Absolute Certainty and Doubts

I have recently been thinking a lot about Absolute Certainty and Doubt lately. In RZIM they have talked about three different types of doubt, the intellectual kind (Resonable/Logical), the Will/Heart kind, and the Emotional kind. This seems to be a good gathering of the variois doubts that we can encounter, in fact I honestly can’t think of another category to add.

That being said I have heard it said that Absolute Certainty or just Certainty is hard or impossible to get. However, when one speaks of Absolute Certainty, it seems as though they are speaking of a certainty beyond all doubt. This to me poses a problem, because not all doubts are a risk to the truth of a belief or a claim. Intellectual doubts seem to be the ones that can actually effect the truth of a belief or idea. Will/Heart and Emotional doubts do not seem to effect the truth, but rather ones acceptence of the truth.

So would we therefore need to remove all doubts to have certainty? Or only remove those doubts that actually effect the truth (the Intellectual Doubts)?

To me it seems the latter, but I Am curious to hear your thoughts on this.

8 Likes

@Dev, I have not previously given enough thought to the relationship between absolute certainty and faith in God but it’s an interesting one. I think that’s partly because I came to a faith in Christ only with some certainty but not absolute certainty. It was only after I placed my faith in Christ, that my certainty grew as I read the Bible and saw the beauty of fulfilled prophecy, God’s promises, and had life experiences that corresponded to the framework in the Bible. Many skeptics say we cant have absolute certainty about God, so belief in Him is unjustified. Theoretically speaking if we remove all doubts , we can have absolute certainty. But the reality is no one, both Christians and skeptics can have absolute certainty. Even with objective truths, we are limited by the dimensions of truth we operate in. The only certainty we can speak from is what we know by common experience . A few questions to ponder that relate to what you pose are:

• How important is absolute certainty to faith as defined in the Bible?
• To what extent can we have certainty in the three areas of doubts - intellectual, volitional, emotional ?
• What value is there in working through the different areas of doubts?
• Is satisfaction of intellectual curiosity sufficient enough to place a faith in God?

I don’t think I can fully answer your questions but just wanted to offer a few thoughts. Faith in the Bible is about us trusting the character of God. Abraham believed God, and his faith was credited to Him as righteousness. Paul says in Romans how both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith in God. Biblical faith is to place our hope in God that He is Holy, righteous, true etc. And the gospel is the hope of participating in the resurrection as evidenced in Christ, because of His righteousness.

Let’s see to what extent intellectual pursuit is helpful for this biblical idea of faith. Intellectual pursuit will give us information on objective factual evidence/logic for being a theist , for verifying history, for resurrection of Christ, for transmission of scripture etc. It will give us sufficient evidence but not necessarily absolute evidence/ certainty. We can have certainty about some facts which is very helpful. However, we may never find enough evidence for every historical fact recorded. We cannot predict Gods actions but can only trust in His goodness. Do we need sufficient or absolute evidence of His goodness? We do have to take Him at His word in our finiteness after finding reasonable evidence. The exclusion of intellectual doubts at some point must lead us to the question , what do we do with this evidence about a personal Creator? I don’t feel it’s enough to just deal with intellectual doubts even though other doubts dont put the facts at risk. The whole point of the apologetic/intellectual approach is to take us to a point to seriously consider the volitional/emotional doubts for acceptance. Even the devil believes intellectually but this belief is of no use without acceptance.

From my own experience, I have seen how we suffer greatly in our growth in the Lord when we don’t deal with our volitional and emotional doubts. For example: My unwillingness to trust the inspiration of the Bible fully during a season in my life, prevented me from receiving comfort from His Word, a time of loneliness and hopelessness. When I only hoped it was true, it provided no comfort. I needed to trust what Jesus said about His Word to receive from it. Another example is when I doubted the forgiveness of God, I was unable to pray and led me to a performance based righteousness. I was truly like the unstable person who doubted and was tossed to and fro as described in James 1:6.

I hope this response gives further food for thought. The article by Gary Habermas in this link describes in more detail the repercussions of the different areas of doubt, and it should be helpful to you. It was good to think through your question. Thanks!

5 Likes

Great reflection Dev! I think Absolute certainty is like you believed it to be; that it is to only remove those doubts that actually affect the truth of the matter. This is because having absolute certainty over all things is akin to being “omniscient”, an attribute only God has. Thus, your initial inclination as to how we should understand the issue is spot on!

3 Likes

Have time to really respond to these now LOL.

But yes! That is like what I was saying. Like I don’t believe that we have to know everything, or that God intends for that (at least not while on Earth). But I do believe that we can Know the Important or Key Things, such as God’s Existence, Jesus Ressurection, Bible’s Reliability, The existence of Heaven and souls, and the Holy Spirit.

