone recently? That "WE CANNOT KNOW, with certainty, what God has revealed, so anyone who thinks he does is proud or arrogant? We must, rather, they say, embrace God as mystery?" I don't know about you but I have heard this more than once in the past few weeks. In light of this shouldn't we be asking ourselves the following questions so we can, at least, maintain a degree of intellectual honesty:

    Is not this assertion that "we cannot know" itself a dogma with affirmations and denials? Is not this itself a statement of knowledge? Is "we cannot know with certainty" not itself an assertion of KNOWLEDGE (a dogmatic assertion) as THE WAY to interpret Scripture? Whether conscious of it or not, this is what is called "double-talk" and those who believe this are doing the very thing they claim to despise, even in the very speaking of it. Its like Oprah stating on national television that it is arrogant to think Jesus is the only way, and then turning around and telling us the ONLY WAY is to believe that all religions lead to the same God. Is this not itself an arrogant claim ... a claim which must have a bird's eye view of knowledge to state it with such certainty.

    The Apostle Peter said, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God"(1 Pet. 4:11). Fact is, it is unavoidable to make any statements without making some kind of affirmation or denial. To claim no one can know about revealation with certainty is itself a claim to know how God operates with certainty. Where does the Scripture itself say that humility is characterized by taking what has God revealed to us (Deut 29:29) and saying we cannot understand it or cannot make statements with certainty, such that we much view all Scripture a total mystery? But this is not how God defines humility. Real humility is to think our thoughts after God, rather than impose our own thoughts on the text. True humility is to see ourselves in light of the glory and majesty of God. By this we become undone and recognize who we are before God and man. By this be come face to face with our own spiritual bankruptcy before God and thus understand that we are clearly no better morally than anyone. We have nothing in ourselves to recommend to God. Salvation by grace ALONE then, understood properly, should teach us that we have nothing to boast in, save in God's mercy alone in Jesus Christ. We are only beggars leading other beggars to bread. ANY BOAST then is contrary to the gospel of grace. True Christianity, according to Paul, is to worship in the Holy Spirit, glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh. That our salvation is ALL of Christ. This is something God has revealed to us with certainty. If I have a conviction that only Jesus can save, not my self-effort effort, then this kind of certainty will make us the polar opposite of proud.

    Those calling for epistemic humility tend the same ones who reject these central Christian doctrines described above which undo us and glory in Christ alone in favor of praxis, as if the two could be separated. But I would argue that by rejecting Biblical teaching such as Sola Gratia/Solus Christus, our praxis just becomes another form of moralism, which does not differentiate Christianity from any other religion. So it should be evident that this very way of defining arrogance and humility is itself broken and contradictory. Does not God define hubris as those who trust in praxis (works) rather than in Christ ALONE? That means Christ for our all in all, the Author and Perfector of our faith, who unites us to Himself that we might live. If Jesus Christ is not central to one's belief (not as a moral example, but as a Savior) then we have not understood even the very basis of Christianity and traded it for a philosophy.

    Posted by John on May 8, 2008 12:46 PM


    And so with much certainty I will quote these Words without an attribution of certianty that Paul is the author of them, but that certainly with them in a certain sense I am of more certainty then that God has spoken to us in various ways and at many times in the past and certainly now He has spoken to us through Christ Our Savior and by this I too am able to make my calling and election certain or sure!

    Heb 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
    Heb 1:2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
    Heb 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
    Heb 1:4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
    Heb 1:5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"?
    Heb 1:6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."
    Heb 1:7 Of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire."
    Heb 1:8 But of the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

    And just as certain of this, these Words of God will not fail us and this is surely certainly True::>

    Psa 33:4 For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.
    Psa 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
    Psa 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
    Psa 33:7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses.
    Psa 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
    Psa 33:9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.
    Psa 33:10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
    Psa 33:11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.

    Yes I have heard this before, and recently. This is a common cry, it seems, of those who refuse to take a stand on controversial subjects. They don't want to accept that God himself has already told us the absolute truth in regard to anything.

    Most often, when I've been presented with this line of thinking, the person who claims it, comes across as very sage and wise, speaking words that sound logical to the inattentive. I've even found this kind of thinking showing up in the minds of fellow elders in the church.

    I always refer them to Martin Luther. In Bondage of the Will he refutes this very idea, that our understanding can never be clear. He clearly articulates that God is not a God of confusion and would not have given us the Holy Scriptures if not for our own good. If we cannot know them for certain, they are not for our good, but only add to our confusion. We have enough confusion without God himself confounding us with the unknowable.

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