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The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our Correct Beliefs Hardcover – April 5, 2016
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“Enns is an acute reader of texts. His readers will welcome his puckish affirmation of the buoyant, sometimes outrageous, boundary-breaking capacity of biblical faith.” (Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary)
“If you’re afraid that your theological questions and doubts disqualify you from being a person of faith, theologian Peter Enns has good news for you. Really good news. And it’s a delightful read too!” (Brian D. McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity)
“Enns is brilliant at taking the big topics, those Christian ideas that usually scare us or intimidate us or worry us, and then make those very places a meeting place with a God who is bigger and wilder and more wonderful and trustworthy than we ever could have guessed.” (Sarah Bessey, author of Out of Sorts and Jesus Feminist)
“This book is accessible, freeing, empowering, and beautiful. I underlined almost every page. I only wish I had it in my hands fifteen years ago! I’m deeply thankful for Enns’s work and his new book is right on time for many of us.” (Sarah Bessey, author of Out of Sorts and Jesus Feminist)
“Seldom have I read a book that I so totally agree with! This is a very fine, very readable, often humorous, and much needed analysis of what Western Christianity is up against.” (Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward)
“The idea that at all times you must know what you believe, Enns writes, leads to having a closed heart to trusting God. I commend this book to you.” (Faith Matters)
“Peter Enns’ new book, The Sin of Certainty, will make you reflect on your life and question what you believe. That’s a good thing.” (Joel Anderson, Resurrecting Orthodoxy)
“Blending personal stories with Scripture, the book offers a new look at how the Christian life truly works.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Enns has delivered yet another to-be-read-frequently volume to my library.” (Clarion Journal of Spirituality and Justice)
“Virtually every page offers pithy and profound insight and wisdom… packed full of enough spiritual reflection, historical context, and biblical insight to keep me thinking about it long after I finished reading it.” (Patheos)
From the Back Cover
“I had never openly explored my thinking about God, because I was taught that questioning too much was not safe Christian conduct—it would make God very disappointed in me, indeed, and quite angry. So dangerous thoughts lay dormant, never entering my conscious mind. . . . But a common and ordinary moment worked unexpectedly to snatch me from my safe, familiar, and unexamined spiritual neighborhood and plop me down somewhere I never thought I’d land. It was a forced spiritual relocation.”—The Sin of Certainty
When did being “right” with God come to mean believing the right things about God—believing the right doctrines, reading the Bible the right way, holding the right views? For many Christians, this idea is at the very center of their religious lives. And that’s a problem. Because this focus on being correct can actually distract us from faith and from God. What happens when the security of “knowing what you believe” gets disrupted—as it does sooner or later? What if once-settled questions—like “What is God really like?”—suddenly become unsettled?
These are some of the questions that teacher and scholar Peter Enns addresses in The Sin of Certainty. Here he explores what goes wrong when we have “believing the right things” at the center of our faith and what, instead, should be standing there. For those who have experienced their once rock-solid beliefs beginning to falter, Enns offers hope and guidance for finding a more trustworthy anchor. By exploring scripture and reflecting on his own journey, Enns reveals that challenges and crises of faith may be opportunities for deepening our faith and that God may be the one encouraging us to face those dangerous questions—in order for us to move from needing to be right to trusting God instead.
Why “Having the Right Beliefs” Is Not the Same as Having Faith
Many Christians have gone off course by putting belief and certainty at the center of their faith instead of simply following and trusting Jesus.
