Clarifying My Clarification On Sureness And John Piper

Jake, who is a wise and thoughtful Jesus-loving guy, wrote a comment in my previous post about sureness and John Piper
I started to write a comment in response to his comment and before I knew it the length of it seemed to warrant a another post. I think this topic is of great importance as we are a generation that is quickly forgetting what it means to abide in a conviction strong enough, that is is able to change us (unless it is an Obama rally). So here is Jake’s comment and my response.



It’s the same sureness that my elders used to say an unbaptized person was going to hell. It was the same sureness that led the crusades and the spanish inquisition. It was the same sureness that made me cringe when Driscoll said a diminished view of preaching leads to a diminished view of Jesus (see the conference promo video). I understand the point he’s making, but disagree with his logic. (if I’m not mistaken, Paul urged his readers to desire the gift of tongues over every other gift. Using the same logic, a diminished view of tongues leads to a diminished view of Jesus). I love about 95% of what Piper and Driscoll say. But they say 100% with the same “sureness”. I just don’t beleive they have it all figured of. I, for one and maybe the only one, like when a teacher/preacher says, “this is what I think. This is how I interpret the bible. But others see it this way. What do you think?” It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that my youth minister used this approach and I realized I needed to form my own faith around what I believed, not just what my parents believed.

False humility aside, I want to limit the number of things I’m “sure” on to the basics and learn to live and squirm in the rest of life, the grey area. I believe this is where Jesus did his best work.

Jake thanks for the comment. I might need to now write another post clarifying my clarification…

First I would push back and say the the Crusades were not about religion or conviction of it, they were about cultural imperialism, by both the Muslims and the Christians. I would recommend a book by Madden entitled, “A Concise History to the Crusades” on this topic. The Crusades actually began because the Muslims had first decided to advance their beliefs and religion on Christians by conquering Jerusalem. I mean think about it, how could there have been a crusade to take back the Holy Land unless it had first been taken?

Second I want to be clear that I am not talking about arrogance when I speak of sureness. There is a life changing difference between the two of them. Theological arrogance is knowledge puffed up into a stature in which we think that we have mastered God and all the ways of universe, that nothing is of mystery anymore and Christianity is only of the mind. This type of theological arrogance is deeply disconnected from suffering and the horrors of this world, and never brings the heart to bear in its conquest of God. The sureness that I speak of is a deep abiding conviction that we have not mastered God, but the life-changing, transformative truths of the gospel have mastered US. This is an understanding that while we will never be able to plumb the depths of God or know him entirely, he has chosen to reveal himself in scripture, so that we might have deep truths about who he is and what he has done for us. This sureness is Holy Spirit driven and allows sinners to stop suppressing the truth in our wickedness, and see clearly (Rom. 1). It means that we can take heart and confidence not in what we can do, or who we are, but rather, who God is, and what he has done for us. This distinction makes all the difference in the world, and if one embraces the latter, arrogance is an impossiblity.

I know it has become trendy to step away from sureness, but when we do we are making a claim about the knowability of the Bible. We are saying that the Bible does not clearly convey truths about God and that it is at best a murky representation of who Jesus is and his revelation to humanity. I believe in the fundamental claims of the Reformation, that the Bible has a level of perspicuity, or in other words, knowability. If we throw away perspicuity then we are left with a quasi-Catholic hermeneutic of thinking that just a certain elect group is able to understand God through scripture and what it says. Even the most Emergent guys out there are not fully consistent with this uncertaintiy ethic, as they take strong Biblical stances on passages that speak to social justice, poverty and oppression. They do not think we should just say things like, “this is what I think it means” or “I believe this to say” no they are resolute in the truth that God cares for the poor and marginalized.

Last I would just push back and say that in the epistemology (how we know things) of saying we we need to live in the gray or can not surely know many things, there is a strong absolute claim of knowing. How would one know that we cannot be sure of much unless they are sure that we cannot be sure? I am not trying to come off as pompous or as a know it all, there is plenty in my “mystery box” that I cannot wait to ask Jesus about when I see him face to face. But the truth is that all of us have deep theological convictions about who God is and what we can know about him. Even those who disguise it in the garb of uncertainty, and are sure that others should also be unsure…


One Response

  1. […] cannot help but consider the relationship between myself and Jake a perfect case study for Ryan’s epistemological theory regarding those who more inclined to be sure in biblical interpretation and those who are more […]

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