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 beopen and responsive to God and humanity in general Highly recommended. Peter Enns offers here a confessional book about how he came to understand belief and faithin 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 describes how Christians became preoccupied by correct thinking through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with the rise of Darwinism, scientific advances, and biblical criticism rocked certain status quo ideas about Christianity Rather than debunking criticisms here, he lays out the problems, explaining that to offer quick answers here risks rescuing misplaced certainty withmisplaced certainty Next, exegesis He discovers in the Bible especially the Hebrew Bible passages that model a faith that isn t rooted in certainty or knowledge The Preacher in Ecclesiastes, many of the Psalms, Job, and other passages where people express doubt and even anger toward God The Bible, Enns argues, models a complex variety of approaches to faith, and thereby takes pressure off of today s believers who otherwise feel they must be certain and dogmatic in order to justify their beliefs Finally, drawing on the New Testament Enns outlines a theology of belief patterned after the death and resurrection of Christ Paul speaks of believers dying to themselves and being raised in Christ, Jesus speaks of taking up one s cross and following him a cross is something you die on, it s not just a weight exercise Enns suggests the idea that for many people, faith itself undergoes this transition of death and resurrection repeatedly throughout life The book concludes with personal stories of Enns wrestling with family problems and work difficulties over the past decade or so, a period when in the midst of his own crushing doubt he discovered deeply rooted Christian thinking about God s absence, about the dark night of the soul The believer s time of despair is like Christ crying out on the cross, Father, why have you forsaken me In total, the book is a striking critique of contemporary Christian culture It s an invitation to re center one s faith If believers place their trust in the image of God they have in their own minds, they risk creating an idol that overshadows the true, living God who is beyond a human s comprehension to fully grasp Remaining open to that living God requires an extraordinary amount of trust, but it is the only way to avoid the sin of certainty Full review here 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 IntimacyWith 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 Profound Kind Of Knowing That Only True Faith Can ProvideCombining 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 Only This 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 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 beopen to the Spirit and to critical scholarship As I am going to be writing a review for the Englewood Review of Books, I won t go into full detail here But, I will share a few tidbits, which I will expand in the ERB review The title of the book, is evocative, the subtitle may possibly be a bit misleading It is true that the focus of this book is danger posed by Christians seeking certainty You might call this a sin since the search for certainty, which Enns had pursued, focuses attention on doctrinal conformity rath than God The reason why the subtitle might be misleading is that it might lead one to believe that beliefs doctrines don t matter Instead, all you need to do is trust God My sense from reading the book is that while Enns theological horizons have certainly broadened, and he s recognized the place and importance of doubt in the Christian journey, I don t think his theology has changed all that much I ll sayin my ERB review, but my sense is that the primary audience isn t someone like me, though it might have been twenty five years ago I could resonate with what he had to say, and the book is very personal, I don t need to be convinced of the problem of seeking certainty I let go of that need a long time ago But, I know that many are there and need this word Thus, he s writing to fellow evangelicals who are struggling with the world as it stands and their attempts to connect this reality they re experiencing with their theology What Enns does is invite them to let go of the need to make everything fit The bible is an ancient book that is not meant to answer every question However, the Bible, especially the Old Testament, offers us insight into the human soul and its relationship with the Creator It s a good book It s personal It moves along pretty well, though there are some points that feel repetitious If you re struggling with your faith, especially dealing with doubt, then this book is definitely for you. 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 Teresa, Greg Boyd, Rachel Held Evans, Philip Yancey and Ann Lamott you get an idea for where this book is going Plainly, Peter Enns is not a Christian An impressive pedigree of degrees, and fourteen years a professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, PA, Peter writes in this book of his spiritual pilgrimage away from Evangelicalism and awakening to a contemplative tradition in Christianity 190 His main point is that trust means letting go of the need to know, of the need to be certain 192 His experiences have drawn him out of his safe haven of certainty and onto the path of trusting God 192 Concern about believing right content actually distracts us, says Enns, from genuine faith A faith preoccupied with certainty is sin and compromises the gospel 210 The real good news, according to Enns, is regardless of what you believe about God, just trust 53 Don t get hung up by reason, because this focus on being correct believing right things about God can actually distract us from faith and from God Trust takes over when faith in God no longer makes sense 120 It doesn t matter what faith tradition you participate in, or what you believe or don t believe about God, what