“Seldom have I read a book that I so totally agree with! This is a very fine, very readable, often humorous, and much needed analysis of what Western Christianity is up against.”—Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward
“Enns is brilliant. This book is accessible, freeing, empowering, and beautiful. I underlined almost every page. I’m deeply thankful for Enns’s work and his new book is right on time for many of us.”—Sarah Bessey, author of Out of Sorts and Jesus Feminist
“If you’re afraid that your theological questions and doubts disqualify you from being a person of faith, theologian Peter Enns has good news for you. Really good news. And it’s a delightful read, too!”—Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christianity
“Readers will welcome his puckish affirmation of the buoyant, sometimes outrageous, boundary-breaking capacity of biblical faith.”—Walter Brueggemann, author of The Prophetic Imagination
Top customer reviews
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People looking for a theological discussion of the issue at hand will probably be disappointed, although Enns does bring up several biblical passages portraying doubt that we do not often mention. This book is not about establishing a "Christian view" of doubt or suggestions on how to deal with it.
Instead, the book speaks to us from the cauldron of life circumstances, how maintaining a hidebound certainty fared in that cauldron, and where passing through that experience took and is taking him. I can imagine some people not being able to relate. I can imagine many more finding a lot of resonance and empathy. But either way, this is a book you -relate to-, not so much a repository of information to take away.
For me, the book was like a salve. It was a reminder from a mature (that's not meant to be a euphemism for "old," Pete) Christian that darkness and doubt are transformative experiences that tie me to Jesus with cords so much stronger than doctrinal certitude. They are times to be treasured and used, not events to try and prevent or hide from. And what's more, he (correctly) points out that this act of trust in the face of my vacillating belief and ever-so-limited knowledge is really the heart of what it means to have an authentic relationship with God.
One reviewer here mentioned that he thinks Enns is too hard on orthodoxy, but I didn't see that at all. The book says virtually nothing about creeds or systematic theology or anything like that. The few times these things are alluded to, it is to remind us that we can't use them as excuses, shields, or a substitute for exploration and growth. Enns even talks about his Episcopal congregation (no strangers to creeds and confessions) and the comfort he finds in the Book of Common Prayer. There is nothing in the book that speaks disparagingly of creeds, orthodoxy, or church history. In fact, I felt Enns went out of his way to try and make sure people didn't think this was a rant against those things.
What he does do, however, is highlight the misplaced role we have given those things in our faith - almost making faith synonymous with those things. I expect that could make someone uncomfortable depending on where they're at with that idea, but that's not really the author's fault. If you're on the fence about buying this book because you're afraid it'll be a screed against orthodox doctrine, allow me to lay that fear to rest. In fact, if you have fears about those sorts of things, I'd highly recommend this book to you.
Several years ago, my faith was rekindled when I started watching the streamed versions of Dr. Scott Dudley's sermons at Bellevue Presbyterian Church, located outside Seattle. I'm watching from rural Texas. That started a process of reading and study that included Untracked: When Religion Doesn't Let Us Follow Jesus by Rev. Ben Baughman, Church History in Plain Language: Fourth Edition by Dr. Bruce Shelley, Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just by Rev. Tim Keller, Disarming Scripture: Cherry-Picking Liberals, Violence-Loving Conservatives, and Why We All Need to Learn to Read the Bible Like Jesus Did by Derek Flood, and Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N.T. Wright. Watching the online sermons from rural Texas and reading these books have brought new peace and joy to my life.
The Sin of Certainty has honed the faith and trust in God that's emerged from my process of reading and study. It's the book I needed to read made available at the time I needed to read it. Perhaps it's one of the God moments that Pete talks about in the book. If you're following a path similar to mine, if you've been a church member for many years like I was, and you've become disenchanted with arguments about whose creed is right and whose creed is wrong, you should read this book. Pete invites you to step away from the doctrinal battlefields to trust in God's Grace.
I've seen other reviews that dislike this book because the reviewers interpret it as anti-church. It's not anti-church. The Sin of Certainty helps us refine our thoughts and build our trust so that we're comfortable in many churches. We don't get angry when we hear the absolutists get angry. We're better prepared and have the confidence to talk in a healing way without being confrontational.
This is my favorite Pete Enns book and I hope that it helps you as much as it's helped me.
Most recent customer reviews
A really great book!!