I was recently listening to a radio programme that was talking about the various ways we can describe things that we don’t know. It stated that there are ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’. In other words there are things you know you don’t know, and things that are totally ‘off your radar’.
For example, you may not know how to speak French. However, knowing you are ignorant of the language is a good starting point to be open to learning it. But you’ll never be able to learn a tribal language that you don’t even know exists.
As I read Acts 17:23, ‘For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore the One whom you worship without knowing Him, I proclaim to you’ I realised that Paul was provoking these men in Athens in pointing out that they were worshipping an ‘unknown God’. He was telling them that this God was for them a ‘known unknown’, and, being Greek, and keen to further their learning, this opened their desire for knowledge of this ‘unknown God’. Their awareness of their ignorance was a good opening for Paul to tell them more, even if the outcome of his preaching was mixed (read Acts 17:32 – 34 for more information).
However there are also things that are totally outside your realm of consideration, and of which you’re totally oblivious. If you have no knowledge and no awareness that there’s anything to be discovered, you’re in a very different situation. Obviously, if you’re ignorant of something’s existence, it’s impossible to gain any knowledge about it. You’re stuck in a permanent blind spot!
When I was growing up, many years ago now, people mostly knew that God existed, even if they were aware that they knew nothing much about Him. God was a ‘known unknown’. But today sadly, for many God seems to be an ‘unknown unknown’. The secular world has denied His existence so thoroughly that many don’t even know that there’s anything to know, and this a terrible place to be; stuck in blind ignorance.
Perhaps I could even suggest a third kind of unknown; a ’known unknown’ but one which, instead of recognising and owning my ignorance about, I choose to disregard and deny as a reality for me. In other words, I chose to block out the existence of what is, in reality, a known unknown, until it becomes increasingly invalid. In this way the issue becomes an unrecognised and irrelevant unknown; surely the extreme of arrogant ignorance. It says I don’t know, and I don’t want to even acknowledge there’s something to know. I fear this is how many today would deal with Paul’s expounding of the ‘Unknown God’ issue.
Prayer: Dear Father God, thank You that You’re not an ‘unknown unknown’, but You’ve made yourself known to us, through Jesus, our Saviour. Help me never to be arrogant in my ignorance, but to desire to know You, and learn more about Your ways each day. I pray this in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.
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