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The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs is one of the best books I’ve read this summer. Enns communicates a message many evangelicals need to hear.
We must be willing to move beyond certainty in our faith, because certainty isn’t really the point of faith at all.
For many of us, certainty is the center of our faith. We’ve been taught that the goal of our religious lives is to “know God”, by which we mean (whether consciously or unconsciously) believing the right doctrines and holding the right views.
Our pursuit to know God is evaluated by whether or not we end up with the right answer. Or at least that’s how we evaluate others.
But what if faith isn’t about right answers and right doctrines? What if faith is ultimately about trusting God?
Pete begins his book with the story of his “faith” crashing down, intriguingly while watching a Disney movie on a plane 30,000 feet in the air. One might think a Bible professor’s faith would need to be unravelled by something more grandiose than a Disney movie, right? Not so much.
From my own experience and reading about similar experiences of others, the crash, the wall, the dark night of the soul (whatever you want to call it) often comes in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s when reading a book. Other times watching a movie. Perhaps it happens in a conversation or in a class. Maybe we’re watching TV. Or we receive some shocking news.
Here’s the thing about our faith- it’s not something we can necessarily control.
Throughout his book, Pete interweaves his story with what he’s learned about letting go of certainty so that he can fully trust. Letting go of certainty doesn’t mean dismissing thinking or logic, or ceasing to pursue answers. Letting go of certainty means trusting God with our lives. It means keeping an open hand with our beliefs, embracing the mysteries, and leaning in even when our brains might not be able to make sense.
“This book is about thinking differently about faith, a faith that is not so much defined by what we believe but in whom we trust. In fact, in this book I argue that we have misunderstood faith a what word rather than a who word- as primarily beliefs about rather than primarily as trust in.”
Because Pete is an intellectual, he gets the tension that this all might bring to some of us. And it’s because he’s an intellectual that many of us who identify as such should give him a hearing.
Interestingly, Pete’s hope for this book isn’t just for those who are going through a faith crisis or is submerged to their eyeballs in doubt, but he’s trying to start a bigger conversation about how faith is viewed and communicated in the evangelical church.
“When we think of ‘strong faith’ as something that should be free of uncertainty or crises, I believe we have gotten wrong an important part of who God is and how the Christian life really works. This is about how we might address that problem.”
Finally, Pete ends the book with wisdom about what to do when a tidal wave of doubt comes crashing upon you. If you’re in the midst of some tall waves, I highly recommend skipping to chapter 7 first.
I think the only point I’d disagree with Pete on is the title- the sin of certainty. While I get the idea behind it, I actually think that those who are siting in certainty are not wrong or sinning. I think their faith has some distance to go. From my limited understanding of faith formation, it seems as if certainty is a necessary first step in faith. The sin isn’t in being there. If there’s any sin involved, I think it would be in one’s unwillingness to take the next step when God extends the invitation.
I recommend picking up this book, grabbing some friends, and starting a conversation. Pete’s writing style is down-to-earth, incredible readable, and funny. His gift for teaching shines through the pages. You won’t be disappointed.
In my reading routine, after I finish a particularly good book, I scour the notes section in the back. I’ve found the footnotes of my favorite chapters of a book provide great recommendations for my reading list. If you need a hint on my favorite chapter, I’ll tell you that I’ve added Thoughts in Solitude, The Inner Voice of Love, Stages of Faith, and a re-read of The Bible Tells Me So. 🙂
To read more about Pete, you can visit his blog: http://www.peteenns.com.
And to read more about my relationship with doubt, check out the following days in my 31 Days of Soul Shaping series:
Day 20: The Beginning of My Doubt
Day 21: The Turning Point
Day 22: Questions Aren’t Just for Kids
Thanks to Pete and his team for providing a free copy in exchange for my honest thoughts!