Knowing and being certain

As my Dad flew through town a couple of months ago, we briefly got on the subject of certainty and relational truth. As always, the debate was very respectful and fun. In the middle of it, I happened upon a really great truth and now I'm attempting to process it a little.

It came up that someone could know God, but only in a personally interpreted way, the same way I know my friend, Dallas. In this case, I could not make absolute claims about this friend like "Dallas is a gracious person." I could only truthfully say, "Dallas is gracious to me." It would always center on my perspective, and not on Dallas himself. In terms of knowing God, it was said that I can know God personally, but I cannot be certain of who He is. That's where I had a problem.

Stuck inside the cage of our own perspective, we can never know anything about God. We cannot be certain because we can never have all the facts about Him. I do not believe either of these statements because of one word: revelation. And even though I know it's not that easy, it is the beginning of understanding that we can make know God [and things about Him] outside of anyone's perspective, including our own. To illustrate this, I'll use a simple, three-person relationship consisting of Ann, Ben, and Cal. This is their [fictional] story.

Ann and Ben are great friends. Ann and Cal are also great friends. Ben and Call don't know each other as of yet. One day in a chance encounter, Ben and Cal meet and discover that they both know Ann. This is where the trouble begins.

Ben declares, "Ann is one of the mildest people I know. She wouldn't even hurt a fly." Ben then tells a story to illustrate his declaration. Cal interjects, "Really? The Ann I know is extremely violent and everyone is constantly fearful of her." Cal then shares a story about one of Ann's violent tirades. Ben and Cal go back and make sure they're speaking of the same person, and that the stories they told were recent, and they were.

The questions arises for both of them, "Who is Ann?" This is not merely one mood of Ann, but a totally different persona. Relationally, this is a problem that only Ann herself can rectify. Either she is an impostor to some degree, or one of her friends is wrong. There is no other option.

Back to reality. One person might say something like, "God would never let someone hurt themselves" while another says, "God just allowed my mother to commit suicide." Either God is an impostor to some degree, or one of them is wrong about God. There is no other option. The answer begins with revelation. Relationally, God is the only one who can clear His own Name, and He has... in revealing Himself to us through Scripture.

I know this isn't a complete treatment of this problem, but it's a beginning. The road I go down from here involve questions like: why is Scripture so difficult to interpret? What has God revealed about Himself in Scripture? Moreover, what about those who don't believe Scripture, what are they to understand? All really good questions. Hopefully, I'll get some good answers.


Derek Lewis said...

Hey Drew, I'm just getting into this whole blog thing and welcome you to check my blog out at I agree with your questions on this whole thing and have to share a few thoughts that I have come across on this subject. First, God continually compares us to sheep, the dumbest animals on the earth. That in mind, he has to make this thing easy enough for a sheep to follow. I think that we as humans try and complicate the whole thing and that is what causes people to give up on the Christian way of life. My other thought is that God's greatest miracle was writing the Bible. You and I can read the same passage of scripture and come away with two different meanings. My meaning would be relevant to my life and your meaning relevant to yours. This is how God reveals himself to us, an instruction manual that is relevant for each reader and each situation. These are my random thoughts and I could probably put more thought behind them and make them more understandable, but this is a subject I am currently exploring myself and I am trying to see how my thinking compares to others.