Saturday, July 1, 2017


Author Brené Brown is currently a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She claims that religion becomes toxic when it claims to have “certainty”:

·       Religion had “gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty; ‘I’m right, you’re wrong, shut up.’”

Certainty need not manifest itself in such harsh and condemning ways. I would like to ask Brown if she is Certain about this, or even about anything else she teaches. Is she certain about what she teaches her students?

Instead, it seems that she believes that religion specifically shouldn’t have any assured beliefs. They will only divide people. Doctrines divide, right? This would mean that religion has to be mindless. Why? Because religion cannot erect any doctrinal barriers! It has to include everyone, whether they want to be included or not:

·       “[I] really wanted to find a spiritual home where there is room at the table for everyone,” Brown says.

Jesus had provided “room at the table for everyone,” but He also came with requirements (Luke 13:1-5), which many reject.

However, I need certainty. I need to know who God is and what He has promised. I need to know that He forgives my sins:

·       If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

I often feel unforgiven, and so I need to know that He does forgive me. I also need to know that He will never condemn me, and He has given me this assurance:

·       There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

One Facebooker just wrote:

·       Doctrines are dead, even though they continue to be repeated ad nauseum. They don't apply anymore. They are so filled with manmade doctrines that have crept in over the centuries, and have been based on hearsay.

Instead, I would have been dead unless I was assured that Jesus had died for my sins, and that I am eternally beloved by Him. Despite our need for assurance, Brown assails this concept, citing theologian Richard Rohr in support:

·       “My scientist friends have come up with things like ‘principles of uncertainty’ and dark holes. They’re willing to live inside imagined hypotheses and theories. But many religious folks insist on answers that are always true. We love closure, resolution and clarity, while thinking that we are people of ‘faith’! How strange that the very word ‘faith’ has come to mean its exact opposite.”

We certainly do like "closure, resolution and clarity.” I think it’s human to seek these. More importantly, these concepts are upheld by Scripture. Here is a very limited Scriptural sampling:

·       ASSURANCE AND CONFIDENCE IN JESUS IS SOMETHING THAT WE CAN EXPECT: Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

·       ASSURANCE IS SOMETHING WE NEED: Hebrews 10:19-22 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

·       ASSURANCE ENERGIZES US TO LIVE FOR CHRIST: 2 Timothy 1:12 But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

In contrast, Rohr and Brown claim that faith is about uncertainty. Similarly, atheist Richard Dawkins claims: 

·       Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.

However, this is not the Biblical understanding of faith. The Bible never suggests that we take a blind and uncertain leap into the darkness but a step into the light of the evidences. For example, Moses charged that Israel had no basis for their unbelief and uncertainty:

  • Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. (Deut. 4:34-35)

Jesus consistently discouraged a blind faith lacking evidential support:

  • “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. Even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." (John 10:37-38)

  • "If I [alone] testify about myself, my testimony is not valid.” (John 5:31)

Instead, Jesus would provide His followers with reasons to believe:

  • "I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.” (John 13:19; 14:28-29)

Had not the Apostles been granted evidential confirmations, they would have abandoned the faith:

  • After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:3; 2:22)

Nevertheless, I appreciate Brown’s emphasis on vulnerability, transparency, and daring. She concludes:

·       I’m still on my spiritual adventure and some days are easier than others. I’m learning that laughter, creativity, music, and nature are all essential to my faith life. I’m learning that faith isn’t separate from my belief in justice and inclusivity – it fuels it.

·       My faith is most alive when I’m willing to be vulnerable and open to connection – with myself, my family, my friends, and even with strangers. As Martin Buber wrote: “When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.”

However, we cannot affirm a unity that God does not affirm. The Bible declares that there is a great distinction among those in Christ and those who are not (2 Corinthians 6:14-17; John 17:20-23). To honor God requires us to honor this distinction.

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