False Certitude

Kathleen Norris, the author of the book Dakota and The Cloister Walk, writes the following on a bookmark that accompanies one of her books:
To make the poem of our faith, we must learn not to settle for a false certitude
but to embrace ambiquity and mystery.
We are all on a journey of faith. It is a messy and dirty journey. Just when we think we have it figured out, we are thrown for a loop. I am 25. I hope that my faith looks very different when I am 40 and when I am 80. The first principle of theology proper is that God is an infinite, eternal, and mysterious God. Yet, we often throw out this first principle and then begin to define and box and describe things in our finite language. The problem is not in using finite statements, but thinking that these statements actually encompass the whole of Truth. Our certitude represents our arrogance. Our ambiguity lets us know that "we haven't arrived yet!"


  1. “I know less now than I ever have but suspect more is true than I ever thought possible.” This was my “about me” statement when I first started my blog. I have another personal philosophy I call the 90/10 rule concerning truth and knowledge. Both of these attitudes seem to have helped me keep an open heart/mind but I still find myself crawling back into the box all too often. I want the certitude Paul decided on; “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” I really appreciate this post.

  2. To Exist is not to live—

    But just “to exist.”

    To live, really LIVE—

    You have to dive in

    And swim around in IT!

    When the Doors of perception—

    Finally clear,

    The awareness of living in the NOW.

    Timeless NOW.

    So this is what they call “Cosmic Consciousness.”

    First it comes in flashes—

    Then interludes.

    Finally, an understanding of


    And what GOD is—

    Where I wind up at the end of all my words.

    Hi Justin, found this in one of my old journals, wish I knew who wrote it but Im at a loss to remember. I'm 50 now, but there was a time when I thought I had the whole thing pretty much figured out, but what I built out of my building blocks of knowledge have come tumbling down around my feet over the years. I wake each day know less than I did the day before...but His awesome mystery keeps drawing me into something much deeper than I can think or imagine.

  3. A character in the book I'm reading is describes as having "arrogant humility," because he has become so smart that he understands how little he really knows.

  4. A very wise approach to faith :-)

    My fvorite image for God right now is "mystery" . . . it reminds me to be humble in my own theological / spiritual / faith journey, and to be appreciative of the many, many ways that God can communicate with us.

    Being human we like to have things boxed, packaged and handed to us . . . but being a mature adult requires us to actually think, reflect and choose to believe.

    Blessings & Peace,

  5. Kathleen's right in a way, but I often hear that kind of comment from people who are tired of conservative Christianity and are looking for something deeper.

    If it wasn't for the fact that this ambiguous mystery we call God stooped right down to get to know us I'd be content with mystery, but I'm not. I know to know the one by whom I am perfectly known (1 Cor 13 etc) and take hold of that for which I have been taken hold of (Phil 3).

    Yes, let's do mystery and ambiguity - our western, pomo culture loves that, but let's not throw out the right kind of conviction and certainty with it.