matters is just trusting whatever it is you trust regardless of your doubts 16 Doubt is divine tough love 165 It s actually doubt, not faith, that is transforming 164 Doubt is sacred Doubt is God s instrument, and will arrive in God s time 164 Don t resist doubt, don t fight it, and by all means don t seek to fix it with commitment to right thoughts or right doctrine The key is to decouple our faith in God from our thoughts about God 16 This is indeed, BLIND FAITH He wants to say of course, that believing is never empty of content 93 but the focus of faith is not on what a person believes, but on who regardless of how you define him God is transrational so just trust, whatever it is that you trust The sections of chapter two comprise his fourfold knock out punches of conservative Evangelicalism Evolution the Bible is Wrong Oh Great, We Came From Monkeys Archeology the Bible is Myth Seriously Weird Stories from Long Ago Higher Criticism the Bible is Errant The Germans are Coming Slavery The Bible is Biased and Confused Slavery Whose Side Is God On The sections of chapter six comprise his explanations of the five legitimate arguments against Christian faith The Bible portrays God as violent, reactive, vengeful, blood thirsty, immoral, mean and petty 121 124 The Bible and science collide on too many things to think that the Bible has anything to say to us today about eh big questions of life 125 129 In the face of injustice and heinous suffering in the world, God seems disinterested or perhaps unable to do anything about it 130 134 In our ever shrinking world, it is difficult to hold on to any notion that Christianity is the only path to God 135 139 Christians treat each other so badly and in such harmful ways that it calls into question the validity of Christianity or even whether God exists 140 143 This is what unbelief looks like This is what liberalism looks like.There is not a part of Scripture that he does not misread Note his atrocious comment on the book of Job, pg 221 And ironically, in numerous places He evidences such CERTAINTY Page 200, I am certain that Paul s sufferings there are repeated examples of confident assertions Enough Peter Enns has abandoned the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints Jude 3 In his own words, That horse has left the stable 191 He s done with lengthy sermons at the center of worship 193 He s done with the exclusivity of Christ 135 139 He s bought into all the old arguments against Scripture and the Gospel and presumes to have discovered aancient path His way is a mystical faith, a faith that remains open to the ever moving Spirit and new possibilities 208 , a transrational faith 193 As I was bathing in my inner agnosticism, I was drawn to authors and others who were explicitly outside of the Christian tradition or not as easily recognized as being in it A man that is not a Christian claiming still to be a Christian and currently Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University in St Davids, PA Without reservation or hesitation, I would plainly tell you that this book is the voice of the serpent Genesis 3 1 5 Peter Enns is an apostate I read it for myself after coming across a second hand copy only so that I could see how far he had fallen This is Rob Bell this is William Young this is Bart Ehrman this is Brian McLaren this is Peter Enns Matthew 18 6. 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 as those statements shift here and there with time we can remain trusting in the faithfulness of God We can remain in relationship with God because He alone can take our full range of emotion and experience and continue to love us through to something redemptive.While I found his humour over the top at times I understand he s trying to lighten the mood, identify with the audience and make a point He may also be that quirky of a character I was also uncomfortable with the way he framed the topics that have led to many crises of faith for recent generations of Christians I suppose that s the point but I also think the way they were stated could have beennuanced and generous in providing the varied viewpoints Overall, I appreciated the openness the author displayed in writing of his own life and hope this work serves many followers of Christ in their quest to walk out life in deepening trust of God. 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 God Church, beliefs, doctrine etc all important but at the end of the day, these are all means to a muchimportant end a trusting and vulnerable relationship with God himself.For me, this book feltlike a conversation with a longtime kindred spirit As I was reading, my daughter came into my study and asked me who I was talking to Evidently, many of Enns insights had flipped my internal dialog switch to speakerphone mode and the rest of my family was subjected to several outbursts of Yes and Thank You I was particularly struck by Enns observation that church is too often the riskiest place to be spiritually vulnerable and honest museum vs hospital analogy which is such a shame.One quote I feel compelled to share God will eventually expose the limitations of our thinking Then we can and will see the inevitability to letting go of the need to know intellectually and trust God instead as best we can each moment because God is God Trust like this is an affront to reason, the control our egos crave Which is precisely the point Trust does not work because we have captured God in our minds It works regardless of the fact that, at the end of the day, we finally learn that we can t Yes and Thank You 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 impliesbut 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 another.it is encouraging you to give up trying to hold on to the certainty of answers that the church culture so often presents itself of having and living a life of trust It s really not a simple task, but something I believe God would much rather us live bytrust rather than certainty. 