Belief does not come easy for me. I have a little “unbeliever” who has set up camp in the back of my mind, and he has no idea when, or how, to shut up. He is always questioning everything, from the stories I hear to the beliefs which tie me down emotionally. (I borrowed this idea from Daniel Taylor’s The Skeptical Christian. Taylor is possibly the most profound and honest writer I have ever read.) This unbeliever’s goal is to make me less certain about my beliefs and, in doing so, render me spiritually impotent and sterile. I have found many ways to tame this unbelieving beast, but I have also come to the conclusion that he will never totally shut up.

There are not many things about which I have absolute certainty. What I mean by “certainty” is very important here. I do not mean that there are only a few things about which I am convicted as to their truthfulness. Nor do I mean that there are just a few things I am obligated to evangelize. What I actually mean is that there are very few things about which I have indubitable knowledge of. (Perhaps the use of that word did not help…I just like to say the word “indubitable.”) Indubitability implies that one cannot be wrong. It is akin to infallibility. It is perfect and incorrigible conviction. However, none of us really have access to this type of certainty.

In dealing with doubters over the years, I have found that this reality has been the fountainhead for much anxiety in people’s faith. It is not that a lack of perfect certainty is the cause; rather, the cause is the belief that they are supposed to have perfect certainty. Once people begin to have doubts about their faith (or some aspect thereof), especially those who have grown up in very conservative traditions, many begin to doubt their faith altogether, thinking, “How can I have faith, if I have doubts?” It is not that conservative doctrines themselves are at fault; it is the idea that has been preconditioned into their thinking, that belief always and completely casts away doubt. The solution is very often as simple as convincing individuals that faith and doubt will always exist together, which is okay.

Some people say that they have no doubt at all, and they never have. I have difficulty believing assertions such as this, though I suppose they might be true for a very small number of individuals. However, at this point, I think it would be valuable for us to distinguish between “certainty” and “certitude” (Daniel Taylor introduced me to this concept, but I don’t know if the distinctions he made are embedded in the specific definitions of the terms). “Certainty” is the more objective type of conviction. It is the idea that one cannot be wrong due to conclusion of objective facts and evidence. “Certitude” is an emotional conviction that people have, which does not necessarily require evidence. It is the feeling of certainty, but not certainty itself. Most people I come across, who believe that Christians must be certain about their faith, are really talking about certitude. Certitude is good, but one can have certitude that is wrong. Therefore, people can have a strong level of “certitude” without possessing absolute “certainty” about it.

Let me put it another way: No matter how certain you believe you are about some truth, (assuming that it is true) God is even more certain than you are. Most people are comfortable with this idea. For me to say that God has greater assurance about what is true than you do is without question. Similarly, to say that you and I don’t possess perfect faith is generally acceptable to most of us. This allows you and me the opportunity to grow in our faith, and by doing so, grow in our conviction concerning this faith. Assuming this is the case, our “certainty” is not really certainty, but certitude.

As you must know by now, I like charts. Let me try this (those of you who have been through The Theology Program will be familiar with what follows). It’s called “The Chart of Certainty:”

Chart-of-Certainty

Notice that we have a positive and a negative scale on this chart. Anything in the positive means that you believe it. Anything in the negative means you disbelieve it. The “0” represents neutrality. It is being agnostic (without conviction one way or the other) about the issue. A +10 represents a perfect belief, meaning that you cannot possibly be more convicted as to the truth of a matter. It is perfect, absolute, incorrigible, indubitable certainty. Being at a 1 means that you have conviction about this issue, but it is at the lowest possible level. However, a 1 is still belief. Another way to put it may be that a 10 is certainty, while 1-9 on the scale represent various levels of certitude.

There are very few beliefs (if any at all) that I am a 10 on. For example, I believe that 1 plus 1 equals 2, but that is an analytical truth. That is to say, as an equation, 1 plus 1 has to be, by definition, equal to 2. Philosophically or theologically speaking, I don’t think I am a 10 about anything. (Waiting for people to stop gasping . . . Now waiting for people to quit cursing . . .) I think I have prepared you for what follows. Right?

“What about the existence of God? Aren’t you a 10 there?” No. But neither are you. If you think you are, then you have missed the point.

“What about the resurrection of Christ? You talk about it all the time, as if it has been proven beyond a doubt. Aren’t you a 10 there?” Again, no.

I do have strong conviction about these things (and, therefore, certitude), but I can believe in these things more today than I did yesterday. I will always be able to grow with respect to these tenets of the faith. I suppose the closest I get to a 10 is when it comes to such questions as my own existence.

Let me adjust my chart a bit and see if this helps:

Gods-Certainty

This is essentially the same chart with a “God allowance.” Only God can have perfect certainty, represented here by the 11. At this point, it gets easier for us (especially us children of the West) to let go of perfection and admit our imperfection. The 10 is as certain as humans can be. So, now, maybe I am a 10 with regard to my own existence. Then I might be an 8 or 9 with respect to my certainty as to the existence of God. From here, we begin to place all of our beliefs along this scale. When I disbelieve something, I can put it on the other side of the chart.

This way of thinking becomes even more beneficial when we place all of our beliefs along the scale. For example, I believe in the resurrection of Christ with less certitude than I do the existence of God. So perhaps, we put the resurrection of Christ at a 7 or 8. This is still extremely high and therefore, demands a strong conviction, but the rating on the scale could be higher. That is why I continue to study, pray, and learn. Similarly, I believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, but not to the degree that I believe in Christ’s resurrection, or in the existence of God. So let’s rate inspiration as a 6 and inerrancy as a 4. Again, relatively high and demanding great conviction, but not as high as they could be.

There are some things I believe, yet think the Bible could be clearer on these subjects. For example, as many of you know, I am a Calvinist who believes in unconditional election. However, there is some debate about this issue that causes me to have less certitude than I might otherwise have. Therefore, I would be a 3 with regard to this issue. I am also a pretribulational premillennialist. But I have more certitude about premillennialism than I do pretribulationalism (as an aside, I wish someone would add these words to spell-check!!). Therefore, with regard to premil (an abbreviation, so I don’t have to worry about the spelling), I am a 2. With regard to the rapture (another slight to spell-check), I am a 1.

