What if I'm not certain what I believe?

Well, my friend, you have just joined a very large club. Particularly if, by the use of the word “certain,” you mean “clear.” What if I’m not clear about what I believe? You see, too much clarity, too much certainty can lead us to spiritual arrogance, a disease that inhabits many of us clergy types. Maybe we should become less certain. That might make us more open. “Openness” by the way, seems to be the more correct posture for faith. Try putting a gift in a clenched fist. Whew, souls clenched with “certainty” must create headaches for the Godhead.

“Not certain what I believe?” Try asking it this way: “Not certain what I trust?” If we can substitute “trust” for “believe,” the fog around faith might be pierced with some new light. Trust is so much warmer, more intimate than belief. Belief sounds doctrinal. Trust implies relationship. I lean toward What and Who and Why I trust. When I approach it that way, it seems to lend more light. When it comes to belief, it's just more fun and childlike to be open than to be adultlike and "certain." Try it! The words of this commercial seem to have the ring of the Jesus of the Gospels.

—The Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey

The God-life is not about believing all the right things about Jesus. It’s not about being able to recite the creed without crossing your fingers or believing that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish or having an instant, now-you’re-saved, “born again” experience. It is about being willing to let go of everything you think you know and allowing yourself to be drawn into the mystery that is God.

“Believing,” as John uses this word, does not refer to some intellectual process that happens in your head.To “believe” in something is to give your heart to it. The God-life then is about giving your heart to God. Your broken heart. Your disbelieving heart. Your divided, angry, fearful heart. Your hard heart. You do not, of course, have the power to transform your own heart, but you do have the power to offer it, no matter what condition it is in, to the God who is able to make all things new.                                

  —The Rev. Eyleen Farmer

Certainty is not always part of true faith. In fact, certainty is the opposite of faith: If I KNOW that you are standing right there in front of me, I surely do not need faith in order to believe that you are standing right there in front of me. But if I tell you that God is in this very room, right here with us, it requires faith to believe that, BECAUSE we cannot be certain of it (i.e., cannot PROVE it). If we can prove something, it does not require faith to believe it. If we cannot prove something, it does require faith to believe it.

The whole enterprise of faith involves “turning things over to God” rather than being certain on our own. People of faith believe that no matter what happens to them, “all will be well (a quote from Julian of Norwich, an ancient mystic).” To me, that means that even if I die (and of course I will), “all will be well.” Even if my loved one dies or whatever —“all will be well.”

It is not easy, perhaps not possible, to be certain of what I have just said. I believe that all will be well; I believe that BY FAITH; that is, I cannot prove it but I believe it. That is simply the nature of a faith-based belief (or conviction).

Some of the worst things that have been done by humanity have been (and are still being) done by those who have been absolutely sure they were absolutely right. We need only look back to the K.K.K., Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic to see dramatic examples of this.

Certainty, in fact, is not fertile ground for spiritual growth. It is only when we are seeking and searching that we are “open” to new truths.

So if you are not certain what you believe, relax. You are in the right place at the right time for spiritual growth.

—The Rev. William A. Kolb

First, doubt is normal. The claims of faith are enormous and, by any reasonable standard, should kindle in us confusion, questions, uncertainties and doubts. Not that God wants to leave us there. But we have to start the faith journey by being shaken free from old ways. That process of newness happens again and again.

Second, wanting to know God is far more important than thinking of oneself as already having arrived. Faith is a journey, not a destination. There is always more.

—Tom Ehrich

In William Peter Blatty's book, The Exorcist, the young priest who is called upon to perform a rare exorcism turns to a friend and says, "But I have doubts." He clearly believes he must have unshakable faith in the face of such an ordeal.

His friend responds, "What thinking person does not have doubts?"

Doubt is what keeps us on the journey.


It is funny—when I search for answers to different questions, I seem to return to the same sources. One simple verse that says so many different things to me goes like this: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7). Among other things this passage says to me that it is not as important to know what you believe as it is to be on a journey to discover what you believe. God knows our hearts. If we are sincerely looking for Him, we will find Him, and along the way we will discover His truths.



I like to think that we are always spiritually evolving. A forthright approach to the mystery of faith involves a certain creative tension. Everyone needs to discover his or her own comfort level in terms of belief.