Types of Knowledge
Objective – knowledge is controlled by an object, i.e., God’s true revelation of himself in his Word
Subjective – knowledge is controlled by the subject, i.e., the individual believer
Let’s imagine someone hurts themselves and goes to the hospital to have their injury checked out. In case a bone is broken, the doctor has the injured body part x-rayed. After examining the x-ray, the doctor confirms that the bone is broken. He then asks them to rate how much pain they are in on a scale of 1 – 10. The patient indicates that the pain level is a 4.
The fact that the bone is broken is objective knowledge. The x-ray clearly shows the break and someone trained to read x-rays confirmed it; the bone being broken is a fact. The patient’s pain level is subjective knowledge. There isn’t necessarily a correct, universally true answer to how much pain they are in. The subject, the patient, determines the truth, and so 4 is a perfectly good answer.
What would happen if the patient decided to approach their broken arm from a subjective perspective instead of objective? They could say “I don’t believe my arm is broken. I just need to ice it.” They are free to believe that, but that doesn’t change reality. Their bone is broken and so, without correction, will heal improperly causing them problems for years to come.
God has told us about himself and his will in the Bible. God, being God, defines true spirituality, not us. God hasn’t told us everything, but he has told us something. There are things in the Bible that are hard to understand – primarily end times, church government, and the sacraments – and so we have some freedom on those issues. Most things in the Bible are clear, though. We may decide to ignore God’s guidance, but that doesn’t change reality.