Certainty is a state of mind. One who is certain is one who does not doubt that some X is true. Having certainty regarding X does not guarantee that X is true, but merely that one believes X is true and has no doubts regarding its truth. Someone who seeks certainty regarding some X, then, seeks to justify belief in X to such a degree that they no longer have doubts regarding the truth of X.

Many post-modern types decry the desire for certainty as an “Enlightenment ideal,” preferring questioning and doubt instead. This is wrong. The desire for certainty is a basic human desire that has manifested itself in every generation. Humans want to know that what they believe is true. While certainty is not required to have knowledge (and philosophically speaking, not possible for most things), and while certainty is not required for everything we believe, and while an inordinate desire for certainty can be bad, the desire for certainty is natural, good, and obtainable in some matters.

For Christians that are tempted to adopt this anti-certainty stance, I urge you to reconsider. Our authority is Scripture, and Scripture speaks of having certainty. Consider Luke 1:1-4:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (ESV)

Luke wrote his gospel to Theophilus so that he might “have certainty” concerning what he had been taught regarding Jesus. We can learn several things from this passage:

  • The desire for certainty is not an Enlightenment ideal, but a human ideal.
  • The desire for certainty regarding our religious beliefs is not evidence of a lack of faith.
  • It’s not clear who Theophilus is. If he was a Christian (as I believe), then this shows that one can have faith without certainty, but that we ought to be moving toward certainty in our faith.

Other passages also make it clear that certainty is both possible and good:

  • “Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.” (Gen 15:13)
  • “know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.” (Josh 23:13)
  • “For on the day you go out and cross the brook Kidron, know for certain that you shall die. Your blood shall be on your own head.” (1 Kings 2:37)
  • “The Lord has said to you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Know for a certainty that I have warned you this day…. Now therefore know for a certainty that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to live.”” (Jer 42:19,22)
  • “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)
  • “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Rom 6:5)

The quest for certainty is not only a noble enterprise, but achievable in some matters. When it comes to our Christian faith, our goal should be certainty. If you are not there yet, that’s ok. Neither was Theophilus. But Luke wrote his gospel to rectify that problem. He wanted Theophilus to be know for certain that what he had been taught was true. Keep examining the faith. Keep asking questions, but also keep seeking answers.

A great source for increasing your confidence that Christianity is true is the field of Christian apologetics. If you are not acquainted with this field, do yourself a favor and get acquainted with it. The purpose of Christian apologetics is to lay out the evidence for Christianity and the evidence against competing worldviews. While my faith was strong prior to studying Christian apologetics, now it is rock solid. I do not experience doubt. I am certain that Christianity is true. That doesn’t mean I don’t have any questions, but it means I have no good reasons to doubt that Christianity is true. Certainty is possible, and certainty is good.