In Defense of the Uncertain Christian

Truth. It’s what we are all searching after. That definitive view of reality that is ultimately trustworthy and will, if at all possible, give our soul-tired selves rest and hope. This perpetual quest is such an integral part of our human design that even after choosing a worldview to subscribe to we continue the hunt to further deepen and then pinpoint our grasp of truth within that worldview. As a Christian I can see this regardless of which direction I glance – debating theologians, eschatology books, and stacks of apologetics mingle with an odd conglomeration of educational courses and curriculum to clutter the landscape in a vista that never seems to end. And while I am a passionate advocate for the critical thinking and intellectual Christian (God does after all command us to love Him with our minds, not just our hearts), I believe that in this quest to perfectly map out truth we can often lose our way. Not because searching for truth is somehow inherently wrong. By no means! But because our focal point can shift from wanting to know truth for truth’s own sake to wanting to know truth to prove that we are in possession of the right truth to simply wanting to prove that we are right. It becomes a quest not for reality, but for a socially acceptable version of one’s own infallibility. And in this silent and often unnoticed shifting of motivation, we miss the fundamental concept of Christian truth.

When Christ came to earth He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” According to this verse, what is truth? He Himself is truth! And herein lies the fundamental concept that is often forgotten or ignored – Christ the Person is truth. Not a set of Christian doctrines, but Christ Himself. Let me clarify once again and say that I am not speaking against apologetics or doctrine or theology or any other study of Christ and Christianity. Rather I am pointing out the fact that those studies and the resulting accumulated facts and opinions are not truth in and of themselves, but instead point to the Person Who is Truth. This may appear to be a fine line of difference, but isn’t it the faintest lines that are easiest to forget and then cross over? How easy would it be to side step from preaching the truth that is Christ, to preaching the truth that is our doctrine? And if this is what we preach, are we not preaching a different gospel?

But what if my doctrine is right, you might ask? Then Truth the Person and truth the doctrine would be in alignment and therefore the difference is of no import. But before I answer that, please pause and step back with me and ponder for a moment – who is God? He is the Breather of Stars, Designer of Ethics, Cause of Philosophy, Redeemer of Humanity, Maintainer of Reality, Author of Intelligence…. And if God is as vast and profound as this insufficient list proposes, how plausible is it that we could ever fully comprehend all that He is? God is infinite and we are finite, meaning that by definition alone this is impossible – for us to ever fully intellectually understand God. How foolish it would be if we petite mortals of earth dare to claim that we have a full comprehension of this great and mighty God who crafted us; that we completely grasp His full intentions and history. For if we did say this, wouldn’t it be truth that in claiming absolute knowledge of the Infinite One we are claiming infinity as unto ourselves, a type of godship?

But if we cannot know all that He is, how is it that we can know anything of Him at all? This is where we are able to capture a breathtaking glimpse into the beauty of our God, because He in His mercy has not left us in the dark as to the understanding of His nature and character. Instead He has given us The Bible as well as His Holy Spirit and Creation itself to show us some of who He is. (To fully discuss how He does this with these vehicles would take this essay into an astonishingly large digression, so please forgive my assumption of this as fact.) Through these things, God has given us what He has deemed necessary for us to begin understanding Him as far as we are currently able to; to start to grasp His view of the world, His love of humanity, His tale of redemption and salvation, His personality, and the future He has designed for us. But if we return back to the concept that God is infinite, surely you would agree that the planet is finite as well as the physical two thousand or so odd pages of Scripture. These things are not infinite in and of themselves so much as they point us to an infinite God by the direction of the equally infinite Holy Spirit. We are merely finite beings using finite tools to attempt to understand an infinite God.

Now let us return to the believer who is speaking the truth of doctrine instead of the truth of Person, and let us think of Christendom throughout the centuries after it was brought to life by Christ. How many doctrines and beliefs have changed? The very earliest shiftings dealt with things such as saying circumcision is necessary for a godly life, then time passes and Holy Wars become the greatest way to show your devotion as you murder unrelenting unbelievers to claim the Holy Land for God, then baptism for the dead still in purgatory is how you show your love to your neighbor, then fast forward even to the present day and having your church organized into small groups is the absolute best (if not only) way to disciple people in a way that pleases Christ. Isn’t it apparent that within Christianity there are shifting ideas? How else could it be that something that would have been considered blasphemy a century ago to disagree with is now accepted to be wrong? And how implausible is it for us to think that we of the current age are exempt from this story arc?  Isn’t it then also possible that modern day Christendom believes something wrong too? That some of the doctrine and practices that we fight over and debate into the ground are wrong? Of course it is. We are after all fallible and finite men using finite tools to seek after an infallible and infinite God, the infallible and infinite truth.

As I set out to write this essay, I choose the title quite deliberately. I wouldn’t agree with the title “in defense of uncertain Christianity,” because I believe that Christianity is certain. I wouldn’t agree with the title “in defense of an uncertain Christ,” because I believe that what God says of Himself is true and trustworthy and that Christ Himself is truth. However an uncertain Christian is an entirely different matter, for finite men will always be uncertain in their pathetic yet so sincere attempts to grasp the infinity of God. And as soon as we claim an absolute certainty based on any doctrine, belief, practice, or idea alongside Christ instead of absolute certainty on the Person of Christ alone, then we are in the dangerous realm of claiming to understand infinity and setting ourselves up as a small type of god by assuming to know God so perfectly.

But this is not a dismal tale of the loss of absolute certainty, far from it! For what could be more wondrous than a finite man going on an adventure to discover an infinite God? Like a Tolkien tale we have set out on a quest which will be full of twists and turns, but oh how glorious the sights! Oh how wonderful to let God lead us by His Holy Spirit to show us ever more and more of Himself! This is the great adventure. One that will continue on into eternity as He reveals facets of His soul to us and as He shares His character and ultimate reality with us. This is what Christ intended for His children. To be adventurers as we climb deep into the valleys of His passion, mount the wind tousled peaks of His joys, and run wild along the shores that encase the seas of His dreams. This is the life of the uncertain Christian – the one who is uncertain of everything but the truth of Christ. And isn’t it a glorious life? One not to be missed for all of the supposed certainty in the world.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Ryan

    Fantastic. You hit the nail on the head. As potentially heretical as it may sound at first, not every doctrine is worth fighting over. Not everything is as well understood and concrete as we like to think we have it, especially when it is informed by and perceived through a cultural context. If Christians from another age or nation would disagree with you on something, it may be unwise to immediately assume you are in the right.

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