If you have had apologetic conversation with others that disagree with your Christian worldview you may have come across a someone who rejects your Christian worldview solely on the premise that your knowledge is not empirical knowledge. Empirical knowledge is knowledge that comes through experience with the 5 senses or the scientific method. Perhaps it is the strongest level of knowledge, but it is not the only type of knowledge. In fact, it makes up a very small percentage of a persons total knowledge in whole. Before you disagree with my last sentence, think about all you know and how you came to “know it” especially in the realm of science and biology. You most likely have read several books on the subject rather than done the empirical experiments and experienced it yourself. Empirical knowledge is not absolute either, there is no way to be able to claim total absolute knowledge unless we had total transcendence in life.
What are the different classifications (types) of knowledge that we have at our disposal? Below are some of the different classifications and some examples of knowledge. I want to note that these are my classifications, ones that I have seen in use by people and in the general ways that most people use the terms today. I am not attempting to give a breakdown of proper Epistemology.
Ideological – This relates to knowledge that is a priori (before experience) that usually comes as concepts or ideas from the human mind and is philosophical. Reason is often the center of ideology.
Empirical – This relates to knowledge that is a posteriori (after experience) through the 5 senses or the scientific method. An example might be that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.
Experiential – This relates to knowledge gained through the 5 senses. It does not have to be in a scientific method. It can relate to an individual or a group of people. i.e. personal experience or say human experience. An example might be that it gets colder at night when the sun is not up.
Logical – This type of knowledge is often used with in philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science. It often looks at the arguments that are being made and looks for fallacies in what is inferred by statements to determine truth. An example of logical knowledge would be that a woman is either pregnant or not pregnant, because she cannot be both at the same time.
Rational – This type of knowledge is a combination of Ideology and Empirical knowledge in that knowledge can be rationalized by past prior empirical knowledge or experience. An example might be that if I had wings I might be able to fly like a bird.
Historical – This type of knowledge is a combination of some of the types of knowledge listed above. It can no longer be proven through the scientific method or through repeat experience. It may be based on physical evidence that we have knowledge of by writings, audio and video recordings, or other people’s experience. An example might be that Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States.
These types of knowledge above are often used in debates and discussions between different worldviews. The Christian worldview is unique in that it can be a part of all these different types of areas of knowledge and does not fall apart unlike some of the other worldviews when you attempt to debate in one of these areas of knowledge above. Over time I will cover the specifics of that statement.
Occasionally I have found that when a religious discussion gets to the point of not accepting knowledge outside of empirical knowledge it is because they do not want to deal with the other logical and rational explanations that are being brought forth in an argument. This is a flawed approach to knowledge that is impossible to live out in life. If you feel like this is being used on you to avoid responding to your statements, here is how you can show them that there statement is flawed.
When someone says that “Empirical knowledge is only knowledge that counts as knowledge” ask them for the empirical evidence that backs up their statement of belief about empirical knowledge. There is none. Therefore you don’t have to accept their statement of belief about empirical knowledge. Ask, them, “If you don’t have any empirical evidence, then why should I believe you?” They make a deadly flaw by stepping outside of empiricism trading on reason and philosophy while claiming only empiricism.
Many people put their guard up during a discussion, and will not be intellectually honest with you about what they accept as knowledge. If you have built a relationship with the person, you can listen to them make statements that don’t agree with their own ideology about knowledge. You should take advantage of the opportunity to ask them to explain themselves or to clarify what they just said against their own understanding related to knowledge. For example, Your friend says that they believe that Green Bay is going to when the Super Bowl this year. You can ask them what empirical knowledge that they have to assure then of that statement.
As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.