“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” -Titus 3:4-7
Continuing on from my previous post, if Christian conversion is not a supernatural process, what is it? How can we best understand it? In the case that we are mistaken, in example, if it is the case that we are unable to discern between God and a deep intuitive feeling, then it is important to grasp that this may be the best way to sum up what faith is psychologically.
This sense of the Spirit of God dwelling within us, whether that seems more accompanied by certain feelings or not, could simply be, at best, a deep and heartfelt sense of intuition. An intuition that could be failing us as a barometer for truth because of the distinct possibility that past miracle claims and claims to divinity cannot be guaranteed as either reliable or legitimate.
The New Testament seems to teach that receiving the Holy Spirit is a kind of guarantee of one’s salvation, but many honest believers, including myself when I believed, admittedly have a difficult time knowing this claim tangibly. That is, in a way that can be confirmed as reliable. It is recognized that this is what Scripture seems to teach, but as to whether one can be reliably certain that they have the Holy Spirit, well, that too often becomes a matter taken on faith.
One may be beginning to notice a pattern here? Regarding New Testament miracles, including the resurrection, and regarding Christ’s claims to divinity, the question remains, can we make a definitive ruling that such claims are reliable? If so, what is our process for determining that?
Then as it relates to discerning whether one has the Holy Spirit this conundrum pops up yet again. How is it that I can reliably know that I do in fact have the Holy Spirit? It begins to be a matter of not whether we desire to believe these claims, but are these claims in fact presenting themselves as without a doubt able to be relied upon? Are these claims, as a rule, true in their essence? If so, how can we know this for ourselves?
The alternative to this supernatural interpretation, again, could be that at best what Christian conversion appears to be is a heartfelt sense of intuition that wants, perhaps even feels like it needs Christianity to be true. This sentiment is often expressed in worship.
“I need Thee every hour, teach me Thy will.”
At the core of the gospel message it is stressed that one of our greatest human needs is being met. The need to be forgiven. The need to be reconciled to God. Now, this is probably deserving of another blog post. What human needs is Christianity claiming to meet? What role does this play in our ability to distinguish between reliable and potentially unknowable information?
It is certainly a tedious process to begin the journey of attempting to discern how reliable a set of claims present themselves to be? What can we know personally? How certain can we be? Once we’ve determined how certain we are, based upon what can be known, how should this inform belief? What does this reveal about a mindset of faith in contrast to these important questions about determining reliability?
As a reminder, here’s what we are trying to determine.
1) Assuming that you presently believe that Christian conversion is a supernatural process, how are you attempting to rule out the distinct possibility that it could simply be a deep sense of intuition, one in which you deeply desire for these claims to be true without actually knowing it?
2) How important is it to be able to know to some degree that Christian claims are reliable? Does it seem fair that discerning reliability would serve to best determine how to judge whether it is true?
3) If, while in the process of investigation it would seem that the reliability of these claims is unable to be determined, how does this go on to inform your sense of certainty? Are you more certain or less certain? What is the relationship between certainty and belief?
Thank you for taking the time to consider these important questions. Perhaps if you know something that I don’t know, something that deeply convinces you that Christian claims can be determined with a high degree of certainty as reliable, you’ll want to share that with me below? We may or may not see eye to eye in how to determine reliability, but I am definitely always open to other arguments.
By the way, I’ve decided that I will be doing a third post to this blog series. We’ll be exploring the human needs that Christianity claims to meet and trying to gauge how deeply that may come into play when informing one’s sense of certainty? Should be a pretty fun topic so don’t go away!