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!

4 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