Brian Zahnd – Christian Certitude: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

enns-sin-of-certainly

Do you love your faith so little that you have never battled a single fear lest your faith should not be true? Where there are no doubts, no questions, no perplexities, there can be no growth.

– George MacDonald

In my spiritual memoir, Water To Wine, part of the story I tell involves my own journey away from cheap certitude toward an authentic faith. It is a phenomenon of modernity that certitude (mental assent toward something as an absolute empirical fact) has become confused with faith (an orientation of the soul toward God in the form of deep trust).

That this phenomenon is prevalent among certain streams of Christians is strangely ironic since this involves genuflecting at the altar of empiricism and privileging knowledge over faith. Privileging empiricism above faith as the final arbiter of truth is a hallmark of modernity, but it is also antithetical to Christianity.

Certitude is a poor substitute for authentic faith. But certitude is popular; it’s popular because it’s easy. No wrestling with doubt, no dark night of the soul, no costly agonizing over the matter, no testing yourself with hard questions. Just accept a secondhand assumption or a majority opinion or a popular sentiment as the final word and settle into certainty.

Certitude is easy…until it’s impossible. And, that’s why certitude is so often a disaster waiting to happen. The empty slogan “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” is cheap certitude, not genuine faith. Continue reading “Brian Zahnd – Christian Certitude: A Disaster Waiting to Happen”

Brian Zahnd – Would You Choose Christ Over the Truth?

dostoyevski-1

“If someone proved to me that Christ is outside the truth and that in reality the truth were outside of Christ, then I should prefer to remain with Christ rather than with the truth.”
–Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dostoevsky said that if he were forced to choose, he would choose Christ over the truth. That is a very bold and provocative claim.

What do you say?

Yes, I know, we don’t have to choose. I get that. I agree. Of course.

But for a moment entertain the matter as Dostoevsky intends it — as a kind of thought experiment. If it were conclusively proven that the central claims regarding Jesus Christ were outside of the truth, what would you do? Would continue to worship and follow Jesus Christ or not?

I’ve pondered this question a lot and I have a few thoughts. Continue reading “Brian Zahnd – Would You Choose Christ Over the Truth?”

Brian Zahnd – Beyond Elementary School Christianity

In his groundbreaking book, Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, James W. Fowler describes spiritual development in a series of stages from zero to six. Fowler describes stage two as the faith of school children. This is a stage where metaphors are often literalized and a strong belief in the just reciprocity of the universe is held dear. At this stage of faith the idea that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people is a controlling axiom. I won’t summarize all the stages here, but Fowler describes stage five as the capacity to acknowledge paradox and experience transcendence.

Fowler’s final stage is characterized by compassion and the view that all people belong to a universal community. This is the mature stage where the spiritual journey breaks out of the paradigm of “us versus them” that dominates so much religious thought and controls so many religious institutions.

In his forthcoming book, A More Christlike God, Canadian theologian Brad Jersak comments on Fowler’s stages of faith and the current plight of evangelicalism making this stinging observation: “Entire streams of Christendom are not only stuck at stage-two faith, but actually train and require their ministers to interpret the Bible through the mythic-literal eyes of school children. Growing up and moving forward is rebranded as backsliding; maturing is perceived as falling away.” Continue reading “Brian Zahnd – Beyond Elementary School Christianity”