Reason, Faith and Certitude
“From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past twelve … FIRE … God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and not of the philosophers and savants. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.”[i] Blaise Pascal
Reason will never take you to the certitude of God. If it’s pure, which it never is, it regularly leads to doubting. On the other hand, love will always lead to trust (faith) and acting on faith will lead to certitude. However, in the end certitude is a gift of God, given to those who love Him and have true faith in the Christ. The apostle John says, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” ( 1 John 5:10). In chapter two of his letter John refers to this inner witness as an anointing of truth.
Moreover, Jesus also speaks about faith as a revelation from the Father. When he asked his disciples who they believed he was, in Matthews gospel, the conversation reads like this; “Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-17). This inner witness that Jesus speaks about is the revelation in the believer’s heart through the spirit of God, which gives them certitude that Jesus is the Christ. It is this revelation in the believers heart that is the rock on which Christ would build his church[ii]. This measure of faith cannot be accessed by reason alone or any human effort. It is a gift of God given to all true believers. It is being born from above. It is given to all who truly put their faith in the Christ and love God. It is for the pure in heart
This inner witness, that Jesus is the Christ, is not the same as the promise which Jesus made to his apostles that they will be led into all truth (John 14:16). The all truth promise was made to his apostles who form the foundation of the new temple of God (Eph 2:19-22). The early church looked to the apostles as the ultimate authority in matters of the faith and except for a few Gnostics heretics, never claim, “the all truth promise”.. It is obvious, that if every Christian had received “the all truth promise” there would have been total unity and no division in the church from the beginning, to which we know there is, and therefore was not the case. Plus there would have been no need for the first-century church to ask the apostles questions about the faith, as we see early Christians do in the New Testament. Many of the writings in the New Testament are made up of the apostles answering questions that were sent to them by individuals and churches.
From the above we gather that when John said, “all of you know the truth”, he was taking about the fact that believers had received through the gospel the revelation that Jesus was the Christ. (1John 2:20-21). There is no reason to separate this faith experience from the acceptance of the gospel and hearing the word of God preached, for that Word or Gospel is the bearer of the Spirit. This simply means that if a person hears the good news preached and believes it, the Holy Spirit will confirm their faith in their heart that Jesus is the Christ resulting in a certitude giv
[i] Pascal’s conversion experience was recorded on a small piece of paper and sewed into the inner lining of his coat and was found after his death. It read, “The year of grace 1654. Monday, 23 November, feast of Saint Clement. . . From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. The God of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. Forgetfulness of the world and everything except God. One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught in the gospel. The grandeur of the human soul. Oh just Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy. I have separated myself from him. They have abandoned me, the fountain of living water. My God, will you leave me? May I not be separated from him eternally. This is eternal life, that they may know you the one true God and J.C. whom you have sent. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ. I have separated myself from him. I have run away from him, renounced him, crucified him. May I never be separated from him. One preserves oneself only by way of the lessons taught in the gospel. Renunciation total and sweet. And so forth.” (pp. 95-96
[ii] it is incorrect to assume that the rock was Peter or Peters faith. The rock is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ given to believers by the Holy Spirit.