Certainty

Lately I have noticed a trend in our culture that has bothered me. Everyone seems so certain about everything all the time. People on both sides of the political aisle state their opinions with such certainty in order to garner confidence from their base. News media state “facts” with such certainty they malign the real story with unnecessary spin in order to gain more viewers or readers. All this certainty leaves me feeling very alone. There is little I am absolutely certain about.

Noticing this trend, I have begun to ponder the idea of certainty. It seems to me that our culture has an unrealistic expectation of reality. Certainty is held high as proof for reliability. If you can be certain about something, there is automatic credibility for it. In my experience this has not been true. Sometimes things which I am least certain of later prove to be truth. Many times the things I am most certain of get proven to be absolute junk. MY certainty plays little to no role in the truth.

How does this idea play with our faith in Jesus Christ? Many might say that you are to be certain in the truth of the Gospel to be saved. This absolute certainty has served as a tyrannical oppressor to those who struggle with doubts and questions in the things they have believed or been taught.[1][1][1] Kara Powell and Steven Argue have written a great article about the role doubt plays in parenting children in the faith. Their conclusion is that doubt does not harm a childn’s faith but silence on the issue of doubt does. It is healthier for our kids to admit our doubts as parents and talk about how we deal with them in productive ways. It also stands in direct opposition to the witness of of Scripture on the topic. In the Gospel account Jesus comes across a desperate Father who believes Jesus can heal his Son of demon possession but after he demurs a bit in his request, he is challenged by Jesus. His response to Jesus’ challenge is

“I believe; help my unbelief!”

(Mark 9:24b)

Jesus goes on to heal the boy.

In the account of the resurrection we even see one of Jesus’ own disciples having doubts about what the others have experienced when recounting to him Jesus’ miraculous resurrection. How does Jesus respond to the doubting Thomas?

“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’”

(John 20:27)

He did not reject and cast out Thomas. He gave Thomas what he needed to believe. It seems that Jesus’ regular response to doubt is a call to believe along with assurances of his own good nature toward them.

As I read scripture, I do not see a call for certainty the way it seems to be popular in our culture to today. The Bible calls for hope, faith, belief, love but not absolute certainty. If you, like me, are sitting around and watching all the certainty going on and wondering what is wrong with you for having questions, do not despair. You are in the right place. You understand your own limitations and desire to be thoughtful before making certain claims. Jesus honors this spirit in his people. Continue to hope and seek truth!

What do you think? Has the certainty trend bothered you too? Have you seen others impacted negatively by not being able to express doubts?

Footnotes

[1] Kara Powell and Steven Argue have written a great article about the role doubt plays in parenting children in the faith. Their conclusion is that doubt does not harm a childn’s faith but silence on the issue of doubt does. It is healthier for our kids to admit our doubts as parents and talk about how we deal with them in productive ways.

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