Stanley Fish has a great post on his New York Times Opinion blog today (5.4.09) entitled “God Talk.” Read it first, then read this:


One of the lines in the blog stuck out to me. It captures the sense of faith that we must face when dealing with ultimate questions. Postmodern epistemology, in examining how we know things, concludes that we know only in faith, only provisionally. This feels threatening to the absolutes we hold so dearly, like the truths of science, or even of Christianity (as they tend to be presented in contemporary Christian apologetics). This does not mean that we do not have good reasons for believing what we believe; only that certainty is not possible. In this sense, the sola fide (by faith alone) of the Reformation should be the defining word of postmodern epistemology.

Here’s the line that stuck out to me:

For Eagleton the choice is obvious, although he does not have complete faith in the faith he prefers. “There are no guarantees,” he concedes that a “transfigured future will ever be born.”

For those of us who are Christians, we have to face the fact that the future we hope for may never come about. If it were certain, where would be faith? Uncomfortable as this might seem, especially in the day and age of Enlightenment philosophical and scientific hegemony, such a reliance in faith is not unfamiliar to the life of the historic church. Hear these words from Leslie Newbigin:

“If we are in search of the kind of indubitable certainty which Descartes claimed, the Bible must be set aside. The Bible claims to be a true interpretation of universal history. Since we are not yet at the end of history and since it may yet contain many surprises, we cannot have indubitable certainty. The only possible responses to the claims that the Bible makes are belief or unbelief. There can be no indubitable proofs. No one has seen God so as to verify the claim that he exists. No one has seen the end of the world so as to be sure of the direction in which we have to go. There is no scientific way of testing the claims and promises that the Bible makes. There is no way of being indubitably certain that this is what history is really about and that this gives us the direction of our lives. It must be, as the church has always said, a matter of divine revelation accepted in faith (John 1.18).” Proper Confidence (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 54-55.

I think he says it perfectly.