Certainty is Idolatry


Here’s the argument: we are born with an ache and yearning to find love in the unconditional love of God, and we find this yearning in our desire for “more” and the idea of Sehnsucht; this yearning is to enter into the love of God — the trinitarian community love of Father, Son and Spirit; this love is seen most clearly in the cross of Christ — Calvary; in that revelation we see pure divine love for us. Yet, our sinfulness distorted our yearning and turned into forms of idolatry. We are addicted to idols.
This is the central theme of Greg Boyd, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty.
The key orientation, certainty, is found in a number of ways — craving the next experience, sexual satisfaction, more possessions, peak experiences, etc.. But his concern is the Idol of Theology and Scriptures, and his favored text here is John 5:39-40
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
His point is that love of knowledge of Scripture was the tripping point; to quote JI Packer, they knew about God but didn’t know God. There is confidence in knowing about Scripture and the Idol of Certainty is when that knowledge becomes the center — our theology, our beliefs, our creeds, etc.. It is rooted in a false view of God: that God loves diligent Bible study more than people. [I have often pondered this: Will there be Bible study in the kingdom? My conclusion is No. What we seek after in the Bible will be realized in the kingdom. The Word will be Present. May I suggest that if you think we will need Scripture study in the kingdom then you may be in Boyd's mind with the idol of certainty in theology and Scripture.] Certainty-seeking faith is the same as the opponents of Jesus in John 5. That is, they certainty is in what they know about God more than in God himself — as the Person.
Now to two powerful quotations from Boyd:
If I am anxiously striving to make myself feel certain that all my beliefs are true, fearfully avoiding anything that might cause me to doubt them, and fearfully suppressing any doubts that I may already be experiencing, doesn’t this indicate that I am not getting my core need for love, worth, and security from the God who is revealed on the cross? (69)
From the opposite angle, then:
As long as a person remained confident enough in the belief that Jesus is the true revelation of God that they can get their life from him… would then ever be afraid of confronting ideas that might cause them to doubt any of their other beliefs? (69)
It all comes down to this: Is this about the authority of Scripture or the authority of the God of Scripture? Do we engage God in Scripture or do we engage Scripture? There’s a difference. One taps into the idol of certainty, the other into God.


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