Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
One of my favorite quotes comes from a book titled The Workshop Way of Learning, which was written in 1951. Dr. Earl C. Kelley writes about the challenges of education:
“We have not succeeded in answering all our problems. Indeed, we sometimes feel we have not completely answered any of them. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things.”
The quote raises some important questions for Christians: Can we be certain when it comes to our knowledge of God? Or is there room for doubt and confusion?
I prefer the word confidence over certitude when it comes to my faith in Christ. When I think of certainty, I think of mathematic certainty: Since the 1st grade, it has been impossible for me to conceive of 1+2 being anything else but 3, but Christian faith is not the same as mathematical certainty.
Here’s why I struggle with using the word certainty:
We are made in the image of God, but that image has been shattered because of sin. Even though the Holy Spirit indwells us, we still struggle with sin and human limitations. Our minds are still prone to misinterpretations, misunderstandings and ignorance of Sacred Scripture. We still struggle with pride and prejudices, which can skew the way we approach the Bible and form our views of God. Christianity and the Bible has been used to marginalize women, justify slavery and conclude that the earth is flat. Which is why we must allow others to challenge our interpretations, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions.
I will not enjoy certainty in this side of eternity, but I am confident in the claims of historical Christianity: God exists. Christ is God in the flesh. Christ’s death brings me salvation from my sin. Christ has plans for my life. Such confidence has led me to make life altering decisions.
Being completely confident in the truth of Christianity does not mean the absence questions, doubts, and confusion about God. I can have confidence in Christ, while having a theology that needs correcting from time to time.