Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Postmodern Christianity and Uncertainty

This is my response to a dialogue among post-modern Christians who doubt that confidence and assurance in the faith are possibilities:

Thai families that are selling their daughters into the sex trade were offered money by a Christian group to not do so. However, they scorned the offer and continued to do what had become culturally acceptable.

I wanted to understand what was so attractive about the rejection of certainty that they would continue in this destructive behavior. I struggle with the same perplexity as I try to understand the influence of Daniel Taylor’s “The Myth of Certainty.”

While I understand that his thesis enables us to accept our less-than-optimal Christian experience – he tells us that we lack certainty because we are the deep, sensitive and contemplative Christians – I fail to understand why you all continue in this “certainty” that undermines the very joy and confidence you can have in believing. However, it is not merely a matter of the fact that Taylor’s thesis will hurt you in the long run; it is actually problematic on other levels:

  1. Most obviously, it is incoherent. Taylor claims “certainty” about his thesis while he denies certainty regarding the Christian faith. How is it that he expects his readers to embrace certainty about Christian uncertainty? Meanwhile, his certainty is destructive of the Christian faith and of Christians who try to embrace both Christ and Taylor at the same time.
  1. Taylor’s thesis is entirely unbiblical. Although the Christian life is filled with struggles – doubts, uncertainty, fears, temptations – this doesn’t mean that certainty or assurance aren’t possibilities. The Bible talks much about the reality of certainty, confidence and assurance:
    • Moses’ father-in-law confessed assurance: “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly." (Exodus 18:11)
    • God made it possible that even the “whole world” would know of Him:  “Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” (1 Samuel 17:46)
    • He gave Israel unassailable proofs of His protection: “You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.” (Deut. 4:35-36)
    • Paul expressed a high level of confidence in the things of God (Phil. 1:25; 2:23; 2 Tim. 1:12).
    • We too are promised this confidence and assurance (Eph. 3:12): “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)
    • Assurance is also something to pursue: “Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall.”  (2 Peter 1:10)
  1. Sadly, Taylor’s embrace of uncertainty undermines this pursuit of certainty. “We have not because we ask not” (James 4:3). Taylor instead wants to make us comfortable with our uncertainty.
I write these unsettling words because I want to build bridges among Christians. Even more importantly, to show you that you have found the wrong “comfort.” I pray that you will understand.





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