Can Christians Be Certain?

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.


The Disbelief of Thomas, by James Tissot 

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.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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2 Responses to Can Christians Be Certain?

  1. Pingback: Can Christians Be Certain? « HUNTINGTOWN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

  2. Marcia Monnett says:

    This resonates with me so very much. It is what I think could be part of the coversation about LBGT differences in the church. Thanks for these thoughts.

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