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Friday, 11 October 2013

The Idol of Certainty

There are a number of reasons why people don't like the idea of changing their beliefs but one of them is that many of us have had an approach to faith that wrongly emphasised the 'virtue' of certainty. This is the main theme of an excellent new book by Greg Boyd that I hope to review over the weekend - Benefit of the Doubt - which he subtitles 'Breaking the Idol of Certainty'. As the book shows, this certainty-seeking approach to faith has all kinds of negative effects, but one of them relates to what I was speaking of in my last post - the idea that a leader should never change his/her beliefs.  If we place such high value on being absolutely certain of what we believe, on the idea that 'a person's faith is as strong as that person is certain' (Boyd) and tend to use the language of 'revelation' and conviction too easily, then the expression of any degree of doubt or consideration of changing our understanding is seriously frowned on. In a leader it becomes almost unforgivable, a sure sign of 'creeping liberalism' if not likely apostasy!

Boyd is quite right - the problem is that we have made an idol of certainty, of the 'rightness' of our beliefs. The questioning of them by ourselves or others then inevitably shakes our foundations. But Christ is our one foundation, our source of life (the one from whom we get our identity, security and sense of significance). If he is at the centre and foundation of our lives, it frees us up to have doubts, questions and uncertainties, as well has to enter conversations with those who disagree and differ from us, and to explore diverse and alternative views, without it shaking us. As one who in the past has liked to be very clear and settled on what I believed, this truth challenges me to the core - a good thing! I have to face the question as to whether Christ truly is my foundation and centre, or have I made an idol of my beliefs. After I have reviewed Boyd book in my next post, I'd like to explore more what it means to have Christ as the centre of our faith and understanding, and how that affects our theological journey.

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