I have written before about the concept of agnosis – that knowledge is always imperfect and we might at any time be wrong about anything. I would like to try and make the case that agnosis is axiomatic.
By my own standards to establish agnosis as an axiom, it must be derived from existing axioms. As I have been lax in exploring axioms, I have only Axiom Zero to work with. Axiom Zero is that all scripture is good for doctrine. I will, therefore, apply this axiom and the principles of testing that derive from it.
Rather than rehash what I have already said, I will quote it instead.
Man is ignorant and the full truth is inherently unknowable to us. All that we think we know is faulty due to our own limitations. Our own best knowledge, doctrines, and understanding are forever flawed and full of error. We seek to embrace metanoia – a change in our thinking – freely confessing our ignorance and, in doing so, we allow our nature to be changed into the nature of Yeshua.
A Scriptural Foundation for Agnosis
When I first defined agnosis, I acknowledged axiom zero and listed four scriptures:
- Luke 10:21 and Matthew 11:25 which show that there are things that The Father has hidden from us.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12 which talks about knowing only in part.
- Romans 3:23 which talks about how we have all erred (sinned) and therefore we are flawed.
To establish agnosis as an axiom, a more rigerouse foundation is needed, I feel.
- Proverbs 3:5-6 says to trust in the Lord and not to ever depend on our own understanding.
- Proverbs 21:30 says that no knowledge or understand can prevail against the Lord.
- Jeremiah 9:23-24 says that the wise should not boast in their own wisdom but in knowing and following the Lord. The prophet goes on to talk about God’s anger against those who are “circumcised yet uncircumcised” – that is show outwardly the signs but their heart is not true to this.
- Ecclesiastes talks of the futility of things. It starts by saying all is vanity. Ecclesiastes 1:18 says that increasing wisdom only increases sorrow.
- Ecclesiastes 9:11 speaks of time and chance overcoming the wise, fast, and strong.
- Isaiah 47:10 talks of a wisdom that misleads you.
Despite all this, scripture talks at length about how profitable it is to seek wisdom and understanding. That wisdom can guard you.
What then, can we conclude from this other than to conclude that wisdom and knowledge are good but they are not without their limits?
Therefore, it seems to me that scripture supports agnosis.
A Logical Foundation for Agnosis
Study of scripture suggests that only God alone knows everything. This is confirmed by the fact that we discover new things daily. Our own experience confirms that there are things we do not know – which is why we go to school, watch the news, and exchange gossip.
As we learn and grow, we discover that some things we thought were true are perhaps false, or at the very least different to how we understood them to be.
Therefore, it is logical to assume that we are finite in our understanding. We are limited in what we know.
If then we are limited in our knowledge, we must, therefore, also be quite likely to be wrong about something. If there is at least something we are wrong about we could be wrong about anything.
In short, we do not know everything. We hold has a proverb such saying as “I am only human,” and “to err is human.”
Therefore regardless of our best reading of scripture, we may nevertheless be mistaken in our interpretation of it.
Therefore, it seems to me that reason supports agnosis.
Conclusions from Agnosis
If we hold agnosis to be axiomatic, there are conclusions that we can draw from it.
- For sound doctrine, it is critical to regularly re-evaluate our own doctrines and search out errors within it. As errors, faults, and flaws will surely be found.
- When others teach us, it would be the wildest folly to take a teaching at face value without examining it first to see if it holds up to closer scrutiny.
- As we expect to be wrong about something we must be both open to change and correction. This involves both humility and repentance as needed. Both of which are consistant with a rightiouse life.
The natural conclusions of agnosis point towards a life consistent with the teachings of Jesus and scriptural directives towards righteousness. Therefore, it seems to me that fruit of agnosis confirms agnosis.
Arguments against agnosis
A weak case could be made that perfect divine revelation exists and those in receipt of it will be without error. However, until such time as such a person is shown to me and their perfect understanding is demonstrated I have no evidence that this has ever been the case. Indeed, the Bible makes the case that Jesus alone was potentially perfect.
There have been teachers that have claimed such devine authority but in all cases that I know of, they abused and manipulated people with such claims. In time, each of them were shown to be fakes. It would be unwise to trust such claims without rigorous testing and examination.
Nevertheless, even if such a person might exist, I lack that perfection and so agnosis applies to me. As such I conclude that all I can do is closely examine all claims in the assumption of fault but in the hope of truth.
I cannot think of any other arguments against agnosis.
I see very little evidence against agnosis as an axiom and plenty of both logical and scriptural evidence for it.
Therefore, I am happy to accept Agnosis as a first level axiom (one established only from axiom zero).
I invite comments. Do you agree with my conclusions? Is agnosis axiomatic? Can you make a stronger case against agnosis?