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.Okay then This is going to be long and thorough AND nasty But the truth of God s Word is at the very heart of this criticism.Quote from Goodreads title how Christians mistake certainty and correct belief for faith when what God really desires is trust and intimacy Or the book title itself The Sin of Certainty Why God desires our trustthan our Correct beliefs So, as I read this book I was looking for one Major thing Which GOD If we are going to trust someone or something then we should at least know a fact or two about IT or it s character, or history, or intent, or future We also need to know what SIN is I searched every page for a fact or two about Peter Enns deity or Jesus And I was especially interested in how Peter KNEW this fact Since this whole book is Peter s truth claim I wanted to know how he claims to have that truth What is his core foundation for his Christianity Is that too much to ask Apparently.I ve been putting off doing this review for almost a year This is a huge issue of Biblical proportions for those who Trust the Bible to be God s Word, and for all the clueless Goodreads folk who dared to give this bookthan 1 star and I wanted to make sure it wasn t just an emotional rant It s not I ve read 3 of Peter Enns books and numerous other liberal theologians , and spent the last year chatting with liberal Bible hating Christians And, as always, i ve been researching the Bible as to whether it s God s truthful Word or just stories handed down from a Cosmic 8 year old for this kind of thinking read Peter s last book The Bible Tells Me So Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It But the real Sherlock Holmes mystery isn t the argument right in front of us that s easy it s the ability to sit back and see how far to either side this game really goes I call it consistency How far will Peter actually chase his rabbit down the hole Or in scholarly terms that he s so proud of How sound and applicable is his logic and rationality So, I wanted to find out NOT just what Peter was for but what he was against And how much homework did he do to come to these conclusions Comically, there are a lot of issues Peter doesn t touch This should be the first warning bell for anyone who claims intelligence and yet applauds Peter Mr Enns claims to be a Christian But what does that even mean to him Is he Catholic Mormon J.W Amish Branch Davidian Islamic Can he worship with these OTHER believer s How solid is his Christian doctrine Should he start a new church of uncertainty Who gets into THIS heaven Is there a heaven Does his deity even care, or left any messages at all Will there be a judgement and a sorting What exactly did his Jesus die for Did he even die or was it just a 1st century parable to make us join Green Peace We DON T KNOW Peter doesn t say Peter gets a cover quote from Sarah Bessey a disciple of Rachel Held Evans This quote gushes This book is accessible, freeing, empowering, and beautiful all at the same time I underlined almost every page Well Bimbo, I underlined crap on almost every page as well But for purely Bad theological Biblical Logical reasons Sarah wrote a rag called JESUS FEMINIST So you can see where i m going with this Some educated Christian women gave her book 1 star and a good scolding So, similar to Enns and his liberal fodder, here also is a pathetically abusive handling of God s word Okay, okay By now people are probably protesting Peter just loves Jesus and wants folks to relax and live at peace Isn t that what Christianity is all about It s okay if you re WRONG or uncertain about a few minor details I get it, we should sit back and let Peter be the joyful Down syndrome kid at church who greets everyone with a proud Jesus love you Actually that would be Great I m excited to meet a few of these Saints in paradise But unlike Tommy, Peter is at war He is desperate to dismantle God s Word and reduce any actual historical factual claims given to us in scripture Peter demands that we have no CORRECT Biblical beliefs or doctrine that separates us from Cults and Heretics Just one big happy CLUELESS mushy family of doubting uncertainties who desperately desire an intimate and trusting relationship with their god of choice How logical and rational is that Is that what Jesus died on the cross for of course, i m still not sure if Peter s Jesus actually died on the cross Peter s deity would never send a person His Son to be brutally murdered for His own Cosmic justice and wrath against Sin and Rebellion The only real sin, that Peter is writing books about, is being CERTAIN about who and what Jesus is Isaiah 53 10But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief If He would render Himself as a guilt offeringMy brain is apparently wired differently than 95% of other liberal Christian Goodreads reviewers When authors start talking about having intimate trusting relationships with gods I want to know something specific about this deity Can you be intimate with uncertainty Can you trust an ambiguous lack of information and CORRECTNESS in a deep relationship If you boast of being unclear of correct beliefs then possibly your beliefs will turn out to be WRONG If we don t have correct beliefs about Hell who s says we have correct beliefs about Heaven Or good vs evil OR sin and morality Or existence itself YES chase that rabbit down the wonderland hole.Okay, I wrote about a thousand notes while reading Peter Enns book Let s get started.on the inner page I wrote I d love to have a Bible study with this Chap Mostly because then I could bring up hundreds of Bible verses that Enns fails to discuss Like the many many references to a coming Messiah Savior in the Old Testament Like Isaiah 53 10 I quoted above It s one thing for the Bible to be just a bunch of fanciful cultural myths that God smiles at but the Bible points to Jesus Specifically and CERTAINLY from beginning to end thanks Holy Spirit Now if I was a god I wouldn t bury a bunch of prophecies in a mountain of lies and myths or fairytales And