Apologetics · Bible · Holy Spirit

Relative Certainty Is Quite Alright

It seems that I might have muddied the waters a bit with an article found here. In that post, I was merely attempting to point out that Christians do not need infallible certainty in order to be justified in their theological beliefs. But I’m not sure how well that came across. So let’s give it another whirl.

For starters, if someone was to assert the idea that one must, of necessity, have to be infallibly certain about something before it can be believed it would be to erect a standard so high that only God could truly achieve this standard. After all, how can a finite creature, whose entire being was tainted after the fall of our first parents, really have complete and absolute knowledge and certainty of all possible factors? The answer is we do not have absolute certainty (or infallible certainty) but we do have relative certainty. And relative certainty is how all people function in life.

For example, a juror sentenced to a criminal court case involving the death penalty—the most serious penalty we can impose upon another—is asked to find the accused guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is the standard of evidence required to convict, relative certainty of the involvement in the crime by the one accused. The juror is not going to have infallible certainty that the accused committed the crime, but he or she weighs the evidence and determines where it all leads. And even though the jury does not have infallible knowledge, they can still impose a “guilty” sentence.

Or, think about something a bit more mundane. I believe that I’m going to live to see tomorrow, which, from a practical perspective, means I actually have to meet that deadline on the project my boss gave me. And I continue to function throughout the day with this belief in mind. I set the alarm on my iPhone to ensure I wake up on time so I can meet my deadline. I have a certain expectation that, throughout the night, the world will continue to spin on its axis, the earth will not somehow get destroyed throughout the night, the sun will rise in the east (from our perspective, that is), that I will not experience something life-ending before I awaken, and so one and so forth. Now, granted, I do not have infallible knowledge that any of these things will not happen to me. But, nonetheless, does that provide me with an excuse before my boss for not completing his tasking? No, of course not. So imagine if I went up to my boss and stated this: “Well, sir, I didn’t have infallible knowledge that today would actually come and that I would be alive to meet this deadline, so I decided not to complete your assigned task. But that, okay—right? Since I didn’t have infallible knowledge I would be standing here?”

Chances are I’d be fired on the spot. And rightly so, I might add.

You see, just because something is possible, it does not then logically follow to say it is probable. It is, after all, possible I might win the million-dollar lottery; but it’s not probable, it’s highly unlikely. It is possible that that a galactic asteroid could destroy the earth today; but chances are it’s not gonna happen. So, just because there is a possibility Christians might have an erroneous understanding of Christian doctrine (fallible), does not mean it is probable they are wrong in their beliefs. So, while it is possible we are wrong in our understanding (being fallible) of Scripture, we should not be so concerned to think we cannot know what the Bible actually teaches.

For me personally, I’m comfortable with knowing I am created in God’s image, reflecting those attributes of God (which includes reasoning abilities), with the capacity for understanding His truth as He has revealed it to us, even if there is a possibility (not probability) of error. I don’t demand infallible evidence before believing other things in this world, so I don’t change my standard when it comes to reading Scripture.

In all things, consistency.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s