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The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,515 ratings  ·  227 reviews
The controversial evangelical Bible scholar and author of The Bible Tells Me So explains how Christians mistake “certainty” and “correct belief” for faith when what God really desires is trust and intimacy.

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 questio
Hardcover, 230 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by HarperOne (first published February 2nd 2016)
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Jan 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
This is indeed the most useless piece of Liberal/emotional theological Crap I have ever been submerged in. This book actually caused me to quit my church (of 21 years - Bye bye Wesleyan Methodist theology. Nice people, bad-lazy beliefs. Moving on was inevitable, just needed ONE MORE damning great reason) because of a recurring guest speaker who thinks fondly of this moron. I don't go to church for Uncertainty about life, the universe, and everything. That's what Universities/Colleges are for. ...more
Adam Shields
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Short Review: I think that this is a book that is going to be misread by many and left unread by many more because of the title. The main theme is that the role of the church and of us as Christians is to trust Christ and love others as first priority. Repeatedly throughout the book Enns makes clear that he is not opposed to creeds or theological boundaries, but he is opposed to misusing creeds and theological boundaries as an excuse to not love well.

This is really a book about Enns. And so I t
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Peter Enns offers here a confessional book about how he came to understand belief and faith more in terms of trust and love than in terms of facts and knowledge. Many Christians place being "correct" about God at the center of faith, as did Enns, until a series of faith crises made him reconsider his understanding of Christianity.

The book is conversational, and so at times a little meandering, but it can be divided roughly into three parts: history, exegesis, and theology.

First, history. Enns
Robert D. Cornwall
Several years back a noted evangelical Bible scholar was forced to resign from his teaching position at a conservative but fairly well-regarded evangelical seminary. Apparently a book he published didn't sit well in certain quarters of the seminaries constituency. That seminary's loss became the gain for the broader body of Christ. This often happens. But it also freed him to be more open to the Spirit and to critical scholarship.

As I am going to be writing a review for the Englewood Review of
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Can it be a coincidence that I always seem to be reading specific books at just the right time I need to hear what they are saying? I doubt it. Peter Enns here sheds light on the problems a reliance on our right beliefs can cause in our walk with God. Distinguishing faith and belief from what we think and say about God provides an important and necessary frame through which we see our life and God with us. Faith and belief are trustful action words rather than doctrinal statements we recite, and ...more
Bob Schilling
Aug 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
Better Titled, “The Morass of an Unmoored Life.”

This is a book of astonishing unbelief and mockery. I had been nominally aware of Peter Enns and the controversies surrounding him back in 2005 through my seminary days in 2008 and 2009. His trajectory has landed him in fields far, far, far from orthodoxy. And he revels in his doubts.

