There were men in the 17th and 18th Centuries who desired another way to determine what can be known. They were called “empiricists” because they taught knowledge can only be gained through sense experience.
The philosophy they espoused gained acceptance and has had a tremendous influence through the ages even up to this day. John Locke, one of the greatest empiricists, influenced Thomas Jefferson in the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Locke was one of the first (if not the first) to write that the governments of men only rise to power through “the consent of the governed.”
Knowledge arrived only through sense experience is not always true. For example, how can a person multiply large numbers? Can one line up 1,000 things and multiply it by 1,000 using only sense experience? The solution to this problem will not come empirically but through reflection and reason. How can a person know the answer to 1+X=4 through sense experience? Empiricism is not the be all end all of knowledge.
Locke’s empiricism has spilled over into religion. Some people say we must “experience God.” How can that be done? Can anyone see God? Feel God? Taste, hear, or smell God? If God cannot be known through sense experience, then the idea of having an “experience” with God cannot be true. When faced with such an inconsistency, the “experience” becomes one that is better felt than told. It cannot be put into words because there are no words.
If so, then why was the Bible written using languages people wrote and spoke? Also, if God chose to reveal himself in a miraculous way to one person and not to another, then isn’t God showing respect of persons? But, the Bible teaches God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34). Since that is true, God is not going to reveal himself to one person and not to another.
The apostle John wrote that no man has seen God at any time. If true, then how can God be known? John said God has been made known by his son Jesus Christ who has explained him (John 1:18). The word “explained” is the word exēgeomai in the original language of the New Testament. It is defined “to bring out the meaning.” It is where we get the English word “exegete.”
If it is possible to experience God with our five senses, then why would it be necessary for his son to explain him to us? This is the problem that many religious “leaders” have. Many have claimed to talk to God, hear God, see God in some way all because they believe it is necessary for them to show they have experienced God and therefore know him so much better than anyone else, including his only son.
Instead of “experiencing God,” the gospel was given to man to read, hear, believe and obey. Such a system takes away any idea of preferential treatment. It places all of us in possession of one way to learn about God and thus obey him: his word. Jesus prayed to the father, “Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth,” (John 17:17 NKJV). All of Jesus’ followers are made holy, sanctified, by obedience to the truth of God’s word.
Under the system of obedient faith in Christ (Romans 1:5; 16:26), we are all saved by the same gospel, we are all baptized into the same body, all are cleansed by the same blood. There is no partiality. Each one of us has the choice of obeying God or refusing him. We all receive the same knowledge of God through his only begotten son who has explained him to us in the New Testament.