Shelby G. Floyd
Jesus Christ said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Many philosophers and wise man agree with what Jesus said. “The truth is always the strongest argument,” wrote Sophocles. Daniel Defoe penned, “He that has truth on his side is a fool if he is afraid to own it because of other men’s opinions.” “Keep one thing forever in view—the truth, and if you do that, though it may seem to lead you away from the opinions of man, it will assuredly conduct you to the throne of God,” affirmed Horace Mann. An unknown author gave us these wonderful words: “An honest man alters his opinion to fit the truth. A prejudiced man alters the truth to fit his opinion.”
CAN MAN KNOW THE TRUTH?
Can man know the truth? Can man know any truth? That is the question we must answer. I have a very simple proposition for you to consider. And that proposition my friends is this: “you can know the truth.” Everyone can know the truth; all can know the truth. That is the proposition I will seek to uphold and prove with credible evidence.
What is Truth?
What is truth? A philosopher wrote, “A statement is true if what it says to be the case is the case. And it is false if what it says to be the case is not the case.” That is a very simple definition of truth. And it is adequate for what we now present as truth. Truth is a statement that is true if what it says to be the case is actually the case. Truth is a faithful report of what is, has been, or shall be.
Some Preliminary Matters
Before we consider the question, “Can man know the truth,” there are preliminary matters we must settle. The problem that men have always faced is, “can we know the truth?” Is it the case that we can know the truth? The Greek word [ginosko] means, “I know.” And the Greek word [aginosko] means, “I do not know.” A theist is one who says, “I believe and therefore I know that God does exist.” And atheist is one that says, “I know that God does not exist.” An agnostic is one that says, “I don’t know whether God exists or not.”
It is sad that many people in the church, will not talk with their neighbors and friends about the existence of God, the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the verbal inspiration of the Bible, because they take the position of the agnostic. Their reasoning goes like this: “Well their opinion is just as good as my opinion. And since I cannot know absolutely that God is, or that Christ is the Son of God, or that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoritative word of God, then why should I talk with somebody and take that position that I do know?”
That is a false idea. We can know that God exists. We can know the truth that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God. We can know that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and authoritative word of God.
WHAT DOES “I KNOW” MEAN?
What do we mean when we say, “I know?” Can one know anything? Can one know everything? Is it possible for one to come to the knowledge of what knowing means? After all, if we cannot know anything, can I even come to the knowledge of knowing what knowing means? Yes, we can know the truth of what it means to know something. Would it be possible for one to know that it is impossible to know? Some say that one cannot know anything! And yet they seem to know that one thing, that they cannot know anything! They know one thing. What is the one thing they know? The one thing they know—is that it is impossible to know anything. But if it is possible to know that you cannot know anything, then it just might be possible to know that you can know some more things. I will be the first to admit that man cannot know everything. I insist I do not know everything. And I think most of you would agree that you do not know everything. I do not know everything about God, but because I cannot know everything about God’s existence, does it follow logically and rationally and intellectually, that I cannot know that God does exist. No, that does not follow.
We Know by Experience
When we start to talk about the realm of knowledge, we enter into the field that we call epistemology. Epistemology is that branch of philosophy that deals with knowledge. Human beings come to have knowledge, basically and fundamentally in two ways. We know certain things today by experience. That knowledge which comes to us by experience comes through our sense perception—the five senses of man. And this is what we categorize as science. A lot of the things we know today are scientific by nature—they came by our sense perception and our experience. Man knows many things in that way.
We Know by Contemplation
In the second place, man also knows things through contemplation. We contemplate or reflect in our minds through observation, through perception, and through precise reasoning. And that is what we call the branch of learning known as philosophy. So philosophy deals with knowledge that comes by contemplation. Science deals with knowledge that comes by experience.
If we contemplate about the universe, that is what we call metaphysics. If we contemplate about human conduct, that is what we call ethics or morality. If we contemplate about the beauty of our world, that is what we call aesthetics. And if we contemplate about correct reasoning, that is what we call logic—both inductive and deductive logic and reasoning.
Is there evidence that we can know something—either through sense perception, and therefore experience, or is there evidence also that we can know something by contemplation, reflection, perception, and reasoning? I believe there is such evidence. The empirical philosophers insist that we can only know something by means of our five senses. If you cannot hear it, see it, smell it, taste it, or touch it, they say you cannot know anything! That is what the empirical philosophers teach and affirm.
The existential philosophers say and insist that there is really no way that we can know anything for sure or absolutely. They say that the best we can do is to come to an accommodative knowledge of truth, or a high degree of probability of truth. But to know something for sure and absolutely, the existential philosopher says that we cannot know anything. But they are in a self-defeating and a self-contradictory position, for they seem to know that one thing for sure and absolutely and that is that you cannot know anything for sure or absolutely. But the divine philosophers that gave us divine revelation insist that we can know things by our physical, mental and moral senses. They also teach that we can know the truth through contemplation based on adequate evidence.
Copyright © 1993, 2010, 2023 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
This is a portion of a sermon presented by Shelby G. Floyd, November 21, 1993, at the South Central Church of Christ, 265 East Southport Road, Indianapolis, Indiana.