Certainty is the Enemy of Faith

Certainty-is-the-enemy-of-faith-1024x576
meme photo from James McGrath. Quote from “Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity” by Dianna Anderson

…Amen

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16 thoughts on “Certainty is the Enemy of Faith”

  1. I am certain that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and all of his children, and that his son, Jesus Christ, came to earth to show me the way and to atone for my sins. As I read the scriptures and pray, the feelings that come into my heart and mind are a strong and sure witness of these truths. The mission of the Holy Ghost is to witness the truth to our souls.

    While I don’t pretend to know the meaning of many things, the Lord has fulfilled his promises to me: In asking, I have received; in seeking, I have found; in knocking, it has been opened unto me.

    Of course, this has required questions! I recall a time when I was troubled that my faith was not as sure or strong as it should be and I prayed for further confirmation of the truth. The answer came so clearly to my mind, that it brought me to tears: “You have had many witnesses that these things are true.” I realized that I DID already know, but that Satan seeks to have us doubt, not only God, but ourselves, our experiences and our convictions.

    We are all on a very personal spiritual journey and I believe that if we persist in sincere effort to follow the key teachings the Savior has given, that the day will come when we each can say, “I know.” It is not a smug or a prideful declaration, but a certainty that is overflowing with gratitude that God does enlighten our minds and teach us. This is a very individual process and He teaches us what we are ready to receive, line upon line.

    1. “We are all on a very personal spiritual journey and I believe that if we persist in sincere effort to follow the key teachings the Savior has given, that the day will come when we each can say, “I know.””

      That’s a great comment, Maryann. And what you say is true. There is a certainty of faith that all believers must have. Otherwise, as Paul says, “our faith is in vain”. However, there is a lot less certainty attached to belief than is necessary or desirable.

      There are what I’ve heard called the essentials and the non-essentials: What you speak of in your comments–at least as they pertain to Christianity–are the essentials: A belief in God, Jesus as His Son, and the Holy Spirit as His manifestation that dwells within all of us as believers. The rest of it? Pretty much non-essential, as they relate to salvation. Though these things may appear crucial to our personal walk, they are not an essential part of salvation and may not be relevant to the walk of our fellow believer, at least not at the time. Think of the types of things (apart from the above ‘essentials’) that divide the church; think of the things that keep people away, disassociating them from becoming a member of the body of Christ; think of the scriptures used as “clobber passages” that we Christians say, even “in love”, and you get the idea behind the quote.

      1. I think when we use the scriptures as weapons (I LOVE your phrase “clobber passages”) the spirit withdraws and any meaningful exchange ceases. I believe one of the purposes of Christ’s life was to unite us—NOT divide us. It is so sad and very ironic when we use the Lord’s words to create a spirit of enmity, and yet, how easy it is for ego to rear its ugly head and carry us away. (me included!)

  2. It probably won’t surprise you to know that I’m not crazy about that quote. I would never classify certainty as an “enemy” (though I understand the point she was making), because I think it’s often the goal, even though we rarely achieve it. I think everyone wants to be as certain as possible about any given subject. However, since we can’t possibly know everything it’s hard to say that we’re truly certain about much of anything.

    I guess my biggest objection to the quote is that it obviously places such a high value on faith. But why? What is so good about faith in itself? If it weren’t for a particular religion saying it’s so great, would anyone really view it that way? I think it’s just a substitute for certainty and knowledge when it comes down to things we can’t know. But if we could know, I think that’s what most of us would prefer.

    1. Hmm…I’m not sure how I can answer your objections here, Nate. I get what you are saying about the use of the word “enemy” though you also say you understand the point she’s making. You ask, “What is so good about faith in itself?” yet follow with “…it’s just a substitute for certainty and knowledge when it comes down to things we can’t know”, which, in a way, is both true and what is “good” about faith, IMHO.
      I looked up the definition of both “enemy” and “substitute”:

      enemy—a thing that harms or weakens something else
      substitute—something that’s used in place of.

      After reading these definitions, if I may be so bold, I think you’ve answered both of your previous objections.
      Objection 1, “substitute”: As I see it, using something in place of something else, in this case “faith” for “certainty”, is neither unusual nor harmful. This is something humanity has done since time immemorial with things that have not been known but have been trusted as true without proof…yet. However, the tipping point of your objection lies in that this need not be a permanent state. Before scientific evidence, people still trusted in gravity. Before betrayal, people still trust in their spouses. Before the 2nd coming, Christians still trust in the Word. As you well know, Christian faith begins with the premise of “In the beginning God…” and goes from there. If there is no trust in Genesis 1:1, the rest of scripture is kind of a mute point, and there is no need for faith. I think that goes a long way in explaining the difference of belief between you and I.

