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What Is An Agnostic

QUESTION: What is an Agnostic?


What is an agnostic? An agnostic is popularly defined as a person who holds to a middle ground between atheism and theism who also believes that the existence of God is a definite possibility but it is not within the realm of one’s knowledge. The term agnostic is a combination of the Greek prefix a meaning without and gnosis meaning knowledge. Thus, an agnostic is one who confidently affirms, “I don’t know.”

Agnostic Origins
The term agnostic and the accompanying philosophy of agnosticism was introduced by Thomas H. Huxley, 19th century biologist, philosopher, speaker, and one of the first and foremost defenders of Charles Darwin’s “Origin of the Species.” Huxley clarified the philosophy of agnosticism in a series of essays published in 1889. He wrote, “Positively, (agnosticism) may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.”

Agnostic Camps
There are two definable camps of agnostics on today’s crowded and often confusing philosophical battleground: strong agnostics and weak agnostics. Strong agnostics state, “I don’t know and no one can know if there is a God or not.” Weak agnostics would say, “Well, I don’t know if there is a God but there is a possibility that someone else might know -- but, hey, that someone else is not you!”

Both groups of agnostics hold to Huxley’s founding principle that it is wrong to go beyond the limits of one’s intellect and thus spend their lives with hearts in constant homage to their own reasoning. First promoted in defense of Darwin’s evolutionary theories, agnosticism now extends itself into every arena of life. Agnostics dismiss the evidence for biblical Christianity -- including creation by intelligent design -- as foolishness and declare God to be irrelevant to modern man. As cartoon Pogo once quipped, “God is not dead. He is merely unemployed.” And agnostics have given God his walking papers.

Agnostic Future
Agnostics, holding firm to their faith of not knowing, would do well to examine the evidence for the same God that the apostle Paul presented on Mars Hill in Acts chapter 17. Playing upon the Athenians’ devotion to the altar of the Unknown God (the original Greek word for “unknown” is, yes, agnostos), Paul presented the truth of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the coming judgment of God. Contrary to Huxley’s conclusion stated above, agnostics will indeed be ashamed as they face not a benign universe in the future but rather the severity of the Creator whom they chose to ignore.

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