Recently I have been challenged on my interpretation of Scripture, and rightly so. I am not always right. I don’t know that anyone is. I also hate to be told that I am in error. Thus the warning of this verse. I make mistakes. I can be more right than I was yesterday, but i will never be perfect.
In fact, much of the truth we believe comes to us from others, who are also not always right. Parents, teachers, professors, managers, all flawed, imperfect human beings. Our best hope is that we get enough right to make good decisions about life.
Even the Bible, our most trusted source of information that ought and should be always right, still comes to us from the minds and pens of translators and scholars. Even if you know the Hebrew and the Greek, it still comes through that filter of training and discipline in learning those languages.
So can we know anything true? This is where Felix’s statement to Paul really comes true. “Your much learning is driving you mad.” You can go crazy trying to account for the error endemic to the human system. It truly challenges everything you think is true.
However, there are two notions in this verse that help us. One is to fear the Lord. The other is to shun evil. We cannot do either of these things if we cannot know what they are. I think it goes without saying that we can identify evil. We instinctively know what evil is. It does not have to be taught. We also identify the opposite of evil, good, and that of absolute good, the Lord. We can identify God’s handiwork with no formal education. He is transcendent.
Since we can know both God and evil, and favor the one and shun the other, then all other truths fall in line with these two poles. Fearing and respecting God helps us identify Scripture as God’s own word. The Bible speaks often clearly of what God wants from us. Our knowledge of evil agrees with what the Bible says about evil. Thus, except for very rare instances, the Bible even as translated, is a source of truth. Everything that agrees with the Bible can also be accepted as truth.
The sciences, for example, anticipate a world that is ordered and rational, because it was created by a God of order and logic. If the world evolved in a random fashion, it would be impossible to do science, because every scientific result would be different. It would, in that random world, be impossible to expect an aspirin to relieve pain every time, or even most of the time. Science expects the same result every time given the same set of circumstances. A random universe does not.
How can I know that what I know is right? Check it against your Bible. The Bible resonates with me, acts often as a mirror to my behavior showing me right and wrong. And the more I read it, the better I get. I am not always right, but I can learn.