With endorsements by guys like Brian McLaren and Walter Brueggemann and favorable quotes within by the likes of Rob Bell, Thomas Merton, Mother
Greg Diehl
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I simply cannot recommend this book enough, particularly to anyone who has participated for any amount of time in a religious community that all too often places a premium on the language of certainty (e.g., what Enns refers to as "right" or "correct" beliefs). Needing "to know" orients our religious experience too much on beliefs about rather than primarily as trust in. Enns does an excellent job of conveying the need for each of us to keep our eye on the ball and place our ultimate trust in Go ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was extremely encouraging to me in my journey of faith at this point in my life. It's no C.S. Lewis deep theological writing, but it was exactly what I was needing. The author almost gets a little redundant in his point, which is exactly what the title implies...but it was like a push towards freedom in my life. The author mentions several times, he doesn't have the answers, this isn't swapping out one idea of certainty for is encouraging you to give up trying to hold on ...more
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
A good, fresh angle on faith crises among Christians. Because the author begins from his own experience, the book is a rather personal and thoughtful look at what he saw as the driving element of his own crisis: the overwhelming need for intellectual certainty when it came to God, Jesus, and religious life. This is a book about learning to let go of unexamined and dogmatic assumptions about God and the need to be more open and responsive to God and humanity in general. Highly recommended.
Jenny Kruschke
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Pete is apparently "controversial" among Christians. I say, if this book makes you feel defensive of your faith, maybe you need to question why you feel it even needs to be defended. What is it about Pete's own uncertainty that has you so offended in the first place?
I found this book relatable and freeing. My favorite line from the book (maybe, I underlined a LOT of good stuff) was when Pete reminded us that on the cross, Jesus asked why God had forsaken him. Pete said, "Our periods of dou
Kristin Huizenga
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Enns does best when he is telling stories or looking at Biblical passages (although I would have liked a more in-depth analysis here), but I found the book to get slightly repetitive despite only being about 200 pages. It's a good premise, and important, but I wanted more meat. However, it was written for a wide audience and is super accessible, which is a skill in itself. I just wanted more from it than I got. Also he doesn't tell his own story until the end I think it was a driving force for t ...more
Zach Christensen
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book had more of a personal or even memoir feel to it. Peter is not only a great Old Testament scholar, but a great story teller as well. This reminded me of “Benefit of the Doubt” by Greg Boyd only it was less tedious and was more experiential. Don’t get me wrong, there is some great engagement with mainline scholarship throughout the book, but Peter does a good job of not drowning you in abstractions.
Jon Beadle
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Woke orthodoxy at its best. Which is to say that Enns is an enjoyable dialogue partner for myself. I would have jumped on board with him 5 years ago, when I was a “born again” progressive (theologically speaking), but now that I’ve embraced a more ancient faith, I can only see the places his thought has been colonized by secularity.
Mark Lewis
Sep 06, 2018 rated it liked it
The gist of this book is that the Bible is not a script God is required to follow. It is full of promises and assurances that God simply doesn't honor, and that we should be far more focused on trusting God rather than expecting Him to make good on His word.

Enns contrasts "right belief" about God with trust. When God does not respond or act in a way that our "correct doctrine" seems to indicate that He should, we get a lesson in trust and learn that trusting God is far more important
Sarah Tremayne
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I want to start a petition to make this required reading for freshmen at Christian colleges
Tyler Jones
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Peter Enns brings his genuine tone, sense of humor, personal experience, and academic knowledge to a topic that I couldn’t accurately express before reading this book. The chapters are succinct and cover various aspects that describe the differences between a belief in God that incorporates doubt, and a religious mindset that refuses to engage with the darker themes of God’s word. Enns shows that faith in God is not a certainty of theology, but an avenue in which our trust leads to God.
Feb 01, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Asked a lot of good questions, and in my opinion gave a lot of bad answers. I guess if the goal is put a damper on certainty that's what you do. I agree with Enns that there are problems in American Christianity that are important to deal with, that come from kinds of certainty in and from the Bible that the Bible itself isn't aimed at providing. My problem is that he overreacts and overshoots. He claims to hold to a version of biblical authority that after reading this and his "For The Bible Te ...more
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stuff like this:

The Jesuit john kavanaugh went to work with mother Teresa. She asked what she could do for him.
He asked if he would pray for him
She asked what would you like me to pray for?
He asked , pray that i will have clarity
She said no
He asked why
She said clarity is the last thing you are hanging onto
He said but you always had clarity
She said i have never had clarity, i have had trust. So i will pray that you will trust God

Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-nonfiction
This book was very good. If you grew up in a fundamentalist religious upbringing in which certainty was central to your faith, this book will be most meaningful. These were my favorite aspects of the book:

- short, readable chapters. You won't get bogged down in theological dogma or deconstruction. His stories are relatable and wise in their simplicity.

- vulnerability. Pete comes across so knowledgable & sarcastic on his podcast (and those are not criticisms!) but his book struck me as so o
Read my full review here.

