In his two volume, fifty-two chapter history of the life of Christ and the first thirty years of the church, containing more words than all of Paul's epistles, the physician Luke said in his prologue to both those books (Luke 1:4) that his purpose was certainty:
That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.Notice that Luke didn't say, "That thou mightest know the high probability of those things." He wanted the Roman government official, Theophilus, and therefore us, to be sure about Christianity. Luke used the word "certain" to describe his purpose in writing. Before he does so, he establishes the reliability of what he wrote. It could be corroborated by the best of sources, including many, various eyewitnesses and the apostles ("ministers of the word," Lk. 1:1, 2).
Wikipedia says about "certainty":
Certainty is the state of being without doubt. It is total security from error. Certainty is the continuity and validity of all foundational inquiry. Something is certain only if no skepticism can occur. Philosophy (at least historically) seeks this state. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, certainty, and truth. Contemporary views of knowledge, both in philosophy and in general, do not demand certainty. It is widely held that certainty is a failed historical enterprise. A common alternative is "justified true belief."According to modern philosophy, certainty has gone extinct. Now all we can expect, according to contemporary thinking, is a satisfactory level of probability. However, this is to say in my thinking that the Bible cannot be trusted.
Why is it that we cannot be certain any longer on matters of faith and practice, and, therefore, philosophy? Where is it that uncertainty comes from? The uncertainty and doubt all relates to the highest authority, God Himself, and His Word. To understand the answer to these questions, I believe we should recognize that there are essentially three general positions regarding the certainty of the Word of God. Only the first of these are Scriptural and historical. Going from most certain to least certain, they are:
1. Every Word of God Was Inspired and Has Been Preserved and Is Available
2. Every Word of God Was Inspired, but We're Not Sure that Every Word Has Been Preserved or Is Available
3. We Don't Have God's Word Today, and We May Never Have Had It
Views number 1 and 3 have been rampant for most of time. The second position became popular in the nineteenth century.
I'm a number one guy. Adherents of both one and two basically believe this: everyone will stand before God. For a moment, perhaps we can propel ourselves to that time right now by faith and consider ourselves as we face the Almighty. Do you believe that God will be angry with proponents of number one? How will He judge those holding to the second position? And then the third? Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). Three is faithless. What is two?
What does uncertainty look like? I know. It looks like weakness. It is weak. People who aren't fully sure about something can't approach obedience to God with the same kind of courage and passion as those who are certain. Uncertainty leads to capitulation. If we can't be sure, then why should we practice as strongly ourselves or why should we expect others to do the same?
Satan deals in doubt. He cultivates doubt by attacking the certainty of God's Word. "Hath God said?" he asks. Satan likes this answer from men: "He may have." Or, "I think so." God wants, "I know" or "I'm certain." Parts of professing Christianity that are hanging by a thread in the number two category don't believe that we can be certain about the interpretations of God's Word. If God couldn't preserve every Word for us to have and live by, how could we really know what He meant by what He said? But has God given enough evidence for us to be certain?
The second group above finds it too tough to be sure about the perfection of what we presently call "the Word of God." They don't think anyone could sufficiently prove a position that says that we know what all those Words are. They think we have all the doctrines, but we're just guessing in an educated way about what some of the Words are. The great barrier that they can't surmount is that God would consolidate all of the Words from various and differing hand made copies into one perfect, printed edition. That would take a miracle, one that is difficult to explain. All miracles are not easy to comprehend, but this one they find incomprehensible. It is hard to believe because God didn't announce which edition was the perfect one. He didn't put out His heavenly neon arrow pointing at the volume with all the right Words. And all of academia and scholarship says that there is no way that anything like that happened. If a miracle of preservation was going to happen, they think it is would just look different than what it all looks---cleaner and more obvious---maybe something angelic or astronomical.
But isn't inspiration itself is something highly disagreed upon. Was it dictation? Did men swoon and begin unconsciously penning like string puppets? Did they write some good stuff that God later approved? Did they take down eyewitness testimony and collate documents that they amalgamated into one book? Did they cobble together a decent account from multiple sources of oral communication? What settles inspiration for us is the explanation we get in Scripture. We weren't there when it happened. We didn't see it. We weren't the ones God used in inspiration. We go ahead and take what God said at face value. When we see apparent contradictions, we harmonize them out of respect for Divine authorship. We defend the faith.
I believe that a miracle of preservation, what we might also call providential preservation, occurred in the silent fashion that God so often works. That's also how He inspired. He used common men of little renown. He expects men to see His hand in history. God regularly calls on this kind of trust throughout Scripture. A lot of what He does is beyond some of our capacity to comprehend. It isn't something that is easy to explain, but God wants us to believe it anyway. He has given us enough evidence in His promises, in a tall stack of manuscripts, and in the validation of a remnant of believers that we should assume that we have the exact Words. This is a belief that men have had in the past, despite slips of the pen and scribal emendations.
The Greek word translated in the English as "certainty" is a compound word that essentially means, "not tripping." When God sent Abram to the Promised Land, Abram couldn't see it, but he went. Romans 4 says that he staggered not in unbelief. Abram wasn't tripped up by things he couldn't see.
God wants us to continue to take steady steps of faith in His promises of preservation and to speak with certainty about His one Bible, His perfect Book. We dishonor God when we don't. We don't please Him. And in so doing, we encourage and then tolerate various levels of disobedience to God. We're tripped up, but we also become a block that causes others to stumble.
This is the first in a series.