Friday, December 01, 2006

The Attitude of Certainty

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last post with some great ideas on blogging. You are all fantastic!

The other evening I was surfing the net and I wanted to check on the status of a movie that was being produced by Ralph Winter called Thr3e. It is based on a book by one of my favorite authors - Ted Dekker.

So, I went to and one of the first things that came up was a link to his blog. I was interested because of the title of his most recent post "Jesus is a girl."

The post was about a character in his book House named Susan, who is a type of Christ. More specifically, his post was in response to how some Christians were offended that he would use a girl for the illustration.

But, what really got my attention were his introductory remarks. They seemed to hit a bell with some things the Lord has been teaching me lately.

Are there things you're not sure about? I mean spiritual things. Do you ever question how you've come to believe certain things?

I have always been the kind of person (even before I was saved) that thought I should have everything figured out. I'm not the kind of guy who is comfortable with uncertainty. In all honesty, I think the danger in that is I can easily make up answers for things I have no idea about. My brain just kicks into "common sense" mode and I make educated guesses. But, that does not mean I'm always right.

So, why do I need to have every answer nailed?

Here's what Ted Dekker wrote:

"It’s increasingly amazing to me that so many people who call themselves “Christians”, so often betray their conformity to a religion rather than to a faith, and remain mostly blind to the fact that the Rabbi named Jesus himself railed against those so faithful to a religion rather than to a faith in his day. The Pharisees lived squarely in the BOX of legalism yet many today are trapped in that same grave Jesus referred to. As humans we have a tendency to want an explanation for everything, one that our own frail reasoning can comfortably grasp, and we support that tendency by demonizing anything that is not clear. The teachers that Jesus scolded had everything down to the clipping of their fingernails in perfect order.

But our ability to understand God is not meant to be so succinct -- after all, we are human and he is God and who in their right mind can understand the mind of God? His ways are beyond us, as the word emphatically states. He pursues us with love more than with reason."

Click here for the full post.

God has been teaching me over the course of this past year to be comfortable with not having an answer for everything - even about Him. It's an attitude adjustment really. The attitude of certainty will keep you from entering into authentic relationships. And it really does make you look ignorant rather than the "confident, persuasive, and authoritative" person you're ego is driving you to be.

I still am learning and I always want to be. I feel good about this even though I know it will be hard to retrain my thinking enough to translate it to action. But, that's another thing about blogging that I can give thanks for. Doing this helps quite a bit.


dorsey said...

I like it, but can you be that uncertain and keep your credentials? LOL.

Good thoughts.

sandytrif said...

Ha dorsey!
I too am really getting I don't know the word to use, but everywhere I see many christains just going through the motions of being a christian with little heart or passion. Little of the What would Jesus do~or how would Jesus act. Just basically a for me christianity. Look good, show up on Sunday and pay money. Get out and live life. I wonder if those who are leaving the "organized" church are going to be a part of the great revival that the Bible speaks about. The things these people that I have visited on their blogs, have some really good issues. I don't know.

Jason said...

Dekker’s comment on the way the Pharisees were living by such a constricting set of standards isn’t too far from where the church leaders are now. I must have missed where something somewhere said that constricting congregations was a good idea.

My feeling about church positions, this week, more from experience than anything else says: A process without function is useless. Don’t just give me something to do for the sake of giving me something to do. If a ministry, or leader needs help, and there’s an actual function, a reason for doing a thing, great. I’m in. Otherwise, there’s so much more we could be doing...I don’t have time for meaningless tasks, as I can avoid it. I’m pretty sure God would have a plan of productivity for each of us.

It’s also bound to be incredibly freeing to know we don’t, and won’t ever know just isn’t going to happen. The idea isn’t that we stop learning and give up, but instead grow into a greater sense of humility. “Work hard so God can approve you. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

I’m finding it hard, yet rewarding to quit making the things I don’t understand, “wrong,” along the lines of Dekker’s word, “demonizing”...that’s crazy. The church can get so stuck in stupidity that I think we tend to miss the point of “church,” and Christ...I’m sure I do.