then Demand people accept them or else That s bad logic, even for a god And worse If Enns is right god should never have used such damning specific literature at all Maybe IT should just have put a Memo in the sky that mumbled something about loving and embracing incredibly unclear beliefs I would love to watch Enns chat with a militant atheist What could he possibly say to him Maybe BELIEVE, or else ummmh Well, nothing really god doesn t mind, or at least he didn t say much about it Nothing certain anyway Laughter moment Peter Enns is now Episcopalian well duh that s a given I just found a quote from a blogger Keeley Chorn I had seminary professors lose tenure and jobs Peter Enns and Douglas Green because of the slightest nuances, which meant disrupting an entire school for the defenders of truth, who found it their purpose to safeguard the denomination from ideas that didn t conform to their version of truth, to their reading and understanding of the faith and of the Bible So, instead of divisiveness, I chose openness Welcome to the liberal world of Episcopalia They must love having a celebrity like Mr Enns Strangely enough, I ve argued with some Episcopalians who swore the denomination was EXTREMELY Doctrinally specific AND certain of the Truth of scripture and God s clear history and plan And yet Peter and other s stumble into their midst being fully embraced for their openness So is it just a slight NUANCE that Peter see s no historical or factual truth in God s Word The Bible itself certainly disagrees with this thought Revelation 22 1818I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.It s clear that the Bible itself takes the words of God VERY CERTAINLY Basically warns of being brushed off to hell for messing with God s words through the Prophets and Apostles.and here s my favorite verse from Jesus about the certainty of scripture Luke 16 31 31He said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead Jesus VERY MUCH insists we clearly and Certainly hear Moses and the Prophets Even the experience of rising from the dead is pointless and of little value Sorry Pete the Bible points back to the Bible There s nothing else from God even to point to How can you trust anything that has no clear correct beliefs attached to it And why trust a source that keeps stating that CORRECT BELIEFS are essential You claim to be a christian who is defying Christianity itself That s not logical.Time to get into this book and its contents Let s see what s worth poking at This book starts off with Peter trying to post scripture to prove his thesis It fails instantly Isaiah 50 10Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.This book is about how to walk in darkness or doubt and uncertainty Apparently we are supposed to FEAR God what chapter is that emphasized in , we are also supposed to obey the voice of his servant Is there a chapter here about the truth and certainty of fearing and obeying God from the trustworthy book of Isaiah I sure hope so I wouldn t want Peter to be deceitful And obviously thanks to Peter s quote we are to trust the God of Isaiah specifically and rely on the specific information we are given about this trustworthy deity I m sure Peter thought of all this stuff when he chose to post that verse WHAT He didn t Then why are you reading his crap Next bit from the book Peter posts from the Bible Proverbs 3 5 to prove his thesis once again Fail.Proverbs 3 5Trust in the lord with all of your heart, and do not rely on YOUR OWN insight.Ummmh Peter This entire book is your OWN insight How does that logically work You re telling me in 230 pages NOT to trust God s historical factual revealed Word, but to listen carefully to YOUR personal insight That s just poorly thought out buddy Is this your first day thinking Technically i m not even on page 1 yet and this book is filled with flaws and stupidity Once again, Enns attempts to post another Bible verse to back up his OWN insight 1 Corinthians 13 8 9 8Love never ends But as for prophecies, they will come to an end as for languages, they will cease as for knowledge, it will come to an end.9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.10But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end.11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child,I reasoned like a child When I became a man, I put aside childish things.12For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,but then face to face.Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.Petey is all excited that knowledge will pass, and that we only know a little bit The problem is that this is about the future and how FULL it will be IT is actually pathetic that we are living like children with limited knowledge NOW this isn t something to boast of Petey Seriously Put aside childish things and thinking and read the entire text in context Eventually we will be FULLY CERTAIN of everything WE should be questing for When The Perfect Comes Only an idiot writes books applauding doubt when doubt is coming to an end We ve arrived at chapter one I DON T KNOW WHAT I BELIEVE ANYMOREYes, here all it takes is a Disney movie to get Mr Enns into a faith crisis I m sorry WHAT This guy has been working at Bible Colleges, writing books, Teaching the Bible for how many years and all it takes is a Disney flick to break his faith Has he been living in a Evangelical faith Bubble for a few decades Has he never seriously been challenged on his faith before Never What have you been doing all this time Obviously not THINKING and philosophizing and any beginner apologetics In the movie a little girl says it s because we re all vile sinners that God made Jesus die they have to believe it because it s in the Bibleif you don t believe in the Bible God will damn you to hell when you die Peter Enns says And with that, I was nostril deep in a faith crisis which, I don t mind saying, is embarrassing to admit It wasn t fair I wasn t ready Peter states that he was watching this movie while he was on his way home from an academic