Agnosticism is a belief system that denies the ability to have knowledge or truth regarding the fundamental nature of the universe, and in particular about God. It differs from atheism in not denying the existence of God or cosmic divinities. An agnostic simply claims that there is insufficient knowledge or data to determine whether or not God does or does not exist.
The word Agnostic is derived from the Greek word ἀ (a) meaning "without" and γνῶσις (gnósis) meaning "knowledge". Thomas Huxley, who coined the term, articulated his point of view somewhat in the following letter posted on September 23, 1860, to Charles Kingsley:
|“|| I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it. I have no a priori objections to the doctrine. No man who has to deal daily and hourly with nature can trouble himself about a priori difficulties. Give me such evidence as would justify me in believing in anything else, and I will believe that. Why should I not? It is not half so wonderful as the conservation of force or the indestructibility of matter...
It is no use to talk to me of analogies and probabilities. I know what I mean when I say I believe in the law of the inverse squares, and I will not rest my life and my hopes upon weaker convictions...
That my personality is the surest thing I know may be true. But the attempt to conceive what it is leads me into mere verbal subtleties. I have champed up all that chaff about the ego and the non-ego, noumena and phenomena, and all the rest of it, too often not to know that in attempting even to think of these questions, the human intellect flounders at once out of its depth.
Christianity and Agnosticism
Indeed Christian belief supports this philosophy to an extent, but certain absolute truths of the natural and supernatural world can be known. As with most popular ideas, there is a speck of truth in agnosticism: the acknowledgment of the frailty of the human mind. It was Jesus himself who said to the Pharisees:
"For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, 'What? Are we blind too?' Jesus said, 'If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.'" - John 9:39-41
Similarly, in Job 38-41 God answers Job out of whirlwind, pointing out exactly how ignorant Job is of the ways of the universe. Many Christians are more than willing to acknowledge their ignorance and mental frailty in the face of God and the universe. But from this acknowledgment, agnostics and Christians diverge sharply. A Christian acknowledges his ignorance, but seeks to learn by seeking God which is the truth to all things as He is Creator of all things. As Jesus said;
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." - Matthew 7:7-8
The agnostic by contrast, concludes that because he is ignorant that he will always be ignorant and thus ceases to seek the truth or try to understand anyone else, as it is inconclusive either way. From a Christian perspective, this is a non sequitur. Just because one does not know God now does not mean one can never know Him; but if one ceases to try, one is certain never to know Him. To be an agnostic is to acknowledge one's ignorance and surrender to it. To be a Christian is to acknowledge one's ignorance but then say, as did Paul that,
"Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, even as I was also fully known." - 1_Corinthians 13:12