Monday, June 4, 2012

The (un)Certainty of Being (un)Certain

Skepticism is frustrating.

As a general philosophical framework, skeptics employ an attitude of incredulity, or, in other words, they posture an attitude of uncertainty (i.e., you cannot be certain about what you know).

Simply put, I believe this framework cannot survive.

If we cannot be certain about anything, then we cannot be certain about skepticism as a correct epistemological framework.

And yet, what I find more frustrating than a generalized framework of epistemological skepticism is what I might label an epistemologically skeptical theological framework. To be sure, I am skeptical (!!) as to whether this is historically cyclical, or somehow singularly linked with post-modernity; perhaps time will tell.

I recently read that, “it is difficult to convince people there is life in letting go of certainty.” Now, being that this quote came from a pastor, I am going to take the dangerous step in assuming that this concerns scriptural certainty. If this step, albeit dangerous, is correct, then I think the quote falls under the aforementioned epistemologically skeptical theological framework, which is a framework wrought in the claimed uncertainty of biblical texts.

Now, hear what I am saying…

At times, uncertainty is acceptable.

Paul, near the end of his magnum opus, quotes the Old Testament in declaration that, amongst other things, God’s judgments are unsearchable and no one has known the mind of the Lord (Rom 11:33-36).

But could Paul’s declaration have been more doxological than epistemological? Did he not just spend the previous eleven chapters outlining various theological positions?

In prepping for my Ph.D., I have been simply overwhelmed by the amount of excellent scholarship within the realm of biblical and theological studies. Therefore, I think we ought to employ caution in affirming an epistemologically skeptical theological framework. Although we must also employ caution to root our scriptural certainty within an appropriate hermeneutic, if we are willing to put in the work, we will be able to find answers to most of our uncertainties.

Oh, and for those who are so sure they are sure. Do not forget to be humble. You might be wrong…