I have received some rather ungracious banter from fellow pretribs due to my admission about being a 1 here. However, what they don’t understand is that I am a 1. It is not easy to get to a 1. It is not a casual leaning, but a definite conviction. That means I still believe it and I still have an obligation to preach it. I am not a 0 (undecided) and I am not in the negative column. However, there exists a greater possibility that I could be wrong here. The scale reflects my understanding of the issues involved. I would question anyone’s sincerity if they said they were anything above a 5 here. Of course, they could be a 10 in one sense, in that they are emotionally certain about it. However, emotional certainty means only that one has an emotional tie to a specific belief, and really wants it to be true. It’s somewhat like having an emotional tie to your college football team. When the ref calls a foul against your team, you are emotionally certain that your team is not at fault. But the reality is that you don’t know to the degree that your emotions do. The guy who cheers for the other team is as emotionally certain that your team is at fault. Both cannot be correct.

It is very important for the sake of our integrity before the Lord to allow our beliefs to exist in such a hierarchy. I often ask my students to take a test using this scale. They are to answer these questions, rating them according to the chart. You might try it.

How certain are you that . . .

  1. There is a God?
  2. Christ rose from the grave?
  3. God loves you?
  4. Christ is going to come and rapture the Church before the Great Tribulation?
  5. Christ is coming back to reign on the earth for a thousand years?
  6. Christ is coming back?
  7. God wants you to trust that He will protect you from all physical harm?
  8. God wants you to trust that He will protect you from all emotional harm?
  9. God wants you to trust in Him in every circumstance?
  10. the Bible does not have any historical errors?
  11. Adam and Eve were real people?
  12. there was really a snake in the garden?
  13. God created the earth in seven literal days?
  14. God created the earth?
  15. Christ paid for the sins of all mankind?
  16. Christ died for you?
  17. the Apocrypha (15 books in the Roman Catholic Bible) should not be included in Scripture?
  18. the book of 3 John should be included in Scripture?
  19. the book of Genesis should be included in Scripture?
  20. the gift of tongues ceased in the first century?

If you find yourself with too many 10s, 0s, or negative 10s, you are probably a victim of modernistic thought. If you are a 0 about everything, you are probably a victim of postmodernism. I believe that the most balanced, well-studied, and truthful believers are those who find a variety here.

But most importantly, knowledge of and permission to have such a scale in your beliefs is extremely important for the stability of your faith. Once you have permission not to believe everything to the same degree, those things that you do believe strongly carry with them a greater degree of honest conviction. We all have varying degrees of conviction about different aspects our faith; now let’s have the courage to admit it. Once we do, our faith will only get stronger.

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    80 replies to "Why I Lack Certainty About Christianity"

    • John

      It’s interesting that you are willing to put beliefs on a scale of 1-10, and then say you have an obligation to preach even a “1”.

      Because you see, on the topic of authority, you have many times expressed a belief that the church and the councils and fathers have an authority, albeit an authority that is subordinate to the bible.

      Well, I’ve expressed before why I think that doesn’t work, and the reason is very similar to your conviction that your should preach on “1” beliefs. i.e., if the church and the councils and the fathers have an authority, even if you want to rate belief in it lower than the bible, it’s still an authority. It’s still something greater than 1. So you still have an obligation to preach it.

      The only way it doesn’t even get to “1”, is if it is no authority whatsoever. i.e. SOLO scriptura.

      • C Michael Patton

        I don’t understand your question. However, to preach it does not meant that your preaching is not relative to the clarity and importance of the issue. I am just trying to avoid some sort of didactic relativism or the academic agnosticism that is so prevailent with so many. Often, people think that if it is not a 10, we should act as if we don’t know in the name of eccumenicalism. But when you are a 1 on something, there are reasons why you believe that said doctrine is compelling even if it could be more compelling. I think people need to express when things are not as clear as they could be but that does not mean we stay silent about it or its implications.

        Does that help or was I way off?

    • H

      I’m an 11 on 1-3, 6,14 and 16.

      I also think someone should rewrite the Bible, take for example 2 Timothy 4:7. It should read:

      I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have remained certain.

      Really.

      Like post,a lot.

    • John

      Well Michael, if the church and fathers and councils are an authority, even a lower authority than the bible, then you are obliged to believe it, for the same reason you believe the bible – i.e. they are an authority. That means you have to believe it, follow it, preach it, no?

      • C Michael Patton

        Authority is getting mixed up with certainty John. My parents are/were an authority and I am/was commanded to obey, but this has no bearing on my conviction whether they are right or wrong. I think we have apples and oranges here.

        I suppose to clarify is to ask whether or not you believe we can and/should have various levels of conviction about issues in theology?

    • John

      Michael, when you said the bible was an authority, I never imagined you were saying we have to obey it, without necessarily thinking it is right or wrong. Surely you are obfuscating things.

      Surely when we discuss authority in the context of the church and the bible etc etc, we are talking about an authority in the sphere of what we are to believe. And I’m guessing here that you would advocate believing things that are thought to be true, no?

      And if something is an authority, in the sphere of theology, then we are to believe it, are we not? And even if the authority is secondary, leading to merely a “1” level of certainty, we are still to believe, follow and preach it, right?

      Yes, I agree with you it is ok to have levels of conviction about issues. I agree with the premise, but I’d like to see you follow it through to its conclusion, by believing and preaching everything that the authorities teach. You are the one who said the church is an authority.

      • C Michael Patton

        John, we need to stay on track. This issue is to important to attempt to draw implications that I don’t agree with and then bottle necking the comments on them. I am glad you agree with the post. Lets leave it there. Thanks brother.

    • Mike O

      Thanks, Michael. I am probably a 7 on whether what you wrote here is right. 🙂

      I am working on a book and have this in a section on how my belief matured over time. This was my 1st “crisis of faith” and my experience lines up pretty much with what you are saying.

      “So I started thinking it through for myself. And one of the first thoughts that I had was that Muslim parents try to raise little Muslims. And, God bless ‘em, they are sure they’re right. And Buddhist parents try to raise little Buddhists. And they’re sure they are right. And Christian parents try to raise little Christians. And we’re sure we’re right!

      Everyone is sure, but we can’t all be right! And that’s when it hit me … what if someone else is right and we’re just … sure? “

    • Jared B. Tremper

      This is a perfectly honest and authentic approach and I really appreciate it. I do have one suggestion for you chart: I do not think it should be visually depicted as linear, but rather exponential in both directions. The difference between 9 and 10, for example, would be much farther than 1 is to 2. I would visually show this as a valley at 0 and peaks at -10 and + 10 — and +11 of course goes off the chart as it were.