I really enjoy Peter Enns's books. I think I may have found this particular book even more helpful to me personally a few years ago, more towards the beginning of my own journey with doubts in the midst of faith. And I think I benefited more from Greg Boyd's book, Benefit of the Doubt, which I read a couple of years ago. But I still would recommend The Sin of Certainty to anyone who has struggled with doubts in their faith. Enns reminds us that certainty is not the point, t
Joel Sam
Sep 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Despite Pete Enns' reputation as a "progressive" (e.g. heretic) in some Christian circles, his work in The Sin of Certainty resonates with the thinking conservative and liberal Christian alike. Enns focuses on the culture of American evangelical Christianity, which emphasizes faith in a set of beliefs, rather than engaging in a dynamic relationship with God. Enns releases doubters from the false prison of obsession with "correct" doctrine and points readers toward leaning into a trust in the bea ...more
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
I only got about half way through. It seemed like circular reasoning. We shouldn't be certain. God does His own thing & often doesn't follow through with what we think He promised. There's no reason to trust God. Trust Him anyway. I started off thinking this would be a promising book, but it bogged down.
Luke Gorham
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality, 2016
There's something inherently problematic here, for me, in a thesis that refuses to make only the vaguest, most abstract conclusions. An ideology I appreciate, but perhaps not suited for this medium. At least not the way this was executed.
Jason Lyle
Dec 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read. Enns gives so much freedom to those of us who have struggled with doubt.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Christians who spend significant time thinking through their faith (and probably many who don’t) are occasionally confronted with serious doubts. Working through those doubts and coming out the other end can be a scary and painful process - not merely because it feels like such a heavy burden, but because doubts like these are not often safe to discuss in a typical evangelical community, where questioning traditional belief systems is often interpreted as a slippery slope, or worse, an attack on ...more
Aaron West
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Had I read this book a few years ago while I was still in school, or even having just left, the book would have gotten an easy 4 (I really liked it) stars. Since I've already gone through the process of rethinking and retooling my way of faith in light of "adulthood," much of what Enns speaks about in this book is not new or foreign to me.

So with a solid 3 (I liked it) stars, The Sin of Certainty stands as yet another important stop along my journey to challenge myself and explore th
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spiritual
This has been a hard review for me to write because this book hit me in a very personal way. As a Christian going through a period of doubt, this was a book I needed to read. Enns' snarky voice was just the guide I needed to take me through what faith really is and highlights that doubt is just as much a part of a faith journey (and yes, he groans too when he uses phrases like that) as certainty. In fact, he claims that doubt is there to get you beyond the need for certainty. We all come up agai ...more
Kyle Penner
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is gold. And not just because he has the same last name as my wife.

This book is smart. Pete Enns knows his stuff.

This book is funny. Witty one liners and short stories abound.

This book has short chapters. Everyone loves short chapters.

This book is poignant. Partly for the author's own vulnerability, but also because it points to the depth that's missing in some contemporary expressions of faith.

Enns goes through the Bible, history, and contemporary criticisms nimbly to explain whe
Alisa Ediger
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enns provides a compelling understanding of Christianity based on faith rather than belief. This mentality brings a freedom from the crippling fear of doubt or the feeling that God is not present.

In a time when so many young adults are electing to leave the church, Enns identifies what might be the reason - the need for "correct thinking." Perhaps many who have left Christianity do so for reasons that could be preventable had the focus been less on certainty of the spiritual and more on being f
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Peter Enns is Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has taught courses at several other institutions including Harvard University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary. Enns is a frequent contributor to journals and encyclopedias and is the author of several books, including Inspiration and Incarnation, The Evolution of Adam, a ...more
“Church is too often the most risky place to be spiritually honest.” 8 likes
“Correct thinking provides a sense of certainty. Without it, we fear that faith is on life support at best, dead and buried at worst. And who wants a dead or dying faith? So this fear of losing a handle on certainty leads to a preoccupation with correct thinking, making sure familiar beliefs are defended and supported at all costs. How strongly do we hold on to the old ways of thinking? Just recall those history courses where we read about Christians killing other Christians over all sorts of disagreements about doctrines few can even articulate today. Or perhaps just think of a skirmish you’ve had at church over a sermon, Sunday-school lesson, or which candidate to vote into public office. Preoccupation with correct thinking. That’s the deeper problem. It reduces the life of faith to sentry duty, a 24/7 task of pacing the ramparts and scanning the horizon to fend off incorrect thinking, in ourselves and others, too engrossed to come inside the halls and enjoy the banquet. A faith like that is stressful and tedious to maintain. Moving toward different ways of thinking, even just trying it on for a while to see how it fits, is perceived as a compromise to faith, or as giving up on faith altogether. But nothing could be further from the truth. 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.” 7 likes
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