CrossReads Weekly Devotional: What We Can Know 8/2/2021

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by Precarious Yates

This summer, I took my fifth actual and first accredited philosophy course. Philosophy deals with epistemology and what can be known. We were asked at the beginning of the course not to employ the Bible in our arguments. I treated the class more as a history lesson in who thought what when, and I was not very far off. BUT, the philosophers in the seventeenth century kept alluding to the Bible. One of the main books I saw referenced was Ecclesiastes. It seemed to be a favorite in 17th century England. The book starts out with VANITY OF VANITIES! Everything is vanity!” (The Hebrew for “vanity” is “habel”, which is the same word as the Hebrew name for Able, the son of Adam killed by his brother, Cain.) Seventeenth century England was filled with civil war, political turmoil (Oliver Cromwell & company), a resurgence of the bubonic plague, and fire. Lots of vanity. Life seemed hopeless to quite a few people. 

Meanwhile, philosophers debated what can be known and how can we know things. One passage that heavily influenced these philosophers (Berkeley, Locke, etc.) was:

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25,

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”

George Berkeley concluded that we only know anything at all because God causes us to know any of it — on a second by second basis! What an incredible thought! Whether it is God causing synapses to fire in our brain at every moment or whether He created our senses to respond in certain ways, I cannot say for sure. But what I can say for sure is that all of life is not vanity.

The book of Ecclesiastes, in most biblical canons, is immediately followed by The Song of Solomon. Vanity of vanities is silenced by the Song of Songs. Another 17th century thinker who does not show up in philosophy books is Madame Jeanne Guyon. She proposed (and she wasn’t the first) that this Song of Songs is a love song between God and His believers. She wrote a beautiful little book (while she was in prison) called The Excellencies of Jesus Christ. Within this book, she says that the highest pleasure known to humans is communing with God. After spending a summer studying epistemology, I can say that I still don’t know much. But I do know this:

Psalm 56:9

        This I know, that God is for me.

And I can:

know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 

Philippians 3:10-11

I may not know much, and I may not even know how I know anything at all (how do synapses work, anyway?), but I know that there is no joy higher than fellowship with God and true fellowship with others through Him. That can be mine. That can be yours. In comfort, in prison, on our bed, or in the throes of persecution, that joy of knowing Him can be ours. Right now. Reach out to our Father today through Jesus! Behold, He stands at the door and knocks…

God bless you!

Precarious Yates

About the Author:

Precarious YatesPrecarious Yates has lived in 8 different states of the Union and 3 different countries, but currently lives in Texas with her husband, her daughter and their big dogs. When she’s not writing, she enjoys music, teaching, playing on jungle gyms, praying and reading. She holds a Masters in the art of making tea and coffee and a PhD in Slinky® disentangling.

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