      As to preaching on topics less certain, expository preaching calendars would have one routinely go to areas of greater and lesser certainty. A congregation should hopefully respect the preacher who humbly approaches the texts with transparency and speaks to the degree of conviction that a good faith exegesis can produce. Citing other views as alternative interpretations might be appropriate on those occasions of 1’s and 2’s, etc. in ways to enhance generosity between the various Christian camps that still walk within the bounds of orthodoxy.

      Again, thanks for sharing your heart so vulnerably!

    • Justin

      CMP, In reading your blog post from time to time I always like the honesty with which you write them even though we don’t have the same scriptural understandings. I am not a Calvinist nor am I an Armenian, Catholic, Baptist or whatever. I am a Christian who’s faith is in Christ (not to imply the others aren’t).
      About 15 years ago was the first time I was introduced the the teachings of Calvinism. I have not come to the same understandings the Calvinist has with regards to there main points. For now I would have to them as defined by the Calvinist on the negative(not believing) side of my certainty.
      However, I am very certain that God is God and is Just, Holy, Righteous, Sovereign, etc. no matter what system He has set up and I, you or anyone else could be wrong in there understandings.
      My point is this, that God could reveal a truth to any one of us that we once held on the not believing side of certainty. The chart you present seems to be able to flow both ways. I think people should understand that it only through prayerful reading of the Word of God that we become more & more certain, strengthening our faith.
      I hope I have correctly understood your post. Thanks again.
      For anyone reading this I am not trying to get into a Calvinist non-Calvinist debate. I have only used it here as an example of some of my certainties.

    • Mark Allison

      “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.”

      —Paul Tillich

    • Irene

      I wonder if there are any “hinge pin” beliefs, or “all-or-nothing” beliefs in how you approach your faith. With your chart, you talk about this being a 3, this being a 9, this being a 1, etc.
      In my mind, my certainties are more connected in one big ball. For example, if God exists (perhaps an 8 or 9), then all of what the Catholic Church presents infallibly for my belief is also true. All or nothing. (I guess the things the Church doesn’t hold out infallibly, such as various miracles and apparitions, would then have individual ratings.)

      I still remember when, as a proud Lutheran, it dawned on me that I shouldn’t expect to agree with every one of the Church’s teachings in order to be converted. It was almost a sense of dread that came upon me when I realized that if I came to acknowledge just the authority of the Church, then I had no right to resist even the teachings I then thought were wrong.

      That one belief, that if God exists, then the Catholic Church is the one, true church, serves as a hinge pin for all kinds of doctrinal beliefs.

    • Lothars Sohn

      Dear Michael, I really admire you for your openness, honesty, scholarship and high respect for others disagreeing with you.

      That said, I think there are harmful beliefs which we not only ought to doubt but to completely abandon, like divine genocides, or God predetermining people to sin and sending them to hell for those sins.

      I find it now much easier to follow Christ and love God than ever before.

      I’m currently explaining in length how one can be a Christian without holding fast on Biblical inerrancy.

      Generally, I do want to foster a respectful debate between people from various perspectives, and I applaud you for doing the same here.

      Kind regards from Germany.

      Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

      http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • Rob Bowman

      Michael, thanks for sharing these thoughts. I appreciate your making the point that being a Christian does not obligate one to claim certainty about everything (or even anything).

      If +1 is a belief you are still accountable to preach, then where do opinions for which no such accountability fall? For example, suppose someone says that in his opinion the original text of Romans 5:1 is somewhat more likely to have said “we have peace” than “let us have peace,” but he doesn’t think it is possible to know one way or the other and he doesn’t think much of anything rides on the decision. How does such a tentative judgment “score” on your scale, and is there an obligation to preach a belief with such a tentative quality?

      I’d also be interested in hearing how your scale relates to the whole epistemological debate over belief and knowledge. If a particular belief scores only +1 or +2 on your scale, do you claim to “know” that belief is true? How about a belief that scores +8? Or is a belief qualifying as knowledge unrelated to your scale?

    • a.

      “I just like to say the word “indubitable.” 🙂 

      For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:12-13

    • theoldadam

      If we could know, for sure, then we wouldn’t need faith.

    • Mike O

      Whenever anyone asks me if I’m “absolutely sure” about anything, I say, “Yes. But I could be wrong.”

      Certainty is a good, but it is not a compelling argument for anything. In fact, your certainty can sometimes be an obstacle to those who don’t agree with you because it tends to cause you to stop thinking. Why? Because you’re DONE thinking. And the result is, so are they.

      Think about it – if a Muslim is certain they are right, does that make them more likely to be right, or just harder to talk to?

      It’s the same with Christians. Our certainty (or should I say our *concocted* certainty) is irritating to non-Christians. It’s OK to be sure you’re right, as long as you realize there’s a chance you might not be. That’s not a lack of certainty, it’s admitting a lack of perfection.

      Who are we to ask non-Christians to question their beliefs if we aren’t willing to question our own?

    • Linda

      You’ll probably not believe this–or will assume it is emotionally based, but I AM convinced of the major doctrines of the faith–full 10.

      My frame of reference, however, begins with the belief that there IS indeed a God–and that the natural world displays His intelligence (etc.). This includes assumptions that I actually exist, that time/space exists, and that I am actually experiencing it–realizing that while in a philosophical sense no one can “prove” it, absolutely no one has ever lived whose experience of living in this time/space “real” world has ever NOT lived it just like I did. Day, night, time, seasons, animals, other people. That’s been 100% consistent since the world began, assuming the truth of written history and the archeological record. I suppose you could say that some transcendant alien just miraculously implanted the entirety of human existence and history in my mind and pseudo-experience 3 seconds ago, but why . . .?

      Since there is no logical reason for me NOT to believe these things, the existence of God IS THE reason for all of the other things I wholeheartedly believe–without need for a scale (which I find logically fallacious, by the way). There is no reason NOT to, unless of course I’m trying to demonstrate the deep, philosophical insight of my mind, while simultaneously trying to exude some profundity that will make people’s eyes glaze over as they contemplate my omniscience . . . honestly, having read a good bit of philosophy, I find it little more than a lot of veritably narcissistic raving by arrogant people with a desperate need for recognition and significance.

    • cherylu

      Hi Michael,

      I’m wondering how you see a verse like this fitting with what you have said here? “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him *until that day.” II Timothy 1:12

      It seems to me that Paul is quite convinced and it doesn’t look like he is expressing any doubts mixed in.

