Posted by: Dan | May 8, 2009

Abandoning Certitude: Walking Humbly with God

As far as I can tell, being honest with ourselves requires us to confess that we now live in a world where it is impossible to recognize any infallible, completely trustworthy authorities.  Or, even if we grant the existence of any such authority (as I actually do), we must confess that we have no unmediated access to that authority.  What access we have is always mediated by that which is inevitably fallible and not completely trustworthy.  Thus, we are all in the same boat, whether or not we affirm the existence of any infallible, completely trustworthy authorities.

So, for example, although I believe in a God who is, in my opinion, infallible and trustworthy (I’m willing to give God the benefit of the doubt!), I can never claim direct access to God, or knowledge of God, or God’s will, or whatever else.  Access to God is always, in some way, mediated.  Thus, things like Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience all function as mediators — but neither Scripture, nor tradition, nor reason, nor experience is completely infallible or completely trustworthy.

Let us explore this point.

Although Scripture functions as an authority for Christians, it cannot be treated in an overly simplistic or naive manner.  Sometimes Scripture is inscrutable, sometimes it is contradictory, and sometimes it’s a crap shoot as to how we are to relate to the two or four thousand year old events contained therein.  Besides, God didn’t write Scripture — people, with all of their foibles and limitations did, and no matter how fancy your exegetical footwork (Scripture in its original [but now lost] form was perfect, God actually dictated the original [but now lost] biblical texts to the authors verbatim, etc.) the point remains that, Scripture as we know it, cannot be treated as infallible.  This does not mean we must then go on to refuse to recognize Scripture as an authority.  Far from it, Christians can recognize Scripture as an authority — but it is an authority we must engage critically.

I think that the complexities involved in both understanding and applying Scripture are becoming increasingly obvious, even to those who have tried to remain rooted within premodern views of Scripture.  This, in my opinion, partially explains why Evangelicals who previously had fairly loose ecclesiologies and little regard for Church history are now becoming increasingly fascinated with Roman Catholicism and the Christian Tradition (just note all of the contemporary Evangelicals who have taken to calling themselves ‘Augustinian’!).  Thus, for various Christians, Tradition (capitalized and in the singular) is treated as an infallible and completely trustworthy authority.  However, it is worth questioning if this is really the case.  When we ask this question, it quickly becomes apparent that it is difficult to see how this could be true.  First of all, an honest look at Christian history requires us to note that there is no single authoritative ‘Tradition’; rather, there are many different, often competing and contradictory, traditions.  Consequently, any who propose a single authoritative ‘Tradition’ are engaging in a highly selective reading of history that ends up being (intentionally or not) rather dishonest.

However, the case could be made that, despite differences, there are some elements of Christianity that appear consistently throughout history.  Therefore, one might wish to argue that these elements are the part of the Christian traditions that is authoritative and infallible.  However, this cannot be the case as, for example, the oppressive use of power (in order to abuse, marginalize and oppress women, children, people with disabilities, and other minority populations) is a fairly consistent thread running through many Christian traditions over the last two thousand years.   We cannot simply appeal to majority views, as majorities (yes, even majorities within the Church, and over the course of Church history) are often mistaken.  Futhermore, the Bible itself teaches us that the majority of those who call themselves ‘the people of God’ have often lost their way.  Thus, there are constantly minority movements arising to correct the majority (for example, schools of prophets in the Old Testament and the Jesus Movement in the New Testament).

However, this does not mean that majorities are always wrong and that minorities are always right.  Indeed, I believe that the Spirit of God can move in such a way that a majority of people can — independently of one another — come to the same appropriate conclusion for any given situation.  It also doesn’t mean that minorities are always right.  Often minorities fracture off of groups and spiral into self- and other-destructive behavior.

Therefore, we are once again required to critically engage with the Christian traditions.  What we cannot do is simply accept ‘Tradition’ as a single, infallible, completely trustworthy source.

This then leaves us with reason and experience.  But neither of these can be treated as infallible, completely trustworthy authorities.

Reason, in my opinion, is the least trustworthy of all.  More than any of the other authorities mentioned here, ‘reason’ is an almost entirely amorphous cultural construct.  Simply stated, what is ‘reasonable’ is only reasonable to particular people, at a particular place, during a particular moment in history.  At different places, in different moments of history, it was completely reasonable to think of the earth as flat, as created in seven days, or as existing on the back of a turtle.  Nowadays, many people consider this sort of thinking unreasonable and find it reasonable to think of the earth as round, as coming into being over a very long amount of time, and as existing in time/space (which it is now reasonable to think of as a single ‘thing’).

