Christianity and Non-Empirical Knowledge

 by J.P. Moreland

 Knowledge is to represent (i.e., experience or think about) reality the way it really is on the basis of adequate grounds, on a solid basis of evidence, experience, intuition, testimony and so forth. We also saw that there are three different kinds of knowledge:  1) Knowledge by acquaintance:  This happens when we are directly aware of something, e.g., when I see an apple directly before me or pay attention to my inner feelings, I know these things by acquaintance. 2) Propositional knowledge:  This is knowledge that an entire proposition is true.  Propositional knowledge is justified true belief; it is believing something that is true on the basis of adequate grounds. 3) Know-how:  This is the ability or skill, usually based on the other two sorts of knowledge, to do certain things, e.g., to use apples for certain purposes.

However, we Christians are not just committed to knowledge, as important as that is.  We are also committed to the idea that we can have various kinds of non-empirical knowledge, i.e., knowledge that does not require an appeal to what one can see, smell, taste, touch or hear in order to know it:  knowledge of God, the soul, moral values, demons and angels, and so on.  But is there really such a thing?  The answer is “Yes, indeed!” and in what follows I will briefly dismiss the charge that all knowledge is empirical (i.e., must be testable by the five senses) and then present examples of knowledge that is non-empirical.

Asserting What Can’t Be Said

People sometimes assert things that they are not rationally entitled to assert.  “I can’t speak a word of English,” “There are no truths,” “No sentence is longer than three words,” are all examples.  Why?  Because they are self-refuting.  Each statement is an example of something that refutes the statement itself.  Now the assertion “There is only empirical knowledge and truth” is not itself an example of an empirical knowledge or truth.

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