A friend wrote a private question about my references to certainty in recent posts. The concept of certainty is heavily philosophical. I am not praising doubt, or unbelief. Dietrich Bonhoeffer expressed my central point well when he wrote: “Jesus Christ alone is the certainty of faith.” What this means is that our various systems of faith are not the truth! They may help point us to the One who is the truth but when we invest the idea of final and absolute truth in these systems we create the very problems I am writing about. This leads to the idolatry of ideas, so prevalent in my generation. Young postmodern Christians are pushing back on this very point and I agree with them in their “push back.”
Further, there is “a vast ocean of what we do not know and do not understand,” wrote the late Lesslie Newbigin. This is major component of what I am arguing for in a positive way via my comments about how postmodernity can specifically help us. I have expressed strong reservations about postmodernity but then I also have strong reservations about modernity too. What amazes me is that so many in my generation want to defend modernity as if it has served Christian faith so well over the last four hundred-plus years.
Yet my comments could be taken in ways that are not faithful to my real intentions. A true friend wrote: “I understand your hesitation regarding ‘absolute’ or ‘infallible’ certainty. However, I have no hesitation whatsoever, and I hope you don’t either, in saying that a ‘professing’ Christian who denies the Incarnation of Christ is ‘preaching another gospel.’” Well, of course I have no hesitation at all. (I think those who read me carefully will see that I don’t and those who do not see this will find fault where they will.) Such a “false gospel” surely denies truths like the complete deity and humanity of Christ, his substitutionary atonement for sin (though particular theories of the work of the atonement are still open to further exploration), and his bodily resurrection. If Christ was not God, did not die in our place, and was not “raised for our justification” then we have no gospel.
The problem I was addressing in these several blogs occurs when various polemicists tell us they know who does not love Christ and thus who is not a real Christian. This happens because of inter-Christian differences over the exact nature of justification, right views of the sacraments, the nature and place of authority in the church, etc. By these means anti-Catholics regularly tell their followers that no Catholic could be a real Christian since Rome preaches a “false gospel.” (If they are real believers then they will