The Sin of Uncertainty

Peter Enns, Harper, 2016

reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

Our beliefs provide a familiar structure to our life; they give answers to our big questions:  does G-d exist?  Is there a right religion?  Why are we here?  Church is too often the most risky place to be spiritually honest.  For Enns, true faith and correct thinking were two sides of the same cover, and his religious structure no longer constituted an unshakeable persuasion.  He came to see that ‘knowing’ as his church held, has its place but not at the centre of faith, and he realized that he could choose to trust G-d regardless of how certain he felt (p 15), when we too often confuse G-d   with our thoughts about G-d (p 19). This results in the problem of trusting our beliefs rather than trusting G-d (p 21). The problem is that knowledge based faith is a largely unquestioned part of our western culture.

Faith in the biblical sense is rooted deeply in trust in G-d.  A life of faith that accepts this biblical challenge is much more demanding than being preoccupied with correct thinking.  ‘Trust is not marked by unflappable dogmatic certainty but by embracing as a normal part of faith the steady line of mysteries and uncertainties, seeing them as opportunities to trust more deeply’ (p 205)  ‘Trust in G-d, not in correct thinking about G-d, is the beginning and end of faith’ (p 211), a faith rooted in trust, not in certainty.  ‘The life of Christian faith is more than agreeing with a set of beliefs about Christ, morality or how to read the bible.  It means being so intimately connected to Christ that his crucifixion is ours’ (p 162).

Enns focuses on the essence of Christian faith, on trust ,not on formulae.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.