Person: Peter Enns
Place: The mind
Thing: Book – The Sin of Certainty
Idea: A bunch of Christians might get sad reading this book. Maybe they’ll weep or get steaming mad and gnash their teeth. According to Enns, the rock-solid certainty many segments of Christianity seek—is a sin. Clutch your church pearls, your beads and your prayer cloths folks, and I’ll explain what he says:
Faith has nothing to do with knowing rules and tenets of what you believe. Faith is about actual trust in God. It’s also about distinguishing between knowing doctrine and trusting the God of whatever denomination to which you adhere. Enns says separating the two is key to a deeper, abiding Christian faith experience.
Christians seem certain about everything. What happens when people die, how the world developed, how the world will end. But with so many denominations and interpretations of scripture, someone’s certainty is certainly faulty. Doubt is cast as an enemy to be avoided… and vanquished if it pops up anywhere. Peter Enns writes that doubt isn’t the enemy a Christian should fear. Doubt is something to be faced head on… not as a warrior, but an explorer. Doubt’s pain and uncertainty, if explored, can be a means to develop trust. (I imagine trusting God is the entire point of being a Christian…)
Ditching certainty at all costs can unsettle and challenge faith… It’s a lack of certainty that can make a person cut and run or stand firm (or curl up in a writhing ball) and insist “ I’m going to trust God anyway.” THAT seems more demonstrative of faith than running down a list of creeds. It’s certainly more Christian than shafting and bad-mouthing fellow believers who dare rethink faith as something bigger than reciting fundamental beliefs. But maybe that’s too much of a challenge to some Christian communities. Knowing what you believe is nice (Enns insists knowing those beliefs is not a sin) but it’s never, ever better than trusting God in all matters… even the ones that seem counterintuitive, stupid and senseless. Doubt forces us to look deeper then our tenets and find, define, and refine a relationship with the divine through difficult moments.
Ends insists God is still God, even if and when we get pissed off at Him… or Her… (or Him/Her). Enns challenges readers not to fake like all is good when we’re mad at God. Just be mad, but work through the mess to find a closer, trusting connection with God. Trust is a habit you won’t find in a doctrine book. Folks just have to live it because (as the books subtitle says) “God desires our trust more than our beliefs.”
This is a highly recommended book because:
- It’s controversial… I imagine this might ruffle some stuffy fundamentalist feathers (and I say this as a Christian).
- It’s also a fun and thought-provoking read that might make someone reconsider another aspect of what it means to “have faith.”