Tag Archives: certainty

Belove

From Girl Meets God:

I have written [in my prayer book] this, from Diana Eck’s Encountering God:

The Latin credo means literally “I give my heart.”  The word believe is a problematic one today, in part because it has gradually changed its meaning from being the language of certainty so deep that I could give my heart to it, to the language of uncertainty so shallow that only the “credulous” would rely on it.  Faith…is not about propositions, but about commitment. It does not mean that I intellectually subscribe to the following list of statements, but that I give my heart to this reality. Believe, indeed, comes to us from the Old English belove, making clear that this too is meant to be heart language.  To say, “I believe in Jesus Christ” is not to subscribe to an uncertain proposition.  It is a confession of commitment, of love.

And then on the first page of my prayer book, a quotation from the Gospel of Mark: “Lord, I believe; Help thou mine unbelief.”

Once, when we were still dating, Steven read aloud to me from an obscure British novel…he read a scene in which a believer and a cynic are debating God. Of course I know you believe in it, the cynic says, what I want to know is do you believe in it the way you believe in Australia? Some days, I believe the Christian story even more than I believe in Australia…

Living the Christian life, however, is not really about that Australia kind of believing.  It is about a promise to believe even when you don’t. After all, when I stand up in church to say the Creed, it may well be that that very morning I didn’t really know for sure that some fifteen-year-old-virgin got pregnant with a baby who was really God.  Saying the Creed is like vowing to love your bride forever and ever.  That vow is not a promise to feel goopy and smitten every morning for the rest of your life.  It is a promise to live love, even, especially, when you don’t feel anything other than annoyance and disdain. (Lauren Winner, Girl Meets God, p. 268-269)

This reminds me of a couple of things I’ve quoted here before:

The goal of faith is not to create a set of immutable, rationalized, precisely defined and defendable beliefs to preserve forever.  It is to recover a relationship with God.  (Daniel Taylor, The Myth of Certainty)

and

major theories in the areas of mathematics, physics, and psychology…involve a prior decision as to what is fundamental in the area studied… All of them rest on fundamental assumptions which can be questioned.  But the questioning, if it is to be rational, has to rely on other fundamental questions which can in turn be questioned.  It follows…that there can be no knowing without personal commitment.  We must believe in order to know. (Leslie Newbiggin, Proper Confidence)

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)