The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns

So many opinions, positions, beliefs, and doctrines. In my faith journey I’d been taught how to “defend” my beliefs, how to “prove” truth, how to “argue” critical doctrines, and how support it all with scripture.

To be honest, I was never very good at it. Somehow I always had too many questions. But I always trusted God was bigger than them. I’ve also passionately loved his son, Jesus.

But as Peter Enns says so eloquently in his book, The Sin of Certainty, “you only have something to say if the world has a question in the first place.”

Indeed, I’ve found I can’t shut out the many questions I have about certain interpretations of Scripture, or turn a blind eye to all the various faith practices that claim to be “certain” that they’re the ones “doing it right” and everyone else is wrong. Nor can I easily dismiss the divisions and disunity the doctrines, creeds, and traditions create in the body of Christ.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it first hand and have heard of it all too often. Lines drawn in the sand. Believers leaving over disagreements. Church splits. Building our own little kingdoms of faith rather than coming together, seeking the well-being of each other, and trusting the Holy Spirit to build his Kingdom.

As scripture says, there’s nothing new under the sun. Evangelist and church planter, Paul, had the same problem with some of the first gatherings of believers. He even wrote to one located in Galatia: “Brothers and sisters, you were called to freedom—only do not let your freedom become an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Torah can be summed up in a single saying: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not destroyed by one another.”

Apparently the Galatian church did not listen because from what I understand, there’s no further account of her in history. They destroyed themselves, the good news, and the body of believers there.

So. That takes me back to The Sin of Certainty and a couple of quotes from Peter Enns that jumped out at me as we listened to the book on audio.

  • If you get caught up in the rules, you lose the plot of the story.
  • Our roles as priests is to intercede on behalf of others. We ought to be a people who fight for everyone to have a place in the family, not explain why they’re not allowed.
  • Church is too often a risky place to be honest.
  • The Bible does not have a good track record for creating unity among those who read it.

Understanding what we believe and why believe it is important. But Enns challenges us to consider where our trust lies. Is it in what we believe, or is it in God? What happens when God doesn’t seem to do what we believe he should do? Can we press into the questions and seek out what God truly desires, which is our trust and intimacy?

If you’re content with the status quo, if you have secured yourself firmly to the interpretations of scripture passed down to you, if you don’t want to examine the ways you understand God to be, then this book is probably not for you.

But if you’re wrestling with the disunity you see, if you’ve actually read some of the crazy stories in the Bible and wonder why they’ve been included but never preached on, if you want your trust in God to grow in spite of and as a result of doubts and uncertainty, if you need a place to be honest, then The Sin of Certainty might be for you.


About Jill English Johnston

God writes His story on every heart, if we only pause to read it. My heart has lived in a fantasy world since early childhood and am delighted that God has finally brought me to the place where I can bring the fantasies to life through story. I am currently working on a fantasy trilogy (of course) but I also post thoughts, reflections and (hopefully) inspiration to my website: I am a follower of the Rabbi Jesus, married to my best friend and inspiration, and the mother of three incredible children, one daughter and two sons, a son-in-love, a daughter-in-love and two adorable granddaughters. When not writing, I passionately pursue prayer, reading (never enough time to read them all!), and the outdoors. My husband and I both served in the US Navy and have lived/travelled through many states and all over Asia. We both still enjoy travelling, but we really love our home in New Braunfels, located at the Texas Hill Country.
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