conference Seriously He says he was a seminary professor at this time Has Peter never met an atheist Or any church goer with a serious religious concern OR chatted with a youth group And NOW thousands of people are reading his books because they find him enlightening and freeing and scholarly This guy is an idiot in the nice sense of the word He was NEVER a scholarly seminary professor characters in Disney movies befuddled his expertise And now liberal christians cheer him on and give him 5 star ratings What the HELL To be fair, Enns does back pedal and attempts to cry about never being allowed to question his faith I was taught that questioning too much was not safe Christian conduct it would make God very disappointed in me indeed, and quite angry Does Peter even own a Bible Almost every character in the Bible questions things Some even argue with God and get angry We are given the gift of discernment to be able to deal with false claims and confusion The Holy Spirit even says it will teach and guide us How the Hell was Peter Enns a Bible professor WE have to question EVERYTHING Or we could end up a Hindu or Buddhist or Atheist or Democrat.HE then claims he had A growth in my spirit that has led to closer intimacy with God Which God The God that calls us vile sinners and damns many to hell How does Peter even know he had a growth How can you be intimate with a deity that gives you nothing to trust My concern on every page was Peter tell me something FACTUAL about your God, anything Now how do you know this outside of the Bible It strikes me that Peter NOT only has never chatted with atheists or struggling Christians outside of Disney films , but he has given zero effort into theologically understanding Cults and world religions Honestly, there isn t a religion on the planet no matter how freakin weird that hasn t had a leader claim A growth in my spirit that has led to closer intimacy with God I m pretty sure even Charles Manson and Jim Jones said claims like that.Chapter One A I believe these uh oh moments get our attention like nothing else can In fact, I believe they are God moments Similar to Satan in the Garden getting mankind to doubt God s Word, Peter assumes that God gets the credit for his uh oh moments Enns simply didn t do his homework You were a religious professor that didn t bother to read EVERY John MacArthur Book, R.C Sproul book, Ravi Zacharias book, Josh McDowell book, Endless books by actual Christian scientists who validate the Bible s truth And don t get me started on the 1900 years of historical theologians who easily dealt with all of your crybaby issues before you Can we be honest Mr Enns you ran to every liberal thinker and doubter that would applaud and support your itches and desires We can tell by who your friends are, and where you ended up.Peter complains, Another dynamic at work here is how friends, family, and church members would handle it if they knew what you were thinking Feeling judged and banished is a common story Has Enns never heard of a theological debate The Bible is full of them Church history is full of them The internet is now full of them And for centuries BOOKS were full of them These aren t new issues buddy Seriously, have you never researched anything Do you actually think you have some new questions or concerns for Christianity What do you think God has been dealing with for 6,000 or so years What do you think the Reformation was all about Did you notice an Enlightenment period in somewhat recent history that began to academically dismiss Biblical theology Where did you get your theological teaching degree Did they not teach you this stuff But it s okay, Peter says that Thinking for myself wasn t necessary and in fact was frowned upon The heavy lifting was done for me I just needed to agree and sign on the dotted line Well, there s your fearless leader folks So please, nobody boast of Mr Enns academic achievements and University credentials from those periods He said it himself He wasn t thinking But then he got fired or let go for it Apparently they DID want him to think Shame on them for not paying attention all those years Now they re both an embarrassment to Theological education and Biblical scholarship.I m running out of words But i m only on page 17 of his proud befuddlement Now it s one thing to argue these points with an atheist or a muslim or buddhist But we are supposed to be Christian brothers dealing with the Doubt issue Peter fails to notice that much of his problems are actually Rebellion Similar to the Hebrews getting antsy waiting for Moses so they make up their Golden Calf deity that does what their hearts desire Enns even says WE like our ideas about god, We need them And that is really the deeper problem here Enns runs the wrong way with this of course Peter fails to notice that his entire argument is a simple failure to get beyond his ideas about God He declares Moses to be an old stick in the mud about spiritual revelation and assumes a godto his liking and creativity and freedom Up pops a golden calf that every Episcopalian church can easily embrace, or at least tolerate.To sum it up I don t need new ideas about God I sure don t trust my own thoughts on this But I don t have to God gave us HIS WORD He says repeatedly that we can trust it That we MUST trust it He shows us endless examples of what happens to people and nations when they become rebellious and no longer tolerate it And if in doubt TEST IT Argue with God about it But please know who your Jesus is.You can t just love and trust Jesus blindly and liberally Or you might get a Muslim Jesus, a Mormon Jesus, A Buddhist enlightenment Jesus, A Social Justice Warrior Dead Jew 1st century Zealot Jesus There s only one actual useful Jesus The historical Divine Factual Jesus of the Bible.Revelation 17 14They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful You need to be CERTAIN about this Jesus if you even imagine you are His called and chosen and faithful The only way we know this Jesus is the pages