Review: What We Can't Not Know: A Guide


A young woman aborts her first child and feels so bad about it that she aborts her second child, too, explaining that she wanted to be able to hate herself more for what she did to the first baby.

Why do human beings do things like that?

Because, says moral philosopher J. Budziszewski, we innately understand that some things are right and some things are wrong, and we simply cannot rid ourselves of that knowledge, no matter how hard we try. Violated moral knowledge should drive us to repentance-but, barring divine intervention, it will only drive us to the commission of more and more heinous acts.

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What We Can't Not Know (new revised edition, Ignatius Press, 2011) can be a very chilling read. Budziszewski's descriptions of the psychology of guilt hit home time after time. Indeed, he stipulates at the outset that without the knowledge of God's gracious redemption, we would be unable to face the full condemnation of the moral law.

More than anything, though, Budziszewski gives his readers confidence in the truth of biblical morality. He shows that all Ten Commandments are written on the deep conscience of every human being. Those who say they don't know are simply lying. Yes, of course, surface conscience can err. But deep down, the things we can't not know are always there. People who say otherwise are lying-and they know it.

The world's design, our design, and our consciences all witness to the existence of this natural law. God has structured it into the very fabric of the way things are, and it can never be effaced without the destruction of all His works. Budziszewski just helps us to see the pattern in the fabric.

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson

Caleb is the pastor of Harvest Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Gillette, Wyoming.


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