What is Knowledge in the Context of Faith?
by Mike Clark © 2020
There seems to be three concepts in the matter of religious faith. One of them, of course, is faith itself. The other two are belief and knowledge.
The distinctions between them can be discussed and argued over, and here is how I distinguish them:
- "Belief" is a hope based on desire
- "Faith" is what belief becomes when it has been tested and found true
- "Knowledge" is deep conviction based on experience of faith
In my religious community, we are wont to bear testimony of what we believe in. In plain vanilla language, I might speak of the strength of my belief in God using the sentence "I know that God lives." Okay, but what do I mean by know? I know that I like chocolate cake, because I have tasted chocolate cake and found it pleasing. I can drink some water and say "I know this is water." These are all very succinct expressions of experience. But when I say "I know that God lives," an observer might comment by asking "Have you met him?" To which the answer must in my case, at least, be "No." So then, my observer would have to ask "Then how can you know that he lives?"
That is a good question.
It is much the way I know that the sun is shining in the sky, even if there is a heavy overcast and the disc of the sun is completely hidden by clouds. I can't see the sun, but I can say very truthfully that the sun is in the sky. I know that God lives because I have felt his influence on my life. Obviously, I have never seen Him, but I don't need to actually see Him, to believe that He is there.
Imagine if you will, a world where there is always cloud, but where there is a daily onset and then decline of light. I don't know what causes it, but it happens every day. Let's say that one of my fellows is quite curious, and as we have noticed there is a place where the clouds apparently meet the ground, he decides to journey to there to see what this means. He arrives after many days of traveling through perilous lands, and sees that the land goes up. He ascends the upward tilting land, and as he rises over, he enters the clouds. This is frightening, but he perseveres upwards. The land grows ever steeper, and it becomes almost too steep to climb further. Yet still he perseveres, and eventually he gets high enough that he has gone higher than the clouds. And there he sees it! An extremely bright circle of light! He notices that the circle moves across the sky in a steady line. Eventually, it nears the edge of the horizon and is masked by the clouds. It takes its light with it, and all become dark. The curious man would like to go back down, because it is getting cold, but he is afraid to -- he might miss his footing in the dark and fall to his death. So he waits. Finally, after many hours and much coldness, light grows on the opposite side from where the bright circle had gone, and eventually the bright circle reappears. Gratefully, the man climbs back down the slope, and after many days he has returned to his people.
When the man reports to his people what he has seen, how many will believe him? How many will say he is a deceiver? How many will say he is insane? How many will simply not care?
I have climbed that mountain, and I have experienced the love of God, and felt His influence. I've spoken with others about this, and some have believed me, without climbing the mountain themselves, while other have told me that I was hallucinating, while still others have rolled their eyes and said "Whatever!" However, some others have climbed that mountain themselves, and know whereof I have spoken. They might have a different opinion as to what that bright circle is, or what it represents, but we're in agreement over the essentials, at least.
So I say that I know that God lives, and that Jesus Christ is His Son. I have also found that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God and Christ's true church upon the earth, and I invite all to investigate whether my testimony is true.