      Objection 2, “enemy”: I think it’s interesting that you freely equate “certainty” with “knowledge” in your sentence above. Are you certain the two are equal? How do you know? 😉 Also, you finished your point with “…when it comes down to things we can’t know.” (emphasis mine) Again, I feel you equate the things we have no proof of with things we “can’t” know. My point is, there is a “certainty” within your statement that causes harm or weakens a differing viewpoint. Not that it diminishes or negates the differing view, but by its very wording it does not even allow for it. Yes, I understand we are talking about religious faith and whether or not we can ever obtain proof or certainty of God’s very existence. Yet, these free equations of one meaning with another do not hold up to other circumstances in every day life. Why then should we hold to such rigidity in this one, singular area? Wasn’t that the gist of your own frustration with the CoC’s understanding of Christianity?–It was this way or you were just wrong?
      Within Christianity, those who are “certain” of biblical inerrancy, or are “certain” of the biblical mandates for their particular beliefs in societal norms, politics, ad infinitum—harmful as they may be—these are the “enemies” of faith as I take Anderson’s meaning.

      Hmm, guess I thought of a few things to say after all, ha ha!

      1. Hmm, that’s interesting. (thanks for the reply, btw!) So you see her as saying that rigidity is the enemy of the Christian faith, is that right? I could get behind that point.

        I thought she was saying that certainty is the enemy of faith, as though certainty were a bad thing. I see this from time to time — the idea that somehow faith in a matter is better than certainty in a matter. I can’t really think of a situation in which I would feel that way.

        1. Aah, yes, rigidity is the way I read that quote. And I would agree with your objection to “faith in a matter is better than certainty in a matter”. I would certainly prefer certainty (heheh) to a reliance on faith, but for now… 🙂 Always good to hear from you, my friend!

  3. I love this quote. There is an element of faith which has to be framed in a “certain” amount of uncertainty because it is an evidence of something that is unseen. Ultimately while we may have internal evidence of a thing we can not really know what it is going to look like when we step into it. Even when I am operating in the strongest sense of faith there is still a shrugging of the shoulders and a “We’ll just have to see when it gets here.” attitude.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for the ‘follow’.

      Even when I am operating in the strongest sense of faith there is still a shrugging of the shoulders and a “We’ll just have to see when it gets here.” attitude. — Yup, that pretty much sums it up. Besides, it makes for a lot more interesting ride 🙂

      1. I agree with both of you on the wait and see thing. Out of curiosity though, does this view of faith and uncertainty have anything to do with how you think eternal consequences might play out for people?

        1. “…does this view of faith and uncertainty have anything to do with how you think eternal consequences might play out for people?”

          I’m not quite sure if I get the thrust of your question, Nate, and I want to give it it’s proper due. Do you think you could expand on it a little?

          1. Sure thing. I also agree that these questions about an afterlife won’t really be answered for each of us until we’re dead, so it’s “wait and see.” But I also don’t believe there are any negative consequences that could come from us not figuring it out. However, when I was a Christian, I didn’t feel that way at all. I believed all non Christians were Hell-bound. So figuring out that Christianity was true was paramount in my mind.

            Since you guys follow a different type of Christianity than I did, I’m just curious how you view that. Does God still expect everyone to come to Christianity for salvation? Kent, you and I have talked about this before, so I think I have an idea of how you feel, but I wanted to be sure. I’m also curious to know what the other commenter thinks (I’m on my phone and can’t see his name at the moment — sorry!)

            1. “I also don’t believe there are any negative consequences that could come from us not figuring it out.” – I would agree with you here. In Matthew 12, Jesus speaks of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as not being forgiven. I have always taken His words here to mean those who actively work against the Holy Spirit, who make the road difficult or impossible to travel, or who simply turn their back on God. Those who are merely unsure, who question, who seek further proof, yet do not actively denounce believers who do not…*shrug*, I don’t know. I willingly leave that in God’s hands.

              I believed all non Christians were Hell-bound. So figuring out that Christianity was true was paramount in my mind. Since you guys follow a different type of Christianity than I did, I’m just curious how you view that. Does God still expect everyone to come to Christianity for salvation?
              –As far as my own beliefs, I have a measure of uncertainty as to what exactly “hell” is as far as eternal consequence, though as you know I tend to lean more in the direction of a separation from God. (Thus, “heaven” being eternal nearness to God). I do not agree with the “certainty” that those who live a particular lifestyle, those who follow the “wrong” religion, those who work on the Sabbath, those who drink/smoke/watch movies/listen to rockyrolly music/etc.etc.etc. are automatically condemned to the fiery pits of hell. Therefore, I’m loathe to judge who will be in either place. I do believe we’ll likely be surprised at who we see where (which is one of the themes I most enjoyed in Lewis’s “Great Divorce”.) Do I therefore think ALL paths lead to heaven (ala Bell’s “Love Wins”)? Not necessarily. If there is a God, I tend to think He would favor a particular way of honoring and worshiping Him; i.e. in the way people represent Him to the world. This has nothing to do with the dogmatic following of religious doctrine and everything to do with the heart; the why we are doing it, and the who we are doing it for, no matter what “it” is. Still, I willingly leave room for Jesus to work through whatever road he chooses to travel.

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