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The Feeling of Knowing

6 January 2009

Have you ever wondered what it is – physiologically, that is, or psychologically – that causes two otherwise pleasant Christians to come to fisticuffs over doctrinal matters?  This post gives us a fighting chance at understanding.  This particular muscle group must be the one that begins to develop in early adolescence in the form of 12-year-olds who respond with “I know” to everything we say to them.  They’re just dumping a form of dopamine into their systems by saying that, and it makes ’em feel good!

Apparently, the experience of knowing something (whether it’s actually correct or not is irrelevant, remarkably) triggers a pleasure drug.  Certainty, therefore – or more accurately, certITUDE – is a way of mainlining a pleasure drug into your forearm and walking around with the IV bag trailing alongside.



10 Comments leave one →
  1. Ben permalink
    7 January 2009 10:07 am

    qb, thanks for the link. There are few science-oriented professionals who take faith seriously these days, Richard Beck appears to be one of them. Digging into his blog I found a bibliographic treasure chest from a new (to me anyway) perspective. Huzzah!

  2. queueball permalink*
    7 January 2009 11:28 am

    Yeah. Check out his “Theology of Calvin and Hobbes” series…it’s great reading and provides a wealth of raw material.

    Incidentally, I recast your second sentence with the two disciplines in reverse order and wondered how true it might be…LOL.


  3. Ben permalink
    7 January 2009 2:24 pm

    Ha!! How true! The relationship between science and faith is a great discussion. Assuming, of course, both parties are open to a genuine conversation.


  4. queueball permalink*
    7 January 2009 2:41 pm

    It has taken me 44+ years to get to this piont – a way-station, mind you – but I am being persuaded that the pursuit of just about every meaningful form of knowledge is a recursive, iterative process of successive approximations. It’s only the trivial, uninteresting stuff that yields to a single pass. Thus, to say “I know my wife” is to say that I am coming to know her by an intentional, love-motivated process of returning to her again and again, adding and subtracting camera angles to and from my studio console as the picture emerges with incremental clarity. (If that’s true with someone in my own household, how much more is it true with my Jesus?)

    I gladly admit that I am currently enthralled by N. T. Wright’s “The New Testament and the People of God,” which my mom sent me for my birthday. Magnificent. And it’s the reason I’m dealing with all of this epistemology stuff. Have you read Volume I, Ben? Wow.

    In fact, this personal-epistemology exercise is proving to be a terrifying merry-go-round of surgical introspection that is likely to keep me in the throes of a faith crisis for the rest of my life – if I’m not already thus. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!


  5. Ben permalink
    7 January 2009 3:29 pm

    qb, I havent read any of NT Wright’s work on epistemology but Blackwell Publishing is well known for the scholarship published in that arena. Epistemology gives me a headache and, if I’m not careful, can quickly lead me down a road to insecurity and defeatism. So, I have resolved to dabble in epistemology only when I must. Right now, I’m reading for Pemberton’s ‘women in the OT’ course and am being flooded with feminist theology which has such a HIGH VIEW of Scripture. Disappointing. Instead of discrediting the text, why not have the courage to engage it based on its own merits? Like liberation theologians, the authors of these texts have no scruples questioning the motives and dispositions of the biblical authors. Assuming, of course, God has no hand in it. Anyway, Wright is a fabulous author and a little challenge to our thinking now and then is a good thing, right?


  6. queueball permalink*
    7 January 2009 4:01 pm


    I had seen some feminist criticism and found it amusing for the most part, for the same reasons and with the same analogies in liberation theology. Whatever meritorious questions the feminists might raise – and there are some, given the patriarchial aspects of much of what we have in hand – are muffled by the din of the screeching, over-the-top stuff.

    Interesting, though – the “new perspective on Paul” appears to be, among many other things, a pathway for “rehabilitating” the sexist Pauline and deutero-Pauline texts and their author(s).

    Some fascinating disconnects along those same lines in our day: political liberals slam the GOP for its sexism and glass ceilings and religious Neanderthalisms, all the while defending the radical Islamic movements that subjugate women to a breathtaking degree. It’s pretty funny for a moment or two, but then it’s damnable.


  7. 8 January 2009 10:29 am

    qb, Ben,

    Faith is a way of knowing both religiously and scientifically and is foundational. So is critical self-reflection (which St. Paul says we ought to do at least whenever we partake if not more often as wise habit). Personally, I prefer to live in the briar patch of competing epistemologies where thrive the screechers and disconnectors and the deciders than to be stuck in some old boy unilinear tarbaby. (Wright is wonderfully astringent. We need more like him. I love his website,, women are right to feel put upon and to express themselves–even as men are. Women and men seem to be hard-wired with different epistemologies. My ten year-old grandson says as much when he echoes Freud’s question “What do women want?” by saying “I can’t do the math on girls.” Sometimes we all need to shut up and, sigh, listen to the majestic silence of the Almighty.



  8. queueball permalink*
    8 January 2009 10:43 am

    Coop, “astringent” is just the right word. And “deft.” And “penetrating.” And “wry.”

    May his (Wright’s) tribe increase.


  9. 8 January 2009 12:59 pm

    qb, Ben,

    Curious that after reading your post and comments I ran across this article during a few minutes of personal debriefing after working with one of my more challenging veterans. It speaks volumes about how we know.


  10. queueball permalink*
    8 January 2009 1:15 pm

    THAT is a great article, Coop. Thanks for the link. I find that Dalrymple has exposed me, too, in his concluding observations: it is my habit to downplay the probable worth of my own opinions so that I will not be on the hook for them when their merit is finally tested.

    But Jesus says, “he who saves his life will lose it,” and Paul says, “he emptied himself.” A big part of both ideas is Dalrymple’s notion of ego.


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