I’ve been reading a few books that mention the phrase “epistemological self-consciousness.” Epistemo-what?! Don’t stop reading. Stay with me. Although this phrase sounds complicated, it’s not. It’s actually very important when it comes to the issues of our day. Let’s break it down.
The word epistemological comes from the Greek word, epistamai which means knowledge, and meaning the source of our knowledge. For the follower of Christ, the Bible is the source of knowledge. On the other hand, the humanist prophet Protagoras said that “man is the measure of all things.” So, there can only be two epistemological choices: the word of man or the Word of God.
Once we understand what epistemological means, self-consciousness is easy. I’ll explain using two scenarios involving two different men. The first man had a terrifying experience with cats when he was a boy. Now when he sees a cat, he jumps 5 feet away. He now knows that cats are harmless, but he still gets out of the way unconsciously.
The other man has an elaborate theory concerning cats. He thinks that cats are aliens from another planet and they are planning to destroy mankind. To avoid their control, one must jump 5 feet away from them and he jumps away from every cat he sees. The first man jumps in spite of his knowledge about cats. The second jumps in light of his knowledge.
However ridiculous this might sound; the second man is self-consciously acting out based on what he says he believes. He is epistemologically self-conscious. He is aware of what actions his faith will lead him to and he will act in terms of his belief.
So, what does the “epistemologically self-conscious” Christian look like? As I said before, a Christian is someone that believes what the Bible, the ultimate source of knowledge, teaches. This means that the Christian Judge will turn to Deuteronomy to decide his case. The Christian doctor will go to Leviticus to find a model for healthy eating. The Christian Congressman will consider the words of the prophets. In every calling, the “epistemologically self-conscious” Christian will hear and obey the words in the bible, including the Old Testament, so that he may know God’s plan and law and he will act in terms of that law in his everyday life.
At Christ Church and Christ Church Academy, we long to cultivate epistemological self-consciousness in our households and students. We must have a generation of Christians who are trained to apply God’s word to every area of life. Obviously, this isn’t something we can accomplish by ourselves. It can’t happen by our power. But it can be accomplished by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and by the diligent training of children in the epistemologically self-conscious household and Christian school.