Knowing Nothing Except …

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In the first month on the first day you are to take a young bull without defect and purify the sanctuary.  The priest is to take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the upper ledge of the altar and on the gateposts of the inner court.  You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance; so you are to make atonement for the temple.

  • Ezekiel 45:18-20

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god.  So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.  Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.  From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.  ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.  In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.  For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.  He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

  • Acts 17:22-31

“Socrates’ central concern, then, was the examination of life, and it was his ruthless questioning of people’s most cherished beliefs (largely about themselves) that earned him his enemies – but he remained committed to his task until the very end.  According to the account of his defence at his trial, recorded by Plato, Socrates chose death rather than face a life of ignorance.  ‘The life which is unexamined is not worth living.’
“But what exactly is involved in the examination of life?  For Socrates it was a process of questioning the meaning of essential concepts that we use every day but have never really thought about, thereby revealing their real meaning and our own knowledge of ignorance.  Socrates was one of the first philosophers to consider what it was that constituted a ‘good’ life for him it meant achieving peace of mind as a result of doing the right thing, rather than living according to the moral codes of society.  And the ‘right thing’ can only be determined through rigorous examination.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

I do not think that it is an accident that the Apostle Paul would use the word “ignorance” when speaking in Athens about 450 years after Socrates (469-399BC) was given Hemlock because he would not stop bugging people so that he could keep learning.  Socrates said, “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.”

But do we really know nothing?  As Socrates questioned his acquaintances, what internal moral codes was he using to compare the answers given to him?  Yet, this was merely a ploy by Socrates.  He used a dialectical method of questioning, placing himself as the person who knew absolutely nothing.  He would question a statement made by an acquaintance.  (We will use the term “acquaintance” since the few friends of Socrates usually became enemies after being questioned.)  He would then, from his standpoint of pure ignorance, ask yes-no questions, boxing this acquaintance into a corner, proving the opposite of what had originally been said.  Usually what had been said was at the core of that person’s belief system and they had just found out they believed a lie.  Socrates needs to come back to earth now, but then …  No wonder Socrates made enemies at every turn.

When the people of his place and time worshipped the ancient gods of Greece, it was quite easy for him to see inconsistencies in the myths.  He could easily prove that since the myths said that the gods had quarrels with one another, thus they were not infallible, and they absolutely could not know everything.  If you knew everything, there would be no reason to quarrel.  You would know what was right.  Of course, once you have disrespected the heart-felt beliefs of everyone around you, it is no wonder that they sentenced him to death, especially when he was asking questions about Athenian morality.

As I have heard a few old-timers say as they shook the preacher’s hand, “Preacher, you went a bit past preaching today and started meddling.”  I have wondered if I am old enough to get away with that one.  Hmmm.  Forget about it!  It’s been 30 years or more since I have heard a meddling sermon.  And oh, how I miss them.  But one of our most recent pastors would get close, often.  You had to be listening carefully to catch it because he was sneaky.  His wife, also a pastor, was just as good at being that kind of sneaky.  They may not have meddled, but they made you meddle by making you think.  That is what Socrates did.  He asked enough questions that it felt like meddling, and that is what we should do also.

I have used the method in trying to make it clear in my own mind.  If I preface a question with “Pardon me, but I’m just a dumb ole farm boy from M’sippi, but could you answer this…” then you will know that I am using the old Socrates ploy of “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.”  But then, I will latch on like a gila monster until I have discovered the truth.  If you are not careful, the method can become blunt and maybe a bit rude.  They killed Socrates.

Socrates was looking for the Truth, but he died roughly 400 years before Jesus was born.  Yet, even without asking a lot of questions, we are born with a conscience.  We are born with the knowledge of good and evil.  We may play the role of dime-store-lawyer to make it sound like there is a gray area, but we really know better, deep down.  The people of Athens probably knew full well that they were enjoying their immoral lives.  It’s like the days of the Hippies in the 60s, “If it feels good, do it.”  That never equated to “Is it good for you?” or “Is it the right thing to do?” or “Only do it if there is no ill effects down the road.”

Maybe the Hippies needed Socrates to figure that out.  Only problem is that the Hippies might call him, “So – Crates.”  Sorry, writing an essay on Socrates without mentioning Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure just seemed wrong.  Maybe I needed Socrates to use his dialectical method of questioning to determine whether I should make fun of his name or a movie that mispronounced it.  Maybe I knew I was being naughty, and I did it anyway.  Now, how many people will read the name as Socrates or So-Crates for the rest of the essay?  I wonder…

But as I was writing this, the phone rang and a friend said that she wanted my opinion of a Christian website, to see if what they were saying was truly biblical or carefully crafted heresy that might lead you astray.  With my head filled with the dialectical method of questioning, I thought it was a good job for Socrates.  It also makes me think that we each need to study Scripture to determine our own answers, but it is nice having trusted friends that can be used for a second opinion.  How few ask someone?  How few even question?  How few do as the opening to David Robertson’s Quantum podcast states – How many question the question itself?