Of course, by highlighting this I am not suggesting that we abandon reason as an authority.  To do so would be next to impossible, given that all of us are culturally-conditioned people, and will remain culturally-conditioned, in one way or another, regardless of our best efforts.  ‘Reason’ ends up being an authority, whether we like it or not.  However, this line of thought does require us to critically engage reason (which, by the way, is what Wittgenstein does when he encourages us to talk non-sense).

We are then left with experience which, in my opinion, actually exists in something of a privileged place, especially when it comes to how we relate to God as an authority.  After all, one may read about the God of the Scriptures, one may learn about the God revealed in the Christian traditions, and one may come to some positive conclusions about God based upon reason, but if one has no experience of God, then all of that reading, learning, and thinking, will likely be for naught.  So, by saying experience exists in a ‘privileged place’ I am not saying that it is more authoritative than these other sources; rather, I am saying that it needs to be recognized as authoritative (at least in some way) before any of the other sources can be meaningfully engaged as authoritative.

However, just as with the other authorities mentioned above, experience cannot be treated as an infallible, completely trustworthy authority.  No matter how dramatic (or traumatic!) our experiences of God, we must critically engage every experience.  What if we are mistaking something for God that is not God?  What if we are being emotionally manipulated by our environment?  What if we are mentally ill (I’ve worked with many schizophrenic people who refused to take their medication because ‘God stopped talking’ when they were on the medication — but refusing to take the medication also led these people to be trapped in cycles of poverty, homelessness and violence)?  What if we are just using ‘God’s still small voice’ to justify our preconceived notions or to allow us to indulge in harmful or selfish desires?  And so on and so forth.  Thus, although experience is an authority, it cannot be considered infallible.

Consequently, we remain stuck in the state I described at the opening of this post.  We must confess that we no longer have any infallible authorities, and even if God is recognized as just that kind of authoritiy, we must confess that we have no infallible, unmediated access to God.

What then is the result of this?  The loss of certitude.  An honest confrontation with our situation requires us to confess that we can no longer be certain… about anything.  Maybe we are eisegeting the Scriptures.  Maybe we are highlighting the wrong parts of the Christian traditions.  Maybe our reason is fatally flawed.  Maybe we have misunderstood ourselves and our experiences.  Maybe that which we have taken to be God, is not God at all.  We must confess that any and all of the above is possible.

So we must abandon certainty, and we must flee from anyone who promises us certitude lest we become lured into false comforts and a world of illusions.

This, I think, is what it means for a person to ‘walk humbly with God’ (cf. Mic 6.8).  Walking humbly with God means confessing that, hey, maybe we’ve got it all wrong.  Maybe, instead of being part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.  Maybe we’re just making one giant mess of everything.  So we pray: ‘Lord, have mercy’.

Finally, I have recently come to the conclusion that this movement into uncertainty is actually an expression of one’s maturation in one’s faith.  This goes against what I was led to believe about faith when I was growing up.  When I was younger, I though that uncertainty was a sign of ‘spiritual immaturity’ and that ‘spiritual maturity’ would be expressed in an increasing sense of certainty.  Indeed, I think many Christians were led to believe that this is how ‘spiritual maturity’ is expressed.  I no longer believe this.  I now believe that it takes a great deal of maturity to confess that one is uncertain (about everything), and the reason why we have difficulty confessing this is because we remain in places of immaturity.  This, at least, has been my own (neither infallible nor completely trustworthy!) experience: the more deeply rooted I have become in my faith, the more I have been able to abandon certitude in order to walk humbly with God — and with my neighbours as we, together, strive to do justice and love mercy (Mic 6.8, again).

Advertisements

Responses

  1. I agree! I find canonical theism to be a helpful proposal. I’d be interested in your thoughts on Billy Abraham’s book Canon and Criterion, or the recent edited volume entitled Canonical Theism.

  2. Great post, it very accurately reflects my journey…

    Joe

  3. Nice post! I’m curious how you respond to people that accuse you of throwing out the whole bible because you don’t hold to biblical infallibility/inerrancy. You know, the typically “if you can’t trust that part, you can’t trust any of it!”

    Is there an effective but nice way to answer these protests?

  4. Dan,

    I appreciate your post, but I want to push you on tradition. Specifically, do you see a difference between the tradition’s decisions on, say, the Trinity and the canon and the church’s sometimes discriminatory practices? Or does the latter overlap with the former to such an extent that no generally accepting ‘hermeneutic of recovery’ is possible?