    • R David

      Cherylu-

      Is there a difference between being “convinced”, or being confident, and being “certain”?

    • cherylu

      R David,

      I don’t think that for Paul there was one ounce of difference in those words. Do you really think that Paul who was met on the road by a vision of Jesus, was blinded by the light coming from Him, whose life was turned around 180 degrees because of that encounter was the least bit uncertain about who Jesus was?

      There are several other verses that come to mind too that would make me ask the same question. James 1:5-8 doesn’t seem to leave much room for doubting if we wish to receive anything from the Lord. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways

      Then there is Jesus speaking of “faith as a grain of mustard seed.”

      So, how does it all fit together? That James passage is extremely blunt, is it not?

    • Myself as an Anglican presbyter and thus a “churchman”, I would be somewhat close to many of “John’s” points (#4), especially. And I would too see much of this post as itself a form of some degree, as.. “didactic relativism or the academic agnosticism.” Indeed we all have doubts along the way, but as the Hebrew writer says of faith…”Now faith is the assurance (or substance) of things hoped for (i.e. expected), the conviction (evidence) of things not seen.” For by it the men of old gained approval.” (Heb. 11: 1-2) And thank God we also know from Paul that “faith” is itself a gift! (Eph. 2: 8) And so once again, we are to look to God and HIS assurance and substance, and there we will find God’s own conviction and evidence! And this is found in His Word, which is Christ the “Logos” and the “Rhema”!

      Amen to 2 Tim. 1:12!

      “Your word have I treasured (hidden) in my heart, That I may not sin against You. Blessed are You, O Lord; Teach me Your statutes.” (Ps. 119: 11-12)

      My point here, is that the pastoral gift and office is always to point the Faithful, to the God of Faith & Hope, as for example St. Paul always does, and as he did in his Last Will & Testament in 2 Timothy! (2 Tim. 4: 1-2)… and surely we live in a day of “out of season”, in this time of modernity and postmodernity!

      Btw, a very important doctrine that is today quite under siege, is that great doctrine of the historical Church! Where is it, and what is it? (1 Tim. 3: 15-16) But the place of the “common confession”! See also Jude 3, “our common salvation”. (Acts 2: 44) And the Reformers were Churchmen!

      But just where is the Historical (Apostolic) Church today? And anything “common”? These are very tough questions today! And yes, let us bring on “Theology” – the study and doctrine of GOD! But, let this be “Dogmatic” theology, the Theology of the Church of God, Itself!

    • James-the-lesser

      I am certain that I am not willing to let the conflicting opinions expressed on this blog decide what is or is not Christian. I would rather stake my wagers on a history of ecumenical orthodoxy to decide that. Yes, Jude 3! Keep trucking.

    • John

      Fr Robert, I’m gratified that you see the value of my post. I’m not sure why you see its value “as an Anglican presbyter” though, since Anglicanism seems to have no commitment to the authority of the historic or wider church, even if you might as an individual see it. Believing in the value of the historic church means believing in the historic church, which entails having an ecclesiology high enough and developed enough to be fairly specific about where that church is, was and will be. What is it like then to be in that church which is so often in the news for such unorthodox things, and yet believing in the historic church, which itself believed in very specific boundaries on where that church existed?

    • Alex Jordan

      Hi Michael,

      I always appreciate your honesty in expressing your theological beliefs and even struggles with those beliefs. I’m sure some of us by nature are more prone to doubt than others (e.g., the disciple Thomas). Even great prophets (e.g., John the Baptist) who witness incredible things can be attacked by moments of doubt (http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/john-the-baptists-doubt). The things is, I think we can feed our doubts. There’s so much work to be done, let us instead strengthen our faith and not dwell on our doubts. In doing this, I don’t think we’re being dishonest– I think we’re just fighting the good fight of faith.

      I think Satan wants believers doubting all the time, because this paralyzes our faith and makes us ineffective. Remember Jesus often rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith– He did not commend them for their doubts. At the same time, He knows we are weak and human and He sympathizes with us in these struggles. The Devil tempted even Jesus with doubt or confusion about His mission– His disciples will be similarly attacked. But He is more than willing to help us through our doubts. May we all cry out, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

      Blessings to you, my brother.

    • Missy M

      Dear Congregation and Visitors

      Today I want to tell you about God and his plan for your salvation and maturity in him of which I am 90-95% certain is true. UGH

    • Amen there “James” you caught my point the best! The true church has always been something of an “ecumenical” reality. Even in the Reformation, there were so-called “Lutherans”, and the Genevan Reformers. And then too the English Reformed (Anglicans, noting Cranmer, etc.)

      Indeed “John”, there was a time when some of the EO and the Anglicans were close! If ever you can lay your hands upon a copy of the one time Anglican Bishop (of Lincoln), F.C.N. “Nugent” Hicks book: The Fullness Of Sacrifice , An Essay In Reconciliation. (1930 First Edition, SPCK) I have the Third Edition reprint, (1946/1953). A book on the whole idea of “Sacrifice”, OT to the New. The Third Edition Foreword, by John A. Douglas, and I quote: “That the Orthodox theologians should say that this book might have been written by one of themselves is not surprising: for, as it were congenitally, Nugent Hicks shared their mystical categories.” Indeed this book is classic like, and liked too, by many of the Protestant Evangelical theologians of the time. 369 pages of dense biblical theology, rather! And indeed I share “some” of the visible creedal church “Councils” of the East. But, not all the “theology” certainly! I am quite Reformed on “Imputation” and “Adoption”!

    • C Michael Patton

      Folks,

      Forgive me, but there were some fairly significant mistakes made by my editor who misunderstood some things I was saying and changed them. The most important to correct was in the parenthetical statement concerning Daniel Taylor. He does not want me to me sterile and impotent. It was the guy in my mind.

      As well, I have changed some other things to make them more accurately reflect this post. I just think that this is too easy to misunderstand. So I need confused parties to reread it.

    • And btw, the proper biblical doctrine and theology of Imputation, leads surely to the great doctrine of God’s Divine Election and Predestination! But note, I am a Infralapsarian: the theological position that God’s decree to save “follows” logically (not temporarily) the decision to create and permit the fall.

