Sunday, July 21, 2002


The 'mappers have gotten back into discussing epistemology again. This has been prompted by an atheist interested in irenic debate who recently joined the faithmappers discussion group. We've also been moved in this direction by a graduate student working through some epistemological issues who - fortunately for us - segued himself out of lurker mode. These gentlemen have led us to rejoin our erstwhile discussion about what it means to know God. While I realize it's easy to get bogged down into mind-numbing distinctions when discussing what I'm sure to some appears to be just so much philosophical esoterica and sophistry, I nevertheless believe that it's an important conversation. We've been able to see some in our group who through our exploration into this field have come to the point where they feel like they are able to breathe for the first time as they break out of a stultifying, two-dimensional, anthropocentric, time-bound, Cartesian, modern truncated epistemology into a more holistic perspective.

I thought about getting into this yesterday in the note I posted on incarnating truth. I really do see that discussion on the necessity of a right-brained approach to spiritual formation as of a piece with a more holistic approach to knowing God. And a more robust epistemology has definite implications for evangelism. But I thought it would make that post too busy and waited until today.

This morning at Grace's Sunday AM service the speaker showed one of my favorite clips from Zemeckis' 1997 movie Contact. Dr. Arroway (played by Jodie Foster) is at a Washington, DC party with former priest turned spiritual celeb Palmer Joss (played by Matthew McConaughey). Together, they step out onto the balcony with the Washington monument rising in the background against the evening sky. Arroway asks Joss,

"So what's more likely? That a mysterious, all-powerful God created the universe, and then decided not to leave a single evidence of his existence? Or that He simply doesn't exist at all, and that we created Him, so that we wouldn't have to feel so small and lonely?"

Joss responds with a question, "Did you love your father?"

Arroway (taken aback - her dad died when she was nine): Yes....very much.

Joss: Prove it.

And then Arroway is saved by her ringing cell phone.

The point being, of course, is that some of the most compelling facts of our lives are not subject to independent, empirical verification.

Similarly, the 'mappers have been discussing how a complete understanding of our knowledge of God cannot be arbitrarily separated from our experience of Him. The discussion of knowing God simply cannot be fully discussed apart from this relational reality. It's a critical part of the equation.

Our discussion also reminded me of an email discussion I had with Brian McLaren on this topic in May and June of 2001. I reposted that discussion here.