The Bible tells me so & The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns
Trust in God casts out fear and cultivates a life of trust that flourishes regardless of how certain we feel
The Bible tells me so & The Sin of Certainty
By Peter Enns
Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN 9781529343137 & 9781529343229
Reviewed by John Rackley
Peter Enns is a biblical scholar who writes on the relationship of the bible to contemporary Christian faith. He works at Eastern University after holding positions in some of the top theological institutions in the USA.
These books are the first of a trilogy which now has now been completed by his latest entitled How the Bible actually works. The title of this latest publication sums up the case which Peter has been making for more than a decade that evangelical faith has misused the Bible by binding it in to human systems of understanding that ignore its nature and complexity.
He writes short chapters in a Dan Brown style – direct, enticing and uncomplicated. He believes that he has discovered that God desires our trust more than our ‘correct’ beliefs and likes bullet points; thus in developing a mature faith these count:
· Thank modernity
· We can’t get our minds around God
· Christianity is a setup for letting go of certainty
· Adjust our expectations about what the bible can deliver
· God-moments are rare and important
· God is not a crutch
· Struggling with faith is normal.
And when it comes to scripture
· The Bible is God’s word
· The Bible is troubling when you can’t ignore what is difficult to accept
· The Bible is not, never has been and never will be the centre of the Christian faith
· Christian, don’t expect more from the Bible than you would of Jesus.
This has not made him popular among some in the Northern American Evangelical culture, even more so in the powerful challenge of The Sin of Certainty. This is a frank description of his life journey so far and the spiritual direction he has taken. This has meant he has been abandoned by some fellow–travellers, encountering difficulties in his family, discovering the traditions of Christian mysticism and finding a resting place in a church he would never have expected to join.
The Sin of Certainty is an example of a popular genre of Christian writing in the States. Experience speaks truth to scripture and scripture interpretation has to change. Indeed the relative importance of the Bible in the making of Christian faith comes under cross-examination and old securities about its meaning die. The result is often a journey into a far country, and there is no return to where one started.
It would be helpful if more such material would be written from the context of church and faith in this country, for I fear that this is a book written for people who probably don’t know it has been written, and won’t read it because they are no longer within earshot of the Church. They are living with issues which they do not think the Church wants to address.
· The God of the Bible is violent, vengeful and petty
· The Bible and Science cannot be reconciled
· God is indifferent to suffering
· Christianity is the only path to God
· Christians treat each other badly.
Peter Enns does address them. Maybe his books will be discovered by the lonely exiles – but will they turn them back to our churches?
What do you think?
Reviewer John Rackley is a LEP Associate Minister in Leicester and working on a project with others about the relationship of biography and faith.