That’s why I have noticed that “Absolute Certainty” seems to be associated with “knowing all” or “beyond every doubt”. But I tjink it should be used more like “beyond the doubts that truly effect the truth, and knowing for sure the key things.”

1 Like

I recently watched a video wjere Mike Licona was interviewing Gary Habermas, and they discussed the three different areas of doubt. All of this though does bring up the topic of faith. And I think to approach that topic we need to start with what faith is, or better yet, what it is not.

Faith is like the word trust for us. In fact in Hebrews 11:1 when it speaks of Faith, it is not talking about “Belief in God, or Christ/Christianity’s Core Message.”. In stead it is A Faith in God, like Trust in God. This is shown both in the Greek word and the futher reading of Hebrews 11. Abraham was called a man of great faith, yet he KNEW that God was real. And he had assurance and certainty that The God Of Israel existed. His Faith was IN God, not ABOUT God.

Some people think that Christians have Blind Faith, that we just believe because we like it, or it gives us comfort. And, the traditional responce is to say how are faith is rooted in evidence. Now it’s true that we don’t have blind faith, but I think that we misuse faith at times. Doubt is a natural thing. People encounter it in many ways, for many different reasons. Volitional and emotional doubt can show up almost randomly. But, these doubts do not take away the Truth. Intellectual/Reasonable Doubts are the ones that can hit the truth and crumble it, and these are the ones that when answered show us that certainty is attainable.

We can tell others that we do have assurance in God and Christ, and The Bible’s Message being true. Because we can face down the Intellectual/Reasonable even Logical Doubts, and come out with assurance. And Like those in The Bible, we can have absolute certainty that God and The Gospel are true, and Have Faith (Trust) IN Him.

:slight_smile:

1 Like

Just thinking about this, I’m reminded Thomas had doubt. However seeing removed all doubt. So I would say then, Thomas with absolute certainty, believed. Just a thought to consider. See John 20:24-29. Also See Luke 24::38-53
God is Good to All. Fred Proch

@Dev, thank you for sharing more on that. If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying volitional/ emotional doubt if true dont change historical testable facts as intellectual doubt does. I would agree with that statement. The only thing I would add is that often times volitional and emotional doubts are also " facts" about the character of the person in question, where we make predictions based on verifiable facts. We may be saying the same thing in different words :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Great pessages of scripture. Thank you for sharing them Fred!

I think that this is a great example of Doubt and Evidence/Proofs. Thomas doubted Christ’s Ressurection, and he was given Evidence (or more like proof in his case) and then he believed or knew.

I think we need to remind doubters and skeptics that they can overcome their doubts, and that they can know the truth and have that assurance that it is in fact the Truth.

You are most welcome!

Yes I think that we are on the same page. To futher explain it, If you met a Hindu and he shared his Religion with you. Afterwards you may have a doubt of “What if Hinduism is true?”. This doubt could be brought on by fear that you could be wrong, or because your friend is so secure in his Hinduism that it may call to question it’s variability.

So initially this could be Emotional doubt. The “What If” ones seem to be emotional. But, you can combat it in two ways, one by reminding and shoqing yourself the evidence. This could be both showing why Hinduism is false and by showing that Christianity is true.

Initially, the What If doubts do not effect the truth. They can however lead to Intellectual doubts, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with the evidence and proofs that you have at hand, and more if need be.

This may be a process though of the What If or Emotional Doubts coming back up, and you having to remind yourself again and again. However, because you know the evidence and such, you know what is true, reguardless of how the Emotional doubts come.

1 Like

@Dev, I guess that kind of emotional doubt is a possibility. However, to make a true shift of faith from one religion to another requires deep conviction before taking the step and in the case of Christianity, it’s the Holy Spirit who brings it about. Basing our faith on evidence is one way we can approach emotional doubts but not everyone feels confident about their intellectual abilities. We have the Holy Spirit’s help in dealing with the emotional doubts. A new birth does happen when we first accept Christ and our hungers are replaced by the Holy Spirit. What I have seen in the experience of many new converts coming from another religion is a confirmation that the Lord gives by allowing certain experiences, especially initially where the new convert can sense the supernatural hand of God. Even when we fail morally due to our doubts in doing our part, the Lord graciously helps us stay on path with Him through various means, if we genuinely placed our trust in Him. I do think apologetics approach is important to remove obstacles to faith. However for us to commit to God long-term on a daily basis, we have got to know God as a person, from His Word by His Spirit. Our love for Him than naturally grows and our doubts are erased by experience of His love. Whether we know how to explain to others intellectually or not, we may say like the blind man who got healed in the gospels, I was blind and now I see!

1 Like