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

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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, questioning Christian with both incisive analysis and lively storytelling. His brief fictional interludes provide an alternative way to explore key issues of belief and vividly depict the real-life dilemmas Christians often face.Taylor affirms a call to throw off the paralysis of uncertainty and to risk commitment to God without forfeiting the God-given gift of an inquiring mind. Throughout he demonstrates clearly how much the world and the church need people--maybe people like you--who are willing to ask tough questions.

154 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1986

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About the author

Daniel Taylor

77 books50 followers
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 translations. He speaks frequently at conferences, colleges, retreats, and churches on a variety of topics. Dr. Taylor is also co-founder of The Legacy Center, an organization devoted to helping individuals and organizations identify and preserve the values and stories that have shaped their lives. He is a contributing editor for Books and Culture. Dr. Taylor is married and the father of four adult children. Website: www.WordTaylor.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 46 reviews
Profile Image for Justin Tapp.
635 reviews64 followers
December 28, 2016
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 have made, with varying degrees of confidence, a commitment. At the same time they have been blessed and cursed with minds that never rest. They are dissatisfied with superficial answers to difficult questions, willing to defend faith, but not its misuse. Furthermore, these people find themselves in the church, members of a Christian subculture...they are both indebted to it and victimized by it. At the same, time they are often part of...another culture...hostile to their Christian commitment. This is the secular, intellectual world that deals in the manufacture and propagation of ideas" (p. 11).

I stumbled across this at a used bookstore about the time Andy Stanley's 2016 mini-series on apologetics (directed toward those who had left the church for a "None" status) was sparking controversy. I listened to the entire series and read Stanley's explanation in Outreach Magazine,
stating his belief in inerrancy but challenging preachers to avoid saying "the Bible says..." These were on my mind along with John Piper's response to his personal dialogue with Stanley when I saw this book and was struck by the Introduction (above). I do not know if Stanley read this book, but I suspect he has. I noted that Barnabas Piper rated this book 5 stars and wrote his own book (Help My Unbelief) along similar theme, which I now hope to pick up.

The older I get and the more widely I read and interact with educated, biblically-skeptical non-Christians the more I am in tune with an apologetic that asserts a "reasonable faith"; one that begins either by 1) pointing out the attractiveness of the Christian worldview compared to the logical absurdity of life/values/ethics in the absence of a creator, or 2) the reasonable probability based on all the historical evidence that Jesus did indeed leave an empty tomb. With this approach comes a probability-- there is a chance I am wrong but I believe the odds are in my favor because... (and reasons follow). Nabeel Qureshi's testimony, in which he studied philosophy in college and began to use Western logic to examine the Bible and the Quran + Hadith literature to reach a conclusion that Christianity was likely true and made a faith decision, also weighed on my thinking.

Faith necessitates a level of uncertainty that does not contradict the "assuredness" of Hebrews 11:1. Doubting Thomas believed in a resurrected Jesus because he saw and felt his wounds himself. Jesus said "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). None of us were there with our cellphone cameras, but we rely on the relayed testimony and historical evidences of those who were. Faith necessitates risk, another word for uncertainty. Without doubt, there can be no exercise of faith.

"Faith, however, is not a matter of rolling the dice. It is, or can be, a conscious expression of a great gift--human freedom...without this freedom, commitment would be inconceivable...Barth says freedom rightly understood is not freedom FROM something...'but freedom TO and FOR," a release to choice and action. And the greatest exercise of that freedom, Kirkegaard affirms, is to choose God, to choose commitment and responsibility.."

People do not like doubt or uncertainty, however, and we have a cognitive bias to believe with certainty things we cannot truly, absolutely know. An atheist maintains his certainty that I am a fool to be a Christian just as a fundamentalist may believe I am dangerous because he places his certainty on "because it's in the Bible." Within both camps there is also the presence of "True Scotsman fallacy," if you believe X, you must certainly believe Y, or else you're not a True Believer in X. (For example, before the GOP nominated Trump I would have said you have to believe in free trade to be a Republican, similar to how most Democrats say you have to be pro-choice to be a Democrat). Taylor deals with some of these cognitive biases without calling them such, (this was written before Kahneman and Tversky were household names).

