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The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian and the Risk of Commitment

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4.03  ·  Rating details ·  309 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Do you feel equally uncomfortable with closed-minded skepticism and closed-minded Christianity?If so, then The Myth of Certainty is the book for you. Daniel Taylor suggests a path to committed faith that is both consistent with the tradition of Christian orthodoxy and sensitive to the pluralism, relativism and complexity of our time.Taylor makes the case for the reflective ...more
Hardcover, 154 pages
Published October 1st 1986 by Jarrell, Imprint of World Books (first published 1986)
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Adam Lauver
This book was wildly encouraging to me when I first read it. I was a young (and reflective) Christian at the time, struggling madly to hold onto my faith in the face of burgeoning doubts. It might have kept the proverbial demons at bay for a while, but not indefinitely--for I speak now as a dyed-in-the-wool non-Christian (for the most part) who has moved onto greener pastures (or at least more tenable ones). Re-approaching this book reminded me just how wholesome and positive faith can be, and h ...more
Justin Tapp
This five-star work is Book of the Year 2016 for me. Like many reviewers, my reaction is one of "I now know I am not alone." It is not in Kindle format, so I took pictures of probably 1/3 of the pages to make highlights (hence page numbers are missing from most of the quotations below). He later wrote a sequel from an older-age perspective, and I hope to find that soon.

Reflective Christians (me): "have found in God, and in Jesus Christ, the proposed solution to the human dilemma to which they ha
...more
Owen
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended for anyone who reads these questions and feels relief that there is even someone out there asking them:

1. Are you, even after years of being a Christian, ever struck by the unlikelihood of the whole thing? Does one minute it seem perfectly natural and unquestionable that God exists and cares for the world, and the next moment uncommonly naive?

2. Do you ever think, "Those close to me would be shocked if they knew some of the doubts I have about my faith"? Do you ever scare even yourse
...more
Tammy
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If we’re lucky, every once in a while a book will come along that speaks directly to the soul. "The Myth of Certainty: The Reflective Christian & the Risk of Commitment" was one of those books for me.

As a person who inhabits the sometimes seemingly incommensurable worlds of faith and intellect, I found author Daniel Taylor channeling my thoughts and questions and struggles and hopes on nearly every page.

Taylor examines the sub-cultures of intellect (particularly in the academic realm) and faith.
...more
Barnabas Piper
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly valuable book for me and for people who are questioners. It helps find that balance between blind faith and skepticism, both of which can be so unappealing and unsatisfactory.
Karson
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about faith in a post modern context, and what it could mean. Basically he says that faith is not certainty. This is how i think of it: does it take any balls to jump off a 2 foot cliff onto a sea of mattresses? No. Does it take any balls to jump off a cliff when you have no idea what is on the other side? Yes. Faith is not knowing if what you believe is true, but believing it anyways because it is something worth believing. Am I a Christian? Yes. Am I going to heaven? I don't know ...more
Philippe Lazaro
Nov 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
“Where there is doubt, faith has its reason for being. Clearly faith is not needed where certainty supposedly exists, but only in situations where doubt is possible, even present.”

–Daniel Taylor

I loved this book, so much. It put into perspective a lot of the unarticulated beliefs I had about how faith steps in where certainty is no longer an option. This book filled the gap left for me by many apologetics books. It isn't always about proving everything to a tee, and there is certainly room for
...more
Rachel Jackson
I read The Myth of Certainty because my once-religious roommate had it and I was curious to know what it meant to be a reflective Christian. I suppose that's what I used to be when I was a Christian, some thirteen years ago, and in my interpretation of Daniel Taylor's explanation of it, that really just means a Christian who questions the doctrine and has doubts about some of the beliefs. So in that sense, we should all be reflective whatever-believers.

The book started off very interesting and
...more
Amanda
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is very honest, more than that, transparent. And in this transparency there is help for those whose psychological states are structured in a certain way. If you are Christian, intellectually demanding, a product of Western Civilization, and affected by evangelicalism/fundamentalism, then this book is for you.

