All knowledge claims are based upon a standard. A foundation from which the rest of cohesive thoughts and beliefs are formed. The question the thinker must ask himself/herself is: By what standard? What is the standard from which we claim to know things? Is this standard personal? That is, is it seated in the heart/mind of the individual in question? Then it is by its very nature subjective. For what one person holds to be true, will not necessarily be what the next person in line clings to as truth.
For the skeptic the best solution is to deconstruct all knowledge claims to the truly unknowable. If knowledge can be shown to be self-imploding due to its personal, and therefore relative in nature status (different strokes for different folks), then it is not possible—it will be argued—for any one to really know anything for certain.
A Dirty Word…
And since certainty is viewed as a dirty word (in both Christian/non-Christian circles), the accepted premise is that certainty cannot, should not be claimed by anyone. Revisionists say that we cannot really know what has taken place in the past for certain, because of the biased nature of the authors of history. Therefore, it is the pursuit of the revisionist to rewrite the “true account” of what transpired in the past apart from any partisan notion of the events recorded. Eyewitnesses are mocked, either they didn’t really see what they professed to see, or they were confused because they were intellectually inferior, or they were blinded by their own biases, and therefore, self-serving notions of what transpired.
What the deconstructionist and the revisionist seek to do (and yes, they are both playing the same game) is offer their form of a rescuing device[i] in order to salvage what their own biased desires—based on what they perceive is true—believe (i.e., will acknowledge) as truth. What they want to deny, due to their own skepticism and desire for autonomous reasoning (including knowledge, truth and belief) is to establish their own set standard. To hold all others to a standard of knowing that they in fact will deny is possible if it disagrees with their own biased certainty of fact.
A Notable Difference…
For the Christian the standard should be markedly different. The same question is asked: By what standard? The same standard is applied in the sense of whether or not this standard provides proper justification (i.e., reasons) for belief. But the difference (at least it ought to be this way) is in the nature of the standard itself.
The standard or foundation on which the Christian stands is outside himself/herself. Since it is impossible for a human being to truly know anything, because without knowing everything you cannot really be certain of anything. The Christian humbly submits to the Law-Word of God.
The Christian identifies with the fact that true knowledge and wisdom is not personally sourced in the heart/mind of man, but personally sourced in the mind/heart of God the Creator. For in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge found (Col 2.3). Knowledge may be known, truth may be known, correct belief may be known because it is dependent upon the One who knows all things (Psa 94.7-11) and holds all things together by the power of His Word (Psa 75.3; Eccl 8.4; Heb 1.3).
What I cannot and can understand…
I am often confused by professing Christians that say “I could be wrong about Jesus,” or “I could be wrong about my faith.” I am perplexed by men who claim to offer a sound apologetic (i.e., defense or reasoned answer) for the supposed hope with in them, when out of their mouths, in the very next breath, they say “Noooo…[I’m not certain!]”[ii]
If a person is an unbeliever, I can understand that claim. They argue that life is a cosmic accident; although, I will grant that some do it a bit more eloquently than others. They deny that there is an all-sufficient creator of all things. They deny that He sovereignly directs the affairs of people. They deny that there is One who will hold all creation accountable and deal out justice in the end. But the basis of their “uncertainty” is they cannot know everything. And in this, they are right.
A Question of Dependency…
None of us can know everything. “Well, then you cannot be certain about your Christian faith!” it is sometimes argued. This would be true if my knowledge was based on my limited abilities, but it’s not. My knowledge is dependent upon the One who does know everything. Therefore, my certainty is on HIM and of that I am absolutely certain. To suppose that “certainty” is a word that Christians should steer clear from, when you yourself are a professed Christian supposedly helping others in their faith, reveals not only your inconsistency and your doubts, but an area of sinful thought that you need to repent of.
God’s Word on Certainty and a Message to fellow Christian Witnesses
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2.36; emphasis added).[iii]
The Greek term for certain (asphalos; adv.) describes the action of “knowing.” It is used elsewhere in Scripture to speak of holding something “securely” (Acts 16.23), kept “under guard” (Mark 14.44). Knowledge that is placed in a lockbox of sorts that may be clung to without deviation because it cannot be moved.
Thus, we should be surprised when the writer of Hebrews claims that as believers, we ought to
“…confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help” (Heb 4.16; NET; emphasis added).
How can we confidently approach Christ Jesus who is the embodiment of God’s grace and mercy given to us who believe, unless we “know for certain” that He exists and intercedes on the behalf of His people (cf. Heb 11.6; 13.6)? Do we find the apostles of Jesus weak kneed before the world? Do we find them floundering with doubts, pretending that “knowing for certain” that Jesus is the Christ, that all things were created through Him, by Him and for Him and that in Him all things hold together (Col 1.15-16) may not be so? That they could be wrong?
Are they seemingly only 80-85% positive[iv] that Jesus rose from the grave according to the Scripture, having died for the iniquity of His people according to the Scripture (1Cor 15.1-4; Isa 53)? Do they not boldly stand before rulers and synagogues, and people from many tribes and tongues, worshipers of many gods and goddesses to be Christ’s witness (cf. Luke 21.12-13; Mark 13.9-10) and declare that now is the time to repent, that judgment is coming, and that salvation is provided in any other name than Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 17.30; 4.12)?
They do stand there boldly, unashamed before people, “knowing for certain” that the Scriptures are true and all men are liars (cf. Rom 3.4). They boldly and confidently stand in opposition to an unbelieving culture and point them to the only hope of deliverance—Jesus Christ (Acts 4.12cf. Rom 3.19-25). If you proclaim that you are an apologist, if you say it is your duty to speak for Christ, if you profess with your mouth and believe in your heart that He is Lord over all and has died for your sins (Rom 10.8-13), then for the LOVE OF GOD stand assured in the faith once for all given to the saints (Jude 3)!
Be certain of what you profess. Stand and do not bow to the masses. Know your God and speak! Know your God and live! And if you cannot bring yourself to stand in the gap in such a fashion before the culture that you now live in…do yourself and others a favor…be quiet and sit down.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3.1).
And while, you may stand before the Lord in salvation because He saves you—you do not save yourself—your works that were not built upon the true foundation with the precious materials that He has provided you, will be burned up in the fire (1Cor 3.15). In short, stop lauding doubt as a virtue and be certain of your belief.
[i] Jason Lisle writes, “There is always a rescuing device to explain away contrary evidence. If people have faulty presuppositions, they may not be convinced no matter how good the evidence may be.” Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins debate (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 159.
Lisle’s point is that a person may find an argument logically sound, but due to the unsatisfying implications necessarily drawn from the argument will search for grounds to dismiss it. In the end, a rescuing device is employed when an argument is emotionally and psychologically disturbing. You might think of it as worldview self defense in order to stave off something perceived as harmful.
[iii] All Scripture is of the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise noted.
[iv] Michael Licona confessed to saying in the past that he was “80% Christianity is true…[but] a little more now.”
The snippet was originally taken from Alpha & Omega Ministries podcast the “Dividing Line” with Dr. James White. I’m not sure where the original sound bit is from. Dr. White may have mentioned it, but I might have missed it. Honestly, I’m not surprised by Licona’s testimony here as he was a guest speaker (lecturer) for about a week at Luther Rice Seminary where I have earned a couple of degrees. I also have his book that he did with Gary Habermas entitled “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” where this attitude is expressed though not necessarily verbalized with percentage points. You can watch the video and make of it what you will. Michael Licona, Certainty and Assurance, Aug 30th 2019.