Monday, August 15, 2016

From Belief To Knowledge

In my last post, I talked about how I've always believed in God, but that God only became real to me when I found out that I have cancer. "It took cancer to turn belief into knowledge for me" was the way I put it. But a comment from Michael Goertz forced me to examine this. He simply asked how I got from belief to knowledge. That's a question that many books have been written about. I am not as smart as the authors of those books, but I'll give it a try.

I thought I had answered the question in the post, with the above statement. But I suppose more explanation is in order. I'm going to try hard to keep this from being an esoteric philosophy treatise. Or a theology paper. I've been praying about how to explain this in a way that would make sense no matter what you believe.

The classic definition of knowledge in philosophy comes from Plato. He said that knowledge is "justified belief." I take that to mean that if you believe something, there has to be some justification for your belief to turn it into knowledge.

I believe that, the next time I get into my car, it will start. That belief isn't based on nothing. It's based on the fact that it's started every time I've turned the key in the ignition. I base my belief on personal experience. That makes it justified belief. That doesn't mean that my belief is necessarily true, though. The next time, it might not start. So, while I'm confident that my car will start the next time I need it, I can't say that I know that for sure.

Here's a better example. How do I know that my wife loves me? I know because I know her. I know because I've lived with her for the past 39 years.  I know because she had dinner waiting for me when I got home late last night from an all-day recording session. And I know for a million other reasons. Again, I know that she loves me because I know her.

The theme of this blog, from the very beginning, has been this topic. Not just my cancer, but how God has used it to get through to me and change me. Hence the title, God's 2 By 4. Cancer was the 2 by 4 that God used to whack me upside the head in order to get my attention. I don't think God gave me cancer, but he used it to bring me closer to him.

Don't get me wrong. I haven't heard God speak to me audibly. As I said in an earlier post, I used to want God to do that. But in every example of that I've seen in the Bible, when God speaks audibly to someone, it's not usually a fun experience for the listener. I'm no prophet. I have no evidence that I could use to prove God's existence in a court of law. What I have is my own personal experience.

I'm a believer, and I'm also a science guy. I want proof. I want evidence. While I have nothing to show you to prove God's existence, I do have some justification for my belief, to meet Plato's standard.

While I've tried to live as a Christian for most of my life, I admit that I haven't worked very hard to know God. I loved God, but I wasn't in love with him. There were times in my life that I felt very close to God, and other times when he seemed very far away. And yes, there have been many times in my life when I've questioned his existence. But not now. Now, the reality of God seems all too obvious to me. All I needed was some challenge in my life, to quote a friend.

That challenge came in the form of cancer. Not the kind that can be taken care of with an operation, but the kind that will almost certainly shorten my life drastically from what I was expecting. When some people get a diagnosis like that, they get angry at God, or become convinced that he must not exist, or else this wouldn't have happened to them.

But I didn't react that way. And as I keep saying, I can't take any credit for how I reacted. Control was simply ripped from my hands, and I had to rely on something more than myself. That's when God came flooding in.

I've experienced God's presence before, but not like this, and not this effortlessly. I can feel God's presence all the time now. Not just when I'm praying or worshiping, or in church. It's constant. If I let myself focus on him for too long, I lose control of my emotions. He's all too real.

What's more, because he's been so real to me for the last year, I am finally getting to know him. I know that this sounds weak to a skeptic, but I know God is real because I can feel him with me all the time.

I realize that this is what some refer to as "appealing to the burning in the bosom." I know that, logically, just because we feel like something's true, that doesn't necessarily prove that it is. People are persuaded to believe all kinds of things. Our minds and emotions are very powerful. So you may choose to dismiss my experience as wishful thinking or delusion. I can't prove you wrong. I only know my own experience.

I can't prove to you that my wife loves me, either. But I know that she does because I know her. And I know that God is real the same way. I know he is real because he's made himself real to me in ways that I can't explain. I know he loves me because I've gotten to know him over the last year. He's made his love plain to me in much the same way that my wife has. She's been there for me. So has God. So have many people, by the way. The reality of love gets proven to me every day, in many ways. How can I not know this, after a whole year of it? My experience of the past year, in my mind, constitutes justified belief, which, according to Plato, equals knowledge.

I don't know if I've explained this very well or convinced anyone. It wasn't my purpose to prove God's existence to you. Only he can do that. I hope that it doesn't take a cancer diagnosis for you to gain that knowledge. But that's what it took for me. And because of the way that his love for me, and yours, has been proven to me in my own heart and life these past twelve months, I am confident that God is real, and that he loves me. I know. That's how I got from belief to knowledge. #waroncancer

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