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On Faith: How do I know for sure I’m right?

Recently, I was involved in a conversation with a good friend that I have known for many years. In our discussion, he was sharing his views on a particular subject that he felt pretty strongly about, and at one point I simply asked him: “How do you know for sure that you are right?”

He paused for a moment and said: “I don’t know how, but I know I am right.”

I then reminded him about Dennis Miller’s TV show that was on one of the cable channels a few years ago, where he began each show with a “rant” on a particular topic of the day. He ended every rant with the phrase: “That’s just my opinion; I could be wrong.”

Our conversation led me to thinking about the things I know and things I believe, and those things that honestly are just my opinion.

I realized that as I experience our current culture, as I see items that make the daily news, and as I read my Twitter feed, I get the impression that these categories get intermingled constantly. I am pretty sure that in the midst of daily life filled with passions, struggles and frustrations, rarely are we asking ourselves: “How do I know for sure I’m right?”

I am also a parish pastor. My seminary training and my work are about matters of faith, about Christian doctrines and beliefs. I have the privilege to teach confirmation classes to young people and walk with them in the midst of their faith formation.

I am often presented with questions and doubts about Christian faith, the church and what it means to live life as a disciple of Jesus. I most often make it clear that those questions and doubts are healthy.

In college, I took a course on Judaism. The rabbi who taught the class was very clear with us — there in the classroom, no questions were out of bounds. But at the temple where he served, there were questions that were out of bounds.

In my work as pastor in my congregation, the faith questions those things I “believe,” which live mostly in the “things I know” category.

Are they things I can prove beyond the shadow of a doubt? Mostly not. Does that make them false? Nope. Do they fall into the category of just my opinion? No, because there are others throughout history as well as contemporaries who share the same beliefs.

In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul is writing about the things the church at Rome was facing. He was teaching them about God’s love in the midst of all that was going on he wrote: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 38-39

Could the Apostle Paul prove it? No. But in faith and through faith, this is one of the things that I believe — with every fiber of my being.

“On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.