I’m going to leave out names on this one. Not because I’m afraid to address public people who do things in the public square publicly, but because my point isn’t to “call out” anyone. The people I’m thinking about are most certainly not interested in fruitful dialogue. But there are a lot of people who read this blog who seem a bit reflective when it comes to ideas, especially of the theological kind.
I have personally experienced the “separation ministry” of fundamentalism, because of three different subjects by three different people. Here are the reasons:
- Because I do not hold to a pretribulational rapture or any form of Dispensationalism, someone has decided to remove me from their circle of friends. Despite the fact that Dispensational eschatology has no historical support prior to the 19th century, apparently to deny it is to reject a primary and essential part of Christianity, according to this person.
- Because I hold to a Continuationist perspective on spiritual gifts and believe that the NT gifts of prophecy, healing, tongues, interpretation of tongues, and miracles can (and do) still occur. Despite my commitment to historic orthodoxy and what I believe is a far more honest reading of Scripture, apparently someone believes that my commitment to the Christian faith is suspect because I take Pauline (and Lukan!) theology seriously.
- Because I’m neither a Republican or a Democrat. Seriously, because I’m willing to listen to both the “religious right” and “baby-killers,” my faith in Christ is illegitimate. Who cares if I see myself committed to the Kingdom of God in a way that wants to take the best of both political frameworks and won’t ever go along with picking a “less of two evils.” That doesn’t matter. As a Christian, I need to be a Republican because Jesus was a Republican (yikes!). I kid you not.
Can someone please slap me? When I was having conversations with people on these subjects, I kept feeling like (1) they weren’t really listening to me and (2) they hadn’t really engaged in discussing the subject from a perspective other than their own. In other words, I would share my reasons for not being on the same page as them and they would respond to things I hadn’t even said. After all, they were certain their view was 100% correct and I was 100% wrong!
Listen, your level of certainty concerns me.
Certainty is a funny thing. We all want to be certain that what we believe and what we do is right… but is that even possible?
For some reason, many people seem to confuse certainty with well reasoned or most likely. It seems to me that it’s nearly impossible to be certain about anything because we are not God. We do not have absolute knowledge which can only lead to absolute certainty.
So I’m concerned when people approach subjects with an attitude that reveals they truly believe they have absolutely knowledge and are certain about something to the point where they are willing to end conversations long before they listen.
Throughout the discussion I was having concerning eschatology, every time I would present my case for Historic Premillennialism by working through a text of Scripture, I kept hearing things like, “Well that’s not how I was brought up” and “My old pastor told me different” and “God wouldn’t do it that way.” Unfortunately, there was very little actual interaction with the view I was proposing. Why? Because the person was certain that their view was correct because they had come to a place of actually functioning in a way that indicated they had absolute knowledge on the subject.
With all of my heart I want to be more humble and attentive when I’m interacting with people. I’m finding that I can learn a lot from people I disagree with. I don’t always change my mind on issues, but I learn a lot. And you know what? Sometimes I do change my mind because I actually gain more information and more perspective so I can make a more informed and reasonable decision regarding what is most likely.
It’s to bad that the person I was talking about eschatology with wouldn’t listen. I’m quite certain that they are wrong 😉
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
Great post Luke! Started a fire on the AG Theology page on FB. lol
It’s funny because certainty seems to fit orthodoxy so much better if it’s chief end is to love God as Christ has taught us and love others as Christ has taught us. At least for me I find certainty much more helpful for me and others in that context.
So if the purpose of certainty is to figure out how to turn mere theological propositions/position into more meaningful concrete manifestations of what God in Christ means for me, my community, my church, etc… humble certainty is noble and good.
Able, I like what you are saying here. I’m not just sure that’s the kind of certainty I’m talking about or that is addressed by postmodernists. Maybe it’s not the right word?!?! I’m not sure…
I just know that I can’t seem to find any reason to hold to a form of certainty on every issue under the sun. It seems like faith looses it’s grounding if we know for a fact everything. I’m not suggesting blind faith, of course, as I believe the Christian faith is reasonable and well defended. But I’m also not willing to suggest that I know for a fact with 100% knowledge that the rapture is going to be prior to the Second Coming 😉
Yes, well said. As I commented on FB, I like to distinguish between certainty of faith and absolute empirical certainty. I have a faith certainty in Christ & the gospel, through the work of the Holy Spirit. But I can by no means assert absolute certainty.
Or, as you suggest as well, there is a difference between absolute empirical certainty approaching things from reasonable and functional evidence. As you rightly say, we are not God. Of course, most agree that we are not omniscient in the full sense. But I believe we can’t even claim omniscience (or absolute certainty) on any particular item. We simply are not God. I’ve had many argue that we can make absolute statements like 1 + 1 = 2. But, what we forget is that mathematical formulas are a product of our own language to try and reasonably describe reality.
Now, I am not postmodern antirealist that argues against trying to formulate & know any truth statements because we can never absolutely know. Again, we can reasonably and practically know truth. And we’ve got a lot to work with beyond even ‘Scripture alone’. We have the work of the Spirit, Scripture, the testimony of church history, the church current, general revelation, etc. All of this is not absolute, but it is very reasonable and practical tools to discern truth & God’s revelation. This should not lead us into a tailspin of despair, which many evangelicals think it should. We can’t know absolute truth so that means we cannot trust anything. Know, we have MUCH to work with, by God’s generous grace.
Though you mentioned the issues of eschatology, spiritual gifts & political parties, I find this as well with regards to antagonism that arises because people are willing to consider evolution as a probable way by which God brought about creation. What usually gets argued is the slippery slope – well, if you believe in evolution, then you won’t believe in a real Adam & real sin, which means you won’t believe in a real Christ that redeemed humanity. This is a fallacious argument.
Or you’ve got folk that get antagonistic if you don’t hold to a particular adjective to describe Scripture – mainly inerrant. You’ve got to accept something like the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy or you’re in big trouble.
But there is a lot more breathing space within the Christian faith. And, as we step off the high horse that we have ABSOLUTE & OBJECTIVE truth on all aspects, then I think we will find that we can embrace a bit more humility and that Christians in our world might just be willing to listen to us a little more.
Ok, end of sermonette…. 🙂
I 100% agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying, Scott. See, I told you we were probably on the same page on this stuff 🙂 We’re both postmodern in the positive sense of the word 🙂 ha ha!