Agnostics Among Us and Within Us
guest post by by Dr. Everett Piper*
Note to reader: The following is an exchange I recently had with an agnostic friend. It represents a simple and honest question: How can truly “know” anything without being able to prove it empirically through the five senses?
Second note (and most important): You do realize that most preachers and writers are preaching and writing to themselves as much as they are to their audience don’t you? More often than not, our most passionate appeals prove that we are “physicians” trying to “heal ourselves…”
Question: “Isn’t agnosticism frankly the most honest position? We really all know that we can’t know God. He may be out there but none of us really knows anything about anything other than our own unique experiences and personal realities.”
Response: On the question of agnosticism, I personally think what we are dealing with here is pride—pure and simple. When we boil it all down, the agnostic says, “I am the end of all that can be known. I am wiser than those who are so intellectually naïve as to believe in something they can’t prove.”
Now remember that God laughs at the wisdom of man. Our wisdom is no better than his foolishness. “We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know…but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.” (1 Corinthians 8: THE MESSAGE)
C.S. Lewis scolded the agnostic (remember that he was one for the better part of his life) in The Great Divorce by saying: “Our opinions were not honestly come by. We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful… You know, we just started automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won applause. When, in our whole lives, did we honestly face, in solitude, the one question on which all turned: whether after all the Supernatural might not in fact occur? When did we put up one moment’s real resistance to the loss of our faith?”
He then goes on: “You know that you and I were playing with loaded dice. We didn’t want the other to be true. We were afraid of crude Salvationism, afraid of a breach with the spirit of the age, afraid of ridicule, afraid (above all) of real spiritual fears and hopes.”
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Finally he says: “Having allowed [ourselves] to drift, unresisting, unpraying, accepting every half-conscious solicitation from our desires, we reached a point where we no longer believed the Faith. Just in the same way, a jealous man, drifting and unresisting, reaches a point at which he believes lies about his best friend.”
Lewis concludes: “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again…You have gone far wrong. Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth.”
George MacDonald tells us in the Curate’s Awakening that, “to know Christ is to do His will. And doing so, we will finally come to know Him.” If we want to learn of faith and refute the agnostic within us (and I believe there is one in many, if not all, of us) then we must simply and humbly look to the story of Christ and start by practicing what Jesus says to do. Then, as the Curate says, “In our attempt to obey the words recorded as His, we will see grandeur beyond the realm of any human invention” and we can boldly “cast our lot with those of the Crucified.”
Charles Krauthammer (one of my favorite authors) once said, “I don’t believe in God, but I fear him greatly…” Could it be that if he (and all the rest of us by inference) would just move a step or two beyond his confident intellectual speculations and try a little bit of humble practical obedience that he (we) would find that “casting our lot with those of the Crucified” makes all the sense in the world!
“We know nothing of religion here: we think only of Christ. We know nothing of speculation. Come and see. I will bring you to the Eternal Fact, the Father of all other facthood.” C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
“Lord, I believe. Help thou my unbelief!” Roman Centurion, responding to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark
*Dr. Piper is the President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Associated with Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint and Centurions programs, Dr. Piper is the author of “Why I am a ‘Liberal’ and Other Conservative Ideas” http://www.whyiamaliberal.com/. He has also authored “The Wrong Side of the Door: Why Ideas Matter. Piper is a frequent speaker on Christian education, Biblical worldview, and applied apologetics in both regional and national venues. For more information go to www.okwu.edu or go to www.everettpiper.com .