I loved it.

Worth noting: he uses the term "reflective" the way I would "intellectual".

I will not summarize the book but instead encourage you to read if it you struggle with dou
...more
Joel Wentz
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful piece on living as a "reflective Christian" in deeply polarizing times.

I originally read this in college and hated it, and now I realize I simply didn't understand it at the time. Like many reviewers, my strongest emotional reaction was something like, "Thank God I'm not alone!" Taylor evokes the pain of wrestling with doubt, not from a place of embittered cynicism but from a deep desire to understand truth, and in that struggle finding oneself deeply at-odds with both the certain-fu
...more
Wade
May 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apologetics
I filed this book under “apologetics”, though it is not necessarily apologetics. I could easily picture some people I know reading this book and getting half way through it and wanting to throw it against the wall, while I could picture other people I know who would be really encouraged by this book… it’s just a different book… a different style, feel, flow. I think the author relies a bit too much (for his explanation of truth/reality) on his personal experience, and yet I also think he puts th ...more
Amy Barnes
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I first encountered this book as a college student on the relentless pursuit to read all the books written by my professors. I remember resonating with the book's thesis but in hindsight I didn't yet have the life experience to truly grasp all its truths nor to fully apply it to my context. Reconnecting with this book now in middle age has come with perfect timing to help me to address a particular conflict/crisis.

Taylor's book is a lighthouse for reflective Christians fatigued and searching fo
...more
Glenn Hopp
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good book that discusses the plight of “the reflective Christian” in relation to the church and to society at large. The strongest parts are those that discuss the differences between searching for truth and claiming certainty. Each chapter is enlivened by short fictional vignettes of a college professor trying delicately to navigate a politically charged religious climate. The book came out in 1986 when the rise of the Moral Majority led to rifts in some churches and denominations. I read it ...more
Joni
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My husband asked me to read this book, since he liked and identified with it so much. I found it to be quite instructive as well. I greatly enjoyed the way the author wove fiction in with nonfiction, to help people like me understand the concepts better. There was a lot to take away from this book, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to think deeper about how faith fits in to modern culture.
Tanya Anderson
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought and read this book more than 20 years ago. It is still on my bookshelf, ready for me to jump back in when I need the reassurance that I don't have to have answers to my questions about God, faith, destiny, heaven, etc.
Chris Hunt
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pivotal. Must read.
Malcolm
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books on the journey of faith and the dangers of inflexible religion.
Daniel Goodman
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology, counseling
Despite is small size, this book was radically refreshing. It articulates the struggles and inner turmoil of a "reflective Christian" with piercing accuracy. This book is an excellent primer into understanding the struggle many people face within the Church which often remains hidden from view. Whether you relate to this book personally or not, I highly recommend reading it.
Jose
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is excellent for its size!

This is an excellent book for those Christians who feel out of place within the church and in their Christian community. This book is for those people who find it difficult to accept a militant stance in the secular world.
This book is for those people who seek the truth regardless of the traditions of their upbringing, and do so humbly.
Finally, this book does not lay out a system of belief to judge who is right or wrong in the matter; it instead expresses symp
...more
Paul Dubuc
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christianity, faith, doubt
I was very happy to see that InterVarsity Press has brought this book back into print. When I first read it in 1987, I had the eerie feeling that the author had had a peek into my head at the concerns that were most affecting my commitment to Christianity at the time.

This book is for Christians who can't help inquiring about their own beliefs and who wrestle with doubt and uncertainty, but who also see their need for a strong personal commitment to the Faith. It's for those who see closed-minded
...more
MrWalterN
My opinion is not entirely settled concerning this book. On one side, it is probable that the entire book is worth it, if only for the last two chapters, which contain the best of what this book has to offer. On the other side, Taylor's fictitious characters and narrative sections seem too contrived, and his caricatures and stereotypes in these sections are unfortunate.

I nearly set the book down after reading through the first three chapters, in which we find out about Taylor's opinion that bei
...more
Tim
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dave Lester
Can we be certain of anything? How do we define certainty?

