Against Certainty


One of my favorite answers to my daughter is, “I do not know.” The reason being that it is a momentary reminder that certainty is almost certainly out of my control. I need the constant reminder that I have surrendered my life to something greater than myself.

This has not always been the case. Growing up in a church whose leaders all came from the flagship Fundamentalist radio pioneers from Back to the Bible broadcasts led us to feel a close affinity to truth. I loved those radio personalities and the programs like Unshackled from Chicago and Teen Scene in which my friends performed.

It was not only that there was certainty in the interpretations of biblical texts, there were plans for the future graphed out in elaborate dispensationalists charts. The Brunswick stew of the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Thessalonians and Revelation were stirred together to make the makings of an incomparable science fiction/horror novel. All these became interpreted through the current “signs Of the times” to create a theologically conjured magic of end times that dazzled us. Who needed fortune tellers, tarot or astrology when dispensationalism made the future so clear and the present so irredeemably dire?

I think I would have been content to blithely continue to unquestioningly follow the liquid faith of my childhood; but, this was not to be. Inevitably my intense study of scripture, theology, church history and spiritual growth unraveled the over simplistic life view I held. I was scandalized by the thought that dispensationalism was a relatively new biblical interpretation and that many of its modern apologists claimed it to be a new revelation. I wondered how this made it different from the many so called cults these same defenders decried.

The final straw was at Moody Bible Institute when I heard a missionary tell a person during a bible study that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was not applicable to our age and didn’t apply to the church now. When I challenged this notion I was pointed, not to the Bible, but one of the main theologians of this theology from Dallas Theological Seminary and the section discussing this text in their seminal Systematic Theology. To this I said a resolute, “No!”

From that point on I rejected the fundamentalist litmus tests of acceptable faith and their synthetically pliable definitions of orthodoxy. The more I move away from what I consider a dangerous spiritual position of control, the more I embrace a spirituality of uncertainty.

So, where do I start? I am a follower of Christ. Whether it is because of culture, nurture or faith I care little. This is the path I am on. Yet, it is not a lonely path. I am encouraged by that same Sermon on the Mount and other exhortations to not look for Christ in the abstract. Jesus is not in my heart. He is not carrying me on a hypothetical beach. Christ is in the fellowship of others that I have now chosen on my faith journey.

Are those people like me? In my experience they are not. Some are not even members of a church building. Yet, they challenge my definition of church and force me to give away control of defining something beyond my capacity for creation.

I will give away spiritual certainty to those who probably rightfully believe there is an arrogance in my “heresy.” Am I right, “I do not know.” Am I attempting to be faithful to Christ? “Absolutely!”


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