of God s Holy Bible. life has all sorts of everyday and ordinary ways of upsetting our thinking about our faith I believe that, in these moments, God invites us to deepen and grow in our relationship with and our understanding of God 8 Church is too often the most risky place to be spiritually honest What a shame 9 Seeking answers to those questions meant accepting the challenge of an unsettled faith That takes courage, and if there is one part of my spiritual life that atrophied over the previous twenty years it was courage the courage to think, to be honest, to be I didn t know how to do faith without making sure my thoughts about God were lined up, and so, once those thoughts failed to be compelling, my faith sank My faith transformed from I know what I believe to I think I know then, as if bicycling down a steep hill with no brakes, it movedquickly to I think I thought I knew, I m not so sure any, I don t really know any, Honestly, I have no idea, Leave me alone. It felt like pressing factory reset so my software could reload And as it did, I began to wonder, MaybeI need a major shift in my thinking Maybe knowing, as I had been taught to know, is overrated Knowing like that doesn t last Knowing has its place, definitely, but not at the center of faith. And then for me, the bottom line I can choose to trust God with childlike trust regardless of how certain I might feel. I ve come to see this process as sacred and ongoing And it also takes couragecourage and trust in God than I could have understood before No one just follows the Bible We interpret it as people with a past and present, and in community with others, within certain traditions, none of which is absolute Many factors influence how we follow the Bible None of us rises above our place in the human drama and grasps God with pure clarity, without our own baggage coming along for the ride We all bring our broken and limited selves into how we think of God We re human, in other words We can t help but think of God in broken and limited ways, as creatures limited by time and space But that isn t the problem In fact, the Christian faith declares that God freely and lovingly entered the human drama uniquely in one member of the human race, Jesus of Nazareth God is okay with our humanity Here is the temptation we can forget that we are human and delude ourselves into thinking that we can transcend our tiny place in the human drama and see from on high, as God sees It turns out that is not really one of our options Walking the path of faith means trusting God enough to let our uh oh moments expose how we create God to fit in our thinking. But that is hard work We like our ideas about God We need them And that is really the deeper problem here When we grab hold of correct thinking for dear life, when we refuse to let go because we think that doing so means letting go of God, when we dig in our heels and stay firmly planted even when we sense that we need to let go and move on, at that point we are trusting our thoughts rather than God We have turned away from God s invitation to trust in order to cling to an idol The need for certainty is sin because it works off of fear and limits God to our mental images And God does not like being boxed in By definition, God can t be I believe we are prone to forget that God is good to remind us by any means necessary, if we are willing to listen God understands our human predicament and is for us 19 The deeper problem here is the unspoken need for our thinking about God to be right in order to have a joyful, freeing, healing, and meaningful faith The problem is trusting our beliefs rather than trusting God The preoccupation with holding on to correct thinking with a tightly closed fist is not a sign of strong faith It hinders the life of faith, because we are simply acting on a deep unnamed human fear of losing the sense of familiarity and predictability that our thoughts about God give us Believing that we are right about God helps give us a sense of order in an otherwise messy world So when we are confronted with the possibility of being wrong, that kind of faith becomes all about finding ways to hold on with everything we ve got to be right We are not actually trusting God at that moment We are trusting ourselves and disguising it as trust in God I believe that the Bible does not model a faith that depends on certainty for the simple fact that the Bible does not provide that kind of certainty Rather, in all its messy diversity, the Bible models trust in God that does not rest on whether we are able to be clear and certain about what to believe In fact, the words belief and faith in the Bible are just different ways of saying trust And trust works, regardless of where our knowing happens to be 53 Feeling like God is far away, disinterested, or dead to you is part of our Bible and can t be brushed aside And that feeling no matter how intense it may be, and even offensive as it may seem is never judged, shamed, or criticized by God Worshiping other gods or acting unjustly toward others gets criticized about every three sentences, but not this honest talk of feeling abandoned by God And let s not forget, the Gospels tell us that Jesus himself experienced God s abandonment on the cross, and he uses a ready and waiting psalm to express his feelings My God, my God, why have you forsaken me Psalm 22 1 Matthew 27 46 Mark 15 34 We re in good company These expressions of abandonment aren t godless moments, evidence that something is wrong and needing to be fixed They relay the experiences of ancient men and women of faith, and were kept because those experiences were common part of being an Israelite and therefore valued For us they signal not only what can happen in the life of faith, but also what does happen what we should expect to happen 60 Pistis is also an action word and here is where things get interesting When used as an action word, pistis is usually translated as faithful faithfulness or trustworthy trustworthiness So what Well, knowing this