Another thing on legalism: [13] “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ. He forgave all our sins. [14] He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. [15] In this way, God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross of Christ. [16] So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new-moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. [17] For these rules were only shadows of the real thing, Christ himself.” (Colossians 2:2:13-17, nlt)

I love this...Jesus took and destroyed our sins by nailing them to Christ’s cross. For Christians to recognize this should be to ignore at least some of the stupid rules we make up.

God’s ways are beyond us: He pursues us with love more than with reason. (Geez...that’s good.)

Hope that made some sense...

dorsey said...

sandy, I've spoken to scores of people who have made similar observations to yours. I'm not sure what's different now, but more and more people are becoming disillusioned to the point of stepping away. I'm not sure that I see myself staying away forever, but I would sure see things with different eyes. I hope you're right about the great revival.

"I’m pretty sure God would have a plan of productivity for each of us."

I've seen it, and it's not the Christmas drive-thru. It's hanging out (over a beer, in my version), getting to know each other, building on a heart-to-heart connection. And, when we do work, it's aimed at serving outside our circle.

xt4jfriend said...

So many thoughts come to mind as I read this post and comments. God has been telling me to "not doubt the unimaginable". My brother's quote on his myspace is "Christianity is more than a religion. I don't play church."

Honestly, I don't think God cares if you wear a hat in church, but I would take off my hat simply to respect the leaders of the church. I know it has something to do with some sort of symbolism, but I also know God looks at the heart more than the outward appearance.

I began to think about how certain I was in my beliefs, and then began to think of how many other people with every other belief are as certain as I am that they are right. This is what has really influence me to study the bible. I want to have answers for other people's questions, but when the answers cease I will always have faith. Hopefully they will too.

As far as the attitude of certainty keeping us from relationships, I agree. I believe AG pretty much has it nailed, but that doesn't mean I should discount other denominations. We don't know where others hearts are in the matter. Many not Pentecostal Christians will go to heaven. That is why when I find out someone is a Christian, I don't ask them what church they go to. I don't want to put the seperation of denomination between us.

While we can be uncertain in ourselves, we can always be certain in God.

JimmyBob said...

Everybody, great comments. Dorse, it's nice to see you here. I want to post further myself in response to some of the things that have been said, but I have a big date with Mrs. JimmyBob. Jennifer is over to a friend's house. We just came from Starbucks and now we're gonna put a frozen gourmet pizza in the oven and sit down and watch Superman Returns. And then later we'll...never mind. It's our date, not yours!

Keep the conversation going.

Jason said...

Of course. Though I referred to a church body, I’m not only talking to that any area where Christians gather, there's got to be some real-life interaction going on (just like you're saying--I was more responding to the original post, which was related to the traditional view of “church”). I'm suggesting there should be some evidence, some fruit, some 'productivity' evident in and through our lives. Not every bit of ministry will be done in the church...uh, yeah...and I'm glad about that. If it were, I, as well as others wouldn't exactly even have that least at the moment.

ruthrap said...

Wow, JimmyBob, what a response to your blog! I don't know what to say! Can you believe it? I'm speechless!
You opened up a can of worms here, mister! I believe we all must come to an attitude of certainty when it comes to Christ...certain that He loves us, certain that he sees our human flub-ups and certain that he forgives us and puts us back on the right track to try again to be His light amongst darkness!

JimmyBob said...

Okay. I finally have some time to sit down and post some follow-up comments.

Let me just clarify and say that what I'm saying should focus more on "attitude of certainty" and not "attitude of certainty."

I'll try to explain. Here goes.

Dorsey jokingly said, "...but can you be that uncertain and keep your credentials?"

xt4jfriend said, "While we can be uncertain in ourselves, we can always be certain in God."

ruthrap said, "I believe we all must come to an attitude of certainty when it comes to Christ...certain that He loves us, certain that he sees our human flub-ups and certain that he forgives us and puts us back on the right track to try again to be His light amongst darkness!"

I didn't mean to imply that I should not be certain about core beliefs, but that in my believing, I should not carry an attitude. My father used to say to me, "You think you know it all" in response to my "spiritual" explanations.