And we need the ability to use the dialectical method of questioning on the media and politicians and even some scientists.  I dare say that by the end of the questioning, they will be contradicting themselves, but then again, the politicians would contradict themselves in their opening statements.  Some of these people are natural born liars.  A few months ago, I quoted Mark Twain when he wrote that as an infant, when you get pricked with a pin – in changing a diaper in the old days – you are comforted when you cry.  The infant quickly realizes that if you fake being pricked by the pin, you get special treatment.  Without the pin in modern times, the infants pretend to have a wet diaper, or they pretend to need to burp, anything.  Most of us grow out of it; others become personalities on the media outlets and politicians.  I do not think that the scientists are naturally born liars, but when they realize that the media and politicians have a lot of money to give away to people who agree with them in the public view, they find themselves tempted beyond any measure of restraint to lie like a rug.

But whether we can ask these people the questions directly, we can work through the logic in our minds, if we still have enough marbles rolling around in our brains to think.  That may be the problem after so many years of brainwashing by the media.  We should ask ourselves if what the media is saying makes any sense at all.  When the stimulus checks come in, I cash them, but I wonder where the money came from.  Our government does not simply write out checks; the money is borrowed from some other country, since we are in horrific debt.  Yes, the checks can stimulate the economy and replenish money lost during the lockdown (yet, far from enough for those who were hurt the worst, and the politicians never lost a paycheck during the lockdown – remember that, although Trump refused to be paid for the four years).

I question the scientists that I call “climate change alarmists.”  They have their latest bad boy, carbon dioxide, but their science is all observational with no true scientific method behind it to prove that the impossible elimination of carbon dioxide emissions would work.  If they can instill fear in people, we should be willing to rid ourselves of carbon dioxide.  Here is some news.  You breathe out carbon dioxide with each breath.  Are you willing to stop that?  To save the planet?  Not even that?!  Especially when this latest “solution” is the latest “guess!”  The scientists are already hedging their bets by saying if certain values are not met by certain years, that our efforts will not save the planet anyway and the damage will be irreversible.  ALARM BELLS:  They know they are guessing, and they want a back door in which to escape when their latest guesswork fails, like all the previous attempts.  And I heard a climate report, the first day that the temperature in Texas got above freezing, about how the winter storms were all due to global warming – bad science and ridiculous guesswork, while not a word said about global warming while the temperature was too cold for anyone to believe them.  Despicable, when all those people are still suffering.  Oh, they did not hear the report because they still did not have power!!  That is different then.  Now it is safe, cowardly, and still despicable.

And it amazes me that evidence of voter fraud was found, maybe not enough to swing the results, but the swamp in Washington, DC, that was never drained, is in full cover up mode, spending millions of dollars of borrowed money to investigate shadows to misdirect the public.  And the media is leading the way in brainwashing everyone within their clutches.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!!!”

So, we do not look behind the curtain, and we become blissful in our ignorance.

Yet, there is objective truth in the Bible.  We know “good” and “bad.”  It is all right there and within us.  And the one true Truth is the one who died for us and rose again.  If Socrates used the dialectical method of questioning on Jesus, he would have eventually found Truth.

The media may fool us for a moment, but not over the long haul, if we stop and THINK.

Forget politicians.  If they told the truth, it would have been by accident.  Sorry, I should not have written that as an absolute, but …

When a scientist says something that does not make sense, ask him for the source of the science.  Not the observations, but the scientific mechanism that is proven science.  If you did that, recent genetic research would cause evolution to crumble and millions of years of the earth to crumble.  Could other research cause climate change to be observable with no absolute provable science to correct the problem, already irreversible, just no one is willing to say so?

And just because the media does not cover it, does not mean that it did not happen or is not happening.  That is the most powerful arrow in their quiver, silence.  The rumors will die down and go away, and then people will get on with their lives, living a lie.  Why?  Because we are not as inquisitive as Socrates.  We are perfectly content in our ignorance.

However, when it comes to the things of God, we have the information available to us, in the Bible.  Do you desire real truth?  Do you desire the Truth?  Jesus is knocking.  Will you open the door and let Him in?  At least we can be confident in knowing Truth.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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