    • C Michael Patton

      Rob,

      “If +1 is a belief you are still accountable to preach, then where do opinions for which no such accountability fall? For example, suppose someone says that in his opinion the original text of Romans 5:1 is somewhat more likely to have said “we have peace” than “let us have peace,” but he doesn’t think it is possible to know one way or the other and he doesn’t think much of anything rides on the decision. How does such a tentative judgment “score” on your scale, and is there an obligation to preach a belief with such a tentative quality?”

      A plus 1 in my scale is meant to represent conviction, not casual leaning. So if you have made it there, it means that there is some compelling reason for you to believe it, even if it is less compelling than it could be. To be undecided about Rom. 5:1 would make you a 0. A slight leaning with no real conviction, I would still put at a 0.

      “I’d also be interested in hearing how your scale relates to the whole epistemological debate over belief and knowledge. If a particular belief scores only +1 or +2 on your scale, do you claim to “know” that belief is true? How about a belief that scores +8? Or is a belief qualifying as knowledge unrelated to your scale?”

      It depends on how you are using the word “know”. As you “know” :), that can mean the same thing as “am certain”. I would claim to believe it.

      For the most part, as well, I use common idioms that are acceptable and understood. So I still say things like “I am completely certain. . . ” or “There is not a doubt in my mind that . . .” But, if pressed to be philosophically precise or when dealing with someone who needs to understand this, I will qualify my certainty accordingly.

    • C Michael Patton

      For those who have trouble with the idea of being a 1-9/10 about important issues such as the resurrection, let me challenge you with this question:

      Can your faith get any stronger than it is today? If your answer is “yes” then you have said the same thing I am saying, just in a different way. If you answer is “no” then we have other things to talk about.

    • Forgive me dear brother Michael, but you still have years to go theologically! 🙂 And I say this as one who has been after it theologically myself for over 40 years! So, I don’t have to agree with everything you write or say, as I am sure that you will make more changes as you go? But, we have much to agree on even now! And in reality at this stage, this does not mean a Ph.D. for you either. That in fact may not go so well today at least? (But that’s your choice also). But, I am myself, at least convinced, that we simply must have a certain historical and biblical ecclesiology, to get a proper theological doctrine right and correct. And here is the lasting effort! 🙂

      *I used to think 40 was a milestone in life, now perhaps its 50 or even 55? Or even 65? (I will be 64 late Oct. Lord willing?) Indeed GOD has HIS track & timing for all of us who know Him!

      • C Michael Patton

        “Forgive me dear brother Michael, but you still have years to go theologically!” I have an eternity to go theologically. We all do my brother.

    • Mary

      Loved your post!

      WHen the doubting imp (in my case, it’s a lady) in my head starts in, I remind her of the Brain-in-a-vat experiment and the fact that no certainty of anything, including basic sensory input all the way to theological truth, is possible without faith. So- if I can believe it is true “beyond reasonable doubt,” as opposed to “with absolute, infallible certainty,” I am entirely content. Faith is a choice. For me, it is a choice which must align with the most reasonable and probable analysis of data, combined with what I perceive as the working of God in my own life and my experiences of divine relationship with God. Doubts and questions are normal and healthy, and if, as I believe to be correct, God is the author of all truth and will never contradict actual or factual truth, then God and the truth about God and the world can stand up to any amount of probing and questioning. I cannot allow myself to live in fear of questions and doubts so long as I believe that there is no apparent possibility that such doubts could lead to the dissolution of my faith or the suppression of my reason. I think that infallible, absolute, immutable certainty is impossible if we properly admit the fallibility of our own perception. We are not tasked with omniscience, which is freeing, but we are never forbidden to delve deeper into the truth, which is also glorious. 🙂

      • C Michael Patton

        “We are not tasked with omniscience, which is freeing, but we are never forbidden to delve deeper into the truth, which is also glorious.”

        Amen. To admit less than perfect certainty is to say that we still have sanctification left to go. And what a great thing to know that we have not yet arrived.

    • Mary

      As to preaching- I probably wouldn’t preach below an 8 unless I heavily and thoroughly qualified it as 1. SUpposition or 2. Opinion.

      • C Michael Patton

        Mary,

        Then you are missing the scale of my scale. :-). If you are a 1, it means you have reason to be convicted. In my scale, if you wait until you are an 8, you will probably not have too much to preach.

    • RazorsKiss

      Is there a reason why you don’t distinguish between God as transcendent and creatures who aren’t, when talking about certainty? It was Aquinas who put God and man on a scale of being – not the Reformers, who repudiated that. Also, wouldn’t it help to… quote at least a theologian, if not a Scripture passage, when discussing something Scripture addresses?

      Just curious.

      • C Michael Patton

        Razor,

        No. I’ll bet it would be a good contribution, but I must admit that I am not sure what you mean. Thanks for the kind contribution and always being gracious.

    • Just my small taste of the experiential of God’s mystery shows me that we will all be very surprised in God’s presence and eternity In Christ! I love 2 Peter’s list here: chap. 1: 1-7, which in the end blossoms into the fullness of our own “calling and election – sure”! (Verse 10) And the “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” is itself the richly provided entry into the eternal kingdom”.. (Verse 11) Indeed what an eternity it will be ourselves “like Him”, seeing Him as HE IS!” (1 John 3: 2) What can we say here, this side of death & dying, where sin still lives and even reigns, and we ourselves are still subject? But Come Lord Jesus!

    • Indeed Aquinas called himself an Augustinian to some degree, but he did like Augustine, and even some of the Reformers read and use something of Plato. And certainly some aspects of the NT have both the Greco-Roman of Jewish Hellenism, i.e. Paul, and even John somewhat. Note the Book of Hebrews, which surely has some Platonic ideas behind, or in the backdrop. Btw, indeed “man” surely is made in the image of God, but sin has defaced that.. and the Reformers did not see sinful man able to use so-called Natural Theology, at least redemptively. (Note Romans 1)

    • theoldadam

      Our faith is weak and wavering and almost nonexistent at times.

      Why do we worry? Little or no faith.

      But “as we are faithlessness, He is faithful.”

      Jesus told us flat out how much faith we have. And it doesn’t even amount to the size of the tiny mustard seed.

      So much for having faith in faith. Better to have faith in God.

      • C Michael Patton

        Theold,

        Amen. We are all of little faith. One day faith will be sight and we will all take a deep breath and realize grace to another degree. I can’t wait. Until then the battle for our faith rages on.

    • theoldadam

      Sorry for the bad grammar. Just tired.