    Similarly, are there differences in ‘respectability’ between different time periods of the tradition? Or is the 2nd century as equally questionable as the 14th, or 17th? It seems to me that your comments make privileging the 21st century unavoidable.

  5. Also, you know the idea of Medieval belief in a ‘flat earth’ was a myth created by Andrew White, right? :)

  6. David:

    Apart from reading the 30 Theses posted on Halden’s blog, I haven’t read anything by Abraham. I like that he seems to be expanding the notion of ‘canonicity’ but I’m not convinced that he has gotten away from the ‘Tradition’ (vs. ‘traditions’) way of thinking.

    Joe:

    I enjoyed our (rather drunken) conversation about these things. I respect you a great deal for being honest about your own encounters with ‘reality’.

    Colin:

    I think that the best approach is to demonstrate that even those who call the bible ‘infallible’ or ‘inerrant’ don’t actually treat everything in the bible as infallible or inerrant. Everybody finds ways of directly applying some parts of the bible, and completely ignoring (or directly not applying) other parts. Once this is demonstrated, we can show how those who then continue to refer to the bible as infallible or inerrant are then using that language in a way devoid of much meaning.

    Michael:

    Yes, I do see a difference between the many trajectories found within the history of Christianity (for example, I think that God’s preferential option for and with the poor is a scarlet thread running through both the Bible and the history of Christianity), but the point remains that we are all engaging in a subjective choice when we choose to highlight some parts of history (or some periods) over other parts (or periods). Even if a person has mapped out a ‘reasonable’ system as to why to privilege one period (say the 2nd century) or one element (say trinitarian thinking), we are still stuck making the subjective choice to embrace that system over the other alternatives. Of course, we must all make those choices, but we cannot make them with certitude.

    Also, I wasn’t thinking of the Medieval period when I was talking about faith in a ‘flat earth’ — I was thinking of those (like the ancient Hebrews) who predated the Greek philosophers. However, there were still probably some in the Medieval period who believed in a flat earth, just as there are still some today who reject the belief that the earth is round (cf. http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/)!

  7. Great post!

    I think, though, that there is another take on this. Namely, that some people, when they have discovered the inescapability of uncertainty, tend to say something like “hey, it´s just another interpretation among thousands and thousands, so why bother”, which makes a good excuse for conservatism and status quo.

    I like the baptist theologian James McClendons notion of “convictions” as perspectives that informs our living deeply and which cannot be changed without changing the person/group fundamentally. And we all have convictions.

    The tough thing is that we have to be able to give our life for a conviction and still face the fact that there are good reasons to let this conviction contain a certain amount of insecurity. Sometimes I doubt that this is too much to ask from us.

  8. […] Oudshoorn vísir á sínum bloggi, On Journeying with those in Exile, hvussu vit ikki kunnu vera fullvís í nøkrum. Hvørki Bíblian, traditiónin, vit og skil ella […]

  9. I very much agree with you on this point. I always think of a quote from Barth in “Romans” when I think about the uncertain nature of faith:

    “Faith is not a ground on which we can place ourselves, not a system which we can obey, not an atmosphere in which we can breathe. Viewed from a human perspective, what was once called religion, conviction and law becomes rather the abyss, anarchy, void. But ‘the law of the faithfulness of God’ [Rom. 3:27] – which is to say, ‘the law of faith’ – is the place where only God can hold us, the place where there is nothing else but God himself, God alone.” (The Epistle to the Romans, 110)

    It’s only in embracing the uncertainty, in the abyss, that we break the idols and truly put our faith in God.

  10. Wow Dan, thanks.
    Sometimes I feel like an idiot talking to some people (Christian or not) because I just don’t know what to say, and while I could easily get angry and push the regular cliche answers at them, I find it more honest to just suck it up and admit I have no idea what I’m talking about at times. A post like this at least gives me a bit of hope in knowing that I might be ok.

  11. Dan,
    I recommend reading more from Abraham. In the Canonical Theism book the authors are quite explicit about the fact that there isn’t one universally agreed upon set of Christian canons. The group (rather ecumenical) chose to limit themselves in some ways (to dealing with particular canons within a particular period of time) but this is a practical necessity, I think.

    I think admitting that epistemology is a endeavor for the church in which we try to make sense of and articulate and placing the ontological transformation through the Christian tradition (admittedly a pluralistic kind of concept) is a good way to avoid the problem you outline here. Abraham suggests a principle of “overdetermination”, that is, the Spirit has provided more than we need, and thus there is room to admit a plenitude of gift and no problem admitting that no individual conception of The Tradition captures all of it.

