Friday, April 24, 2009

Getting Over Certainty

This particular blog post is the result of some discussions that have taken place in the message board forums on From what I'm reading there, I think there is a lot of confusion as to what "faith" is and its relationship to reason, logic and certainty.

There are at least 2 places on NLOTH where Bono sings about certainty. In Stand Up Comedy--I can stand up for hope, faith, love; But while I'm getting over certainty, Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady. And in Moment of Surrender--Two souls too cool to be In the realm of certainty, Even on our wedding day.

It seems to me that these lyrics are a blast from the past, as if revisiting the pain and longing of "I still haven't found what I'm looking for." We don't know why God moves in such mysterious ways. We don't know why Peace on Earth doesn't seem to rhyme with hope and history. We don't know why orphans and other oppressed people are just waiting for some Crumbs from our table. We don't know why the Gospel promises so much and yet at times seems to deliver so little. There is so much about the life of a Christ-follower that is filled with mystery. There is so much about daily life and our future that lies outside of the realm of certainty. There are many questions that we just can't be certain we have the answer to...and I think Bono is singing, that as he has matured, he's ok with not having all the answers, he's ok with uncertainty in some areas.

Having said all that, we must make sure we don't go too far with the lyrics. Only Bono knows for sure what he means, but I can tell you from a Biblical perspective what it would mean if Bono is singing within the bounds of the historic Christian faith. It may be easier to explain what historic Christianity would NOT say from lyrics such as are found in Stand Up Comedy and Moment of Surrender.

Historic Christianity would NOT say that "getting over certainty" means that faith is divorced from fact or history or reason. Many in the world today think faith and reason live in separate universes. Biblical, historic Christianity would say faith utilitizes reason, it doesn't operate outside of it.

I'm not sure where the idea arose that faith and logic, or faith and facts, don't mix, but it didn't originate with the Bible (Actually I DO know where the idea arose, but that would take too much time to explain...if you're interested pick up a book by Francis Schaeffer called "The God Who is There"). So many people think science uses facts and religion uses faith and the two are completely different. I completely disagree. Science uses as much faith as religion and religion better use as many facts as science!

Some might want Christians to prove with 100% certainty that Jesus lived, died and rose again. Well, that can't be done...but, neither can we prove with 100% certainty that Luther did something significant in 1517. What we CAN do is compile research so that we can say with GREAT confidence that it is highly likely that in fact, Luther did nail the 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg at the end of October in 1517, and using similar research theories we are also able to say with GREAT confidence that Jesus lived, died, rose again in the first century.

Faith is not believing in something in spite of the is trusting in something that is backed up by facts and reason. Biblical faith is not believing in spite of the lack of evidence that Jesus lived, died and rose to forgive peoples' sins. Biblical faith is putting our hope in the work of Christ for forgiveness and eternal life.

Or maybe this will help: Let's say we can use reason, logic, personal experience, history, etc to build a case for Christ, and we are able to arrive at a 95% probability that Christianity is true...some would say faith is bridging the 5% of the uncertain (though many moderns might think that evidence points to 1% certainty based on facts, so faith is a 99% blind leap in the dark of complete uncertainty). I don't believe that is what Bono is singing about in these lines.

It would be more accurate to say that evidence enables us to say with a high degree of confidence that we are certain Jesus existed and the evidence also points to His resurrection and that faith has to do with resting on His finished work for forgiveness and eternal life and has nothing at all to do with bridging a gap in the facts.

I highly doubt that Bono is singing that he is forgetting all about any evidential or reasonable foundation for faith. Just a few years ago in the book "Bono: In Conversation", Bono quotes a lot of evidence often used by CS Lewis which builds the case for Jesus as Messiah.

So, in these "getting over certainty" lines, I think Bono's still singing what he's been singing for almost 30 we look around the world, even though we know we believe You broke the bonds, And You loosed the chains, Carried the cross of my shame, Oh my shame, you know I believe it. But I still haven't found What I'm looking for. But I still haven't found What I'm looking for.

Getting over certainty means Christians allowing for mystery and holding answers to the problems of the world means not being so self-righteous that we've got it all figured out on how every single element of life works and thinking that every problem has an easy answer. Getting over certainty means that even Christ followers don't always clearly perceive the will of God or understand all He wants us to do.

But getting over certainty does NOT mean that all world-views are equally valid or that faith has no relationship to facts. One thing's for sure...we're ALL One Step Closer to Knowing.

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