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Knowledge

Faith and hope go togeth­er with knowl­edge. They are built on knowl­edge and lead to knowl­edge. For what is “not seen” is believed and hoped on the basis of what is seen. And the under­stand­ing of what is seen depends on belief and hope in what is not seen. One’s belief and hope in the abil­i­ty to know, to trust his sens­es, his mind and the rev­e­la­tion of his God, are the foun­da­tions of all knowl­edge.

Man was cre­at­ed to know God; not only to believe in Him and to hope in Him, but to know Him and so to love Him and to serve Him. Knowl­edge of God is the aim and goal of man’s life, the pur­pose of his cre­ation by God.

And this is eter­nal life, that they know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.

0 Right­eous Father, the world has not known Thee; and these know that Thou hast sent me. I made known to them Thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which Thou has loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17.3, 25–26)

Faith, giv­en as a gift by God, results in the knowl­edge of God. The Lord desires that man would “know the truth,” and so become free from all blind­ness, igno­rance and sin. (John 8:32) This is the cen­tral teach­ing of the Lord Jesus Christ, of the law and the prophets of the Old Tes­ta­ment and of the apos­tles and teach­ers of the Church.

That men might know wis­dom and instruc­tion, under­stand words of insight, receive instruc­tion in wise deal­ing, right­eous­ness, jus­tice and equi­ty, that pru­dence may be giv­en to the sim­ple, knowl­edge and dis­cre­tion to the youth… The fear of the Lord is the begin­ning of knowl­edge; fools despise wis­dom and instruc­tion. (Proverbs 1:1–7)

In all of his let­ters, the Apos­tle Paul prays that the faith­ful would “be filled with the knowl­edge of Christ’s will in all spir­i­tu­al wis­dom and under­stand­ing, to lead a life wor­thy of the Lord, ful­ly pleas­ing to Him, bear­ing fruit in every good work and increas­ing in the knowl­edge of God” since “God our Sav­ior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowl­edge of the truth.” (Colos­sians 1:8–9, 1 Tim­o­thy 2:4)

In all of his writ­ings, the apos­tle insists as well that the faith­ful have “all the rich­es of knowl­edge of God’s mys­tery of Christ in whom are hid all the trea­sures of wis­dom and knowl­edge,” and that the “spir­i­tu­al man” has “the mind of the Lord… the mind of Christ.” (Colos­sians 2:2–3; 1 Corinthi­ans 2:6–16)

The Apos­tle John gives the same doc­trine as Saint Paul when he claims that the “Spir­it of Truth” whom Christ has giv­en in order to “teach you all things” and to “guide you into all the truth” (John 14:26, 16:13), is tru­ly liv­ing in the midst of the believ­ers.

… you have been anoint­ed by the Holy One and you know all things. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and know that no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?

I write this to you about those who would deceive you; but the anoint­ing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you; as His anoint­ing teach­es you about every­thing, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in Him. (I John 2: 20–29)

This teach­ing of Saint John is in ful­fill­ment of the prophe­cy of Isa­iah, quot­ed direct­ly by Jesus Him­self, that in the Mes­sian­ic Age of the new covenant church, “…they shall all be taught by God.” (John 6:45; Isa­iah 54:13)

In the spir­i­tu­al tra­di­tion of the Church, the knowl­edge of God and His truth is the main goal of life. “For what mean­ing would there be for cre­ation,” asks Saint Athana­sius the Great (4th c.), “if man should not know God?” (On the Incar­na­tion, Book 1) Knowl­edge of God, indeed knowl­edge itself, accord­ing to the scrip­tures and the saints, is not mere “knowl­edge about,” the abstract knowl­edge of infor­ma­tion and ratio­nal propo­si­tions, devoid of liv­ing expe­ri­ence. Knowl­edge is pri­mar­i­ly and essen­tial­ly an exis­ten­tial union, a cleav­ing togeth­er of the spir­i­tu­al man and the object of his knowl­edge. Saint Gre­go­ry of Nys­sa (4th c.) has said, “The Lord does not say that it is blessed to know some­thing about God, but rather to pos­sess God in one­self.” (On the Beat­i­tudes, Ser­mon 6) The pos­ses­sion of God with­in the mind and heart is the true knowl­edge of God. It comes through faith and repen­tance in the life of the Church It comes essen­tial­ly through the gra­cious purifi­ca­tion from all sin­ful pas­sions. Saint John of the Lad­der (6th c.) has writ­ten:

The growth of fear is the begin­ning of love, but a com­plete state of puri­ty is the foun­da­tion of all divine knowl­edge.

He who has per­fect­ly unit­ed his feel­ings to God is mys­ti­cal­ly led by Him to an under­stand­ing of His words. But with­out union one can­not speak about God.

The engraft­ed Word (James 1:21) per­fects puri­ty …and the dis­ci­ple of divine knowl­edge is illu­mined. (…) but he who has not come to know God mere­ly spec­u­lates.

Puri­ty makes a the­olo­gian (i.e. one who knows God), who of him­self grasps the teach­ings of the Trin­i­ty. (The Lad­der of Divine Ascent, Step 30)

The list­ing of knowl­edge among the virtues of man is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant because in the present time there exists the wide­spread con­vic­tion that man is con­demned to igno­rance in the areas of reli­gion and spir­i­tu­al life. While most peo­ple would grant that knowl­edge is pos­si­ble in the realm of nat­ur­al sci­ences, they would deny gen­uine knowl­edge in the realm of the Spir­it. They would say that one can know the things of this phys­i­cal world ‘but can­not know the mys­ter­ies of God, and God Him­self. Thus reli­gion becomes a mat­ter of per­son­al choice and sub­jec­tive taste, devoid of any pre­ten­sion to objec­tive truth and gen­uine knowl­edge. As we have seen, this is pre­cise­ly not the teach­ing of the Scrip­tures and the saints.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heav­en against all ungod­li­ness and wicked­ness of men who by their wicked­ness sup­press the truth. For what can be known of God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the cre­ation of the world His invis­i­ble nature, name­ly His eter­nal pow­er and deity, has been clear­ly per­ceived in the things that have been made. So they are with­out excuse; for although they knew God they did not hon­or Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their think­ing and their sense­less minds were dark­ened. Claim­ing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glo­ry of the immor­tal God for images resem­bling mor­tal man or birds or ani­mals or rep­tiles. There- fore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impu­ri­ty, to the dis­hon­or­ing of their bod­ies among them­selves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and wor­shipped and served the crea­ture rather than the Cre­ator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. (Romans 1:18–25)