Consequences of Finite Knowledge

[ 3 minutes to read ]

As children, mathematics is one area where we begin to grapple with the concept of infinity. Negative numbers add a completely new dimension to our world and we realize that numbers go on without end in all directions. It is amazing what little minds can do with that.

I had already been introduced to the infinite before I ever encountered it in academic textbooks. I was taught from birth about the eternal God—He Who has no beginning and no end. Isaiah said that God inhabits, or dwells in, eternity (Isaiah 57:15). I cannot say that I am any closer to comprehending this today than I was in my youth, but this is what is revealed to us by God in His Word.

Being infinite, God has all knowledge. So, there is no new knowledge possible for God. He knows everything about everything. It is not as though there is some scenario that He has not pondered. It is not as though He could find out something that would change His mind. Well did the Apostle ask, “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counseller?” (Romans 11:34). I recall hearing preachers ask, “Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” While perhaps trite, that statement is nonetheless true.

Man, on the other hand, is a finite being. His knowledge is measured and limited. For this reason, he has the capacity to learn and grow. Obviously, the finite can never fully grasp the infinite. Let us ponder for a moment some of the consequences of finite knowledge.

Finiteness means that no man knows everything. We could further clarify that no man knows everything about anything. Not even in one subject can any man claim full knowledge (not truthfully anyway). One consequence of this is that there are different levels of knowledge—one man may know more than another in a particular area. One may know next to nothing in a discipline and another possess a large body of knowledge in that field.

Another consequence is that our minds are not closed, so to speak. We do not know everything about anything and new information is possible. New information can expand our understanding and even change our opinion. I am using ‘new’ as a relative term. There is ultimately no new knowledge to the infinite God, but there may be new knowledge to us.

Another consequence is that we must trust God. Some have supposed that we should test the various religions, experiment with the diverse ways, and choose the best for us. This is an impossible task given the multiplicity of religions and ways. We could only ever gain a limited knowledge of a limited number of religions and we could never actually be certain that we have found the best one. However, God reveals to us not only the best way, but the only way (John 14:6). We must believe and follow the bare Word of God. This is demonstrated in the life of Abraham. When God called Abram out of Ur, He told him to go to a land that would be shown to him. Abram obeyed and went, not knowing where he was going. He trusted and acted upon the bare Word of God without personally possessing all knowledge and that is faith (Hebrews 11:8).

Finally, finiteness for the Christian means humility. Let us not equate humility with vacillating. There is a great difference between saying no one knows everything and saying that no one can know anything. The all-knowing God speaks the Word of Truth and we can have complete confidence in what He has spoken. Humility keeps a proper perspective of our humanity and humility sits at the feet of a teacher to be instructed. Humility knows it is wisdom to know that we do not know as much as knowing what we do know.

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