The Certainty of Ignorance

"Ignorance does not result from what we don’t know! Ignorance results from what we think we do know—but don’t! Most ignorant people are, in fact, quite certain." Sent in by a listener, that quote from Richard Rohr provokes Brad and Wayne into a discussion about truth, certainty, humility and how our ability to treat others changes when we view truth not as a set of propositions to embrace, but a Person to know and to follow.


  1. Great Podcast. I’m certain of that. Wait…… Does that make me ignorant??? Crap, now I’m all confused 😉

  2. I think you guys went over my head on this one. But I think I understood the beginning and the end.
    I am wondering if the seemingly innate quality of human beings to “have to know” and the inablility to live with mystery is the real consequence of the fall. Of eating and living in the stupid tree that calls itself smart and ends up saying “I’m right your wrong!!!” And then with hands on hips demanding your agreement. I love what Danny Silk said on one of the past podcast about how we have made an idol of agreement and twisted it past covenant. The basis of covenant is not agreement but on relationship. I’ve recently brought this subject up in our small group ministry. It was amazing to me the meer mention of not requiring agreement as we gather and talk made many in the group very uncomfortable. I guess I would rephrase what I said and say agreement is wonderful when it happens and can we be ok if we don’t agree and still understand one another. And this concept of holding these things loosely is a great space of keeping all things organic. Once again we learn over and over its about relatonship relationship relationship.

  3. Loved what you said about truth and losing our first love and when we lose sight that he loved us first, we gotta fix everybody. I listened to that part of your conversation over and over. It just made me think how that ties in with the initial comments about ignorance. I think that human ignorance and the way we relate to one another is that we are so stinking ignorant of how much we are loved that we can’t/don’t love one another. As 1 John 4:20 says, If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother who he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? Gotta chew on this more. Thanks guys.

  4. Hey Wayne,

    I was walking at the track this morning listening to the God Journey podcast and there I was—all alone—laughing out loud.

    I don’t need validation anymore about whether or not something God makes real to me about me is true. I’ve been won to trust him to reveal me to me. But it’s still fun and life affirming when I hear God making the same Truth real to someone else. I’m talking about the Richard Rohr quote. You would have no reason to remember but when I answered the Facebook invitation that somehow they knew I knew you…I said that I was 6 years out of organized Christian religion and feeling less dangerous to myself and other believers. You laughed, I laughed with you, but it comes from God making it real that I was never more dangerous to myself and other believers as when I thought I knew him but I was in fact ignorant of his love/truth/life.

    It came from a time when I was whining and complaining and breathing out threats at Christian religious leadership and their role in my daughter’s suicide. I was hiring an attorney and preparing to bring down an entire mega-church ministry. Without changing the facts or their role in it, Father made it real to me—not them—we were all dangerous. We were all dangerous and none of us knew him. Sure, I could bring down a ministry but I’d still be dangerous. I didn’t know anything at the time Wayne except that Father was right. I knew I didn’t know him. I didn’t know “how to” be loved and live loved as his child. And I was never more dangerous to myself and the other believers involved as I was at that moment.

    That was 12 years ago. I didn’t hire an attorney but I was invited to participate in a relationship with God where I’m still learning “how to” be loved and live loved as his child. It would be another six years before I stumbled and staggered out of organized painful, painful Christian religion and met you and others who helped me make sense of what God was making real in my spirit. But six years out of organized Christian religion and yes, I’m still feeling less dangerous to myself and other believers.

    Thanks for being a continuing part of what God is a part of in my life lessons. And thanks for sharing how God is making himself real in you—and Brad. Yippee!

  5. “For those who believe that they are right, you can tell them that they are, in fact, wrong?” Can’t the same be said about yourself?
    Ignorance is for everyone else, never for one’s self.

  6. Interesting! I was just reading about this very topic in Nassim (Nicholas) Talbeb’s book The Black Swan this morning.

  7. Wow! What a great podcast. I could relate to SO much that was said. Recently someone from my old “clubhouse” (who thinks those of us that left the church and don’t attend anywhere are in a cult) got on his kid’s FaceBook page (whom I had as a “friend”) and posted a comment to me under a cartoon that I had posted on my photos section. The cartoon was one of a pastor standing behind a pulpit with a title of, “Why ‘Senior Pastor’ is not in the Bible” and under that it had a speech bubble with the pastor saying, “This morning we’ll be talking about the priesthood of all believers…but ironically I’ll do all the talking.” Under this cartoon he posted the following comment:

    “It’s scary how effective some cults are in “picking off” tired, hurting, exhuasted or discontented believers. Wounded saints don’t see the red flags of delusion propogated by false teachers. It sounds good and relieving to “find out” the pastor of your Bible believing church is a power monger out to dominate your life and that it wasn’t your sin or confusion causing the problems. My heart breaks for believers caught up in these lies. Your ability to minister to lost souls is erased because of Satan’s deception governing your heart disguised as “revelation”. I pray your life “in Christ” will return to the Truth.”

    Can’t you just feel the love in that comment???? Yeah, me neither. And he is so certain that my ability to minister has been erased and my heart is governed by Satan…ah, yes, the certainty of ignorance! Thanks for this podcast, guys! It was very encouraging.

  8. Philosopher and Statesman Donald Rumsfeld gets this too:

    “As we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

    Easy to laugh, but he does make a very valid point which ties into what Rohr is saying – ie that we think we have it all together as we assume we have a handle on all the “known knowns” and a pretty good idea of the “known unknowns”. What we often forget is that under the water is the iceberg of “unknown unknowns” which are the ones that will always trip us up.

  9. Regarding the quoting or use of resources or people in the Catholic church (Richard Rohr):

    Because I have only recently determined that I am no longer subject to the overseeing rules of Christian rules and regulations, I have found I have access to people I was previously prohibited from accessing. Two days ago, I was sitting in a pub with a young father who is searching his place in Christ. He is very skeptical of church organizations as he was raised at a Mormon with endless rules and minute interpretations of every human situation and having the power to punish violators. He mentioned a term I had never heard to describe leaders who abuse their position and authority that was so excellent. He called it “Unrighteous Dominion”. I asked him where he came up with such a descriptive term. He said it was a common term in the Mormon church. It is mainly used (I googled it) to describe fathers and husbands who do not properly love and lead their wives and children but it can be extended to apply to anyone in the church who abuses their ordained position.


  10. I was listening to Leonard Sweet’s “So Beautiful” and heard him say the following (the start of chapter 19.

    “Honest disciples gulp rather than gargle at the fountain of knowledge. Life is filled with difficult questions. If disciples are not as wise as Solomon, they are at least honest about not having all the answers.

    As Moses found out on the peaks of Mt. Sinai, the closer he journeyed to God the more he was enveloped in mist and unknowing. As Aaron found out at the foot of Mt. Sinai, the farther people journeyed from God the more they became certain of what God looks like and cast the golden calf

    Pilgrim people are a learning people, disciple means learner…”

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