"Uncertainty" has become a byword for describing our modern age. No other term so accurately sums up the present human condition. Why?
TODAY we live in a confused, uncertain and dangerous world." Such were the deeply felt words former British Prime Minister Edward Heath used to depict economic and political trends. The present Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, described the aftermath of high level changes in the Soviet leadership as a "period of uncertainty." In speaking about the possibility of a coming European union, Pope John Paul II said: "If Europe achieves these goals, its future will not be dominated by uncertainty and fear."
Today economic uncertainty dominates the headlines. The Financial Times captioned an editorial concerning sharp fluctuations in the foreign exchange market with "Climate of Uncertainty." Perhaps this more than any other describes today's world wallowing in its economic troubles. Where is the leader who can tell the world that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself'? American economist and former ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, authored a comprehensive work a few years ago about today's economic impasse. The Age of Uncertainty was his well-chosen title. It contrasted the great certainties of economic thought in the 19th century with "the great uncertainty" of our time, despite the knowledge explosion! Why such a paradox? Those who must decide seem not to know where to turn. Decisions are difficult at best. Business executives speak of "having to decide with absolute total uncertainty." Projected information is often characterized by confusion and conflict. Why have our computers not removed this doubt? Said one United States senator: "I don't trust any economists today." Not surprisingly, Congress itself is described as "uncertain" as to "whether to step on the gas or the brakes." Even mathematics has lost its vaunted certainty. Mathematician Morris Kline's most recent book Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty, explains how the subject has gone "from precision to doubt" in a century's time. Numbers, 'however, are not the only unknowns. People are uncertain about the very business of life itself — and with good reason. Shall we survive until the 21st century?
The Uncertainty of Life Itself
Few people in the western world need to be informed about the shakiness of our very existence. Almost daily the media bring us new evidence of man's insecurity without providing a lasting solution as The Plain Truth does. There is no visible, physical guarantee that the earth will be able to sustain the conditions necessary for organic life. No period of history has produced more uncertainty than this. And uncertainty breeds fear — the wrong kind of fear — the opposite of faith! Why do we find ourselves faced with such a climate of uncertainty? What is the cause for our plight? One British television personality wrote: "Systematically, stage by stage, our way of life has been dismantled, our values depreciated, our certainties undermined, and our God dethroned..." (Sunday Telegraph, December 30, 1979). This man has a gift for getting to the root of a problem. The article continued: "They want to be rich, so they accumulate wealth, which, thanks to inflation, turns out to be useless paper; they want to be secure, so they develop a weapon powerful enough to blow themselves and their earth to smithereens; they want to be carnal, and find themselves stranded in the wasteland of eroticism and porn; they are greedy for knowledge, and in seeking to know everything they find nothing." Lack of knowledge of and contact with the true God is the basic and fundamental cause of the climate of uncertainty that pervades this world. The apostle Paul wrote of unbalanced intellectuals in every generation as people "who are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" The Hebrew prophet Hosea despaired of those who would be "destroyed for lack of knowledge." Lack of knowledge of computer technology? Lack of knowledge of modern missile weaponry? By no means! What we mean is the lack of knowing God — the only absolute certainty in the universe.
The Ultimate Uncertainty — Human Life Itself!
Nothing is more uncertain than human life. All living things begin to die as soon as they are born. There is no escape. Throughout history man has been painfully aware of his own mortality. He has sought to escape the certainty of death in a variety of ways. Ponce de Leon searched for the fabled fountain of youth. The Greeks speculated about and the church later perpetuated the philosophical concept of the immortality of the soul — that man's soul would finally divest itself of its evil body at the moment of death. Recent issues of The Plain Truth have shown it to be a fable. More practical minds have sought to preserve themselves through "immortal" works of art, magnificently constructed edifices bearing their names, or classic books that they authored. The ancient psalmist well expressed this proclivity of man: "Their inner thought is, that their houses are forever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they have called their lands after their own names" (Psalm 49:11, NASB). None of the trappings of human civilization are truly immortal. The Alexandrian Library of ancient Egypt was burned to the ground. Palestine is the graveyard of several civilizations. Everything that the eye can see — whether organic or inorganic — is aging or decaying to one degree or the other. There is no arguing with this fact. It is a basic law of the physical universe. Is each generation born only to die in a never — ceasing stream of time?
The Solution to Uncertainty
The Bible itself affirms the truth about the anxiety and uncertainty of the material world — and at the same time offers a unique solution. The apostle Paul spoke of a spiritual solution made possible from an entirely spiritual source. Notice an important excerpt from one of his letters to Christians at Corinth: "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:16-18, RSV). Permanent spirit life cannot be tested by the five senses of man. It is an ingredient that is totally spiritual — therefore totally real. It is even now available as a germ of immortality while we are still flesh (I Peter 1:3, 23). It is the Holy Spirit of God. But without the marvelous ingredient of faith, the Holy Spirit cannot be obtained.
The Miracle of Faith
Faith is foundational and fundamental to any real quest for certainty. Faith is the only real recipe for conquering human uncertainty. But what is faith, anyway? Is it blind confidence? Or is it based on something more substantial? Paul expressed the essence of true faith to Jewish Christians: "Now faith is the substance [assurance or certainty] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). You do not need faith for something you already possess. Faith revolves around something "not seen" — something you do not yet have. The apostle Paul elucidated this point in an earlier letter to Christians at Rome: "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that [which] we see not, then do we with patience wait for it" (Romans 8:24). The apostle to the Gentiles was himself an example of this living faith. As a prisoner, Paul boarded a sailing ship bound for Italy. He warned the captain in advance that the cargo and the passengers would be in dire jeopardy should they undertake the voyage. But his warning went unheeded and not long afterward, three days of the worst type of stormy weather took away all hope that any aboard would survive. Although all the physical evidence — what they could see (the swirling tempest surrounding them) — indicated the contrary, Paul stood up and said, "... There shall be no loss of any man's life among you .... For there stood by me this night the angel of God... saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me" (Acts 27:22-25). Paul had an unquestioning conviction that God would indeed do what he had promised. He was certain of God's promises. His was the kind of faith that sweeps away all uncertainty. But this one incident of faith only resulted in a temporary saving of human life aboard a ship in terrible danger More importantly, Jesus Christ explained — as we have seen Peter also did — that real faith can cause the seeds of permanent spirit life to be sown in the flesh in the here and now. He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him [God the Father] who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24, RSV). Unless and until this new beginning happens to you personally, you have no certainty of future life. But it can happen to you! Find out the whys and wherefores by requesting the booklets and reprint articles recommended below.