This is an extraordinarily ballsy book written by Daniel Taylor. Especially courageous is the fact that Mr. Taylor wrote this book within the context of Evangelical Christianity. He points out that beginning in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s, the evangelical church has been obsessed with fighting secular humanism and relativism. In so doing, the church has established a rigid absolute truth sentiment. Now, we are on tricky waters.

The
...more
Basil Chong
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me by a friend whom I deeply respect while we were having a late morning discussion. He took it out of his office library and handed it to me, and I was done with it by three in the afternoon. No breaks, skipped lunch, and utterly devoured this book.

I was captured by the question posed on the dust cover: "Do you resent the smugness of closed-minded skepticism on the one hand but feel equally uncomfortable with the smugness of closed-minded Christianity on the other?"
...more
John Norton
An awesome read for Christians I'm sure. Anyone who doesn't identify themselves as a Christian can still find some interesting insights, but may ultimately find many of the arguments ill-supported. The intent of the book is not to be apologetic, however. In a nutshell, it's what the title implies; certainty does not exist. This fact is as much true for the believer as it is the skeptic. The cockiness of many secularists and the dogmatic behavior of many fundamentalists is daft. It is aimed at th ...more
Josh
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
I had to read this for a Theology class.

What I liked and didn't:
I liked that he was pretty forward about his belief that a Christian doesn't need to agree with everything the Church says, without having to feel as if they must never have had faith. I simultaneously like that he encourages readers to pursue truth. I like that he said its ok to have doubts.

I do however think he could have made his arguments and beliefs more succinct and I'm frankly embarrassed that he's an English professor bec
...more
Katja
Jan 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, en
I got this book from my American friends who warned me that as a European I might find it not as relevant as they did and perhaps even a bit strange. And having read it I understand what they meant. The conflict between Christian and scientific attitudes may also exist in Europe but definitely not to such an extent as in the US. The characters whom a reflective Christian named Alex encounters in the fiction part of the book may be exaggerated but I assume they were all inspired by discussions wi ...more
Ron Mackey
This is one of the best books I've read this year. He does a great job of spinning out the tensions that are common to the reflective person in the life of faith. I've known these tensions in my own life and after reading this book, I feel far more freedom to embrace them openly and live out the my 'never-completed' faith boldly. Being raised in a 'redeemer college world' (you have to read the book to know what that means), it has taken me 40 years to be at peace with the unknowns and free to em ...more
Paul Downs
Dec 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps I don't have a completely objective view of this book since I was one of the "reflective Christians" that the author spoke of. But that's just the point isn't it? He highlights the disenfranchisement of those who prefer to be intellectually nomadic in the search for truth, instead of the soft beds of social acceptance.
Wonderfully validating for me. May even be the best Christian book I've read but it's maybe not a read for the spiritually conventional.
Lisa
It's nice to know someone was writing these things in the 80s. Just shows some ideas are timeless, though his examples were really dated and almost ruined it at times for me.

But he wants to make space for thinking Christians, especially academics, and it was thoughtful. I especially liked his idea that we need to be part of community because sometimes we need people to believe for us. We doubt sometimes and we need other ones to hold us in and up while we doubt.
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Daniel Taylor (Ph.D., Emory University) is the author of twelve books, including The Myth of Certainty, Letters to My Children, Tell Me A Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories, Creating a Spiritual Legacy, The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist and two novels, Death Comes for the Decontructionist and Do We Not Bleed? He has also worked on a number of Bible translation ...more

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54 likes · 18 comments
“Nothing should be of higher value to the reflective Christian in difficult circumstances than an unqualified desire to see truth triumph. One should wish passionately that it prevail, should love it more than one's own prestige or sense of security.” 3 likes
“It is simultaneously the blessing and the curse of the reflective Christian that believers are called to live out their faith in the church. No institution has accomplished so much for good in the world; none has fallen so short of its calling! The church is God-ordained, God-inspired, but accomplishes its work through human beings subject to every possible failing.” 0 likes
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