Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 30, 1956
NUMBER 17, PAGE 2-3a

Way Of Knowing God

Harold F. Savely, Nashville, Tennessee

Montesquieu, a seventeenth century French jurist and philosopher, taught six ways by which one may learn to know anything. His ways, or methods, are known as: Authoritarian, Intuitional, Rational, Skeptical, Pragmatic, and Emperical. A seventh, Revelation, may be added since he, with an atheistic attitude, included Inspirational as Institutional. Many religious errors are brought about through avenues of his six methods.

Authoritarian Method

By authoritarian is meant the acceptance of another's testimony. Our knowledge of the historical past is based upon this method. We may know what we read and hear. We should learn to detect and beware of fallacies of authoritarian knowledge. For instance, Hitler's method was to tell a lie big and long enough until people believed it. Blonds were supermen, he argued. Any daring to argue back would be met with reiterations that blonds were supermen. Ancients stated the world to be flat; therefore, according to this philosophy, it was supposed to be flat. When advertisers hammer that there is not a cough in a carload, gullibles rush out and buy them by the cartons. Many follow strictly to a party line simply because, to them, the party line is always right.

Authoritarian acceptance gives impetus to many religious errors. The Pharisee followed his Talmud to making void God's command. (Matt. 15:3.) Creedalism, church dogmas, and church councils are result of this acceptance. "What's good for pappy is good for me" is an oft stated axiom in religion.

Calvinist reformers sought to go back beyond pollutions of their time to correct certain abuses within the Roman Catholic Church. To them, Augustine's writings became standard for religious knowledge. New off-shoots developed. Restorers, seeing errors of the Reformists, harked back to the scriptures to speak where they spoke and to remain silent upon their silence. Churches flourished after the New Testament pattern. Other attitudes formed, battles were fought, division, and sub-divisions came. Faithful churches weathered the storms and glorified God. Now, what difference does it make what the "Brilliant McGarvey" taught on anything? Who knows but that Brother Lipscomb might have slipped in his old days so that his word cannot be taken as final on matters? Who gives a hoot because someone changed to what? What difference does it make what Brother Sommer taught at Indianapolis, Hardeman at Henderson, Kurfees at Louisville, Lewis at Birmingham, and Otey in Wisconsin? Is it impossible that Brother Brewer (God bless his memory) took errors to his grave recently? A sheet from an old ADVOCATE is not two pages of inspiration, nor the voice of pioneers, the law. Even elders of a church could become just as wrong as the pope did. What about our present practices? Am I right just because this way was formerly the way of my brethren?

Christians are obligated to study for themselves. (2 Tim. 2:15.) They may follow men only as Christ is followed. (1 Cor. 11:1.) They are admonished to give heed to "what" they hear. (Mark 4:24.) It is easy for blind to follow the blind. (Matt. 15:14.) I may have early believed in God because of testimony and teaching of a Christian mother. Now, as a man, I need to be like the Bereans, noble enough to study and search for myself. (Acts 17:11.)

Intuitional Method

In this class belong preconceived ideas, prejudices, and hunches. A detective may crack his case acting merely upon a hunch growing out of past experiences and sub-conscious admonitions. Intuition furnishes painters and poets alike with inspiration. Vivid imaginations, and often hallucinations, belong to this grouping. Intuition may be abundantly found among the mentally asylumed.

The Pietist movement in religion, Calvinism, enter- lighting [sic], and uncontrolled emotional religion, all, evidence Intuition. Ever hear one say he would not trade that in a patted chest for a stack of Bibles?

Our Lord reminds us that only truth can make one free. (John 8:32.) Yet, truth alone cannot free. Truth must be planted in a willing, honest, and obedient heart. (Luke 8:11.

Rationalistic Method

The Rationalist depends wholly upon reason, cold logic, both inductive and deductive. His concept of the universe is altogether materialistic. He digests sense perceptions only. To him a resurrection from the dead is contrary to all reason.

