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The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs Paperback – April 4, 2017
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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
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All that being said, Enns' book was a disaster for me. I love his writing and devoured this book. But the initial experience described in chapter one is never brought to resolution. I'm amazed that no other reviewer has seen this glaring omission. I read "A Bridge to Terabithia", and I watched the movie. I was soooo excited that Enns was going to address the conflict between Jess and Leslie. But no, after supposedly being jolted and left in tears by this movie, his big moment of doubt passes. Remember? Jess believes God damns nonbelievers to hell, and Leslie absolutely rejects that idea. So, Dr Enns, exactly why did you leave out your trust issues on that point as the book moved onward? Do you accept the premise of hell or not? And, what are those reasons?
That's what I waited for the entire time I was reading. The belief in, or the lack of belief in, hell dramatically changes how you view people around you. Shame on Enns for such a shallow, "just trust God no matter what" approach to some really serious issues. By the end of the book, I found myself wondering if Enns really hates thinking in the first place. Quite clearly, some thinking has to be involved in beliefs that either motivate you to some action or not. I found no good reason to even believe in a god, much less the one Enns is selling. I stopped believing in any kind of god about five months ago, and I see no good reason to believe in one after reading this book.
With endorsements by guys like Brian McLaren and Walter Brueggemann and favorable quotes within by the likes of Rob Bell, Thomas Merton, Mother Teresa, Greg Boyd, Rachel Held Evans, Philip Yancey and Ann Lamott – you get an idea for where this book is going.
Plainly, Peter Enns is not a Christian. An impressive pedigree of degrees, and fourteen years a professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, Peter writes in this book of his spiritual pilgrimage away from Evangelicalism and awakening to a “contemplative tradition in Christianity” (190). His main point is “that trust means letting go of the need to know, of the need to be certain” (192). His experiences have drawn him out of his “safe haven of certainty and onto the path of trusting God” (192).
Concern about believing right content actually distracts us, says Enns, from genuine faith. “A faith preoccupied with certainty is sin” – and “compromises the gospel” (210). The real good news, according to Enns, is regardless of what you believe about God, “just trust” (53). Don’t get hung up by reason, because “this focus on being correct (believing right things about God) can actually distract us from faith and from God.” Trust takes over “when faith in God no longer makes sense” (120). It doesn’t matter what faith tradition you participate in, or what you believe or don’t believe about God, what matters is just trusting whatever it is you trust regardless of your doubts (16).
“Doubt is divine tough love” (165). It’s actually doubt, not faith, that is transforming (164). “Doubt is sacred. Doubt is God’s instrument, [and] will arrive in God’s time” (164). Don’t resist doubt, don’t fight it, and by all means don’t seek to fix it with commitment to right thoughts or right doctrine. “The key is to decouple our faith in God from our thoughts about God” (16). This is indeed, BLIND FAITH. He wants to say “of course, [that] believing is never empty of content” (93) – but the focus of faith is not on *what* a person believes, but on *who* regardless of how you define him. God is “transrational” – so just trust, whatever it is that you trust.
The sections of chapter two comprise his fourfold knock-out punches of conservative Evangelicalism:
- Evolution: the Bible is Wrong (“Oh Great, We Came From Monkeys”)
- Archeology: the Bible is Myth (“Seriously Weird Stories from Long Ago”)
- Higher Criticism: the Bible is Errant (“The Germans are Coming”)
- Slavery: The Bible is Biased and Confused (“Slavery: Whose Side Is God On?”)
The sections of chapter six comprise his explanations of the five legitimate arguments against Christian faith:
- “The Bible portrays God as violent, reactive, vengeful, blood-thirsty, immoral, mean and petty” (121-124).
- “The Bible and science collide on too many things to think that the Bible has anything to say to us today about eh big questions of life” (125-129).
- “In the face of injustice and heinous suffering in the world, God seems disinterested or perhaps unable to do anything about it” (130-134).
- “In our ever-shrinking world, it is difficult to hold on to any notion that Christianity is the only path to God” (135-139).
- “Christians treat each other so badly and in such harmful ways that it calls into question the validity of Christianity – or even whether God exists” (140-143).
This is what unbelief looks like.
This is what liberalism looks like.
There is not a part of Scripture that he does not misread (Note his atrocious comment on the book of Job, pg. 221).
And ironically, in numerous places He evidences such CERTAINTY! Page 200, “I am certain that Paul’s sufferings…” (there are repeated examples of confident assertions).
Enough. Peter Enns has abandoned “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). In his own words, “That horse has left the stable” (191). He’s done with “lengthy sermons [at] the center of worship” (193). He’s done with the exclusivity of Christ (135-139). He’s bought into all the old arguments against Scripture and the Gospel – and presumes to have discovered a more ancient path. His way is a “mystical faith,” “a faith that remains open to the ever-moving Spirit and new possibilities” (208), a “transrational” faith (193). “As I was bathing in my inner agnosticism, I was drawn to authors and others who were explicitly outside of the Christian tradition or not as easily recognized as being in it…”
A man that is not a Christian claiming still to be a Christian and currently “Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA.” Without reservation or hesitation, I would plainly tell you that this book is the voice of the serpent (Genesis 3:1-5). Peter Enns is an apostate. I read it for myself after coming across a second hand copy only so that I could see how far he had fallen. This is Rob Bell; this is William Young; this is Bart Ehrman; this is Brian McLaren; this is Peter Enns (Matthew 18:6).
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