Sutton, G. W. (2016). [Review of the book The sin of certainty: Why God desires “our” trust more than “our” correct beliefs by Peter Enns]. Encounter, 13. https://legacy.agts.edu/encounter/current.html Academia Link ResearchGate Link
Friday, December 23, 2016
Sin of Certainty Sutton Book Review
Why God Desires
“Our” Trust More Than
“Our” Correct Beliefs
Geoffrey W. Sutton
Chances are you’ve met a few people who insist their beliefs are right. They don’t hesitate to denounce others as not just wrong but as evil people--people out to ruin the country, destroy lives, and on the brink of eternal damnation.
If you followed the 2016 or 2020 campaigns for president of the United States, you know what I’m talking about—many people were sure their candidate was right and the other one was an evil menace. And some of those people attacked “friends” and family on social media and elsewhere.
I read Enn’s book, The Sin of Certainty in 2017. My review hasn’t been published yet but I will post some text here and give you a link to the full, unpublished version. It’s certainly a book worth reading.
The “Sin” in Peter Enns’ book is a devotion to correct beliefs rather than a devotion to God characterized by trust. Trust in a person—God—is the only way for Christians to maintain faith qua faithfulness when simple biblical quotes don’t seem to square with challenges from scientists or life events.
You will find four challenges to certainty in the last few hundred years. These “oh-oh” moments challenged thinking Christians—and still do.
1. The scientific evidence for evolution caused many to doubt the literal words in Genesis.
2. Archaeologists found old texts from other cultures indicating the words attributed to Moses were not unique to him.
3. Biblical research challenged the views of religious scholars about the way the Bible was written.
4. The theological battle over American slavery raised questions about using the Bible for moral guidance when clergy preached contradictory messages.
Of course, these four issues continue into the present in one form or another. As I’ve written elsewhere, Christians are A HouseDivided.
Here’s a few quotes you might find interesting.
“Let me say again that beliefs themselves are not the problem. Working out what we believe is worthy of serious time and effort in our lives of faith. But our pursuit of having the right beliefs and locking them up in a vault are not the center of faith. Trust in God is. When holding to correct thinking becomes the center, we have shrunk faith in God to an intellectual exercise” (22).
“The long Protestant quest to get the Bible right has not led to greater and greater certainty about what the Bible means. Quite the contrary. It has led to a staggering number of different denominations and sub denominations that disagree sharply about how significant portions of the Bible should be understood. I mean, if the Bible is our source of sure knowledge about God, how do we explain all this diversity? Isn’t the Bible supposed to unify us rather than divide us?” (p. 52)
“When we are in despair or fear and God is as far away from us as the most distant star in the universe, we are at that moment ‘with’ Christ more than we know—and perhaps more than we ever have been—because when we suffer, we share in and complete Christ’s sufferings” (200).
Revised 29 November 2020.
Enns, P. (2017). The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires “Our” Trust More Than “Our” Correct Beliefs. New York: HarperOne.
Link to my longer review on Academia