Question Five

Does the "Myth of Certainty" cut both ways?

Certainty vs. Persuasion.  Easily the most significant distinction I’ve encountered in my entire life, hands down.  Compelling, liberating, catalytic, dangerous.  And it’s a pain in the butt on both sides of the aisle, which makes for a very good time.  The single most animating concept I’ve experienced along the road in my search for Truth.

What are we talking about?  A rough cut:  Jim Christian may say that X, Y, or Z is true, and he is certain of this because “the Bible says so.”  And yet that same Jim cannot demonstrate, this side of the grave, that the claim is in fact true.  The certainty, as we understand it, is unfounded.  On the other hand, there is the claim made by a non-religious person that appeals to what is assumed to be self-evident data, when in fact it is only the assumption that qualifies as self-evident.  When pressed, he too cannot be certain.  Both players have embraced the myth of certainty.  

What’s going on?  It seems to me that at the core both players have latched on to their positions and are demonstrating an unwillingness to be persuaded otherwise.  In their view their supposed certainty grounds them, when in fact their notion of certainty becomes a trap, an obstacle to further growth and engagement.  And I suggest that it is only when one is open to being persuaded that a movement toward Truth can occur.  Are you with me?  Or maybe you’d like to take a nap?

Why not abandon the myth of certainty and adopt a different approach?  Why not enter a state of suspension and buoyancy that allows for the possibility of movement within and beyond reason, skepticism, and empirical evidence?  In other words, will you allow yourself to inhabit a place of openness in the debates of life?  Or do you imagine that your guardedness, evasiveness, and coy intransigence constitute a position of strength?  Instead I see strength in the man who replies, “I don’t know, but I’d like to know.”  His unknowing, when coupled with the openness that humility affords, may lead him into a place of persuasion and passion and peace.  And what more can one ask for in this life?

But does “persuasion” reek to you of indecision and weakness?  Or does one hold a position of persuasion both as an anchor, perhaps in the Truth, and also as a fulcrum to leverage further growth toward what in fact may be so?  If this sounds like a dodge to you I contend that it isn’t.  Rather, it strikes me as a centered position of tremendous flexibility and power, because (I’m persuaded) it allows for the possibility of the transcendent to enter the conversation.  Or will one say (with certainty) that the transcendent does not exist?

Is the myth of certainty resident in your life in some form?  Will you locate it and probe it?  I believe it is worth the risk.  Or do you have a better way?