Peter Enns’ The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs is an exploration of what it means to follow God, wrestle with doubts, and find peace in faith in God. At its core, the book is a challenge to a Christian lifestyle rooted in trust, marveling at the power and wisdom of God and its impossible to fully know or comprehend nature on this side of eternity. At the same time, it is a rebuttal to the approaches to faith that put too much confidence in knowledge and “knowing” for sure exactly what to believe. It’s a somewhat explosive title to some; can’t we know some things about God for certain? But Enns’ goal is not to undermine faith, rather, it is to shift the focus to trust in God instead of human knowledge.
“Aligning faith in God and certainty about what we believe and needing to be right in order to maintain a healthy faith – these do not make for a healthy faith in God. In a nutshell, that is the problem. And that is what I mean by the ‘sin of certainty.’ It is sin because this pattern of thinking sells God short by keeping the Creator captive to what we are able to comprehend – which is the very same problem the Israelites had when they were tempted to make images of God (aka idols) out of stone, metal, or wood.” (p.18)
Enns weaves his personal story throughout the book, mapping out some his own struggles, doubts and questions, and the responses of those around him. Part of his point is that it is natural for any follower of God to see their faith grow and evolve over the years – it must if we are actively pursuing God, but in the process of that doubts and questions are sure to arise. For those that value certainty, these questions are often viewed as an assault or a danger, something to be swatted down. I loved his comment the “Adam and Eve story is about what happens when knowing is elevated above trusting.” (p.104) In that moment in the garden, it was more valuable to them to have the knowledge than it was to trust God and His wisdom.
Ultimately, Enns is not challenging the reader to ignore growing in knowledge. In fact, his challenge is the opposite; continue to study the Word. Learn and wrestle through all that you can when it comes to God, but beware of the dangers of overconfidence in your own opinions and interpretations.
“It is so easy to slip into ‘right thinking’ mode – that we have arrived at full faith. We know what church God goes to, what Bible translation God prefers, how God votes, what movies God watches, and what books God reads. We know the kinds of people God approves of. God has winners and losers, and we are the winners, the true insiders. God likes all the things we like. We speak for God and think nothing of it.” (p.159)
We can so easily become just like the Pharisees we have so long reviled without even realizing it.
Enns has written a powerful book, one that asks the right questions, guides the reader through a process of both understanding the value and dangers of knowledge and certainty, and challenges American Christians to questions whether we have put our confidence in our knowledge or in trust in God. It is easy to read, but incredibly deep. Definitely worth checking out.
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I also really was interested and challenged by this book and I love your review.