The word agnosticism literally means “no-knowledge-ism”. The skeptical position held by agnostics usually comes in two distinct forms: soft and hard. Soft or flexible agnosticism simply claims to have an absence of knowledge as to whether God exists (thus reserving judgment). Hard or dogmatic agnosticism makes a stronger claim asserting that “no one” can know whether God exists.
This hard type of agnosticism appears to suffer from the same problems that atheism does in terms of verifying its bold claim. To embrace a hard form of agnosticism would mean that a person would have to either (1) know that knowledge of God is logically impossible, or (2) be an expert on all the possible ways one could come to know about God. Yet neither of these positions seems logically justifiable in nature.
Plus, the dogmatic form of agnosticism is actually self-defeating (at the same time affirming and denying the identical claim) for the position simultaneously asserts that one doesn’t know if God exists and yet knows enough about God to assert that no one can know that God exists. Hard agnostics, in effect, claim to have knowledge about a topic that they claim is not possible to know anything about. In his book No Doubt About It, Christian philosopher Winfried Corduan notes the following: “Thus agnosticism pivots on a contradiction by having to maintain that at one and the same time it is both possible and impossible to know something about God.”
Hard agnosticism asserts the self-destructing claim that “one knows enough about God in order to affirm that nothing can be known about God.”1 Thus, the extreme claims of skepticism first affirm what they ultimately deny.
- For a critical evaluation of agnosticism, see Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics (pages 13-27).