Thoughts on Confidence and Certitude

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between confidence and certitude. These are not yet fully developed ideas but rather a few random thoughts that will likely develop into something more substantial in time.

I have railed against certitude. I think certitude is the fundamental problem of fundamentalism. Certitude is knowing something with absolute certainty. It is firmly believing that something is true. Emphasis on the firmly. When someone believes with certitude, he or she knows without any possibility of being wrong, without any qualification, without any doubt.

Certitude is rigid. And it produces a rigidity of lifestyle, both for the person with certitude and projected upon the people he or she comes into contact with. I make the case in Fundamorphosis that certitude produces legalism which, in turn, produces judgmentalism. Certitude is unbending, unwavering, unquestionable. It seems to me that certitude puts its focus on the person who knows. I am certain. Certitude knows.

Confidence, on the other hand, seems a bit different to me. Confidence is an act of faith. It is the attitude of a person who puts his or her trust in something. It believes the thing to be true but it does so with more fluidity. It has an object outside of itself. I don’t know, but I believe. I’m not sure, but I hope. Against all odds, I will trust with optimism and confidence. Certitude knows, but confidence hopes.

I write all this because I don’t want people to have the impression that my rejection of certitude is a rejection of truth or the Bible or God. It is not. It is a rejection of a philosophical system that helped produced a ecclesiastical structure that for me ended up being dangerous and detrimental. I am no longer certain, but I am still confident, not in myself but Jesus.

I like way Bono puts it in U2’s song Stand Up Comedy:

I can stand up / For hope, faith, love
But while I’m getting over certainty
Stop helping God across the road / Like a little old lady


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