While the emerging church continues morphing, some things appear unchanging. One is the tendency among post-evangelical, postmodern Christians to embrace, if not esteem, doubt. I have to tell you, I am growing extremely suspicious of this movement.
Anyway, I follow several emerging / postmodern authors’ blogs — not to cause problems, but to watch the scene evolve. Rarely do I comment at the sites. But this week I couldn’t help myself.
The author, in a post about — what else? — the place of doubt in the Christian life, noted the proliferation of books on the subject. O Me of Little Faith (due out in May), Know Doubt (a Zondervan re-release), The Myth of Certainty, and Faith at the Edge: A Book for Doubters. They also mentioned an online piece entitled Doubters Arise!. Why, oh why are the New Christians so infatuated with doubt? I left this comment:
It’s one thing to be honest about our doubts. It’s completely another to believe religious certainty is NOT possible. Frankly, postmodern christians balk at believing we can be certain of anything, especially as it relates to God. Why? This trend toward doubt seems to have two sources: (1) It is part of a rejection of evangelicalism (an oft-stated motivation for pomo’s), and (2) It is the natural outworking of relativism (which is intrinsic to postmodern thought). If we CAN be certain of anything then there ARE Absolutes. Which is why rejecting Absolutes is so central to relativism. The fact that postmodern christians tinker in these ideas should be a cause for alarm.
The problem with all this, at least for those claiming to be Christians, is that the Bible traffics in Absolutes. Not only does it state that God is one thing and not the other, it tells us we can KNOW these things with a degree of confidence. Which creates problems for proponents of this New Honesty. Can we really be certain about ANYTHING… that is, anything other than our doubts?
The blog author, while commenting throughout the thread, ignored my query. I’m heartbroken, but not surprised. However, another commenter did rise to the challenge. Here is her rebuttal — which I think reveals a lot about the emergent “apologetic” — followed by my response:
kristen: i think that knowing something with a degree of confidences (or even confidently believing something) is different than believing that we can fully know an absolute truth.
an important distinction is that many doubting christians are not actually questioning the existence of absolute truth. rather, they question our ability to fully understand it. that may seem like semantics, but it isn’t. if one believes absolute truths are out there, but questions things that humans claim as absolutes, then one can still seek truth and Christ.
Mike: kristen, for the most part, I agree with your distinction between a belief in “the existence of absolute truth” and “our ability to fully understand” it. But being pretty familiar with evangelical culture myself, I know very few evangelicals who adamantly claim we can “fully know” anything, especially God. So I tend to see this distinction as a red herring. Asserting that a person can know God – a claim that both Scripture and evangelicals make – is not necessarily a claim to omniscience. Christ doesn’t demand we know everything about Him, only know enough to be confident. But isn’t this “confidence” exactly what postmoderns are skeptical of?
There was no follow-up to my question. But you can get a feel for the angle these folks are taking. ‘Doubting Christians are not actually questioning the existence of absolute truth,’ they say. ‘Rather, they are questioning our ability to fully understand it’. This is typical postmodern apologetic — boil everything down to one’s subjective, limited, culturally-conditioned, experientially-skewed, perspective.
It’s really a self-defeating position because believing that you can’t be certain about anything requires a degree of certainty. I mean, can you be sure that you can’t be sure? If so, then we CAN be sure of something…