The Sin of Certainty

Why God Desires Our Trust More than Our "Correct" Beliefs
Narrated by: Tom Perkins
Length: 5 hrs and 27 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (450 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

With compelling and often humorous stories from his own life, Bible scholar Peter Enns offers a fresh look at how Christian life truly works, answering questions that cannot be addressed by the idealized traditional doctrine of "once for all delivered to the saints".

Enns offers a model of vibrant faith that views skepticism not as a loss of belief but as an opportunity to deepen religious conviction with courage and confidence. This is not just an intellectual conviction, he contends, but a more profound kind of knowing that only true faith can provide.

Combining Enns' reflections of his own spiritual journey with an examination of scripture, The Sin of Certainty models an acceptance of mystery and paradox that all believers can follow and why God prefers this path, because it is the only way by which we can become mature disciples who truly trust God. It gives Christians who have known only the demand for certainty permission to view faith on their own flawed, uncertain, yet heartfelt terms.

©2016 Peter Enns (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This is a very fine, very readable, often humorous, and much needed analysis of what Western Christianity is up against." (Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward)

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Title may mislead the actual content

A number of books have been written in the last decade or so that have embraced the acceptance of doubt or at least have normalized having periods of uncertainty as a regular part of the Christian life. It has progressed far enough that there are now books and article rejecting the over embrace of doubt.

Peter Enns has long been a part of this controversy because his own book Inspiration and Incarnation was controversial because some thought that it encouraged an unhealthy doubt. The Sin of Certainty concludes with a long, and very personal, section about Enns’ own doubts, which were exacerbated by the mishandling of the controversy around his earlier book. I will not get into the full story since it is detailed in the book, but Enns was forced out of his job as full professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in 2008 after several years of controversy. (It took 4 years for Enns to get another full time teaching job and even now four years later he is not yet a full professor.)

Enns own story is driving the message of the book. I think it would have been more helpful for the story to have been pushed up in the book to give greater context for why Enns thinks that a focus on certainty is unhelpful. But placed at the end of the book, the story really allows for the book to end strongly.

The Sin of Certainty is going to be misread by many and not read by many more because of the title. To be clear, Enns does not say that we should not have theological boundaries or that orthodoxy is unimportant. Instead he is saying that right belief is not the most important thing for us as Christians. There is a long section about faith being misunderstood in our current culture as theologically correct belief instead of the way that scripture primarily means it, which is trust.

When scripture talks about faith in Christ, it does not ever mean ‘right theological understanding of Christ’. Instead it primarily means that we need to fully trust in Christ. Enns discussion of his own lack of trust in Christ through difficult times makes it clear that actually trusting God is often harder than having correct theological beliefs. (His loss of his job and the eating disorder and recovery of his daughter are two significant places where it is easy to see that trust can be more difficult than theological boundary drawing.)

I do think that the presentation can make it a bit hard for some to actually hear the main message. Enns has been hurt and I think he can be a bit prickly and if you are not a generous reader, you might spend more time than you should arguing with him as author instead of hearing him as a Christians speaking out of his pain and recovery.

Enns is calling on the church to actually trust Christ and love others as their primarily call, not in opposition to right belief and theological boundaries, but as the best way to achieve theological boundaries and right belief. This is a book that makes a lot more sense if you have had a real crisis of faith or walked through a crisis of faith with others. For those that have not had a real crisis of faith, there might not be enough empathy for Enns to hear him well.

39 people found this helpful

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Awesome!

This book is like mold remover for gross residue from religious thinking...
I've struggled with end times theology for a long time. Specifically I feel like the direction that we're heading with technology really changes a lot of things. Those things were not able to be seen when much of our eschatology was created.
to continue to believe something apart from mainstream requires fighting through a lot of doubt. This book explains how the doubt is necessary and actually helps. It dispels the mystery of have doubt is a bad thing and makes a very good case about how it's a good thing. For me a lot of the battle was in the past, but reading this book resonated with the truth of what I went through in that battle.

4 people found this helpful

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Feels like a long lost friend

Would you listen to The Sin of Certainty again? Why?

I didn't know anything about Peter Enns when I downloaded the book before my bike ride today, but by the time I was a few hours into the book I felt like I have a long lost friend. I was delightfully refreshed to hear someone else echo similar thoughts that I have been thinking for years. This book is very helpful to understanding some of the trends in evangelical Christianity today.

Which character – as performed by Tom Perkins – was your favorite?

Tom delivers Peter's humor without a wink and it really had me rolling at times. Often the jokes hit pretty close to home so I appreciated the tone of the reading.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I really related to the whole book.

Any additional comments?

I loved this book. I hope you do!

6 people found this helpful

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Remarkable insight

Peter Enns explores some of the core problems facing the church today in manner that isn't inflammatory to those on any side of the issues. It's a book I will b passing on to a number of different people.

2 people found this helpful

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Ironically, Enns is certain of his conclusion 🤔

There are some great nuggets of wisdom in this book for any Christian or non-Christian. The author has ideas that will make you sit back and re-think some of your beliefs and understandings about this world and religion. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell if the narrator conveyed the intended message or not as he seemed quite smug and almost gleeful when reading stories about the authors doubts in God or religion in general. Maybe the author intended this message, maybe not...? Maybe the narrator is not a believer but read the book for the payday...? I often wondered if the author had become an atheist and this book was a bit of bait and switch. This peaked my interest and kept me listening to the end, which turns out hopeful, but this is one book I would rather not have listened to, but read.

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Thank GOD for this man and his book

Thank GOD for this man and his book. Exactly what I needed to hear exactly when I needed to hear it.

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Exactly What I Needed To Hear

I, a young adult, and recent graduate from a Theology program encountered some pretty mind boggling facts and information i couldnt unlearn. i went through an unprecedented and troublesome season of doubt. Those close to me called me demon possessed, a pagan, apostate and much more for taking a break from the church to rediscover my faith in this post graduate life in the real world - outside of the bubble i grew up in. i never gave up on god or doubted my experiences with but i was confused, lost, unable to relate to anyone bc of what i learned and was rejected for it. this book has brought back hope, a tentative direction to go and some much needed support thru this time in my life. thank you peter enns for being a theologian who values and understands the human experience and so eloquently threads the possibility of having faith or trust in all contexts and phases of life.

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I subscribe BIG time.

The author was talking to me directly. I've and am still going though the questioning of God's existence and the Bible.

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Spiritual battle

I can hardly believe that I found a book that describes my current spiritual battle. I’m not alone! Although I have not resolved my inner conflict as the author has, it gives me hope or at the very least some validation.

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Beautifully raw content, great audio performance - cyclical reasoning

I love the concept of this book and greatly benefitted from listening to it. However, if you’re someone who needs a more methodical process, I would suggest getting a physical copy to read slowly. Underline, take your time and be changed by it. It is a wonderful autobiographical testimony to meditate on, but the philosophical points can begin to dance in circles.

Nonetheless, Thank You Enns for another beautiful work!