Beyond Agnosticism

By Mike Willis

One of the beliefs which is becoming more widespread is “agnosticism.” An agnostic is one “who thinks it is impossible to know whether there is a God or a future life, or anything beyond material phenomena.” The word is derived from the Greek verb ginosko which means “to know.” With the privative alpha, the word denotes that one cannot know.

Agnosticism begins with the idea that one cannot know for sure whether or not there is a God. However, by the elimination of God and divine revelation, agnosticism leads to the conclusion that one cannot know anything certainly; one can only reach close approximations of what is or is not truth. Furthermore, what is truth for one person may not be the truth for others, according to agnosticism.

Divine Revelation Enables Us To Know The Truth

The Christian believes in the existence of God based on the evidence which exists (his conclusion is not a blind leap in the dark). Furthermore, the Bible claims to be a divine revelation from God (2 Pet. 1:19-2 1; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; etc.). The Bible’s claim is supported by the evidence of prophecy, internal unity, the testimony of Jesus, historical accuracy, and scientific accuracy. The only logical explanation of the Bible is that it is a revelation from God to man.

The Lord Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). This statement affirms that (1) there is an objective truth; (2) this truth can be known; (3) knowledge of this truth is essential in order to receive deliverance from sin.

Because God has revealed His will to us, we can know the truth and know it certainly. Each of us needs to manifest the humility to recognize that he might not have considered part of God’s word on any subject or might have misunderstood some part of the revelation. Hence, when anyone presents biblical evidence, the open-minded Christian will consider what the Bible says and alter his beliefs to bring them into harmony with the Bible. However, once one’s understanding is in harmony with what the Bible says, he can know and speak that truth with certainty. This is not true because the individual is so learned; it is true because God revealed it! When his understanding is what God revealed, He has the truth of God and can speak it with certainty.

The attainment of that understanding is not impossible. We have preached and believed for years that man can understand the Bible and can understand it alike. I know what God said about murder and have no reluctance to speak with certainty in saying that murder is sinful. I know what God spoke about stealing and have no hesitancy in stating that God condemns stealing.

In recent years, some have been influenced so greatly by infidelity that they act as if one cannot know anything with certainty. We see certain areas affected by this “agnosticism.”

We Can Know For Sure

1. In Morality. With the popular acceptance of situation ethics, men have concluded that man cannot be certain about whether or not some things are wrong. Our society has begun to conclude that the homosexual lifestyle is an acceptable alternative, that no-fault divorce and subsequent remarriage should be readily available, that pre-marital and extramarital sexual relationships should not be considered sinful, that abortion is an acceptable means of birth control, that drunkenness is a disease, and many other things contrary to sound doctrine. Some brethren have been affected. They find themselves unable to determine what is right regarding divorce and remarriage, they do not know God’s will about social drinking, some have a hard time speaking very certainly about abortion, and some treat drunkenness as a disease to such an extent that the drunk is somehow not responsible for his conduct. This is the influence which agnosticism is having in the church.

Christians can know for certain that homosexuality is a sin (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Rom. 1:26-27), that fornication and adultery are sinful (Gal. 5:19-21), that remarriage after a divorce for any cause other than fornication is adultery (Matt. 19:9), that the taking of human life is murder, and that drunkenness is sinful (1 Pet. 4:3). When Christians speak as if one cannot know for sure whether or not things such as these are wrong, their uncertainty manifests a lack of confidence in the revealed word of God.

2. The Number of Churches. In recent years, some brethren have begun to doubt what the Bible says about the number of churches which Jesus built. Jesus said, ‘ ‘I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18); Paul said that there is only “one body” (Eph. 4:4), which he had previously identified as the church (Eph. 1:22-23). Hence, the Bible is clear in stating that there is only one church.

Some brethren are writing that our insistence upon one church is sectarian and narrow-minded. They act like one cannot know for sure how many churches are acceptable to God. We can know for sure. We do not have to be agnostic about how many churches there are. God has spoken! Men no longer believe in the oneness of the church because they have lost confidence in God’s word.

3. The Worship Which God Accepts. We can know for sure what kind of worship God accepts and what kind He rejects (Matt. 15:8-9). We can know that God accepts the observing of the Lord’s supper on the first day of every week (Acts 20:7); we can know that He accepts prayer offered in Jesus’ name (Jn. 16:23-24); we can know that He expects us to give of our means on the first day of every week (1 Cor. 16:1-2); we can know that we should preach apostolic doctrine (Acts 2:42); and we can know that congregational singing is acceptable to Him (Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:15).

We can also know that those who pervert and change the worship are under condemnation (Matt. 15:8-9). Hence, we can know that failure to observe the Lord’s supper on the first day of every week does not please God, that prayer in the name of Mary is sinful, that taking a collection on some day other than the first day of the week violates God’s word, that preaching something other than apostolic doctrine is displeasing to God, and that using mechanical instruments of music in worship is a transgression of the word of God.

When someone says that we cannot know for sure what kind of worship pleases God, he manifests a lack of confidence in God’s word. We are not in an agnostic stance in reference to worship. We need not think that we can only offer the kind of worship we think to be pleasing to God and keep our fingers crossed that He will accept it. We can know because God has revealed His will in the matter.

4. What A Man’s Spiritual Condition Is. In recent years, some brethren have lost the ability to determine whether a sinner is saved or lost. They write as if it is impossible to know for sure. Those who speak confidently on the subject are judged to be guilty of judging others. The men who teach that one cannot know the condition of the man who uses mechanical instruments of music in worship seem to have no trouble in judging to be lost those of us who confidently teach that those involved in this perversion of worship are lost.

You can ask some brethren, “Are those who use instruments of music in their worship saved or lost?” They respond that they do not know. You ask them, “What is the condition of a Christian who preaches that church support of human institutions is not wrong, who participates in it, and who encourages others to join in this sin?” They respond, “I do not know.”

I do not pretend to know the hearts of men. However, I do know that God has revealed that those who distort the worship of God through their human traditions render their worship vain (Matt. 15:8-9). 1 do know that God promised to root them up (Matt. 15:13). 1 do know that those blind followers of these blind leaders will fall into a ditch (Matt. 15:14), which I understand to mean that they will die and go to hell.

The reason why I am working to get men out of these apostate religious organizations is because of the conviction that they are lost., However, some brethren cannot tell whether or not they are lost. They preach that we cannot know the condition of those who are involved in the sins mentioned before. To this degree, they are agnostics! Their agnosticism is extinguishing their evangelistic fires.


Brethren, we need to be preaching what the Bible says with confidence that it is the truth. This is not the time for uncertainty and unclear sounds coming from the pulpit. This is the time to speak boldly what God has revealed.

We can advance beyond “agnosticism.” We do not have to stand in a “I cannot know” position. We can know because God has spoken. Because God has spoken and spoken so clearly that man can understand Him, we can advance beyond agnosticism.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 8, pp. 226, 248-249
April 18, 1985