The Myth of Certainty

Photo by Sushil Nash on Unsplash

You know how people like to slow down while driving to observe a car crash on the interstate? The term for this is “rubber necking.” There is something about us as humans that we have this desire to witness disasters. I guess that’s why shows like AFV are so popular. Anyway, as you can imagine, I have done quite a bit of “rubber necking” lately as our country erupts with fervor and anger over the grace injustice done to George Floyd.

As a white man, I find I have little to say about race and racism in America. I have much to learn, and what words I have are much too inadequate. There are learned men and women that have much more to say worth hearing.

fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.

William Shakespeare

So let me speak about what I know, and what I know is that I don’t know. That is to say, I am willing to admit to the limits of my understanding, not just regarding race, but many other areas of life. This was not always the case, of course. When I was younger, I was certain of so many things. I knew that I stood on the truth and that my opinion about anything was the correct one. That is the foolishness of youth, I guess. However, through age and my seminary studies, I have learned that things are usually more complex than they seem at first glance.

I was helped in this realization by one of my professors and mentors, Dr. Robert Lowery at Lincoln Christian Seminary. Dr. Lowery was one of the most widely read and intelligent men I have ever met. He was also one of the most humble men. He is someone who knew a lot about God, scripture, faith, and life, and yet he was a lifelong learner.

The wise man is one who, knows, what he does not know.

Lao Tzu

During one of his classes, I had to read The Myth of Certainty by Daniel Taylor. This little book reinforces the need for humility in our thoughts and proclamations. Walking the line between post-modernism’s “we can’t know anything” and modernism’s “we know everything,” Taylor points us towards a confident humility and openness to learn new things. Unfortunately, in our culture, those who know the least about a topic tend to be the loudest and most sure of themselves (see Dunning-Kruger Effect).

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger . . .

James 1:19 English Standard Version

As this applies to the topic of race in America, we ought to all follow the words of scripture. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak. Speaking as a white man, before I “Yeah, but . . .” my way into a conversation, I need to listen and read what people are saying. I need to check my blinders and my assumptions. I need to set aside my certainty that I know and test my thoughts against the reality of those who disagree. Who knows, I just might learn something that way.

Published by Dr. Sam Draper

Sam has been with Greencastle Christian Church in Greencastle, Indiana since 2017. He is married to Jessie and they have one son, Joey. Sam completed his Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation in 2019. Sam’s favorite hobbies include biking, reading, playing board games, and eating Chipotle burritos.

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