what do you know?

My central claim in Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith is that we should believe only what we know, and we do know enough to believe. I am trying to encourage believers who might be discouraged by the many books on doubt that emphasize what we don’t know and how hard it is to believe.

A recent example seems to be Greg Boyd’s Benefit of the Doubt. I haven’t read the entire thing, so this is not meant as a judgment on the whole book, but here are the final two paragraphs (p. 257):

“Though I don’t consistently manifest it, I know that I am, by the grace of God, a child of God. And as John so beautifully puts it, while I can’t imagine how I will appear when God has completed his gracious work in me, I know I shall ‘see him as he is,’ for I shall ‘be like him’ (1 John 3:1-3).

Correction:  I don’t actually know this. I can’t be certain. But I’m confident enough to live as if it’s true, with the confident hope that it’s true, and with a profound longing for the glorious day when, I trust, it will be proved to be true.”

I am surprised that Boyd equates knowledge with empirical certainty (he won’t have knowledge until he’s certain, and he won’t be certain until Jesus returns and he has definitive proof). This is a surprisingly modern, strong foundationalist notion of knowledge, not what I expected to hear from Boyd.

It’s also much weaker than what Scripture says we can claim. Can you imagine Paul saying he does not know that he is born again and that Jesus will return, but he is confident enough to live as if he does? See 2 Timothy 1:12.

Boyd’s parting words remind me of Kelly Clark’s conclusion in Five Views on Apologetics. I like much of what Clark does in this book, but his closing words leave me wanting more. He explains that while he cannot prove his Christian faith, yet he is still allowed to believe it. He writes, “I’ll settle for rational permissibility. That way I can know that my faith is not blind. I may be taking a leap in the dim, but it is not a leap in the dark. Leaping is still risky business, but in faith, I hope that God will make my landing soft.”

It’s important to demonstrate that our Christian faith is rational, but don’t we also want to say it’s right? People who commit to what they don’t know usually end up losing their shirt. Believe what you know, it’s more than you think. Despite Doubt will show you how.

3 Comments

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  1. I hope so. I picked it up last Thursday at Hoch.

  2. Well, start reading. And tell all your friends. Unless you don’t like it. Then keep it between you and God.

  3. Jonathan Shelley October 14, 2013 — 9:00 pm

    Mike,
    Do you think this current fad of hedging on the certainty of God’s revelation is primarily a response to relativistic postmodernity, or is this really just another cycle of church leaders trying to break free from the logical, propositional statements of scholastic-minded theologians who think more deeply and clearly that most of us could ever hope to? Not to say that this has to be an either-or question, but I am curious as to your take on the motivating factor behind this current embrace of an unknowable God.

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