Here, I am simply expressing the work God is doing in me and being open about my ego and tendencies.

When I fill out my annual Credential Renewal form with the Assemblies of God, there are a few questions about beliefs that are asked at the bottom of the form.

The first is "Do you fully subscribe to the Statement of Fundamental Truths?"

The second is "Do you publicly proclaim these statements of Fundamental Doctrine?"

And the third is "If your present viewpoint DIFFERS from that of the General Council in any of the following areas, please check: a. Speaking in other tongues as the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit b. Water baptism by immersion in accordance with Matthew 28:19 c. Premillenial and imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ d. Divine healing e. Eternal Security f. Sanctification If you have deviated from General Council viewpoint in any of the above areas, please define your viewpoint on a separate sheet of paper."

I am certain I believe in ALL the Fundamental Doctrines of the Assemblies of God and I'm certain I haven't deviated from the General Council viewpoint on the above focus areas. I proclaim them all in my preaching and teaching.

It is not my core beliefs that I question at times. It is the details and positions and finer points. It is the situations and practical applications.

For example, if I were having a discussion with someone who held the position that we should not pray for God to heal people (for whatever reasons), I would wholeheartedly disagree. However, if the discussion were about "claiming" a healing based on James 5:15, "And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven" I would discuss experiences, but I wouldn't claim certainty as to how this verse works out. In either case, I should not have an attitude in the matter.

One of the happiest men I know works around our church facility, emptying garbage cans and doing small maintenance jobs. He sings all day and gives words of affirmation when he stops by the office.

He once told me that he's learned to never argue over a matter and instead he takes it to the Lord in prayer. He explained this is because there is a chance that he might be wrong, and then he'd look like a fool. If he was right, then God would reveal it to them.

I thought that was pretty good advice. He definitely does NOT have an attitude of certainty.

dorsey said...

Are you differentiating here between belief and certainty? If you are, I concur.

JimmyBob said...

I think we're on the same page Dorse, but ask me that question in a different way, if you don't mind.

dorsey said...

Take the maintenance guy you mentioned. While he may be certain of his belief (i.e. he is certain that he believes it), he allows for the possibility that he could be wrong (or at least not 100% right).

It ties into the whole absolute-truth issue (which I think has been largely misunderstood). I believe that there is absolute truth, I just don't believe that I can fully know it. Therefore, the truth that I do believe (subjective truth, belief) is different from the absolute truth of God (certainty, which I cannot begin to grasp).

I'm not sure if I made sense.

dorsey said...

I need to clarify:
"Therefore, the truth that I do believe (subjective truth, belief) is different from the absolute truth of God (certainty, which I cannot begin to grasp)."

I don't mean to say that these two truths have to be different, per se. I probably should have used the word "differentiated," to indicate the distinction.

I certainly hope that at least part of what I believe lines up with certainty.

JimmyBob said...

We're on the same page. Thanks for helping me explain a very difficult concept.

The only way I know how to bring this into the practical is by talking about attitude. And it all goes back to the teaching of Scripture which says that we should always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us, but do it with gentleness and respect.

dorsey said...

I think you'll agree that too many people interpret that verse as being ready to have all the answers. LOL

JimmyBob said...

Absolutely! But, we could be wrong.

DCMetalJr said...

Just 2 cents worth.

One, we have faith and won't truly "know" until we stand before God in judgement. Our faith will then be confirmed as true.

Two, I think that, when answering, it is simpler to take questions in bite sizes. Rather than trying to answer a huge philisophical dilemma try to start with the simplest question and go from there. This would be similar to order of operations in math.

Noone looks at: (6x-4y)/14-(8x+6y)/9n=7xy/17o and tries to just solve the whole thing at once. You break it up and try to first identify the simpler parts and then start to solve them to create a picture of the whole.

Simply put I can answer any single question. I am comfortable with slowing down to understand nuances and specifics and I am comfortable with answering "I don't know."

JimmyBob said...

Good points DC. Great to hear from you. You know, I don't think I'd want to even try tackling that math problem! Yikes!