Faith and Knowledge – differences

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Ohg Rea Tone is all or nothing. He is educated and opinionated, more clever than smart, sarcastic and forthright. He writes intuitively - often disregarding rules of composition. Comment on his posts - he will likely respond with characteristic humor or genuine empathy. He is the real-deal.

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Faith and Knowledge – differences


You and I talk often about faith. It struck me that perhaps we are getting mixed up on semantics. Faith and knowledge are different things. Knowledge requires proof, faith does not.

There is a new show on television with Jeff Foxworthy as the host. It is called, “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?” They get contestants on the show and ask them questions that the promoters say are typical 5th grade questions – So let’s use that show to present an example of faith and knowledge.

There is a woman on the show. She is up to the million dollar question. Foxworthy struts around with his blue jeans and sports coat, then turns to ask the 5th grade History question, “What year did George Washington die?”

She ponders a moment, then answers, “1799.”

The bells and whistles go off – the crowd cheers, her husband and children run down from their seats in the audience. Jeff Foxworthy is finally speechless.

So after the show she is asked, “Why did you say 1799?”

She answers, “Well, I didn’t actually know until they asked that he was dead. But I am not dumb so I figured it was before 2007. So I said 1799.”

So this: Did she know the answer before answering? No – she did not know the answer.

How about: Did she have faith in her answer? Probably not – remember, she is not dumb. She was just guessing and she knew it.

So what if they asked, why did you say 1799, and she answered: “Because I knew he was the first president and I knew that he died after he left office in the late 1700’s, so I said 1799.” Again – did she know the answer? No she did not. Did she have faith in her answer? I don’t think she would have bet her house on it so I would say no, she did not have faith in her answer.

So try again – why did you say 1799? and this time she says, “I remember my high school American History class and we read in a text book that George Washington died in 1799.” Now – did she know the answer? No – I say again, because highs school history books are not reliable enough to justify knowledge. Did she have faith? I would say she did. She has faith in the high school history text and she clearly remembered – I would say that she had faith and was confident in her answer.

Suppose this: Why did you say 1799? “Well, I have a PhD in Early American History and my doctoral dissertation was on the life and death of George Washington. I have read every paper he ever signed and there are none signed after 1799. I have been to Mount Vernon. I have seen the grave stone with the date. I have been to the county courthouse and have seen the original death certificate.” Does she have faith – I would certainly hope so. Did she have knowledge – this is the sticking point – I think she had knowledge – but some cynical folks would say, “Were you there? Did you see them embalming him?”

I think there is a point where we can reasonably say that we know something is true. But saying we know, by definition, requires a reasonable degree of proof. Faith is a different matter. Faith, by it’s very definition, does not require proof. If you say that you have faith that Jesus Christ is the savior of man – then that is it – case closed – you do not have to prove anything. If you say that you know then get ready to rumble.

My scenario is somewhat oversimplified – but I think the logic applies to many things. Things like the Theory of Evolution or the Big Bang Theory. I think the jury is in. There is enough evidence that only the cynic would challenge that these theories are now known facts.

Like the death of Washington, we only asked when he died – not how or why. With evolution and the big bang we can surmise that they happened, even if we do not know all of the details.


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  1. Main Entry:
    Pronunciation: \?trüth\
    Function: noun
    Inflected Form(s): plural truths Listen to the pronunciation of truths Listen to the pronunciation of truths \?trüthz, ?trüths\
    Etymology: Middle English trewthe, from Old English tr?owth fidelity; akin to Old English tr?owe faithful — more at true
    Date: before 12th century
    1 aarchaic : fidelity, constancy b: sincerity in action, character, and utterance2 a (1): the state of being the case : fact (2): the body of real things, events, and facts : actuality (3)often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b: a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true c: the body of true statements and propositions3 a: the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality bchiefly British : true 2 c: fidelity to an original or to a standard4capitalized Christian Science : god
    — in truth
    : in accordance with fact : actually

    In the third definition from Merriam Webster online, there is a note that the idea of a spiritual Truth is often capitalized. I think that we can say with certainty that there are some spiritual Truths, and that are only debated by the critics. These Truths don’t provide facts or answer questions. In fact, they are the complicators of questions and can sometimes manifest themselves as the opposite of facts.

  2. Bryan,
    I was not talking about truth – that is for another post.

    I was talking about faith and knowledge – there is a difference. And truth is different yet.


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