Assurance vs. Certainty

I had a fun twitter debate (tweebate?) with my ol’ college pal Matt (@ireadtheology).

I posted this:

“There is a difference between assurance and certainty. Assurance requires faith. Certainty does not.”

This verse is part of what inspired the above statement:

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Now The point is not that certainty is the opposite of faith.  Rather, certainty is not the point of faith.

1 Corinthians 13:9-12  9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Some day God’s people will have absolute certainty, and our faith will be fulfilled.  Until that day we must be content with assurance that God is at work, that God has a plan, that God’s promises are true.  And God is trustworthy.  These promises and plans of God will come to pass.  I can have confidence in God through my faith.

The reason that this is important is because Certainty is a stumbling block for those who are seeking God.  Also Certainty is often used as a weapon towards those who disagree with you..  The rhetoric of Certainty builds walls instead of bridges to the world.

When we claim that we are certain then people expect us to have all the answers.  I can’t do that.

When we claim that we are certain we read the Bible looking for proofs and it becomes a science text book.  And I don’t think that’s the purpose of the Bible.

My Faith tells me that God Created the world.  If I’m completely honest with you, I’m not 100% certain how God did that.  The Bible gives us a 6 day creation.  I still don’t know how that happened.  If God created the world in 6 days, and rested on the 7th.  I have enough faith to say that God could do that (he is God after all).  But I don’t have enough certainty to fight someone over it.

The Bible tells me that Jesus died on the Cross for my Sins.  I have to accept that by faith because I really have no idea how that all works.  I don’t have a certain answer for what that would look like, and the process for how Jesus applies that grace to cover over my sins.  My faith is big enough to accept that though, and live in that promise.

Can I be honest with people and tell them I’m not certain how all this works, and I don’t have all the answers, and I have moments of doubt and confusion, where all I have to cling to is my faith.

Does that make me a bad Christian? Does that make me a bad Pastor?  Or is that exactly what Jesus wanted from his followers when he said”

2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 18:2-4)

My children are not looking for certainty in our relationship.  I have to live in a way that gives them assurance that I will always love them and always be there for them.  That assurance is pretty close to certainty for them because they have no reason to doubt it.

Example:  On wednesday morning my daughter woke up at 4:30 AM crying and came out into the hallway.  When I came to her I asked her what was wrong and she said, “I need a hug.”

In that moment I can be angry and tell her, “No, it’s night time, and you need to go back to bed.”  Or I can give her the hug that she’s looking for in the middle of the night and assure her that her daddy is always there to give her a hug.

So I gave her a hug and she went right back to bed.

Joss has assurance that I love her, and that’s all she needs right now.

We can have assurance the God loves us and has provided grace to us through the Cross of Christ.  And that assurance is good enough for me.

 

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