Working through Bultmann’s Jesus Christ and Mythology, I’m preparing to post on it soon–fascinating, really. But an issue occurred to me today in church, one which I’ve been meaning to blog. In holding God as an object, one whom we can love or worship or seek, a question of certainty of one’s faith arises. It is likely that the basis for certainty in the ancient (mythological) mind are quite different than the grounds for certainty in the modern (scientific) mind. But behind both, I believe a lie exists: that a faith filled with certainty is better than a faith filled with doubt. To be unfaithful is an altogether different category for a later discussion.
Certainty does not make one’s faith-claim any truer. Certainty does not change the world in any ontological sense. Instead, certainty serves more of a social function, to bring confidence to the believer and legitimation for one’s faith claims within a community of similar, like-minded believers. Certainty can also serve as a resistance to other, larger, and dominant faith-claims (i.e. that Christ is the son of god rather than Caesar).
Yet, there can come a moment in the life of faith, where the desire for certainty overcomes the faith aimed at God–a moment where one’s doubts and questions are no longer of any value. Certainty becomes the object fetischized, overvalued in relational exchanges. The believer peddles certainty as if it will satisfy the needs of the faithful. But this is idolatry. Certainty replaces God. Therefore, if one holds faith in a one, true God, and frowns upon idols, then beware of certainty. Embrace your doubts and questions, for a faith that wrestles with and survives these, is at least a stubborn faith, if not a stronger one.
For another opinion, see Storied Theology on assurance in Colossians 2.2.