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.
Let me be abso-posi-lutely clear about something so we don’t get off on the wrong foot: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with thinking about God or even seeking to think “correctly” about God.
Thinking about what we believe, learning more about what we believe, and disagreeing and deliberating with others are normal for people of faith. So, I hope we are all on the same page here. I’m not saying that the life of the mind and working toward forming deeper thoughts about God are all bunk. The life of faith and the life of thought are not opposite ends of the spectrum.
Rather, I’m talking about deeper, subtler, even subconscious problem that definitely isn’t limited to bible students of eggheads but is part of the daily struggles of normal everyday Christians.
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 deep unnamed human fear or 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 the moment. We are trusting ourselves and disguising it as trust in God.
Holding our thoughts with an open hand, however, is a way of communing with God – like an offering to God, incomplete as it may be.Contemporary Reading
The Sin of Certainty by Peter Enns
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”Scripture Reading
Matthew 7:21-27 (NRSV)