Certainty isn’t faith.

by K.W. Leslie, 07 June

Certainty may come later. Till then, we have faith.

“I know this to be true, because I have faith.” I’ve heard more than one Christian say such a thing. It’s ’cause they don’t realize that’s a self-contradictory statement.

Hebrews 11.1 KWL
Faith is the solid basis of hope,
the proof of actions we’ve not seen.

Faith isn’t the solid basis of knowledge, but the solid basis of hope. Properly we hope certain things are true because we have faith. We don’t know yet. Gonna know eventually. But not yet.

So when I read in the scriptures God’s gonna resurrect me someday, I gotta admit: I don’t know he will. Because the basis of knowledge is experience, and I haven’t had the experience of being resurrected. Yet.

Now, Jesus did have the experience of being resurrected. He taught on, and believed in, the resurrection. Mt 22.29-32 He stated he’s the resurrection, and when we trust him, we’ll experience it. Jn 20.25-26 That’s why it’s an orthodox Christian belief. That’s why I have no problem with the belief, and believe it myself. But do I know I’ll be resurrected? Not till it happens. Till then, I just have to trust Jesus that it’ll happen. And I do. So I’m good.

To some Christians, that’s not good enough. Hope isn’t sufficient. Uncertainty isn’t acceptable. They wanna know. And they claim they do know. How? Well, they trust Jesus. That’s how they know.

Well wait: I trust Jesus too. Yet I recognize trusting Jesus doesn’t grant me knowledge; only hope. How’d they get knowledge?

They actually didn’t. But they think they have knowledge. They think they have certainty. They think a lot of things which have no basis in the scriptures. Namely that if they believe really hard, that’s the same as knowledge. Faith, they imagine, is the solid basis of knowledge. They know they’re getting resurrected.

Yeah, you realize what they’re doing: They wanna demonstrate their zealousness for God, their absolute trust in him, and in order to do this they’re gonna leapfrog hope and claim they know. That way the rest of us look like unbelievers in comparison. (In fact some of ’em even claim we are unbelievers. ’Cause we only hope. Whereas they know.)

Nah, they don’t really know. But boy, they sure think they do. So much so, they’ll even be self-righteous a--holes about it.

Faith is our substitute for certainty.

Faith is based on solid, concrete, certain things. Like Jesus and his teachings. And since it’s based on a solid guy, we often treat faith as if it itself is solid. It’s actually not. It’s like linoleum over a concrete floor: It appears solid and flat because underlying it is something which is solid and flat. Take the concrete out from under it, and you’re standing on soft, bendy, breakable plastic. Good thing it’s got that concrete under it.

That’s why it’s so vital to put your faith in solid things and solid people. Faith in the stuff you wish were so, no matter how hard you wish it, is never gonna transform into knowledge. Never ever. It will only be replaced by knowledge.

1 Corinthians 13.12 KWL
Now, we see through a tarnished mirror. Then, we see face to face.
Now, I know partially. Then, I’ll see myself as everyone else sees me.

Now, we have hope. Then, we’ll have certainty. We don’t have certainty yet.

When the resurrection comes, I won’t need to put my faith in Jesus’s teachings about it any longer: I’ll have seen for myself. I’ll have experienced it firsthand. I’ll know what resurrection is. ’Cause I’ve been resurrected.

Till then “we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2Co 5.7 There’s a line from a hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” which talks about “the day when my faith shall be sight,” as if faith turns into certainty. That idea doesn’t come from the bible though. When we see for ourselves, we don’t need to take anyone’s word for it, just like the Samaritans pointed out to the woman who told ’em about Jesus after they met him for themselves. Jn 4.42 Their faith in her got replaced by the sight of him. Our faith in Jesus’s teachings about resurrection will be replaced by resurrection itself. Certainty replaces faith.

And till the day we see for ourselves, we settle for faith. It’s not the same thing.

We only trust these things are true.

This certainty language is everywhere in Christendom. Which is why every so often I’ll slip up and say I know I’m getting resurrected. But of course I don’t. God hasn’t transported me to the future, as he did with Ezekiel and John. (Although it’s more likely he was just showing ’em visions representing the future, and not the literal future.) Jesus knows the literal future, so he’s in a position to know. I trust Jesus. While that’s nearly as good as knowing, it’s still not knowledge.

Those Christians who claim they do know, that the scriptures make things certain and absolute in their minds: It doesn’t really. They don’t know the difference between faith and knowledge, and assume they’re all forms of knowledge. Arrogance makes us assume a lot of foolhardy things. Doesn’t help us stay humble though.

Their “knowledge” is nothing more than a powerful, trustworthy hope. Which better be based on Jesus. But again: They haven’t seen the resurrection for themselves; they weren’t resurrected yet either. (They might’ve died and come back, but that’s resuscitation, not resurrection.) They have no concrete basis for talking about resurrection… apart from Jesus.

And really, nobody does. I wouldn’t believe in resurrection if I didn’t trust Jesus. Instead I’d believe science. And science teaches us that dead things won’t spontaneously regenerate. True, there are certain people who want every miracle in the bible to have a scientific explanation, and they try to come up with scientifically plausible reasons why resurrection might happen on its own. Their explanations are kinda pathetic. Really, if it could be explained, you’d need someone with a God-level intellect to do it… and now we’re back to Jesus.

If you were hoping faith would make you certain, I’m gonna have to burst your bible: It doesn’t. It only makes you believe. In many cases, you believe God so much, you don’t doubt any longer. Which is cool, and God can definitely do great things with people who trust him that much. Still ain’t certainty.

’Cause I remind you, faith is our present-day substitute for certainty. Till the day we see for ourselves, we settle for faith.