  12. i thought i read somewhere that “faith IS being certain of what you cannot see”

    is there no Redemption for certainty?

    is Certain Truth the only Other we can opress stress-free?

    can we not say we are certain about anything anymore?

    are you certain about that?

    how sad!

    i like to think i’m certain of several things, including that i’m writing this post, and i certainly won’t be giving that up to the postmodern trends and anti-Aristotelian philosophers

    i am certain you cannot avoid your feelings of certainty dispite certain attempts to give it up for some undisclosed intellectual feeling of freedom from the bonds of Truth

    can we simply qualify what we mean when we say ‘i’m certain’ … aka not 100% scientific deductive syllogistic proof … but a logical and emotional and spiritual conviction that something is absolutely true and i believe it … and yet yes we might be wrong despite our convictions of certainty … and there i think you’ve caught the good spirit against over-ambitious Modernism … just don’t forget to stop off before the pedulum gets to the other side at the Myth of Uncertainty

  13. Dan,

    Thank you for your response. Because I have a lot of sympathy for your position, though, I want to push you a bit more. First, you use the word ‘subjective’ twice, which, although I doubt you intend it, is characteristic of our willingness to pay homage to modernist categories. If objectivity is impossible, and all knowledge is personal, as Michael Polanyi argues, then distinctions like ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ disappear. Knowledge (and belief) is simply personal knowledge, and personal knowledge is simply knowledge. Newbigin makes a similar point about ‘facts’ and ‘values’, even more tyrannical words.

    Second, although you deliberately mention neighbours at the end, I worry that texts like yours can easily be read in individualist, anti-ecclesial fashion. At least, that’s how many, both pro and con, seem to take any questioning of certitude as license for. Yet ironically a true rejection of modernity must entail questioning the privilege of the atomic, Cartesian self, who ‘dares to know’ and decide for themselves whatever and whoever they will believe.

    Instead, it seems to me that the Church catholic is the correct subject to discern the four sources you mention – always striving to achieve true peace, rather than imposed peace, in doing so – and can thereby transcend the arrogant subjectivity of the individual Christian.

    • Michael:

      (1) Fair enough, I suppose. Whether you wish to use the language of ‘subjectivity’ or ‘personal knowledge’ or just plain old ‘knowlege’ the point remains that certitude is absent from all of the above.

      (2) I suppose that a person could try to take what I have written and use it to pursue some sort of anti-ecclesial individualism. However, they would be doing violence to what I have written, as I affirm all of the things mentioned above as authorities (scripture, the Christian traditions, reason, and experience), it’s just that I’m arguing that all of these authorities are fallible and must be engaged critically (albeit humbly). Thus, we need not end up anywhere close to Descartes (I’ve never been a fan of his), nor does it require us to acritically embrace Kant (as it was Kant, not Descartes, who popularised Horace’s Sapere aude!).

      That said, we also do need to recognize that each of us do make individual choices (whether we want to or not!)… and even if one wants to make ‘the Church catholic’ a priority in the process of decision making, one still must make the choice to treat ‘the Church catholic’ this way (not to mention that one also then chooses to recognize some things, and reject other things, as ‘the Church catholic’). Indeed, nothing you have written so far as really addressed the challenges I have raised in my post or in my initial response to you… I’d be interested in seeing something more sustained in that regard!

      But, once again, one can recognize this without falling into any sort of ‘arrogant subjectivity’ or individualism.

  14. Cyr:

    I’m having trouble figuring out if you are being playful or polemical. You seem to start off pretty serious (or sad!) but then you seem to take your own legs out from under yourself. I’m not certain(!) where you stand.

    On the one hand, you press the point that you are ‘certain’ about some things but, on the other hand, you end up defining certainty as a ‘conviction that something is absolutely true and i believe it … and yet yes we might be wrong despite our convictions of certainty’ — which sounds like a lot of different things, but certitude is not one of them! How can you be convinced that something is ‘absolutely true’ while also genuinely confessig that you ‘might be wrong’ about that? Why bother using the language of certitude at all to describe such a position? It seems dishonest to me… like some sort of ideological propaganda or some sort of overcoding.