    • bethyada

      My belief in the truth of Christianity, or the resurrection may not be a 10 but my knowledge of the truth of theism is definitely 10. It is impossible for there not to be a God. I consider the truth that God exists as great as my conviction that I exist, or that 2^3 = 8.

      I think that in as much as humans can reason, they can know absolutely that God is real.

      • C Michael Patton

        Bethyada,

        I would agree if you are talking about this from a strictly rational point of view. The existence of God is as necessary as 2 plus 2 equaling 4. However, it is not the rational aspect that is the cause for most people’s uncertainty about God. It is emotional. Would be that we could think more rationally when needed, but anger, confusion, and judgement veto rational thinking when it comes to many people’s belief in God. As the only saying goes, “Atheists don’t believe in God and they hate him.”

    • Missy M

      A balloon isn’t more of a balloon when it is filled with more air. It may be enlarged by air but it us always 100% a balloon.

      100% certainty does not mean it can of be magnified.

      I feel pity for the consequeces of those who have spent so much time trying to be the smartest guy in the room and intellectualizing the Scriptures that they are rendered impotent or less than 100% certain on so many natters.

      It is reasonable for those young in the faith to have such issues but after so many years and this is where one is while claiming to be a Teacher of the Word? What certainty can you possibly pass on to which a faith may cling?

      • C Michael Patton

        Missy, I did not understand that.

        But would you agree with these:
        1. God has a greater level of certainty about his existence than you do?
        2. You faith is not perfect—you can believe more deeply today than you did yesterday?

        If so, we are agreed about the premise of this post.

    • Btw, what else can we expect in an age of modernity and postmodernity, it reminds me of Pilate who really was no mere emotional speaker, when he asked Jesus Himself the question: “What is truth?” This question still reverberates today! And it is always really both rational and experiential. But the mind should precede the experience, or always test and maintain it!

    • Jason

      “This unbeliever’s goal is to make me less certain about my beliefs and, in doing so, render me spiritually impotent and sterile.”

      One would think that the unbeliever’s goal is to get you to cease believing in the central tenets of Christianity. Why would the unbeliever want you to be spiritually impotent? Indeed, if he is an unbeliever of a certain type, he may think that in ridding you of your false (or unsupported) beliefs, he is making your more spiritually alive and potent.

      There is an unacknowledged assumption in your statement here, namely that spiritual potency is to be equated with the power of your belief in Christianity. But that is false. And there is no reason whatsoever not to regard the seeking of truth (whatever it may be) as a spiritual exercise. Since doubt is a necessary prerequisite for the discovery of the truth, your inner doubter/unbeliever is doing you a favor in terms of your spiritual endeavors.

      • C Michael Patton

        Jason, not this guy. He is completely irrational and makes very little intellectual sense. He is emotional and will question things based solely on how he thinks I should feel. And the irrationality escalates. The biggest ruse he performs is to act like he is the most rational of all thoughts.

    • But my point Michael is that central for the “truth” question is always the place of Sin, that great place of Adamic reality! WE cannot escape it until death or the eschatological Coming of Christ. Indeed here is quite “certainty”!

    • James-the-lesser

      Fr. Robert (Anglican): You mentioned Austin Farrer in an earlier blog. Which book of his or about him do you consider the most definitive? 🙂

    • bethyada

      Fair enough Michael. But consider something like 2 + 2 = 4. I am certain of this. But God is more certain.

      Take God exists. I am as certain of this as 2 = 2 = 4. I could develop my arguments for God further, thus be better able to defend this, but does that add to my certainty? Not sure, but then my understanding of simple maths may increase as I gain understanding in advanced maths.

      Or take God loves me. I may not be as certain of this (compared to existence). But I mix up my belief that this is a true statement with my internal sense this is true. That is I know it to be true far more than I feel it to be true. Thus I affirm this belief as a matter of faith (because I think it true) even though my feelings have not come that far.

      If your post is certainty of feelings it will yield different numbers than if it were certainty of knowledge.

    • bethyada

      “Atheists don’t believe in God and they hate him.”

      or, perhaps: Atheists don’t believe in God because they hate him.

    • Amen Michael to your #53, we both know who this “guy” is! Some of the worst of “fundamentalism”, even though dressed in the “words” of Calvinism!

    • @James: Start perhaps with Robert Boak Slocum’s book: A Systematic Presentation of Austin Farrer’s Theology: Light in a Burning-Glass, (2007, University of South Carolina). It has a good presentation of Farrer’s works that are OP, and hard to find. A great work on the Theology of Austin Farrer!

      See also: ‘Captured by the Crucified’, an edited work on ‘The Practical Theology of Austin Farrer’, edited by David Hein and Edward Hugh Henderson, (2004 T&T Clark).

    • Brian P.

      Very odd on the wording. I would consider the negative side of the scale as not “not believe,” but as *disbelieve*. To me, the zero would be best worded as not believing. Not believing more makes little sense to me. Disbelieving more makes sense. For many contemporary a-theists, the a- prefix means “without” and is at the zero on the scale for a number of questions.

    • Cynthia

      Michael, when I feel doubt about my faith their are 2 things I go back to for reminders of God’s truthfulness. First, my “born-again” experience and second, what your theology program taught me. I am sort of on a continuum as a christian, one where I have periods of true faithfulness and then at others times I wonder what has happened to my faith. But I remain faithful b/c of the remembrance of the clarity He has shown me at different times. Thanks for sharing all that you have. I know it is tough to be a questioning soul, but at the end of the day, I hope you can rest in simple faith.

      This post has really helped me with a conversation I am having with a mormon. I am going to tell her that her “certainty” (objective) in the truth of mormon church is really her “certitude”(subjective). Anyway….

    • Scott

      Michael –

      Thanks for sharing. If I am understanding things correctly, over the past few years, you, yourself, have shifted a bit from a more modernist, evidentialist apologetical approach to the faith and to what I might term as a much less stringent perspective. Would you agree?

      I’ve gone through a major shift in my life as well and one helpful resource was Jamie Smith’s, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism. I think something of a practical postmodern perspective is quite balanced, as opposed to antirealism or a more modernist construct. I think modernism can rob us of the joy & beauty of the story within which God has set us.

      I distinguish between certainty of faith & absolute certainty. Something like what you express between certainty & certitude. God alone is absolute & objective in his certainty. Humans, who are both finite & fallen, can have reasonable certainty & a certainty of faith (conviction). But we never function in the realm of absolute. Even at the possibility of being stoned myself, I’d say the Scripture writers were not hedged in with an absolute certainty as they penned the words of Scripture (not to mention the lovely subject of the development of the canon).

