[This whole post is a follow-up of two earlier posts. First was I’m Not 100% Certain I’m Going to Heaven (And That’s Okay) and the second was Clark Is Certain He is Going to Heaven. Make sure to read them if you haven’t!]
Some time ago, I argued against the possibility of true, epistemic certainty of salvation. You cannot be 100% certain of salvation, I argued, because you cannot have 100% certainty of anything you experience, period, even of the existence of the Bible, God, or anything beyond your own mind.
Since then, I have come to think of this in another light. See, the assumption undergirding my entire previous post was that the only certain knowledge one can have is that which can be rationally deduced. If you cannot prove it with fundamental logical principles, then you cannot know it with 100% certainty. Sure, you can have working confidence, but not perfect knowledge. But now I wonder if that is misguided.
Lacking from my last examination of this question was the concept of union with God the Father, through the Son, through the Spirit. Let us assume for a moment that, regardless of certainty, orthodox Christian doctrines are true. In that case every believer is ontologically united to Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and ontologically united to God the Father through Jesus’ hypostatic union. Therefore each of us has a real, deep connection to God.
Let us also assume that God has perfect certainty. Given that all reality must be contingent on God, and He is indeed the Truth, this makes sense. So if God has perfect certainty, and I have a direct ontological connection with Him, then there is an avenue by which I may attain perfectly certainty.
See, I previously assumed that “I think, therefore I am” was as far as you could go with 100% certainty. “God is 100% certain of all things” is something I would also affirm. But given the reality of union with God through Jesus through the Spirit, “I” now becomes connected to “God” in such a way that perhaps this is possible: “I know x with 100% certainty because this knowledge is mediated to me directly by God, who knows x with 100% certainty.”
If this is the case, presumably through the Spirit we could know with certainty that we are united to God in Christ, at which point we can be assured of salvation.
“But wait!” someone could object. “You could still have all kinds of rational reasons to doubt salvation, both theologically and philosophically.” Yet this does not negate my point. For not every rational excuse the mind can create negates true knowledge. I could, for example, come up with various objections to the idea that I exist. But while they might have some rational persuasive power, ultimately they could not shake the unconscious certainty that I do indeed exist. This is immediate knowledge which I cannot turn off, though in my mind I could perhaps deny or doubt it.
Likewise, I expect we can have this immediate certainty of salvation through the Spirit deep within, even if it might be unconscious and contradicted by the mind. This would be a good reason why we can experience anxiety and stress about doubting our salvation, for our minds come up with ways to contradict what we actually know for certain, bewildering us.
This is really only a beginning of these ruminations, but I hope they’ll be thought-provoking. I imagine this will lead (at least in my mind) to some more thoughts on reason and faith, and maybe on a defense of having certainty in our senses. Hmm…