A Gnostic knows. A Theist believes.
To determine the difference between an Agnostic Theist and an Agnostic it is important to first understand that the two words describe two completely different things. Using the two descriptors together gives a deeper explanation of a person’s point of view on the subject.
An Agnostic Theist is telling you more.
Let us assume that as far as belief in God goes; (emphasis on belief) there are three possible positions one can hold.
Theist, Atheist and undecided – Belief
- Believes in God or similar deity/supernatural being
- Undecided, unsure, uncommitted or similar stance
- Does not believe in God or similar deity/supernatural being
Gnostic and Agnostic – Knowledge
This part relates to Gnosis (knowledge) from the Greek word gnó̱si̱ γνώση which literally translates to knowledge. Unlike belief there is no reasonable third option as far as knowledge goes; you either know or do not know. A Gnostic knows (or at least claims to know); an Agnostic does not know.
An Agnostic theist is telling you:
I do not know; I believe. Whilst this seems contradictory it absolutely is not. A great example is fidelity; unless you have kept a watchful eye or some other sort of measure to ensure someone is faithful to you; you can never be certain. (Not recommended) Although you do not know and cannot know with full certainty you generally believe that your significant other is loyal.
An Agnostic is telling you less
When someone simply tells you they are agnostic they are only giving you information about their knowledge of God. This can mean that they remain undecided or that they are a theist or an atheist with regards to belief. Most commonly (not always) an Agnostic feels that since they have no knowledge then they cannot make a commitment with regards to belief.
Whilst the logic of the agnostic is not necessarily flawed it does put the undecided Agnostic at odds with both theists and atheists. It could be argued that in truth all humans are actually Agnostic since knowledge of God is at the very least uncertain. Most religions ask us to have blind faith in that which we do not understand or truly know.
In fact one could argue that an Agnostic Theist could be of any faith since they simply state they do not know but believe. In this sense it could be argued that Agnostic Theists fill the ranks of many religions.
Unaffiliated Agnostic Theists
Whilst an Agnostic theist may be affiliated or believe in any religion many Agnostic Theists are actually unaffiliated simply believing in the existence of a God, Supernatural being, deity or any such being without the need to label it in anyway. An unaffiliated agnostic theist; does not know, believes but not in a specific interpretation of God; rather the knowledge that s/he does not know also extends to not needing to know or believe in a particular God. This interpretation should not be assumed to mean that the unaffiliated agnostic theist is a pacifist. In fact it may be quite the contrary and the unaffiliated agnostic theist may feel that to interpret or label God is inappropriate especially when used as a form of manipulation or to exert control on another human being or any creature.