will give us a bigger and deeper view of what the New Testament writers are after when they talk about faith And it s not so much something we have, like the thoughts we have in our heads or the feelings we have in our hearts Faith describes our whole way of looking at life and how we act on that Faith describes a parent letting go of the fear for his child and handing that child over to Jesus Faith like that is a conscious decision to trust and it s hard to let go of control and do that Faith is a tough word Faith is not only directed toward God but toward other people Followers of Jesus are to be pistis toward each other meaning faithful toward each other As Paul puts it, the only thing that counts is faith pistis working through love Galatians 5 6 He isn t saying, Listen, we ve got two things going on here the faith we have inside and then the love we show toward others Replacing faith with faithfulness helps us see Paul s pointclearly He is saying that faith and love are two sides of the same coin Faith isn t simply something that happens between God and us Faith is a community word 99 Like God the Father and God the Son, we are also called to be faithful On one level, we are faithful to God when we trust God But faith pistis doesn t stop there It extends, as we ve seen, to faithfulness toward each other in humility and self sacrificial love And here is the real kick in the pants When we are faithful to each other like this, we arethan simply being nice and kind, though there s that Farimportant, when we are faithful to each other, we are at that moment acting like the faithful God and the faithful Son Being like God That s the goal And we are most like God not when we are certain we are right about God, or when we tell others how right we are, but when we are acting toward one another like the faithful Father and Son Humility, love, and kindness are our grand acts of faithfulness and how we show that we are all in No one has ever seen God if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us 1 John 4 12 Loving each other is the closest we get to seeing God Being in with God is about muchthan the thoughts we keep in our heads, the belief systems we hold on to, the doctrines we recite, or the statements of faith we adhere to, no matter how fervently and genuinely we do so, and how important they may be Being obsessed with making sure we have all our thoughts about God properly arranged and defended isn t faith How trusting we are of God day to day and how Godlike we live among those around us day to day is 101 102 Know what you believe needs a them as a contrast But travel broadens When the bigger world is tossed in our lap, that sort of confidence wanes and the them category shrinks We begin to wonder whether there even is a them And we hope that God really does love the world enough to let nothing get in the way especially where and when someone was born 137 A faith that eats its own not only drives people out but also sends up a red flare to the rest of humanity that Christianity is just another exclusive members only club, and that Jesus is a lingering relic of antiquity, rather than a powerful, present defining spiritual reality a means of gaining power rather than relinquishing it And who needs that, really 141 Of course, all organizations, Christian or not, have lines that define who they are Having boundaries is not the problem The problem comes when Christians in positions of authority and power or those seeking to gain it become tyrannical, strangers to reason, and mow down the opposition all in service of God and God s kingdom We can t make Bible difficulties, the modern world, pain and suffering, or contact with other religions go away But we can stop being mean and ugly Anytime we want to If we want to And we need to Jesus says so And the gospel really is at stake People s lives are at stake Love happens whether we feel it or not Love is an action, a selfless act, something we do for others without thinking of ourselves or how it will make us look Loving others is the most self emptying, self denying, thing we can do, because true love has the other person on the top shelf As Jesus told a listening crowd long ago, when you love others you are acting most like God at that very moment Matthew 5 43 48 The crowd that Jesus addressed was in some ways no different than one would be in our day Their impulse, as is ours, was to love their neighbor those most like them and to hate their enemies which in Jesus s day most likely referred to the Romans, who did not share much of anything with the Jews, least of all religious beliefs But Jesus stared right into this us vs them mindset and told the crowd that they should love their enemies, too In fact, they should pray for them, even when those enemies were persecuting them which happened now and then with the Roman government in charge When us vs them is your way of life, loving a them is hard enough Praying for a them is harder still We want to pray down God s blood curdling war cry of wrath and pestilence or at least pierce and wound them with our sharp words while making photocopies But Jesus says enough of that To be like God means to be perfect in love verse 48 To love as God loves means loving not just others like us, but those who are not 147 8 But doubt is not the enemy of faith, a solely destructive force that rips us away from God, a dark cloud that blocks the bright warm sun of faith Doubt is only the enemy of faith when we equate faith with certainty in our thinking Doubt is what being cornered by our thinking looks like Doubt happens when needing to be certain has run its course Doubt can certainly leave us empty and frightened, but that is precisely the benefit of doubt it exposes the folly that strong faith means you need to know what you believe, that thefaith you have, thecertain you are Doubt means spiritual relocation is happening It s God s way of saying, Time to move on Doubt is powerful It can do things spiritually that must be done that we would never do