Book Review: Peter Enns’s The Sin of Certainty

Peter Enns. The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our “Correct” Beliefs. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2016. (230 pages, including notes and index)

Now available at Amazon and your local Christian bookstore (hopefully).

I couldn’t put this book down — twice. I read Peter Enns’s The Sin of Certainty a few weeks ago with the intention of writing my review the next day. Of course, life does not always go according to plan. So, the other day, I picked the book up again just to look for some pithy quotes before I began writing but before I knew it I was back into this book in the way one normally gets engrossed in a good novel.

Peter Enns writes with an engaging style that makes the challenging ideas accessible to the average reader, even those who do not normally read non-fiction.

A Faith Journey:

I think what drew me into the argument of this book is the personal and autobiographical narrative that is woven throughout and gives shape to the text. In The Sin of Certainty, the reader is taken on a journey. The journey is from faith to faith.

That might not sound very exciting. If I begin to walk out my front door and my child asks me where I am going, then it might sound odd if I respond, “I’m going home.” Yet, Pilgrim’s Progess, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Hobbit or There and Back Again by Bilbo Baggins are all stories about leaving home and returning home.

Now, I am not suggesting that The Sin of Certainty is in the same league as these works. Still, I think that Enns tells a story that will be all too familiar to many North American Evangelical Christians. I say all too familiar because this book is for the secret and not so secret doubters that live among us and worship alongside us.

On the one hand, this book is for those who are either afraid to ask questions (or sometimes even have questions) for fear of being considered substandard Christians and those who wittingly or unwittingly asked questions that resulted in hurtful reactions and broken relationships. In telling his story and confronting what he calls “the sin of certainty”, Enns may be giving voice to many Christians who are afraid to ask questions, express doubt, and challenge presuppositions for fear of being censured, losing their jobs, losing their community, or, indeed, having their salvation questioned by other Christians.

To these, Enns is saying, you are not alone and historically the Church has been a place where one can have doubts, ask questions, and reform one’s faith. Doubts and questions are not the antithesis of faith but can be a proving ground for enriching your faith. Continue reading “Book Review: Peter Enns’s The Sin of Certainty”

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Inspiration and Incarnation (Part IV and Final): A Review of Peter Enns’s Book 

In the fourth chapter of Peter Enns’s  Inspiration and Incarnation, Enns turns his attention to the question of how the New Testament authors use the Old Testament. It is a question of hermeneutics or interpretation. Thanks to Rikk Watts at Regent College it is also one of my favourite topics in Biblical Studies. So, as with much of this book, I come at with preformed opinions. As I indicated in the previous post, I thought if I were going to find something “disagreeable” in this book it might come in this chapter. Yet, again, I found nothing in this chapter that accounts for the negative and sometimes viscious reaction of some evangelicals against Enns and his view of Scripture. Continue reading “Inspiration and Incarnation (Part IV and Final): A Review of Peter Enns’s Book “

Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 3: The Old Testament and Theological Diversity)

In this chapter on theological diversity in the Old Testament, Peter Enns offers an engaging and helpful introduction to what most biblical scholars Christian and non-Christian have come to recognize as simply being the nature of the Old Testament. Moreover, for many of us with strong commitments to the authority of Scripture, the recognition of theological diversity in the OT has not only enriched our understading of the Scriptures themselves but of the God who inspired them including what it might mean to be creatively inspired by the Creator.  There are three key aspects to Enns chapter on diversity in the OT.

  1. The Old Testament is not a flat text. It is a textured text. Not all books can be read in the same way and some work needs to be done to understand the different genres in the Old Testament.
  2. The books of the OT were written in differing time periods and show signs of being edited to some degree and therefore to some degree there is evidence of the develoopment and revision of thought over time and according to chaning circumstances.
  3. And related to the latter, there are ongoing arguments, discussion, and unresolved tensions within texts and between texts of the Old Testament. (Some of these tension are resolved by and in Christ Jesus.)
  4. Continue reading “Book Review: Inspiration and Incarnation (Chapter 3: The Old Testament and Theological Diversity)”