Faith Is Science, Philo

How Do You Know? – 2 Usually Fun, Always Indispensable Strategies.

How do you know is a pretty important question.  Here are two crucial strategies I taught my students. Do you use them?

How Do You Know – 2 Indispensable Strategies.

(Technically, “epistemology” – What is knowledge? How do we know what we know.)

How Do You Know?

ONE – Learning, knowing, how we know, is HELICAL (a growing process).

The big coil springs on old cars are helices.  The “double helix” of our DNA is just two of those spirals intertwined.

IF you keep moving forward you also keep moving up. So you circle around, but you move up or forward as well. It’s pretty cool.
As we move forward on the mental helix of becoming certain of something, i.e. IF we keep moving forward (in observing, judging, responding in integrity) we also keep moving up. So we circle around, but we move up or forward as well. It’s pretty cool.  And that’s the way it works. Learning chemistry, or guitar, you do keep revisiting what you’ve already learned, but you keep progressing in sophistication of understanding and of skill. It’s circling, but advancing by the very process of circling.

That is how we learn about God, how we learn to relate to God, how we grow in a marriage, and even how we learn what is going on in our society and/or politics.  Learn, progress, build, revisit, add.

TWO – learning, knowing, how we know, is A COMMUNITY PROJECT.

The VAST majority of what any of us knows, ALMOST EVERYTHING we base our choices and actions on, is a product of the learning – knowing work of other people. That starts with our parents, of course, but expands greatly from there.

This does not mean you don’t know anything until everyone agrees with you.  Not gonna happen. But it does mean we will learn precious little, very very little, deadly little, if we refuse to learn from the good work and thinking of others.

we will learn precious little, very very little, deadly little, if wrefuse to learn from the good work and thinking of others.

Both of those realities mean that knowing well actually requires some good moral or ethical health. Integrity, purposefulness, openness, humility. we won’t practice either the helix principle or the community principle without some degree of those characteristics.

Without those things we can’t reliably build on what we’ve already learned (except in very limited ways), and we can’t take advantage of the VAST amount of learning and ascertaining that’s already been done.  And we won’t have good sense to reject the “knowledge” that floods all of us from unreliable sources.

Plus, we won’t get the help we need in our current learning / knowing projects.

SO … knowing with any reliability depends on doing those things.

Moving forward, which includes some circling back, always with integrity and alertness.

And being in touch with those who seem themselves to possess advanced knowledge in some area(s) of concern to you, or to have unusual integrity and persistence.

Knowing well requires some good moral health - integrity, purposefulness, openness, humility. We won’t practice the helix principle or the community principle well without some degree of those characteristics.Click To Tweet

I have a lot to learn – to keep learning – even though I am an educated and elderly “pastor-teacher”. I suspect we all do.

(THREE – and I suppose there’s a third descriptive: HONESTY and HUMILITY).

Those who have a track record of frequent incompetence &/or dishonesty, I do not accept as serious guides – that means

And I do go to the Bible quite a bit … because there is a lot of deep, expert, honest, humble experience and awareness there – plus, good and bad examples and arguments!
  • in spiritual matters,
  • relationship issues,
  • technical stuff (car repair, medicine)
  • and public life.

Those who seem to have a record of honesty and accuracy AND even a touch of humility – they are often good guides, or knowledge sources – even if they are very much “unbelievers” in my preferred forms of Christian faith.  They are part of my Community of learning; they help me move around, and up, the helix.


In the development of your spiritual life, your “faith”, are you practicing both of these principles – the helical progress of building freshly on what you already have, as well as taking advantage of good, healthy resources (especially people) in the world around you (which for many of us includes the Bible)?  Your spiritual knowledge or awareness could easily be called the most important thing about you. Is it getting the attention it deserves?

AT THE END OF EXPERTISE – The “Leap of Faith”:

In every area of life we get to where there has to be at least a small “leap of faith” – with bankers, with restaurants, with traffic signals, with significant others – no shame in that!  It’s literally unavoidable.  In spiritual matters, or “faith” matters, are you aware of where your leap of faith is (or where your leaps of faith are)?  It’s one’s own choice.  Do we feel we’re making good investments?  a good risk? Have we used these two tools?  It matters 🙂


(an earlier post on the same questions)

(Also, Can You Diagnose a Truly Christian Worldview?)

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