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Knowledge, Belief, Commitment…Defined. Why It Matters. Knowing Christ Today (KCT 1)

“A life of steadfast discipleship to Jesus can be supported only upon assured knowledge of how things are, of the realities in terms of which that life is lived.”

~ Introduction to Knowing Christ Today, by Dallas Willard

What follows are simply the notes I took in studying the Dallas Willard's book, Knowing Christ Today. Because there are so many wise insights, I've split my notes over five posts; this post highlights chapter one: "Can Faith Ever Be Knowledge?" For the most part, I've included page numbers and quotations as reference, but you should know that all of this is from the book. None of it is mine. Now let's dive in!

We must start by first understanding the difference between belief and knowledge.

“The difference between belief and knowledge is huge…not having knowledge of the central truths of Christianity is one reason for the great disparity between what Christians profess and how they behave.” (p15)

To understand this, we must first define some key terms that are commonly confused today.


We have knowledge of something when we are representing it (thinking about, speaking about, etc.) as it is, on an appropriate basis of thought and experience. If you know something, you can think and talk about it and represent it as it actually is.

  • ·Knowledge requires truth. If you don’t have truth, you can still have belief.

    • Truth isn’t relative, belief is. Belief doesn’t make things true!

    • Truth is extremely important, especially to prevent evil.

  • Knowledge can also be defined as "interactive relationship." Think about this in terms of the difference between knowing your parent, sibling, spouse or best friend...and "knowing" your dentist, the mayor, the bank teller, etc.


A matter of tendencies to act. We have belief if we are ready to act as if it were true (even if it is not).

  • Belief has no necessary ties to truth, good method, or evidence.

  • Belief involves the will in a way that knowledge does not.


Acting as if you believe. Choosing and implementing a course of action.

  • Commitment is often confused with belief.

    • Too often, ministers try to get you to commit to something you don’t believe. If you commit to what you don’t believe, you must continually recommit. If you believe it, you’ll stay committed.

  • Commitment need not involve belief, much less knowledge.

Head Knowledge:

Knowledge without belief, and perhaps merely profession.

One more definition as it relates to the religious life:


Faith is a kind of knowledge of the spiritual and invisible world. It is a readiness to act, often beyond our natural abilities, based upon knowledge of God and God’s ways.

  • Faith has to do with engagement of the will, not with the absence of knowledge.

  • Faith is opposed to sight, not to knowledge.

  • “An act of faith in the biblical tradition is always undertaken in an environment of knowledge and is inseparable from it.” (p21)

In various translations of the Bible, Hebrews 11:1 defines faith with words such as: reality, evidence, substance, confidence, assurance, conviction, certainty...

In short: faith is knowledge (ability to represent things as they really are) AND confidence, which creates a readiness to act.

Thus, you might see how the statement that one is “struggling with my faith” demonstrates a problem much deeper than simply trying to “muster up enough belief to get me through whatever it is I’m facing today and it’s not really working.”

You either have faith: knowledge with confidence and readiness to act…or you don’t. If you don’t, you might want to consider what your actions (or inaction) reveals about what you believe or claim as knowledge.

We need knowledge. To understand how knowledge has disappeared from our world today, it would be helpful to study this book, Knowing Christ Today (“KCT”) and another of Dallas Willard's, The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge…because it has not always been this way. As Willard explains in KCT, historically, “The central teachings of the Christian religion were from the beginning presented and accepted as knowledge – knowledge of what is REAL and RIGHT.” (p19, emphasis added)

The consequences of lack of knowledge are substantial. The significance of “separation of church and state” today means “the teaching of Christianity is not a matter of knowledge of reality.“

If it were seriously imagined that the teachings of Christianity or other religions constituted a vital and irreplaceable knowledge of reality, there would be no more talk of the separation of church and state than there is of chemistry or economics and state. (p32)

When we have knowledge, what are we to do with it? What do you do with any important knowledge about life that you possess? We are to share it!

"Knowledge confers on its possessor an authority or right, even a responsibility, to act, direct action, establish and supervise policy, to teach.” (p30)

Now that we understand the key differences between knowledge, faith, belief, and commitment, let's take a look at what happens to a society when knowledge disappears: Chapter Two: How We Perish for Lack of Knowledge.

(You might also enjoy this post on practically knowing Jesus and anticipating his return to Earth.)


This was from Chapter One. Don't Miss the Other Knowing Christ Today Notes:

You may also enjoy listening to Willard teach these concepts in "Knowledge of Christ in Today's World" - his video teaching, here.


Thanks for connecting!

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