In Inside Baseball we presented what really amounted to a criticism of Christian practice, in adding an elevated kind of “knowing” to the project of ascertaining truth about ultimate reality. That practice, we suggested, has seeped out into the culture at large in a way that now causes people to become alienated from the truth, when they don’t feel they’ve achieved that special kind of knowing. It’s what makes many self-described “agnostics.”
One can search and explore and reason and settle upon agnosticism after investigating the competing claims to truth about ultimate reality, but that doesn’t salvage agnosticism from being correctly described as “frozen indecision.” If one concludes his investigation in a position of agnosticism, then he’s necessarily adopting a position of neutrality. But there is no position of neutrality on the question of ultimate reality.
Understand, we’re not talking neutrality as being among the possibilities for thinking about reality. We’re not talking about neutrality as being among the possible claims one can make about reality. The question is not what the agnostic (or anyone) thinks about reality. We’re talking about reality itself, and as to that objective reality, there are two and only two possibilities. Either we live in a mechanical universe of matter in motion; or there is that material reality plus more. Only two options.
Agnosticism attempts neutrality because it adopts neither of those two possibilities. Even if an agnostic says that this question about ultimate reality is unknowable, rather than merely unknown, he is still by definition not committing either to there being a supernatural component to reality, or to there not being such. So he necessarily positions himself as neutral as to the reality options. He may have what he feels are good reasons to do so. But he’s subjectively neutral. That’s just what it means to be agnostic.
What does it mean to adopt subjective neutrality on a matter for which there is no objective neutrality? It just means indecision. But what all too often happens is that someone in the position of “not knowing” comes to think of that point of view as being a substantive belief about reality itself. That leads to continuing in that position of indecision — being frozen in it.
How to “Know”
We have to consider what it means to say we “know” something. What we referred to in Inside Baseball was a gnostic-type knowing that is an interior, experiential knowing, equivalent to knowledge of one’s own existence.
Contrast that with simply being persuaded to the truth of a proposition based on the strength of the evidence and the reasoning applied to that evidence.
Agnostics are frozen in indecision because they adopt neither of the only two possibilities that exist, and often they do so because they believe that this gnostic-type knowing is required for anyone to be able to adopt one of the two positions.
Within a proper understanding of what it means to “know” something, we can know that there is supernatural reality. Evidence for it is overwhelming, for those with eyes to see. Only by requiring, in addition to all that evidence, a kind of absolute sure-as-I-breathe kind of knowing, can one get to the point of asserting that the truth is “unknowable.”
The proper way of “knowing” is accessible to all of us without even opening the Bible. That’s why, from a philosophical standpoint, the Christian faith is not based solely on the Bible.
It also explains how it is possible even from a materialist understanding how someone might be totally isolated from the Bible and yet come to find it and accept Christianity as true. In the course of making sense of reality, one would first reason that there has to be a God, and then that He cares about us, and that people are manifestly sinful and “not-God;” but that there is something significant about people that makes us realize a special connection to that God. And those things would cause the seeker of truth, if he is persistent, to seek out revelation of God to us (like a bible of some sort, if not yet The Bible), and they would seek, in that revelation, an indication of some means by which God redeems us to himself, because of that connection. This seeking would get him to the Bible, and–again, if he is persistent in his truth-seeking–he would see it for the revelation of God that it is.