Nana Yaw Aidoo
It is the case that no one knows everything. The attribute of Omniscience is reserved only for the Almighty God, Who can tell the end from the beginning. (Isa. 46:10). It is also the case that no rational human being is absolutely and totally ignorant that he knows nothing. Everyone knows something. What some people are unwilling to accept is that what we know is either true or false. These people deny that truth can be known or that there is such a thing as absolute truth. This is the philosophical idea know as truth or alethic relativism.
Relativism about truth, or alethic relativism, at its simplest, is the claim that what is true for one individual or social group may not be true for another, and there is no context-independent vantage point to adjudicate the matter. What is true or false is always relative to a conceptual, cultural, or linguistic framework. (“Relativism,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
The story is told of a university professor who always made the claim in class that truth cannot be known and that there is no absolute truth. A student who had grown tired of the professor’s comments asked him one day; “are you absolutely sure?”
Interestingly, when people make the claim that truth cannot be known, they are affirming that they know that truth cannot be known. James Bales exposed this self-defeating and self-contradictory statement.
To say that one cannot know truth, is to say that one has studied so much, and learned so much, that he knows that truth does not exist. What a tremendous truth such an individual claims to know! He knows there is no truth. He knows you cannot know. If he can know this truth, truth can be known. If he cannot know truth, he cannot know the truth that there is no truth. Furthermore, if total ignorance is the conclusion of scholarship, scholarship is impossible. (The Spiritual Sword, October, 1969, p.6).
We are told to believe that we are all seeking truth and so no one should claim a knowledge of truth. The point, however, is not whether we are all seeking truth but whether while seeking truth, we can find it. Can truth be found as/when we seek it? Some say no! God’s description of such people is that they are “ever (always NKJV) learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7).
Can we know the truth? Jesus Christ so believed. To the Jews He said; “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32, Emph. NYA). The Son of God emphasized a knowledge of the truth and the subsequent obedience (John 8:31), as the means by which men can be made free from the bondage of sin. Would our Lord have made such an emphasis, if it were impossible to know the truth?
Can we know the truth? The apostles so believed. When His disciples deserted Him after His “hard” bread of life discourse, Jesus Christ asked the twelve whether they wanted to go away too. Peter answered Him; “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69 ASV). The truth was that Jesus Christ was the Holy One of God and Simon Peter laid claim to the fact that all of the twelve knew it.
Not only can we know the truth, but we can know that we know the truth. John wrote; “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” (1 John 2:3 Emph. NYA). Was the apostle “proud,” “too-knowing” “Pharisaic,” and “self-righteous” for making this claim?
What are some truths that we can know?
We can know that God exists.
We can know that Jesus Christ is God’s only Begotten Son.
We can know that the Bible is God’s only Word to man.
We can know that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven.
We can know that immersion in water is the point at which alien sinners are saved from their sins.
We can know that the church of Christ is the only church that has God’s approval.
We can know that women preachers are unscriptural and sinful.
We can know that there are only two genders.
We can know that marriage is between one man and one woman for one lifetime.
We can know that God created the world in six literal days.
We can know these truths and many more. If there is something, we have no knowledge of, the Biblical exhortation is that we study so as to grow in knowledge. (2 Pet. 3:18). But if it is the case that truth cannot be known, then Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the apostles lied. Again, if it is the case that truth cannot be known, then God has a wrong desire for He desires that men be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4 Emph. NYA).
Can we know the truth? Yes, we can! And anyone who says otherwise makes God a liar. Rather than glory in ignorance or make ignorance a virtue, may we, through diligent study of the Sacred Writings, “be filled with the knowledge of his will…increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:9-10).