I am Certain that Certainty is not Certain

March 23, 2024 by Charlie Hedges − 0 Comments

The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith of certainty.” Anne Lamott

At 32-years-old I attended a conservative theological seminary. In fact, I often refer to the name of the seminary in jest saying it was the school with the redundant name… Western Conservative Baptist Seminary. Duh? Like what else might they call it, Western Liberal Baptist?

But I’ll tell you what. Although Western Seminary was indeed conservative, it was exactly what I needed at that time of life. My years at Western were three of the best years of my life. I wouldn’t change a thing: solid theology with deep friendships and shoot… I met Pam there!

Taught to be Certain

Still… one thing was certain about seminary… we were taught to be certain. We were taught the Bible was certain in truth as well as principles for living a good life, many core principles that today I hold dearly but with much less certainty. Today I find myself thinking more on the nature of the Holy as a divine mystery. There’s not much room in mystery for certainty. In fact, mystery relies on the unknown and even the unknowable. Books like The Cloud of Unknowing tantalize my spirit with richness and openness and grand curiosity.

In about 1992, 12 years after my introduction to the Christian way, I encountered an Episcopalian Bishop who reminded me that “we must hold onto our beliefs with modestly and humility, always knowing that we, as flawed humans, could be wrong.” Words imprinted on my soul!


My new favorite country singer/songwriter, Bryan Martin, wrote a song titled Divided States of America. In the song he alludes to being labeled red or blue, or black or white, and that there is no in between. You are one or the other. Once you are labeled and categorized, you automatically become understood by others according to those labels—even when the labels are total bullshit. Although EVERYONE knows that such thinking is foolish, we, nevertheless, all seem to buy into it.

However, for much of my life I have felt honored when conservatives call me liberal and liberals call me conservative. I don’t fit in. I am uncertain and loving every minute of it. I am fond of saying, “Never believe what I say today because with more information I could change my mind tomorrow.” And that information, more often than not, is from experience not from data. I have lived by an theological axiom (especially regarding theologies of accusation and dismissal of those that have broken social rules)… “unless you can put a face on it, your theology is pretty much useless.”

It’s Too Easy to Be Certain… Until Life Happens

It is much easier to label and categorize than to admit the difficulty of dealing with ambiguity. Ambiguity flies directly in the face of certainty, for with ambiguity one can be certain of no thing.

And with such a frame of mind one might experience wonder and awe… and surprise!

One Thing is For Sure… I’m Certain

You Can Be Wrong!

Photo courtesy of Ramon Ivan Moreno Prieto at istockphoto

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