Friday, February 4, 2011

Categories of (Un)Believers (some thoughts by an orthodox rebel)

There are three categories of people when it comes to knowledge in regard to reason and faith. Some people fit perfectly into one of the categories, but most of us are a patchwork of two or all three. The questions to ask yourself are: Where do you think you fit in this scheme? Why? In what circumstances/state of mind do you find yourself sliding from one category to the next? Again, why?

Unhealthy agnosticism

This category has absolute uncertainty at the center of existence. It does not believe that there has been, is, or ever will be true revelation of true knowledge of any kind. It doubts whether truth is knowable, or if it is even there at all. It deifies (perhaps unconsciously) ignorance and lauds in a total skepticism, disregarding all claims to true knowledge as mere fiction, misconstruction, and arrogance (as well as ignorance to the human condition).


This category has absolute certainty at the center of existence. It believes that all answers to all possible questions have been given, known, and explained. It doubts that there is any mystery to life, any problem that cannot be explained by the established doctrine/creed/rubric/party-line. It deifies (perhaps unconsciously) the human mind and position in the universe in order to justify a total credulity. It disregards all claims to ambiguity as mere fear, faithlessness, and ignorance (as well as arrogance to external authority).

Healthy agnosticism

This category has absolute certainty at the center of existence with pockets of uncertainty hovering throughout the peripheral like mists or fog. It believes that some answers have been given but not all answers, not yet. It knows and believes that there has been true revelation of true knowledge of a limited kind. It knows and believes that the truth is knowable, but not all at once, i.e., there is plenty of truth that is still hidden, but it does exist and can (and will) be known. It quite consciously sees humanity as capable of real knowledge but still limited in the extent of that capability. It disregards all claims to either entire knowledge or no knowledge as extremities with opposite intentions and yet equally flawed conclusions that both suffer from arrogance and ignorance.

Again, it will be interesting to see where/when people fall into these categories.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2011


  1. What about a category that accepts the existence of some answers but understands some answers will never be revealed, or if they are, that man will never understand them.

    Fred Phelps's image was a clever choice. And also quite chilling. Does anyone else feel a chill up their spine when they see him?

  2. That category is assumed under the third one, "healthy agnosticism," and yes Fred Phelps gives me the creeps (and nausea). 8^P

  3. When talking about absolute uncertainty/certainty I think about people who 1. we don't know and can't know; 2. we do know and your question is a lack of faith and 3. we know some things, we can know other things, and the rest is beyound our capacity to understand. All of them about knowing or not knowing.

    What about believers (emergent ones maybe) who simply don't care about knowing or not, but just want to experience?

  4. What about those who fall into category 3 with their Christian faith?

  5. Cristiano:

    I completely understand (and appreciate) your question. I've heard it before, and I always have the same response:

    Having "experience" without receiving knowledge from or about the experience is like going on a journey with no map and no destination. If there is no knowledge to guide our experiences, and no understanding to be received from our experiences, then what's the point of the experiences? The answer is that there is no point. They lose all meaning.

    Experience is valuable because it involves the world that we live in, the things that we (quite literally) come in contact with. One of the core beauties of Christianity is that God has not left us alone in our experiences; He has given us knowledge about them and for them. Not complete knowledge, but true knowledge.

  6. Deanna:

    I believe that category three is the Christian Faith (or at least a part of it).

    The point can be summed up in this verse:

    "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when completion comes, that which is in part shall be done away with." I Corinthians 13:9-10

    This verse suggests three things:

    (1) We have true knowledge ("we know" and "we prophesy").

    (2) Our knowledge is incomplete ("in part").

    (3) One day, our knowledge will be complete ("when completion comes").