Certainty & Conviction

I tend to think a lot about certainty and the ways it influences our faith – and in particular, the conversations at the intersection of faith and sexuality. I also think a lot about conviction and the role it plays in how we express our faith. In this post I want to look at how these two interact in the way we process our thoughts and feelings about how a sexual minority might pursue faithful Christian discipleship. My purpose in this post is not to try to change what people believe. I think that is the Holy Spirit’s territory. But I do think a lot about what is behind what we believe and know that there are times we all need to be stretched to examine the driving energy behind the expression of our beliefs. I grew up understanding that a sense of certainty in one’s beliefs was an expression of strong faith. It wasn’t that we weren’t encouraged to ask questions or to think deeply about what we believed – but such questions were, I assumed, viewed as the process to lead to clear and strong convictions. And it was expected that clear and strong convictions would be expressed with great certainty – otherwise how could they communicate the strength of the conviction? There seemed to be an internal tension between the value of intellectual pursuit and thoughtful questioning and the pull and tug towards clarity, resolution and certainty in beliefs. At some point, it would seem that many abandon the journey of questions somehow feeling that it’s time to simply accept by faith what influential leaders were saying was the truth. To continue to question perhaps felt rebellious or too unsettling or made the questioner too vulnerable to accusations of weak faith, selfish faith, or some other similarly shame-based attempt to quench the quest. And so we hear people saying such things as, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” with a sense of certain conviction. But being the sort who perniciously needs to question, I’ve had to wonder what is behind that sort of statement. It seems to me to be a blind sort of faith that doesn’t actually honour the inquisitive intellect that God has given his Image-bearers. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I think there are times when our questions cannot be fully answered this side of heaven – and we are called to relinquish our demanding need to know the “why” and choose by an act of our will through grace by which we have faith to rest in the trust that God knows, that God loves us, and that He will make all things right in the end. But I can’t help but wonder if we give up too soon when our questions begin to invade the scary territory of challenging our assumptions and certainties. And I certainly can’t help but wonder if that is true for many in the conversations around faith and sexuality. If I had a quarter for every time I hear, “The Bible is clear” when the question of homosexuality comes up – I wouldn’t be fabulously wealthy – but I’d probably have a decent amount to reinvest in micro-finance for women in the developing world. When it comes right down to it, I have to wonder if a lot of folks who most loudly shout that the Bible is clear have somewhat low levels of Biblical literacy beyond proof-texting. When asked about the full and progressive scope of God’s story revealed through Scripture as it navigates the history of God’s people through varying cultures and contexts, there can seem to be an automatic shut-off valve. It can seem to launch a pre-recorded voice that presumes that such a question is simply setting the stage for a faith-weakening revision of the true word of God. In the many back-and-forth arguments between trad