Longing to Know: Then Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People

Here is a book that I have wanted to bring to your attention. It deals with one of my favorite topics, epistemology. The first chapter in my forthcoming book on Kingdom Disciples, also examines how we know what we know and believe and why. I include Longing to Know as one of the five books for further reading and understanding of this foundational topic. Esther Lightcap Meek is an excellent thinker who expresses herself clearly in her writings. She has been an effective teacher at Covenant Theological Seminary on the topic of this book.

You may or may not be familiar with the philosopher Michael Polanyi. He started out as a scientist but moved to philosophy when he realized that the objective knowledge sought after by the scientist is not possible. Even “objective truth” can only be known subjectively; hence, scientists bold claim of complete objectivity does not really exist. While Meek does not write exhaustively on this topic of knowing, she does state her case quite clearly that knowledge is personal knowledge. She writes about knowing her car mechanic and likening that to knowing God. Throughout the book, Meek underscores her motif that “knowing about our knowing undergirds our hope.”

This is a timely book because, as we have pointed out to our readers, the postmodernists’ reaction to modernism is over the claim that we can know things objectively and with certainty. We can know objective truth, but once we say, “we know, ” we admit that our knowing involves personal knowledge. We relate to that as a Christian because we know that truth and knowledge, revealed to us by God, must be personally known and embraced in order to transform us into kingdom disciples.

Meek says upfront that she wants this book to be read like a personal meditation not a textbook. She has succeeded in writing a textbook that reads like a meditation. I followed her suggestion on how to read this book and found it to be a good procedure.

Longing to Know will not only personally benefit you in understanding the process of knowing, but will also be a help if you have opportunity to talk with people who are shaped more by the world’s ideas and opinions than biblical truth.

One paragraph gives a good flavor for the tenor of the entire book: “A realistic sense of ourselves of our capacities as knowers, restores hope. Greater significance, responsibility, and even freedom are to be felt as we accurately sense and extend our fit with the world. We have learned that there is a human, bodily rooted, future-oriented, truth-loving way of knowing. We’ve learned to recognize how it feels from the inside. We’ve learned to appreciate our strategic situatedness that opens the world to us. We’ve learned to access the real by cultivating our rootedness in it.”

I believe the author is successful in driving home her point that our focus is not to have certainty, in the sense of Enlightenment philosophy, but to have confidence in knowing God based on his knowledge which he shares with us. I look forward to further books by this author.

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Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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