Pastor's Blog

Throughout the 1990’s I was having problems with Christianity that I couldn’t resolve.  I started down the road to unbelief, thinking I might find answers in a perspective without God.  But the more I probed atheism the more I discovered problems and inconsistencies.  I decided to turn around, go back, and try to figure a way to make my life work within the confines of Christianity.

“I decided to turn around and go back” is a simple sentence that summarizes a lengthy process.  The atheist soup in my head had been twenty years in the making, with new ingredients slowly stirred into the blend throughout that time.  “Deciding to turn around” wasn’t done in a day.  The online interaction with the atheistic professor lit a small spark, but it took some time for the spark to burst into flame.

I knew some things had to change, if I was going to maintain my sanity.  One of those changes involved the role of certainty.  The evangelicalism I know values certainty and seems to equate it with faith.  If an all-knowing God speaks to you in the Bible, you can be certain that what He says is right.  So there is no need for uncertainty when it comes to anything that the Bible says.  The Bible is certain – and you can be too.  Exercise simple faith.  Faith knows, and it knows with certainty.

This seems logical but I think there are questions we need to ask.  Yes, God is all-knowing and yes, the Bible is God’s Word.  But is my interpretation necessarily identical to “what God said”? 

Or is it possible to misinterpret the Bible?  Can you always be certain that your interpretation is the only interpretation?

I think it only seems reasonable to conclude that there is a difference between God’s Word and various interpretations of God’s Word.  God’s Word is certain – but our interpretations are not as certain.

But isn’t that why we talk about faith?  Faith believes; knowledge knows.  We usually make a distinction between believing things and knowing things.  Knowing involves a more definite certainty;  faith involves some level of uncertainty.

We may always want to be able to say “Thus saith the Lord”, to insist that we’re right, and to be able to do so with certainty.  But because we must interpret the Bible, much of the time we can’t know with that level or that type of certainty. 

We don’t know;  we believe.

If faith involves some level of uncertainty, how should we then live?  Should we be dogmatic, certain, and insistent that we are right, or is it better to be more tentative and flexible, holding what we believe with a slightly loosened grip while we try to answer hard questions that our beliefs might raise?

Simple faith means, not that I know with absolute certainty, but that I don’t know, and I know that I don’t know.  That’s why I must exercise faith.  Faith doesn’t need to boast in absolute certainty.  Faith owns and glories in its own smallness, its ignorance, its limitedness, its finiteness.  Faith is unashamed and unafraid to be humbled before the enormity and the complexity of God, of life, of the human soul, of the world and everything in it.  Faith is not afraid to confess:  I don’t know, but I do believe.

 

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