There is a growing tendency among some young preachers from "our speech departments" today to open a sermon with an astonishing statement, give it three very vivid illustrations, fill it with more quotations from the "reason" of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Shakespeare than passage citations from the Bible, a climactically ending, and a sitting down. All this is done polished "in love and sincerity" with shades of Rationalistic thinking. "Component parts" and "principles eternal" are a part thereof.

Rationalism Completely Overlooks The Supernatural And Spiritual. Sadducees, Type Of Rationalists, Could Not Understand Whose She Would Be In Judgment By Overlooking The "Power Of God." (Mark 12:24-25.) By The Rationalist, The Virgin Birth, Vicarious Suffering, And Resurrection Of Our Lord To Reign Are All Mythical. Of Course, One Could Eny His Own Brains By This Method, Not Having Seen Them!

Skeptical Method

Skepticism is merely an antiseptic doctrine. It operates wholly in negation. It is never positive. The Skeptic never contributed to betterment of the human race. He never built a school, nor performed a better operation. He labors under a morbid delusion that something might not be; therefore, he is careful not to believe. Good examples of religious Skeptics are Unitarians who labor to infiltrate and annihilate all religions. Satan needs little more than one tool for such poor, sick minds: "Has God said?" (Gen. 3:1.)

Pragmatic Method

Pragmatism is an American economic philosophy of "It works; therefore, it is good." Democracy is the world's best form of government because Americans have the most gold in the world!

Pragmatic thinking brings additions into the church. The religious Pragmatist seldom stops to inquire of God as to "how." He is busily enraptured into doing "bigger and better things." He definitely belongs to the "on the march" variety. "See what we are doing" is the standard by which he measures himself by himself. He might think a super missionary society to be an improvement upon God's "obsolete" system. If mechanical music, or bright and dim lighting, can fix his mind better for worship that he must have to "get the job done."

If some church tries to "build the best Sunday School on earth," who knows but that Laodicea has already topped the mark, even without a "friendly rivalry" and Paul (Tyrannus President), Barnabas (Antioch's Missionary), and Felix (Governor) to "help hold the crowd"? In vacation Bible schools, where do elders find authority to oversee an exclusive "six to sixteen" group with "games and refreshments" as work of the church? Where has the idea come from of "Beating the Bounds," building dedications, with silver spades, corner stone ceremonies, and ringing of bells? Why an educational annex, an educational minister, or recreational department of the church? Why a kitchen in the church basement? Why, when, and where originated "sponsoring" and "contributing" churches, Thursday evening collections, and all? Is there the plea behind "brotherhood" benevolent societies? Where the origin of a "brotherhood" preaching program, or any other program, under oversight of one eldership? Who invented "Bible Encampments" and why? Why "displays" for churches?

Even God's people often need to learn that a mere expediency cannot make perfect an unlawful practice. (1 Cor. 6:12.) God's ways are always best. (1 Cor. 1:25; Isaiah 55:9.)

Empirical Method

Empiricism includes that portion of knowledge resulting from discovery. A boy once flying a kite introduced to the world electricity by this method as it tingled down his kite string. Most scientific advancement comes about in this realm.

Empiricism in religion, as Rationalism, eliminates all faith. It is a system which denies the unseen. (Heb. 11:3.) Instead of a live, active faith, Empiricism demands so-called "experimental salvation" which may come to one even "milking a cow."


For a knowledge of God, neither of the six foregoing ways can be depended upon. Revelation is needful. We may know God exists from nature. (Psa. 19:1.) We may trace his footprints in the valleys and see imprints of his fingers upon the hills. That does not tell us of his character and nature. No one can know the mind of God except as the Spirit reveals. (1 Cor. 2:11.) Man's wisdom, of itself, cannot attain to this knowledge. (1 Cor. 1:21.) God has spoken. (Heb. 1:1.) Holy men have written his words of revelation. (2 Peter 1:21.) We know by reading. (Eph. 3:3, 4.)

We may be bringing up a generation of preachers ignorant of God's revealed mind. Others may be unconcerned. God help us who remain to press "Thus saith the Lord" for everything we preach. This only can we "know."