Miroslav Volf weighs what knowledge is, and what it’s for.
There has been a longstanding criticism of theology, especially in the wake of the rise of modern sciences, that theology does not represent, in any significant sense, true knowledge. Now there’s different ways in which one can respond to this, and I think my sense would be to ask the question about what constitutes knowledge. What constitutes the kind of knowledge that we deem worth further exploring, that we deem increasing? And my sense is that we, especially in today’s academic setting, have reduced truth to truth that can be verified, or truth that results from a kind of clear methodological obedience to clear methodological rules. Basically the truth as it comes as a result of kind of scientific enquiry. I think that’s an impoverished understanding of truth. It does not take into account the rich, the kind of dimensions of truth that has to do with the character of our lives.
In any case, the question is what merits intellectual exploration. Is the goal simply amassing further knowledge and technological skills? Or is part and parcel of academic exploration to explore the purposes of human existence, [the] nature of our lives as human beings, and kind of making normative claims? And I would say that one of the critical elements for human beings today is precisely to reflect on who we are as human beings, what the purposes of our lives should be, and that we need to expand on our notion of truth so as to include what, from [the] perspective of hard sciences, would be understood as soft scientific questions and norms. And that the traditional distinction or the claimed distinction between fact and value is actually a bogus distinction, that concern for facts is a value and it needs to be justified in certain ways. And then values themselves have a knowledge component to them. And so we need to make a bridge between facts and values, so as for our knowledge to come to the good of humanity.