"How does one survive as a thinker in the church and a believer in the larger world?"
Taylor's point is that people who may be well-read in non-religious Christian topics and yet maintain faith often struggle to fit into either our Church or among our non-Christian educated colleagues & friends, hence they/we feel alone. We need to be able to question institutions, which to some adherents is paramount to "attacking God" (p. 30), but need not be so. People defending institutions are often "protecting themselves, their view of the world, and their sense of security." The reflective Christian likewise questions the secular orthodoxy:

"Secularists don't generally think of themselves as having an orthodoxy, but they have one just the same...(with) articles of faith, each with its own history...like reason, inquiry, objectivity, tolerance... etc." The orthodoxy of the secular world today is pluralism. "Only 'friendly' diversity, like the pseudo-questions in the Christian subculture can be allowed. The intellectual world, like its Christian counterpart, exercises power first for the purpose of self-preservation..." As such, there are examples of closed-mindedness on both sides. Universities will bar creationists just as churches will bar atheist string theorists.

Taylor critiques the worship of reason by secularists, who do things with reason that it by definition cannot do. "There is no objective, neutral thing called 'reason' which anyone with some training can use to get at the 'truth' of things (especially nonphysical things). The closes we come perhaps is in the scientific method...or in the technical use of logic in formal philosophy." People who purport to use reason to equate faith with irrationality are as wrong as those who argue that reason and evidence PROVE the existence of God. "God is not reducible to proof and only our weakness makes us wish it were so." Reason is not at all useless, and the Christian can use it just as well as an atheist--the difference is the Christian is more likely to acknowledge its limitations.

Taylor likewise highlights "the myth of objectivity," noting that "objectivity is supposedly something that the intellectual can have, while the person of faith wallows in subjectivity." But "in deciding what is good and true and beautiful and worth living for in this world there is so much sheer humanness at work, that the claim of cool, rational objectivity is almost laughable. Only objects are truly objective" (p. 51). He is standing on the shoulders of 150 years of secular thinkers who have used reason to critique and demonstrate its limitations. Pascal wrote "We must know where to doubt, where to feel certain, where to submit. He who does not do so, understands not the force of reason."

"The secular world will allow you to be a Christian, as long as your faith is kept in a quarantine and not allowed to influence your judgments or lead you to question secular presuppositions." The reflective Christian is "reluctantly" willing to be out of sync in both subcultures-- if he is convinced he is correct. "The reflective Christian does well, in my view, to freely admit this possibility of being wrong." I wish I held my own views with such humility. "One can hold beliefs passionately yet with humility...Humility helps us avoid confusing defense of the truth with defense of the self."

Though this work is non-fiction, Taylor sprinkles in an ongoing fictional illustration, the story of an English professor named Alex, who earned an advanced degree at a liberal institution but now teaches at a conservative Christian college. Alex is me. I taught at a politically and religiously conservative Southern Baptist school with its proud traditions and guardedness against anything that might be unusual. His field is English, mine is economics and both fields taught at Christian university may teach that only a particular type of literature or economics is truly "Christian." This was the most powerful passage in the book for me, a conversation between a frustrated Alex and an older, wiser fellow Reflective Christian colleague:

"But why (stay) in the middle of these people? Why not go where faith isn't mixed up with quite so many other things? I mean some of these people genuinely believe God is a free-market Republican."
"Why not, indeed...This is just one little, back-water spot in the river of faith. But it is the place where I have been put, and I have chosen to stay...Don't make the mistake of thinking there's another time or another place where following God will come easier...You have everything you need for your contentment or misery within the confines of your own heart. That will go with you wherever you go. Every place has its pitfalls and absurdities, just as each has its opportunities and measures of grace...Where do you walk to? To other people who are just as silly, who simply have a different mix of blind spots and prejudices?...(F)or me at least there weren't any greener pastures. Or, if there were, they were somewhere inside me."

Taylor writes about the importance of the faith community, both current and our historical forebears. "The church must remember well if it is to function well today." We Christians have two millenia of heritage that we inherit, respect, and are thankful for. "We" ended the slave trade in England and then the West, adopted abandoned children in ancient Rome and promote adoption and foster care today, preserved ancient literature during the Middle Ages, elevated the status of women, continue to feed and clothe the hungry, and so on. Our local faith community is not one we walk away from lightly, we accept one another, love one another, pray for each other, share with each other, and provide accountability and stability in relationships that all humans need.

"The community is (also) 'the place where the burden of doubt can be shared.'" Taylor writes that this particular aspect is "foreign to actual practice" but quite biblical. He warns the reader to guard against cynicism. The reflective Christian has trouble committing to something he is not completely certain about. We would rather think about it some more, and definitely not be looked at as an example. In doing so, however, we miss out on the benefits of exercising faith (and rob the community of the benefit as well).

