And also some wisdom from Ben Witherington III (on certainty)

An excerpt from a great post by New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III:

A minutes reflection will show that intellectual coherency, as judged by finite fallen or even redeemed minds, is not a very good guide to what is true. The truth of God and even of the Bible is much larger than anyone’s ability (or any collection of human being’s abilities) to get their mental calipers so firmly around it that one could form it into a ‘coherent theological system’ without flaws, gaps, or lacunae.

. . . A strong sense of assurance provided by the living presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit in our lives is not the same as intellectual certainty. Nor does God reveal so much about the eternal mysteries that a finite human mind could form it into an airtight theological system of any kind. Indeed, the Bible is pretty clear that God quite deliberately did not ‘tell all’ either in general revelation in creation or in the Scriptures(read Job), not least because God wants us to trust him and to build a trust relationship with him. What God has done is that God has revealed enough so that we may be redeemed but not so much that we do not have to trust God about the future.

. . . When someone brings up a topic like “why is their evil in the world, and why do even God’s people suffer so much” rather than give a pat answer I am more apt to repeat the words of John Muir who said words to the following effect– “We look at life from the back side of the tapestry. And most of the time what we see is loose threads, tangled knots and the like. But occasionally God’s light shines through the tapestry and we get a glimpse of the larger design with God weaving together the darks and lights of existence.”

. . . Not even Paul in the Bible dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s of a particular theological system and more to the point, he has no compelling interest in doing so. He is interested, as are all the Scriptural writers in simply bearing witness to a truth and a reality they have not merely come to believe in, but which they have experienced and which has changed their lives. They still have questions and intellectual doubts, and we hear about them in various places and ways in the Scripture. Their faith in God is not based on a conviction that they have a coherent theological system which they in essence fully understand and can explain. Their faith in God comes from having a personal relationship with God which provided them with enough evidence to produce faith in God. They know enough to know– that they don’t know enough to produce a comprehensive system called ‘the knowledge of God’. (Emphasis his. Link)

5 thoughts on “And also some wisdom from Ben Witherington III (on certainty)

  1. Don Hendricks

    Well, that kind of makes evenings and weekend for the last thirty years look wasted. Ive been trying to figure out a system…….or…..to react against the sytems that have been more or less forced upon me??????? I get his point and agree to a point, because some ideas about God need to be corrected because they are destructive.

  2. Marc

    Hilarious, Toni: I expected you to say something about the handle! šŸ™‚

    I’ve actually wondered about it myself. Referring to oneself as “the 2nd” or “the 3rd” in this day and age does seem somewhat anachronistic.

    I try to give him the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume that he’s simply proud to be a namesake of Ben I and Ben II, rather than that he is assuming “airs”.

    Don: Tell me more. Do I detect a note of sarcasm or are you truly put off by Witherington’s post?

  3. Linea

    I actually find that rather a relief.

    And on the topic of the IIIrd – we had a friend who was a IIIrd. I forget his first name. He went to the school of tropical medicine in Antwerp with Leo and one of his professors razzed him so badly about his name – in French no less – that I think he almost failed. I’m sort of glad we have not saddled any of our kids with a name passed down so systematically that they have to be numbered.

    Imagine a Leo the Ist and IInd! Horrors.

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