The Transmission of Knowledge

On the Examiner website, Alicia Donathan on 18 June 2009 in her article “Questions from an atheist part 4” fielded the question “Is it not likely that you are a Christian because your parents were?” It got me to thinking about the transmission of knowledge in general.

Herbert W Armstrong (HWA) used to say that people were born into societies and generally accepted whatever was taught to them. Hindus generally had children that became Hindu. Muslims generally had children that grew up to be Muslims. Methodists generally had children that became Methodist. Baptists generally had children that grew up to become Baptists. And so on. Why? For the most part, because they never stopped to really question their beliefs.

As a result, one of the things HWA used to instruct people to do was to “Blow the dust off of your Bibles!”

Donathan also states that the atheist asking the question also was raised in an environment where it is hip to be an unbeliever. Academia in general has become vigorously agnostic.

Even if a person has reasons for their position, according to Donathan, these reasons are still “often mediated by their environments, and shared by a community”. Furthermore:

I believe that Jesus is Lord partly for the same reason I believe that Gordon Brown is PM of Britain: because somebody else told me so. I could not have known it otherwise. This is also, incidentally, how I came to know the multiplication table, the name of the U.S. president during WWII, and the rate of acceleration due to gravity. Most of what we know and believe is acquired mediately, not through direct experience. (I also happen to have other reasons why I believe Jesus is Lord, but they do not play into this discussion.)

If you really consider this, it has far-reaching implications.

We all are confronted by interpretations of evidence every day. We are not confronted by the evidence itself. For example, how many of us actually witness OJ’s chase down the highway in a white Jeep by police? Most of us saw film clips. However, film clips can be altered or pieces left out for effect.

Witness this, for example:

Even video can be deceiving!

Much of the time, though, we don’t even have video for our news stories. We either get blurbs from the TV news or written pieces in a newspaper or online. Much of the time, we take their word for it. We choose to accept them as reliable sources of information.

Going back in time, we generally accept that Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey was written by Homer and told a story that many Roman’s believed. There are 643 known copies with 764 lines of text disputed.1

The New Testament, though, has 5,600 known copies in the original Greek with only 40 lines in dispute out of 20,000 lines (ibid).

To me, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the Bible being an accurate representation of what God intended to transmit to humankind.

It really boils down to who you choose to believe.


  1. All About the Journey. (n.d.). Bible Manuscripts. Retrieved 16 July 2009, from

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