A Look at Agnosticism
By Ron Kempen, Gospel Light Ministries
This month I thought it might be beneficial to check out those that claim to be agnostic in their beliefs. Until recently, I thought the terms “agnostic” and “atheist” were interchangeable, but there is a difference, and claiming to be one does not necessarily mean you are also the other. An atheist is someone who explicitly affirms there is no God. My nephew, on the other hand, claims to be agnostic, and his definition of agnosticism is that it is the view “that the truth value of certain claims - especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims - is unknown or unknowable.”
He said to me recently, “How can you prove or disprove the existence of any deity, in this case God, or any of the things he and his disciples did in the Bible?” He finalized his viewpoint by saying, “We are physically here. I can touch us. Where is God? I can’t talk to him and get a response. I can’t touch him, and as far as evolution or the big-bang theory goes, we really don’t have much proof on that either. It’s all theories and until I see proof I’m neutral.” My response wasn’t very convincing as I shot back, “Look at your big-bang theory - first there was nothing and then it blew up? Try looking at a garbage dump, then send a tornado through it, and you will still never see a city come out of it, right?” I added, “Look at all the prophetic things in Scripture - how could anyone get together to make that stuff up?” He responded with a simple, “But can you physically prove it?” I then said that I’d like a crack at answering those questions, to which he replied, “Physically???” My logic was to answer with, “We’re here physically, right?” But my nephew, having thought this out before, said, “That only proves we are here now. No, that does not prove that one day God got up and started poofing things into existence, but it also does not disprove it either. I’m still neutral.” So I then switched gears by stating, “Ever notice that the ‘world’ is never consistent in determining how old the world is? One group says 30 billion years old; another says 100 billion years old; and where is the missing evidence that proves evolution? You’ll never see that because it isn’t there.” My nephew was ready for this, too, as he pointed out, “Exactly! We can’t PROVE ANY OF IT AT ALL!” I finished this discussion with the following statement: “How old does the Bible say we are? We have the genealogies from Adam and Eve to Jesus. Then add on the last 2,000 years and we find out that we’re only about 6,000 years old! Yep. Don’t be surprised. I know what it says.” I then added a couple more points for him to think about like, “Do you know that before the flood it never rained?” “Do you know that the oldest human lived 936 years?” However, I never got a response from him on either of these points. Sometime later, when I once again connected with him online, I asked him if he ever looked at the Bible that I had given to him for a wedding gift, but he simply stated that he did not want to talk about things like heaven and God. To this I told him that I would be around whenever he wanted to answer the questions I had posed to him, and he simply said, “I just don’t like being forced to do something I don’t agree with.”
Reflecting back on this conversation, I thought of how in Scripture, Jesus told us in Matthew 12:30, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” Verse 37 of the same chapter says, “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” I wonder if that’s what my nephew will hear when God rejects him because he rejected God. That’s my motivation for writing an article about agnosticism.
The word “agnostic” is derived from the Greek word “gnosis” which means spiritual knowledge, with the “a” in front of the word meaning the negation of spiritual knowledge. An agnostic, then (as defined by Dictionary.com), is “a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.” In other words, an agnostic is a person who believes that we cannot know or do not know whether or not there is a God. Sounds exactly like what my nephew told me, doesn’t it? In an online article about agnosticism, it says, “An agnostic is often thought of as not committing to any beliefs. However, an agnostic can have faith in a god and still maintain that we cannot know whether or not said god exists. These people then would be termed agnostic theists. There are also those who believe that we cannot know if god exists and believe that he does not exist. These people would be termed agnostic atheists. Agnostic views can also be termed as strong or weak. Strong agnostics believe that due to our nature we are unable to know the answers to spiritual questions of god’s existence. Weak agnostics, on the other hand, believe that we do not currently know whether god exists but that it is possible we may know in the future.” I have even heard of Christian agnostics who claim that there is a difference between believing something and knowing something. To all of these statements, I’d like to point out the facts - not just speculations - as to what the Bible clearly states.
First John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” John writes that we can know, believe, and have eternal life. Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” John 3:36 has this to say: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” In Luke 24 Jesus talked with the two that were on their way to Emmaus, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” John 1:1 starts with, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.” Paul told us in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” Jesus also told us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
To summarize, let’s compare this last paragraph of what the Bible says with what was stated and shared in dialogue in the earlier part of this article. Despite all of the agnostic claims that one cannot know if there is a god, I’ve shown that Scripture, the Bible itself, verifies the fact that one can KNOW that there is a God. However, to those who don’t have ears to hear or just plain don’t care enough to dig into God’s written word for the needed proof, then they will not find the God who exists because they have no desire to do so. One only has to wonder, as it says in Matthew 16:26, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” About all we can do for these types of people is pray for them to hear and wait for them to eventually accept the gift that Jesus offers everyone. We don’t have to answer anything more or do anything else, for we know that Jesus wishes for all to be saved. But in His love for man, He also allows people free will. Unfortunately, everyone has only one lifetime to decide whether or not to follow the Lord. For then, as Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” It should be critically important to all of us to determine if God really exists, because that determination will affect us beyond the grave.