Re: [asa] "Certainty" in Theology

From: <>
Date: Wed Jun 06 2007 - 15:08:32 EDT

Quoting David Opderbeck <>:

> I'm trying to understand the concept of "certainty" as it's used in
> Christian theology and religious epistemology. In Luke 1:4, for example,
> Luke says he is writing to Theophilus so that Theophilus can "know the
> certainty [*aspheleon* -- security, certainty] of the things [he] has been
> taught." of "certainty."
> Can some of you theologians and philosophers help clarify for me what
> exactly is meant by "certainty" in a theological context? Surely it can't
> mean "absolute certainty" in a Cartesian sense, or else, it seems to me,
> faith is impossible. I like to think Luke is saying to Theophilus: *"I am
> writing to secure with this written witness the truthfulness of what you,
> Theophilus -- and what you, Church -- have heard about Jesus."* I like to
> take this as a statement primarily about the authority of the inscripturated
> apostolic witness rather than a statement about inherent human capacities
> for "certain" knowledge. I'm even leaning towards the view of the Van
> Tilian presuppositionalists that this is a transcendental "certainty" rather
> than a logical or rational certainty. But the Van Tilians seem not
> *critical
> *enough too me -- it seems like a sort of fideism, which calls something
> "certain" without it actually being so.
> Dave S., George, Terry, anyone?

I doubt Luke was immersed in or challenged by philosophies & modern
mathematical perspectives on what constitutes "certainty". Maybe in Athens, a
few people were on the cutting edge that would be a precursor to the modern
flavor these questions now have, but culturally, there was probably no better
way for Luke to say *"I am writing to secure with this written witness ... "*
than to just say "know the certainty". He didn't have mathematicians and
scientists breathing down his neck asking him to clarify.

seen on a church marquee: "Never put a period where God has put a comma."
It's a great quote, but the folks to get excited about this seem to think God
hasn't or can't put periods on anything. Like you suggest, there needs to be
some middle ground that doesn't just get excited exclusively about one or the


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Received on Wed Jun 6 15:08:57 2007

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