      Most evangelicals believe this kind of talk will lead us into a tailspin of despair. It’s either/or. Either you carry an impeccable certainty (or that is the direct call from God for us) or you’re headed down a slippery slope. But I think Scripture itself allows for the beautiful expression of tension in our faith journey. This is why I love the Psalms, Job & Ecclesiastes. They aren’t nihilistic. But they are real, open, authentic, honest about the challenges, all the while recognising the faithfulness of God.

      Be blessed as you actually minister to real flesh-and-blood folk with…

    • cherylu

      Even at the possibility of being stoned myself, I’d say the Scripture writers were not hedged in with an absolute certainty as they penned the words of Scripture..

      Now I find that a truly comforting thought. Basing my life and my eternal future on the writings of folks that weren’t even certain that what they said was beyond doubt the truth.

      Sorry about the sarcasm, but it is best way I can think of at the moment to express my thoughts.

    • Amen there “Cherylu”, it is here I would fly my own flag of the presupposition of the authority and certainly of Holy Scripture! Not Van Til’s full apologetic, but the HOLY Scripture itself!

      And btw, I am quite against the pomo, or Postmodernism/Postmodernity, of course there are real Christians in the so-called ranks here, but they have a bull by the horns with the pomo, or perhaps more than a “bull”? 😉

      Actually, “sarcasm” and satire IS often even the biblical way, when dealing with matters spiritual and even theological! Noting the OT Prophetic Books and “Prophets” themselves in dealing with reform.

      And again, I am myself going to fall back more on our top-tier Reformers, at least spiritually here, than our “theolog’s” today! Can ya imagine what a Luther and Calvin would say to the Church today? I can almost feel the heat! 😉 Indeed the philosophical Enlightenment of the 18th century has not really served the church well, with the areas of rationalism and skepticism. This was not the humanism per se of an Erasmus, nor that of which the Protestant Reformers were trained in as humanists. Indeed Back to the Sources (Ad Fontes), was both biblical and theological in discipline, for the Reformers!

    • Alex Jordan

      I’ve been mulling over the question of the place of doubt and/or lack of certainty in the Christian life your post raised. I think it’s important first to distinguish between lack of certainty and doubt— they overlap, but I don’t think they’re synonymous. “Lack of certainty” as you describe it is about measuring the level of certainty one has in various convictions. But the term “doubt” may have a more negative connotation– it’s questioning if the convictions one has are valid at all. As I said in my last comment, Jesus knows we’re sinful and weak in faith. Faith will always be marked by a measure of uncertainty, and worse still, doubt. We don’t know and believe as we should. But what’s critical is that we do believe, and to believe the right things on essential truths. For example, one who by the Spirit of God places their trust in Christ to save them from their sins is saved– the strength of that conviction should mature, but one’s certainty in believing Christ to save them doesn’t make one any more saved.

      So what of doubt– is it a sin or not? I think we should indeed look at it as sinful, not to condemn ourselves, but so that we may fall all the more upon God’s grace to remove it. We’re not supposed to doubt and we’re supposed to always rejoice — but we fail in both, maybe because we let feelings about circumstances overtake us rather than allowing faith and trust in God to help us rejoice/believe through all circumstances. Piper has written about “fighting for joy”–so too we must “fight for faith”. They’re related, because if God gives us faith to trust and obey Him, joy and peace flow from that. I guess my main point is we need to really fight hard for faith and joy via dwelling upon essential truths and asking God for grace in this, and to see our lack of faith and joy as serious defects in our walk. For as I’m sure you’ve witnessed, tragically doubt may take on a life of its own, gather momentum and overtake faith entirely.

    • C Michael Patton

      Yes, it is definitely the case that the writers of the Scripture lacked knowledge and certainty about many things. Even the very conservative Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy expresses such.

      We believe the authors of Scripture were correct in everything they said, but that does not mean they had a handle on the systematic whole. There was continual development in their thought. Even Peter admits to having trouble with Paul.

    • That was mean to be *certainty in my # 62!

    • @Michael: I don’t think Peter himself saw “trouble” with St. Paul’s writings, as it was the aspect to the depth…literally, “Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them, concerning these things in which is(are) some things hard to be understood, which the untaught (ignorant) and unstable distort/twist, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3: 16)

      Indeed there appears to be a basic Apostolic understanding, and quiet acceptance of God’s Word and Revelation, which we have quite lost today! And here most certainly is faith, hope and love! Perhaps we need to see and read St. Paul’s great chapter of 1 Cor. 13 once again! 🙂

    • cherylu

      Michael,

      I don’t think you are suggesting, are you, that when the Scripture writers wrote about things like the existence of God, Jesus’ virgin birth, life, death and resurrection that they were uncertain about them? Were they uncertain about the doctrines of justification, forgiveness, repentance, new birth, sanctification, eternal life, etc, that they wrote about? Were they proclaiming those things all the while wondering at some level if they were true or not?

      I can understand not being certain about the meanings of prophetic words like what we find in Daniel or Revelation particularly.

      But I can’t believe at all that they were uncertain about those other issues.

    • @cherlu: You have nailed one of the great problems with evidential apologetics, and that is seeking to deconstruct what the Biblical writers are saying! We can only perhaps look at the constructs of their statements and beliefs, but surely the very centre of their statements are themselves the place and essence of what God is saying in His revelation! We can never look behind their minds in their writings, which are themselves the place of the Word of God!

      Ant btw, we can even see this too somewhat in the prophetic and eschatological writings. But there we must be careful to get the proper genre! But even in the apocalyptic and especially the Apocalypse itself (the Book of Revelation), we are bound by spirit and truth, and spirituality to degree. Always the greatest evidence is in the Text itself!

    • C Michael Patton

      Doubt does indeed have a negative connotation. But it is what many people see their lack of faith as, especially when they don’t know how to place it. Jude 22 is what I am trying to fulfill here. “Have mercy on some who doubt.” As well, doubt can be see very positively, just like suffering. We just have to put it in perspective. But when we act surprised and look down on those who are doubting, it can lead to further doubt and eventually, from a human perspective, push people completely away from the faith.

      Doubt itself is a result of the fall and will be with us until death. It is best to see it like this. It is part of our sin nature and in this sense is sinful. It is not unlike depression. Is sadness and depression sin. Certainly not always, but it can be the result of sin. So to call doubt “sin” without some significant qualifications and getting to know the individual is very unwise.

