The Sin of Certainty

“The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6)

I was raised right-wing, conservative, Baptist. And one thing I remember in particular from those days was the complete sense of doctrinal certainty that went with the territory. Not just Baptist territory, but in any overly conservative denomination. We had the in with God and were safely headed for heaven—why? Because we had the correct theology. We thought we had all the answers and knew exactly how to interpret the Bible: with a “plain reading of scripture.”

We didn’t openly wrestle with difficult questions or admit to feeling insecure, for that would require being honest about our doubts and fears, which would likely be seen as a sign of weak faith at best or rebellion at worst. If we ever experienced the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, we knew to suppress it and dissociate. Doubt was the Enemy and the Seducer.

Any questions or red flags regarding doctrine were viewed as traps to be avoided: “don’t read that author, read this one instead!” If our heart or our ability to reason led us to a conclusion that didn’t square with fundamentalism, that was the Devil successfully having deceived us (especially if we were women—Eve). So not only did I learn to distrust my own opinions, I also learned that I was even more likely to be deceived due to my gender.

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