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Confident Belief: What Does it Mean to Know Truth?

 

This article on doubt, certainty, and faith was recommended to Pneuma Review readers in the Fall 2007 issue.

 

Introduction

It’s hard to imagine how any Christian at any time in history could live life completely free from any doubts about the truth of the faith. Suffering, inconsistent behavior among Christians, the lure of the world, intellectual misgivings—these things and others can lead us to question whether it’s all true.

Since the days of the early church there have been objections to the gospel which have given pause to Christians. Can I really believe this? Should I believe this? Doubt is part of human experience, and Christians experience it no less than non-Christians. Doubts about our faith are more momentous than many we deal with, however, because of their implications. I have my doubts about whether my favorite football team will be in the Super Bowl, but I can still hang in there with them as a fan. The claims of Christ are much more momentous, however. Our individual destinies and more are at stake.

We find ourselves today in the West beset by two different schools of thought which can cause us to doubt. On the one hand are the modernists, heirs of the Enlightenment, who believe that reason is sufficient for true knowledge and that Christianity just doesn’t measure up to sound reason. On the other hand are postmodernists who don’t believe anyone can know what is true, and are astonished that we dare lay claim to having the truth about ultimate reality.

I’d like to look at these two mindsets to see if they have legitimate claims. The goal is to see if either should be allowed to rob us of our confidence.

Modernism and Certain Knowledge

Modernists believe that our reason is sufficient to know truth, in fact the only reliable means of attaining knowledge. Only that which can be scientifically measured and quantified and reasoned through logically can constitute true knowledge.

What does this say, however, about things that can’t be so measured, things such as beauty, morals, and matters of the spirit? Can we not have knowledge of such things? We have inherited the belief that such things are at best matters of opinion; they are subjective matters having to do only with the individual’s experiences and tastes.

This way of thinking is disastrous for religious beliefs of almost any kind. Christianity in particular makes claims that can’t be weighed or counted or measured (although there are elements which can be empirically tested): the nature of God, justification by faith, the deity of Christ, and the reality of the Holy Spirit are a few examples. Since these elements are central but don’t fit within our logical, scientific mindset, they are said to be matters of personal opinion at best, or figments of our imagination at worst.

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Category: Fall 2007, Living the Faith

About the Author: Rick Wade graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a B.A. in Communications (radio broadcasting) in 1986. He graduated cum laude in 1990 from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School with an M.A. in Christian Thought (theology/philosophy of religion) where his studies culminated in a thesis on the apologetics of Carl F.H. Henry. Rick and his family make their home in Garland, Texas.

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