My review cannot do this book justice, so I highly recommend it. 5 stars.
Profile Image for Adam Lauver.
Author 2 books22 followers
August 12, 2016
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 how madness-inducing trying to maintain it can be as well. Taylor's a master rhetorician here, demonstrating a clear empathy for both believers and skeptics alike--just when you think you can't follow him into his point, he throws you a bone of "I know, I know, but!" Ultimately he errs on the side of belief, of course, and does so with an interesting mixture of apology and pride (as well as a few unexplored assumptions). He makes good points, and is largely to be commended for what he's trying to do. The cynic in me could say that he provides the smoothest and most alluring defense of self-delusion I've ever encountered--but he confronts that accusation steadily throughout the book (hence the smoothness), so levying such a judgment would seem redundant. Ultimately, the book's only real flaw is in setting up a false dichotomy between holding onto your faith and losing it; between remaining a Christian and instead choosing the way of doubt. Implicit in this dichotomy is the misguided, dogmatic assumption that choosing a non-Christian path reaps no genuine reward of understanding or truth; on the contrary, there are plenty of valid, spiritual, and even Christ-honoring ways to contextualize, understand, and relate with the world, even when you cease to be Christian. There are broader, more comprehensive frameworks to consider (e.g. Integral Theory)--but ultimately even Taylor himself seems to be playing a positive part in those frameworks, by urging mindfulness and compassion over dog-headed certainty. And no one can fault him for that.
171 reviews26 followers
September 4, 2017
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 yourself with your doubts?

3. Have you sometimes felt like walking out of a church service because it seemed contrived and empty?

4. Have you ever felt intellectually embarrassed to admit that you were a Christian?

The goal of the book is not to convince you of tidy answers to big, messy questions, but that it is okay (and even desirable) to ask them honestly in the first place.
Profile Image for Tammy.
81 reviews
June 16, 2010
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 specifically, he talks about how one might embrace the Christian faith without sacrificing the intellectual and inquiring mind.

He asks important questions: “What is a reflective Christian and why does it matter?”

Over an over again, he expresses the very sentiments I have often articulated and often struggled with. For example, “Thinking, as many have discovered, can be dangerous. It can get us in trouble – with others, but also with ourselves. And the suspicion lingers in religious circles that it can also, if we are not very careful, get us in trouble with God.” (p. 16)

This book is for those who wonder how one keep intellectual integrity in the paradigm of spirituality– whose call to faith sometimes seems to require that intellect be set aside.

On the other hand, this book is also for those who wonder how one keeps spiritual integrity in the paradigm of secular intellect – whose call to reason sometimes seems to require that faith be set aside.

Taylor gives a balanced, nuanced, and insightful exploration of what it means to travel in the worlds of intellect and faith -- to value both, yet to feel pulled one way and the other by the criticism, critiques, and warnings each pose towards the other.

I give this book my highest recommendation.
Profile Image for Barnabas Piper.
Author 11 books881 followers
May 4, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Joel Wentz.
958 reviews57 followers
January 10, 2020
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-fundy-Christians and the certain-arrogant-secularists on either side. It's a lonely place to be, and Taylor has given those of us who live there a tremendous gift. He quotes Kierkegaard and Flannery O'Connor a lot, but I also was reminded of the work of Tillich, especially in the call to commitment (or, as Tillich would say, "courage") in the face of necessary risk.

This book is extremely relevant today (possibly even more so than when it was written) as our culture becomes increasingly hostile and tribalistic in its thinking. I highly recommend this to any person of faith who has felt crazy for asking hard questions, and who has longed for more.
Profile Image for Karson.
175 reviews10 followers
September 21, 2009
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 for sure. Does heaven exist? I don't know for sure. Will everyone be there? I don't know, but i hope so. Is Christianity still worth believing in and putting my faith in even though i am not certain of all these things? Yes.
Profile Image for Philippe Lazaro.
226 reviews2 followers
November 19, 2016
“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 uncertainty, and this book explains why so well.

I found myself highlighting so many different passages since there was so much I could relate to in words I had never before put together. I am so thankful this book exists and would recommend it to so many people.
Profile Image for Rachel Jackson.
Author 2 books16 followers
November 27, 2017
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 open-minded, assuaging Christians' fears of their beliefs differing from the idea of an overarching church institution, a discussion I was glad to see. And truthfully, the "reflective" part of the reflective Christian sounded a lot like me right now, so it was only fitting that many of the ideas did fit in with my approach to life. The Christianity part is where I fell off the wagon. Taylor makes belief sound like such a martyr-filled struggle that takes up his entire thought process and command center in his brain that he can think of nothing else but his Christian existence. Surely that must be exhausting! For me, if I'm not part of a belief (i.e. Christianity) I spent almost zero time thinking of it. In Taylor's case, he apparently spends 100 percent of the time thinking about Christianity, which sounds self-righteous and haughty, just the way he came across in this book—despite having a full two pages about humility at one point.

