Konrad Schmid

What Can We Know, and What Can't We?

A Critical, Theological Perspective

Could a person ever know everything there is to know?

Although our knowledge of the world is continuously growing, it's safe to assume that ignorance is increasing as well and that it will never be possible for us to completely understand the world. Ultimately, we're like mayflies, in that we hope to understand the cosmos based on what we perceive in the one day we're alive. Of course, science has developed methods and generated insights that have catapulted humanity to a level of understanding heretofore unachieved in history. But that doesn't mean the secrets of the world have become fewer or farther between. The closer you look, the more complex the world appears to be organized––both on a micro and on a macro scale.

We can think of this as our ability to perceive the world as a creation and to perceive humankind as a creature. In order to deal with this dilemma, theology has developed a model that is, intellectually, quite sophisticated. On the one hand, the model tends to 'demystify' the world, which allows it to penetrate the world scientifically. On the other, it has taught us to think of the world as a magnitude of the penultimate order.

Theology sees itself as a science that, altogether, thematizes the finitude of human existence and of human understanding with an eye toward the university. At the same time, it calls attention to real-life experiences, which often escape science's grasp.

Konrad Schmid is Professor for Old Testament and Ancient Judaism at the University of Zurich. More

Camera and Editing: Barbara Krieger

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