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constructive knowledge

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them….      Romans 1: 18


What on earth is “constructive knowledge”? And why do I need to know?


When a person has “constructive knowledge” of something - some fact - he or she is presumed (or deemed) to know that fact – in the eyes of the law of Jersey and its Courts of Justice.


“Constructive knowledge” is distinguished in Jersey Law from “actual knowledge”, where a person knows some fact because he or she can be proved to have been told it.


Let’s take an example. If a Jersey person has a bank account in St Helier and dies, the bank must not, after the death, act on any instructions even if they were given by the person before death e.g. by signing a cheque. But the bank can still act on those instructions after the death as long as it does not have actual knowledge of the death. Some years ago it was argued in court (in the UK) that a bank has constructive knowledge of a death when a death notice appears in the press – it would be presumed to have known of the death - but the court disagreed.


Look again at the above sentences in bold type written by a very learned man named Paul to Christians in Rome in around AD 57. It seems that all men and women, especially the ungodly have constructive knowledge about God.


How does that come about? The answer is there. It’s “because God has shown it to them”. (See the quote.)


But notice something far more terrible in what Paul wrote. He records, “For the wrath of God is revealed....”


Do all ungodly men, who “suppress the truth”, have constructive notice of “God’s wrath .... against [their] ungodliness and unrighteousness....”?


Back in 1843, Karl Marx, in an earlier work than Das Kapital, wrote, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” He believed that religion lulled the masses into accepting their (oppressed) conditions.


Much more recently, however, Czaeslaw Milosz, the Polish poet who won the 1980 Nobel Prize for literature, wrote that folk were now seeing a U-turn from Marx, “A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death – the huge solace of thinking that our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders are not going to be judged....”


It was this type of nothingness-after-death thinking that led to the deeds of Hitler and of Stalin and of so many others in the last 100 years, let alone earlier. These suppressed the truth inside them – as we do – and, in an awful, awful way they (and we) were shown the wilderness that resulted from such an internal suppression of truth.


Many folk in Jersey, though, still say, “I wish I had your faith”. But they avoid finding out more about Jesus Christ for fear they might become convinced and have to change things in their lives.


In that way we suppress the truth (for our own good) in a belief that the less that we find out about the God of Bible and His Son Jesus Christ, the more we will be able to get away with a final, desperate plea, “I didn’t know.”


The ultimate problem, however, is the legal doctrine of constructive knowledge.

‘The Bible does not set out a detailed description of the created world, as scientists seek to do, but repeatedly refers to that world as evidence of God’s purposeful activity. The Bible’s answer to the question, “Why does anything exist at all?” has not been superseded by scientific discoveries or surpassed by philosophical reasoning.’ (Dr Walter R Hearn, Professor of Science, Berkeley, California)
‘An atheist is a man who believes himself an accident.’(Francis Thompson, English Poet, 1859-1907)

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