    Also, I’m puzzled by this question: ‘is Certain Truth the only Other we can opress stress-free?’ First of all, let me clarify that I’m not attacking ‘Truth’ at all in this post (nor am I personally attacking any who claim certitude). I’m only saying that we, as fallible and limited beings, can never have certain access to truth. Second, I don’t know how one can oppress something that is a concept (‘Certain Truth’). I can no more oppress (or not oppress) ‘Certain Truth’ than I can oppress Pi or the square root of negative one.

    That said, I’m pretty sure about some things — I’m actually betting my life on some things (so no worries regarding ye ol’ pendulum swing) — but to be pretty sure is not the same as being sure, and at the end of the day we’ve got to admit that we’re all gambling in one way or another.

  15. “Indeed, nothing you have written so far has really addressed the challenges I have raised in my post or in my initial response to you…”

    Then perhaps we have no points of disagreement? I’m not trying to be a Quixote. But since you asked, here’s a more sustained argument, which may only be a defense of your position:

    Let’s entertain Colin Gunton’s thesis that many of the problems of modernity (the illusion of objectivity, the fact/value dichotomy) are caused by bad theology, which was then displaced into modern philosophy by Kant in particular, who divinized human reason in different ways for each of his famous three spheres of culture.

    What was this bad theology he coopted? Voluntarism, or the rejection of God’s will being “free but not arbitrary” in favour of his will being utterly pure, unmotivated, and unmediated by Christ, the Spirit, reason, etc. This is obviously translated into Kant’s ethics, which is concerned with the laws of right and wrong that “godlike reason itself prescribes,” but also visible in his aesthetics and his idea of the self, which lacks ontology and fails to acknowledge relationality (very anti-Trinitarian.)

    So… what? Well, obviously we need to dispense with modernism. But the root causes also need to be repaired, which is why I’m sensitive to any sort of ‘voluntarist’ description of the human person. Personalist, yes; personal responsibility before God, yes; encouraging the exaltation of the individual, no.

  16. Or perhaps ‘maybe’, depending on whether we exalt to love (as in seeing the poor as Christ) or to enthrone beyond all society.

  17. Thanks Dan – resonates on some key levels.

  18. PROSEPROPHET:

    probably playfully polemic and polemically playful

    “How can you be convinced that something is ‘absolutely true’ while also genuinely confessig that you ‘might be wrong’ about that?”

    I’d say that given an individual question I would often say I’m certain about this, but being also certain of the fact that no one person has everything right, I would acknowledge that I could somehow be wrong despite my conviction to the contrary.

    “Why bother using the language of certitude at all to describe such a position?”

    faith is certainty of what one does not see

    what is the consequence of abandoning all language of certitude?

    “Also, I’m puzzled by this question: ‘is Certain Truth the only Other we can opress stress-free?’ First of all, let me clarify that I’m not attacking ‘Truth’ at all in this post (nor am I personally attacking any who claim certitude). I’m only saying that we, as fallible and limited beings, can never have certain access to truth. Second, I don’t know how one can oppress something that is a concept (’Certain Truth’). I can no more oppress (or not oppress) ‘Certain Truth’ than I can oppress Pi or the square root of negative one.”

    glad to hear you aren’t attacking Truth. in my conception Truth is a Person and thus can be mistreated

    i believe in Absolute Truth, though I know all access to it is subject to subjectivism

    all Absolute Truth is apprehend by a human subject through mediation and thus we know it could be misconstrued

    my point is merely that certainty is a fact of human existence, and has many beneficial results, although it can be taken much too far in some philosophies

    i think the anguage of certainty serves a purpose and is the essence of Faith, which all humans require, though it doesn not necessarily depend upon rational reflection

    certainly many people who are certain about some things are wrong, but that doesn’t mean being certain about any thing is wrong

    i do agree with you that we all need to go forward with humility and stick to our bets and see what the dice rolls at the end of the game

  19. Dan:

    I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, and I think I found a way to express my main concern with it. It seems to me that in this post you are trying to argue for the rough equivalence of scripture, tradition, reason and experience (I think that’s the Wesleyan quadrilateral? I digress…) in terms of authority, and for the fallibility of all of them. As you express concisely:

    We must confess that we no longer have any infallible authorities, and even if God is recognized as just that kind of authority, we must confess that we have no infallible, unmediated access to God.

    What I would like to hear your thoughts on is how such sentiments can be consistent with the following:

    Proverbs 3
    5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
    6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
    7 Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
    8 It will be healing to your flesh [2]
    and refreshment [3] to your bones.