on our own Doubt has a way of forcing our hand and confronting us with the challenge of deeper trust in God 157 Doubting God is painful and frightening because we think we are leaving God behind, when in fact we are only leaving behind ideas about God that we are used to surrounding ourselves with the small God, the God within our control, the God who moves in our circles, the God who agrees with us Doubt strips away distraction so we can seeclearly the inadequacies of whom we think God is and move us from the foolishness of thinking that our god is the God Many of us, I would imagine, think we have God figured out pretty well and for people like me, who get paid to tell people what God is like, it s an occupational hazard We read the Bible and are able to quote it to others We go to church like clockwork and get involved in groups and service projects We re going great, and God must surely be impressed It is so easy to slip into right thinking mode that we have arrived at full faith We know what church God goes to, what Bible translation God prefers, how God votes, what movies God watches, and what books God reads We know the kinds of people God approves of God has winners and losers, and we are the winners, the true insiders God likes all the things we like We speak for God and think nothing of it All Christians I ve ever met who take their faith seriously sooner or later get caught up in thinking that God really is what we think God is, that there is littleworth learning about the Creator of the cosmos God becomes the face in the mirror By his mercy, God doesn t leave us there 158 9 Crosses are heavy, yes, but that s not the point You don t take up a cross simply to carry it You take up your cross to die on it That s the point of crosses Following Jesus isn t like a burden we carry on our shoulders It s an internal process so radical and painful that the best way to describe it for people of that day is as the act of being bound and nailed like a criminal to a piece of wood lifted above the ground where you are left hanging in naked humiliation and intense pain until you suffocate And that s a far cry from the claim of some televangelists that Jesus wants to make you rich and successful Jesus wants to make us whole That requires a process up for the challenge 161 Doubt is sacred Doubt is God s instrument, will arrive in God s time, and will come from unexpected places places out of your control And when it does, resist the fight or flight impulse Pass through it patiently, honestly, and courageously for however long it takes True transformation takes time 164 Being conscious of this process does not relieve the pain o doubt, but it may help circumnavigate our corrupted instinct, which is to fear doubt as the enemy to be slain Rather, supported by people we trust not to judge us, we work on welcoming the process as a gift which is hard to do when our entire life narrative is falling down around us But we are learning in that season, as Qohelet did, to trust God anyway and not to trust our correct thinking about God Doubt is divine tough love God means to have all of us, not just the surface, going to church, volunteering part Not just the part people see, but the parts so buried no one sees them Not even us When reading Paul s letters, it s easy to get lost in the details, so let s not suffering with not for Christ is what children of God do Suffering is not a sign that something is wrong with us and has to be corrected Suffering is a key component of what identifies us as children of God So let me say it in a way that the ancient Israelites couldn t 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 Christthan we know and perhapsthan we ever have been because when we suffer, we share in and complete Christ s sufferings And we don t have to understand that to know we should like it I am not glorifying suffering or papering over the pain but when weariness and hopelessness settle in, at that very moment, our suffering is Christ s suffering and his is ours We arelike Christ in these moments than we might realize 200 Letting go of the need for certainty isthan just a decision about how we think it s a decision about how we want to live When the quest for finding and holding on to certainty is central to our faith, our lives are marked by traits we wouldn t normally value in others unflappable dogmatic certainty vigilant monitoring of who s in and who s out preoccupation with winning debates and defending the faith privileging the finality of logical arguments conforming unquestionably to intellectual authorities and celebrities A faith like that is in constant battle mode, like a cornered honey badger Or like a watchman on the battlements scanning the horizon from sun up to sun down for any threat And soon you forget what faith looks like when you re not fighting about it That kind of faith is not marked by trust in the Creator It is stressful and anxiety laden, and it doesn t make for healthy relationships with others, including those closest to us 204 Rather than defining faithfulness as absolute conformity to authority and tribal identity, a trust centered faith will value in others the search for true human authenticity that may take them away from the familiar borders of their faith, while trusting God to be part of that process in ourselves and others, even those closest to us The choice of how we want to live is entirely ours Israel s faith was flexible, not set in stone Movement, change, and surprise are woven into the very fabric of the Christian faith A crucified and risen Savior was the surprising act of God s faithfulness It challenged conventional notions of what it meant for the God of Israel s story to show up messiahs were supposed to rule from the throne in Jerusalem, not due And this gospel continues to challenge our conceptions of God today A faith that remains open to God complicating our certainties will not only affect our own lives and the lives of those closest to us It will also make us better world citizens.