    • C Michael Patton

      Cheryl,

      “Uncertain” needs always to be qualified. These guys saw Christ risen from the grave. They had as strong a conviction as is possible. As well, it depends on the author and when they wrote. When they wrote about these issues, I don’t always suppose to know their epistemic disposition. All I know is that what they wrote was true. I think that there were times when they wrote when they were not sure if they were right (even though we can be). Maybe 1 Cor 7:10 gives a good illustration.

      However, it always depends on the book, author, time of writing, and context. For example, I would not think that the author of Eccl was certain about too much when he wrote. The same is true for many of the Psalms. But that is the point of these writings. What they teach is correct, it is just sometimes difficult to understand what they teach.

      I don’t mean to be confusing, but interpreting the Scripture is a very dangerous task. We don’t want to give broad interpretive principles rashly.

      It is not unlike the age old question about whether or not the Gospel writers (other than John) knew with assurance who Christ was (the God-man who is the second person of the Trinity). Most conservatives have traditionally said that they did not. What they wrote was true and they had some understanding of Christ’s person, but they were uncertain as to how it all fit together. However, many have changed (including Bock and Wallace) and say that the synopics present an inclusio where Christ is presented from bottom up (man to God) where as John was presenting from top down (God to man). However, I still go with the more traditional understanding that the Synopic writers did not have it all figured out.

      So, allowing for a development of thought in no way takes away from their inspirtation, inerrancy, or truthfulness. It just means that they are one piece of the puzzle and they, like the OT prophets, were not omniscient with regard to the rest of the story.

      This is why I think that we are at an advantage to the NT writers. Not that we are inspired, but that we have the canonical whole which presents a more systematic understanding and conviction than they had.

      Long answer.

    • cherylu

      Michael,

      You seem to be using the word “uncertain” in two different ways here.

      In the OP, it seems that you are more equating uncertainty and doubt. At least as far as things that have been definitely revealed to us in the Bible goes. Particularly when it comes to issues that are central/essential to the faith.

      In your last comment in answer to my question, you seem to be using “uncertain” more as a lack of full revelation on a subject, a lack of development of thought.

      The idea of lack of full revelation I can totally agree with, at least in some areas. The idea that basic issues of the faith were passed on to us with doubt as to their truth and validity would not be something that I could ever accept. But, I am still not at all certain that you meant to be saying that either!

    • Alex Jordan

      Cherylu, a strong amen to your statement: “The idea that basic issues of the faith were passed on to us with doubt as to their truth and validity would not be something that I could ever accept. But, I am still not at all certain that you meant to be saying that either!” I agree and wonder what Michael is really saying here.

      Michael, you wrote, ” I think that there were times when they wrote when they were not sure if they were right (even though we can be). Maybe 1 Cor 7:10 gives a good illustration.”

      Probably you meant 1 Cor 7:12, because in 1 Cor 7:10 Paul states he is giving a command from the Lord Himself! In any case, just 2 verses later in 1 Cor 12 I don’t think the apostle Paul is suddenly not sure of the authority of what he’s writing. He’s simply conveying that what he is teaching in verse 12 isn’t something the Lord said or taught directly. Nevertheless, it’s a command from God, in that Paul is providing inspired interpretation of principles on marriage Jesus taught. If he wrote lacking confidence in the authority of his teaching, he would have no business teaching it, would he? If he is not sure about the full authority of what he writes, how could those receiving be sure it was right? Wouldn’t they lose their confidence in everything Paul wrote them, not knowing which parts fully authoritative and which not?

      Paul writes elsewhere about the inspired, authoritative nature of his writings:

      “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13, ESV)”

      Paul wrote with full confidence that what he was transmitting to those he was shepherding was the actual word of God. Even so, what’s most important in all of this discussion on faith and certainty is not the strength of one’s faith, but rather, in whom our faith is placed.

    • Yes, “Amen” Alex and Cherylu! St. Paul is “our” consummate Apostle & Pastor-Teacher: note in 1 Cor. 13:2, Paul seems to express his only weakness, the constant need to “love”! And of course here we are always beginners!

      “IF I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge: and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing!” Indeed this WHOLE chapter is PAUL!

    • One thing that all parachurch groups and even so-called church scholars must learn quickly, in my opinion, is that knowledge and information, itself, is never a substitute for the Pastoral! Indeed as Paul notes, the pastor is always a teacher, but always pastorally so! I learned this lesson the hard way, and it still often eludes me! 🙂

    • James-the-lesser

      Fr. Robert (Anglican) Regarding your comment that you are an “Infralapsarian: the theological position that God’s decree to save “follows” logically (not temporarily) the decision to create and permit the fall.” Outside of creation which is ontologically temporal what is left besides a logical sequence? Yet, in actuality a sequence, logical or otherwise, indicated an existent “priorness”; as does, I might add, a Father vis-a-vis Son relationship, eternal or otherwise. Any comments, bloggers?

    • When we look at the Trinity, which is quite obviously seen first in the relationship between the Father and the Son, (John 1: 14 ; 18 / Matt. 11: 27 / Eph. 2: 18), it took the church quite sometime to finally understand this great mystery and doctrine (into the 2’nd and finally Third Century), and even now the Trinitarian Creeds are themselves but a fence around the great transcendent triune God, Himself! “The essence of God being that which is beyond human comprehension and cannot be defined and or approached by human understanding.” (Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church, – 1944).

      In some sense, the whole nature of God’s Salvation History, must be seen foremost as GOD’s great plan and doing, which always comes from God’s great doctrine of Himself: Which we define from God’s Immutability, (1 Tim. 1: 17)… God, “transcendent” & “immanent”!

    • Again, if we look correctly back at and into God, i.e. HIS doctrine and being, we will find no problem with His sovereignty and will!

      As the great Dr. Luther said, “Let God be God”!

    • […] or Mormonism are wrong? C. Michael Patton of the Parchment & Pen Blog offers some insights: Why I Lack Certainty About Christianity. Patton is not advocating some sort of wishy-washy, agnostic, we-cannot-really-know-anything […]

    • […] “As Fred Sanders shows us in this accurate and edifying life and thought of Wesley, we all have much to learn from this godly evangelical founder. I pray that God will use this book to awaken his people again, filling us with his Spirit and renewing our hearts in love. Why I Lack Certainty About Christianity – C. Michael Patton […]

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