Happy? Certainty? What's with the name?
Certainty isn’t particularly fashionable at the moment, you can be sure about that. The late atheist Christopher Hitchens said this in his book God Is Not Great:
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.
Ouch. So, to call a blog ‘that happy certainty’ and to state up-front I’m a Christian, well that could be taken as a bit of a self-admission that I’m the twenty-first century fool.
Well, here’s a few thoughts on why I went with the name, despite what Hitchens says:
The actual phrase comes from the German reformer Martin Luther, in a translation of his Bible commentary on one of the apostle Paul’s letters, Galatians (chapter 4:1-9). The apostle is discussing the surprising spiritual confidence that Christians can have. A Christian is someone who has trusted in God’s work of graciously adopting us as his children, all because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And commenting on that, Luther writes this:
‘If we could be fully persuaded that we are in the good grace of God, that our sins are forgiven, that we have the Spirit of Christ, that we are the beloved children of God, we would be ever so happy and grateful to God. But because we often fear and doubt we cannot come to that happy certainty.’
As a Christian, I believe those things to be true, and so the phrase reflects my aim to write in light of ‘that happy certainty’. This is not a certainty that rests upon a brash claim to have ultimate knowledge. It’s not a certainty that says I’m better than you. Instead it’s one that seeks to be faithful to God’s own making himself known. It may seem humble to claim that nothing is certain, but that definition changes if God has indeed spoken clearly.
Of course, ‘happy’ is a bit of a yuppie word, as the band Switchfoot sang about a decade ago. Emotions go up and down. I’m certainly not talking about some ‘happy-go-lucky’ piety here, oblivious to the real sadnesses and grittiness that make up our lives. Thankfully when you dig into the Bible you don’t see a world of let’s-pretend-we’re-all-ok. Rather you see a realness that fits with our experiences. We’re not all ‘ok’.
And yet Christianity says that there is still joy to be found amidst the mess and the muck. That’s because, as Luther explains, God has graciously given his Son to die for me, so that I can be part of His people, knowing & loving Him forever. Consequently I reckon there’s nothing better than seeking to make much of Him with this life He’s given me – and that means with what I write too.
If you’re interested, there’s a little more on why I blog and the history of these jottings in a post I wrote after I restarted the blog and moved it over to WordPress in 2012.