The Myth of Certainty may be a few decades old at this point, but I still read into it very much of Taylor's outdated ideas about homosexuality and feminism, even though he tried to disguise it in more open-minded language. Taylor still seems to view secularists as the enemy, despite saying that Christians can also live in secular worlds and have secular values in some cases. He props up weak straw-man arguments that he can easily dismantle—and by dismantle, I mean argue things that he knows Christians will believe in but still come across as ridiculous cockamamie drivel to anyone else.
Profile Image for Amanda.
34 reviews22 followers
November 24, 2017
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 doubt/questions, you struggle with the relationship between the modern American church and society, you struggle with how to be intellectually honest or what exactly that means, and/or you struggle with the relationship between reason and faith. (A better book, on this last point, is "Proper Confidence" by Leslie Newbigin. A true gem!)

He is an entertaining author in many parts and wholly impressive in his intellectual gifts and also in his strength of character to be as transparent as he is. He is humorous at times. And unfortunately the last parts of the book appear less well written and are less concise than the previous parts.

Overall, an impressive book! And one that will be entering my library. He occupies a niche, and a need, which I see no one else occupying.
539 reviews17 followers
May 11, 2018
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 that personal experience in an excellent light at times by doubting his doubts and being willing to honestly ask the questions of himself that he is afraid to ask. If you tend to question, then ask questions, then ask questions of those questions, or if you’ve been wounded by the church, it’s possible (possible… you also may end up throwing this book against the wall) that this book might provide some encouragement as you spend a brief season in it.
Profile Image for Amy Barnes.
21 reviews
February 17, 2020
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 for safe harbor amidst by the relentless waves of religious legalism and secular cynicism. He offers no easy answers but provides insights and encouragement for navigating the choppy seas of faith and doubt.

The intermingling of a fictional story within the framework of a nonfiction work is also a delight.
Profile Image for Glenn Hopp.
200 reviews1 follower
April 27, 2020
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 first then. Reading it again now, I think the book is still worthwhile, though an updating and revision in the light of today’s political/religious life would be interesting.
Profile Image for Joni.
121 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Tanya Anderson.
Author 13 books13 followers
August 21, 2019
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.
481 reviews2 followers
May 11, 2021
One of the very best books on doubt I have read, albeit a certain kind of doubt--for those struggling with skepticism and postmodern uncertainty. Excellent.
Profile Image for Malcolm.
40 reviews
March 16, 2017
One of the best books on the journey of faith and the dangers of inflexible religion.
Profile Image for Daniel Goodman.
24 reviews8 followers
October 9, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Jose.
62 reviews
February 22, 2017
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 sympathy, understanding, and encouragement for those that are caught in the struggle between doubt and devotion.
It is okay for you to have flaws in your faith and still follow Christ. It is okay to follow Christ even if you think your Christianity is not good enough.
Profile Image for Paul Dubuc.
244 reviews9 followers
December 24, 2016
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 skepticism and unexamined belief as equally undesirable alternatives. (Not that there is any interest in finding a balance between these two extremes, but rather a desire to transcend them.) One of the most helpful insights in the book is the idea that commitment (in faith) need not depend on certainty in knowledge. The demand for absolute certainty where belief in God is concerned is not only unreasonable, it undermines the valuable meaning in life that we find in risk and commitment in our life with God.

The book is sprinkled with fictional interludes that dramatize familiar situations which illustrate the author's points.

This is and excellent, well written little book that will challenge and inspire the thoughtful reader. [Edit: 23 Dec. 2016] Taylor's newer book, The Skeptical Believer: Telling Stories to Your Inner Atheist is even better.

"We must know where to doubt, where to feel certain, where to submit." --Pascal
Profile Image for MrWalterN.
43 reviews5 followers
May 30, 2013
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 being a "reflective Christian," according to his definition, is better than being any other type of Christian. Yet, in Taylor's world, reflective Christians are constantly persecuted and mistreated. Yes, I am probably unfairly misrepresenting Taylor's points here, but the first two-thirds of the book was distasteful to me. It's not that I cannot identify with Taylor's description of the reflective Christian, it's that the descriptions of both that Christian and the struggle he faces are either overstated, or obvious.

