If Anne Lamott and Richard Holloway are right (and I think they are) that the opposite of faith in our post-modern era is certainty,(1) then I discern this paradox, especially in the areas of religion and theology: The more certain I am, the less precise I become.
Religious or theological certainty, as I listen to others, tends to be expressed in either-or statements (the parenthetical declarations, whenever unexpressed, are implied by the speaker).
“Either the Bible says and means what it plainly says and means (and it does) or it doesn’t (but it does).”
“Either this biblical ‘fact’ pertaining to (fill-in-the-blank) is true, good, and right (and it is) or it isn’t (but it is).”
“Either I am right (and I am) or you are right (but you aren’t).”
The paradox or contradiction in certainty, which, on its surface, seems to be precise, seems to sound exact is that its attainment requires the willful elimination of manifold points of view and multiple layers of meaning, thus, being less precise, less exact, less true to its subject, which…who is God.
To put this another way: If God (and I, by faith, believe that God) is the Creator of all that was, is, and is to be, the Supreme and Ultimate Reality, then it is possible to behold who God is and what God does, though never fully, not through the lens of an either-or certainty, but rather only with the eyes of faith.
(1) See my previous blog post, The Opposite of Faith, Part 1, March 29, 2019.
2 thoughts on “The Opposite of Faith, Part 2: The Paradox of Certainty”
I read parts 1 and 2 several times!! I’ve always struggled with either-or cause I’m usually somewhere in the middle. One thing I’m not in the middle of the road on is my FAITH… it’s the one thing I’m CERTAIN about! I believe these two blog posts are perfect for Lent – Certainty, Faith and Paradox.
Amen. Either-or questions and statements, I find inherently limiting, and not only of choices, but of the sphere/scope of truth.
Being certain about faith, now, that is a blessing. The profoundest blessing.