Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
Recently I have been thinking about our notions of certainty and how that affects our world view. What are the things of which we are certain? For example, I am a person of faith, and as such, I have my own notions of security, my own certainty, based upon a relationship with God who loves me. I also think that the world God created is amazing, and to think it randomly evolved to this level of exquisite complexity would, in my mind, be ludicrous.
At the same time, I do not think that the world was created in 7 days about 7,000 years ago, although there are some Christians who do. I do not know the processes that God used to bring this world, this universe, into existence- that is a mystery to me. I am perfectly comfortable stating that position. I can live in some ambiguity quite nicely, without a need to have precise explanation of how the world came into being. There is a level of uncertainty in that.
For centuries the organized Church had “certainty” about how the universe works. The sun and other planets revolved around the earth. It must be that way. It was certainty. Anyone who taught otherwise faced the considerable wrath of the Church. Gradually, science facts became irresistible, and the Church finally acknowledged the scientific certainty of a heliocentric universe.
Unfortunately, the Church’s need for certainty about the universe led to a wholesale departure from the Church as a source of truth, as science became the accepted standard for determining truth.
The Age of Enlightenment came to be and gradually, the spiritual truths of which the Church was guardian, became hopelessly entangled in science, politics and governance. The role of faith was now labeled as an anachronism, an old remnant of a long-abandoned way of seeing the world.
Fast forward to the 20th century where the theoretical physicists of the age were the new guides to the universe. Werner Heisenberg was one of those brilliant physicists in the early 20th century. In his study of quantum physics, he came up with his “uncertainty principle” which states that one cannot measure with certainty both the location and the momentum of a particle. Further, the act of measuring actually changes the result. This causes us to make “good educated guesses” about the movement of particles which make up all matter.
For some, this accelerated the movement away from all certainty, and it spilled over into all areas of life. It was as if some portions of society were saying, “We can be certain of nothing, so let’s simply take down all the old barriers and beliefs”.
In terms of faith, I think the idea of mystery is not only acceptable, but important. How can we force an almighty God into the limited box of our understanding? If we know that God loves us, and sent His son to die for us, isn’t that enough to understand?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the certainty of your love for us, Amen