With all that said, the final two chapters are golden, and worth the read. Perhaps the first four chapters of the book were necessary to adequately set up the final chapters. Either way, Taylor's encouragement to seek memory, community, and perseverance in Chapter 5 is sound advice. His practical encouragement in Chapter 6 is intelligent and functional.

I suppose I can give this book my recommendation, with the qualification that the first few chapters are perhaps not as valuable, and must be endured to experience the good that this book offers.
Profile Image for Tim.
642 reviews6 followers
December 12, 2014
Perhaps it was appropriate at this book took 10 months of my reflection to get through. It is all about being a reflective Christian.
The author is a professor in the 1980s with a postmodern mindset that is well ahead of his time. He relates to philosophers such as Pascal and Kierkegaard.
He reflects on how insistent Christians tend to be on finding certainty for every belief, out of fear, that leads to rigidity and paralysis.
He expresses frustration with hypocrisy found in churches, who wield power to defend their institutions. He recommends avoiding what is bad, whole not throwing out what is good in the church. Regarding the secular world, he finds them to be equally hypocritical, with their talk of tolerance and intolerant treatment of faith.
He argues that nobody can claim to have an objective perspective and that using our ability to reason does not always yield the perfect results that we want. Instead, he calls us to take a risk and commit to what is meaningful and constructive. Rather than basing our faith on a sense of certainty and truth, we can base it on a real, living relationship with God. The author recommends continuing in Christian community, where stories can be shared among people who are family. There is no greener grass anywhere else! At the same time, a reflective Christian will never feel totally at home. There will always be tension, but for the author, the risk and struggle is worth it.

I appreciate the authors Ken door, while maintaining commitment to Christ. This is definitely a worthwhile read!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dave Lester.
348 reviews2 followers
December 31, 2011
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 Bible proclaims itself to be God's Word and thereby, the truth. A historical Christian doctrine has been that the Bible is an authority in a Christian's life for faith and practice. Taylor seems to be asking about the nature of faith in this work. Does faith imply a certain degree of uncertainty? I would think that it does but this is extremely complicated to measure.

All in all, Taylor is not calling us to compromise the essential elements of what we believe as Christians but he is calling us to a greater humility. There is a lot that we do not know. There are some things we can learn from the world and from philosophers of different beliefs and traditions.

This is a quick read and really makes one think. I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Basil Chong.
45 reviews35 followers
August 7, 2012
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?" I took the bait, and throughout the next two hundred pages Taylor reeled me in. So often, I found myself saying: Yes! I feel that way too! I thought I was the only one.

If you've ever asked yourself questions about faith, doubt, reason and logic, this a book that will speak to you. Agree or disagree, Taylor takes you on an intellectual journey, teasing out the rational (as well as emotional) experience of wrestling with faith and reason. Generously interspersed throughout this book are vignettes telling the story of "Alex Adamson", in who's life fictionalized but relatable events take place.

This book isn't for everyone. Ask Taylor recognises, not everyone is asking these questions, and not everyone needs to be asking these questions. But if you are, this book is a must read.
Profile Image for John Norton.
1 review
November 27, 2012
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 the "reflective Christian." This is a believer whose faith has suffered as result of the dogmatic mentality of many Christians. Ultimately, if you want an accurate representation of God, do not look at the poor representations - the believer. God, and God alone, is reason for faith.

My rating is based upon my personal reaction to the book and what I gained from it, not in regards to the quality of the work within the realm of it's intended genre.
Profile Image for Josh.
149 reviews8 followers
November 24, 2014
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 because he did nothing but circle the same argument for pages.

It was just ok in the end. I hadn't heard a 'scholarly' Christian acknowledge that doubt and disagreement were normal and ok to have in dealing with a faith relationship with God. Would only recommend this to Christians with questions.

Profile Image for Katja.
202 reviews36 followers
January 5, 2012
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 with real people. It is much-much harder or even impossible to imagine those characters coming from, say, Germany or France. So although "The myth of certainty" can say more to someone who can recognize herself better in the described characters, I found it worthwhile reading.
Profile Image for Ron Mackey.
47 reviews1 follower
July 27, 2011
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 embrace the tensions openly, and to risk the "slippery slopes" of thinking out loud. I don't know Daniel Taylor at all, but 'd love to spend time chatting with this guy.
Profile Image for Paul Downs.
1 review1 follower
December 23, 2010
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.
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