    In a sense, this proverb proves your point, but in another sense I think it challenges it. In my reading, this proverb seems to imply that there is something called `trusting in the Lord` which is distinct from leaning on `your own understanding`. This proverb assumes there is some meaningful distinction between these two, which seems to suggest to me that despite our fallible access to God, there is still some meaningful difference between making a decision based on revelation (or, `the Lord`) and not doing so. This in turn suggests it is possible to be able to recognize the difference between revelatory and non-revelatory experience (setting aside the question of what that experience consists in, e.g. scripture, tradition, mystical events). And this in turn seems to suggest that some experiences are more reliable media of reality than others are.

    Now, none of this proves that we have infallible access to the infallible God (I think most reflective Christians would grant this, even conservative types), but it does throw into question the idea that scripture, tradition, `reason`, and `experience` are all equivalent in terms of their epistemic weight, I think.

    I` d love to hear your thoughts, if you have time.

  20. Dan,

    I found this from a more recent post of yours, which I think helps to raise my point:

    “. Indeed, I myself would probably reject faith in God for precisely this reason… were it not for experiences that I believe to be experiences of God in Jesus Christ. Thus, my basis for faith is entirely experiential and, although this may dismay a good many Christian apologist, I tend to think that experience is the only valid basis for faith (at least it’s the only valid basis I’ve found). In other words, while encounters with the massive presence of evil and suffering might compel me to not believe in any sort of loving and powerful God, other encounters do not allow me to not believe. So it goes.”

    You seem to have no problem here giving experience ultimately more weight than the other authorities you listed in the current post. Speaking for myself, I could probably say the same thing you do, except substituting scripture for God-encounters (though I wish deeply that I would have such an encounter, and pray for it frequently). It seems to me, though, that this means that ultimately something is fundamental to both our worldviews. There is a pivot point around which everything else rotates. I think that is functional certainty, whatever other names we might attach to it. And I can`t see how, from a `neutral`point of view, an evangelical prioritizing scripture (or a catholic prioritizing the magisterium, for that matter) over reason or experience is somehow more arrogant or immature than someone who prioritizes experience.

    Thoughts?

  21. […] Wesleyan Quadrilateral, however, is just okay. It seems to neglect the problem of history, and as Dan pointed out recently, it can help exaggerate our tendencies toward ‘personalism,’ or evaluating each of the […]

  22. Dan, while I respect the thoughtfulness with which you have outlined your view, I am left wondering what hope I would have of having a meaningful relationship with a God who I can have no certitude about. In my marriage, I can only love my wife if I can truly know something about her, and progress from knowing things about her, to knowing HER. it is my knowledge of my wife that enables me to truly love and receive love from her.

    Our hope of “certainty”, According to Scripture (in my view, the source of certainty, mediated by the Spirit of God), rests entirely in God’s desire to reveal himself to us. The Modern mistake is to believe that we can achieve certainty by our own efforts. The Postmodern mistake is to believe that because modernism failed, that certainty must be abandoned. The solution, I believe, is to acknowledge that we can’t figure it out ourselves, but that our hope rests in Truth (the Person) revealing himself to us. To return to the marriage analogy, I can’t really know my wife unless she allows me access to her thoughts and passions. But if she does allow me access, I can really know her. So the question is: Does God want us to know him?

    Psalm 18 came to mind when I was reading your post, as you one by one called into question the reliability of any source for gaining certainty. “In my distress I called to the LORD… my cry came before him, into his ears… He parted the heavens and came down… He mounted the cherubim and flew… He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters… He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me”. My only hope rests in the fact that God, in his grace, desires to reveal himself to me. So while humility is called for, the certainty of faith (in God’s self-revelation) need not be abandoned.

    A final point: I think you misunderstand Micah 6:8 and the call to humility there, which I think describes the act of submitting to that which we don’t always understand. This was the submission called for in the Garden, but Adam and Eve decided to bypass God’s command and place their own perceptions above God’s precept. The tragedy is that the command not to eat of the fruit was the only command that they could have obeyed only for the sake of obedience itself (C.S. Lewis makes this point, beautifully and graphically, in “Perelandra”). All other commands made sense for their personal well-being or benefit. This was the only command given which they could obey simply because they trusted and loved God. I believe humility involves submitting to something that we sometimes don’t understand, obeying for the sake of obedience, because we know the love and care of the one we submit to. We aren’t always certain of the “why”, but we can be certain of the “what”, what we are called to, and the character of the one who calls us. Of course it’s vital that the one we obey be trustworthy, but there is none more trustworthy than God.

    And God wants us to know him. He wants us to confidently believe important things about him and the world he has made. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: