Session 3 Class Audio

Remain uncertain on purpose.

"As I grow older, there are more things I am less certain of;

and fewer things I am more certain of." Greg Boyd

"The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty." Anne Lamott

"About 30% of what I believe is wrong...I just don't know what 30%." N.T. Wright

Doubt and Certainty (Greg Boyd)

  1. There is nothing virtuous about the ability to make yourself feel certain about things. The more rational a person is, the less they have this ability. Trying to feel certain your beliefs are right and trying to avoid doubt is irrational and reduces faith to a form of mental gimmickry.
  2. Having people believe that their salvation and other things hang upon how certain you feel about things is psychologically torturous and presupposes an ugly, domineering/controlling mental picture of God.
  3. Certainty-seeking faith looks more like magic than biblical, covenantal faith in that it depends upon doing and believing certain things in order to gain God’s favor and manipulate God to benefit ourselves and others.
  4. The certainty-seeking model of faith leaves us with an inflexible way of approaching our beliefs and makes us vulnerable to various challenges to our belief system. Since everything is a package deal that we must buy into in order to feel loved, worthwhile, and secure, we cannot afford to think flexibly and therefore are left with a faith that is brittle and easily broken.
  5. Believing that one’s salvation depends on remaining sufficiently certain about right beliefs can cause people to fear learning things that might make them doubt the rightness of their beliefs. It thus creates a learning phobia that in turn leads many to remain immature in their capacity to objectively, calmly, and lovingly reflect on and debate their beliefs.
  6. Certainty-seeking faith can be dangerous, as it discourages us from seriously questioning our assumptions even when we are asked to engage in questionable behaviors, such as killing people, in the service of our beliefs.
  7. It’s self-serving and self-deceptive to strive to feel certain while also telling yourself you’re concerned with truth. A concern for believing the truth requires us to take seriously the possibility that our current beliefs are mistaken.
  8. Finally, and most seriously, trying to convince ourselves that we embrace true beliefs can be idolatrous. When people feel they are loved, have worth, and are secure before God (they are “saved”) because they embrace the right beliefs, they are getting their life from their confidence in their beliefs about God rather from a relationship with God.

How to Know Stuff

  • What is the scholarly/specialist consensus on the issue?
  • Does the historic/global church have a historical position on the issue?
  • What are the topics of major disagreement or uncertainty?
  • Do I have any significant reasons (convictions backed by experience/reason/tradition/Scripture) to deviate from the consensus?


  • Theological dictionary
  • Study Bible
  • HarperCollins Study Bible
  • New Interpreters Study Bible
  • New Oxford Annotated Bible
  • Jewish Study Bible/Jewish Annotated New Testament

Setting Boundaries

"If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

Romans 12:18

There will be times when

  • They will walk away (Jesus and the rich man)
  • You will walk away (Jesus and Nazareth)
  • You will stay away (Jesus and Judea)
  • The relationship will mend (Jesus and Peter)
  • The relationship will end (Jesus and Judas)

You can love and respect others as well as you love and respect yourself.

Saying No is not a sin.

Boundaries honor the distinction between you and me.

Set limits for the how, when, and where of your conversations about difficult topics. If the other party will not honor those limits, then agree with yourself to not have the conversation.

Determine your goals. In terms of family, is the goal maintaining the relationship? Changing someone's mind?

Don't define yourself in opposition to someone else. Respond vs. react.

Fear of setting boundaries comes from a fear of conflict.

What's worth ending a relationship for?

Hurt vs Harm

* Not a question of intention
* If they're behavior towards you continues will you be more or less able to become a loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, or self-controlled person?
  • Have trusted people help you answer these questions.