Encouragement for a lifelong journey of faith

January 25, 2020 – Doubt isn’t the final word

We’re praying through Pete Enns’ Sin of Certainty (HarperCollins, 2016). It is a book that considers “certainty” for the faithful Christian an idol. Pete shares his story and tries to relate it to his readers, who he hopes can mature and hold onto their faith as they grow older. It is a great book for the Water Daily Prayer reader. I will mainly offer you excerpts of the text and reflections thereafter.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt       

Read Romans 8:28-39

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.

More thoughts for meditation

“Being ‘saved’ by God is an ongoing process of growth and transformation, of dying and rising, of being ‘conformed to the image of his [God’s] Son,’ as Paul puts it [above]. Following Jesus means experiencing the taste of resurrection and ascension now—whether doing laundry, paying bills, or leading nations.

Getting there is all about dying, and each cycle of dying and rising we come to in our lives brings us, I believe, to greater insight into our deep selves where Christ lives ‘in us’ and our lives are ‘hidden’ in God.

Of course we all know that dying, rising again, Christ in me, hidden in God, seated in heaven are metaphors—the use of common language to grasp the uncommon, a reality too deep and thick for conventional vocabulary. Following Jesus is an inside-out transformation so thorough that dying and coming back to life is the only adequate way to put it.

Doubt signals that this process of dying and rising is underway. Though God feels far away, at that moment God may be closer than we realize—especially if ‘know what you believe’ is how we’re used to thinking of our faith.

Doubt isn’t cool, hipster, or chic. Doubt isn’t a new source of pride. Don’t go looking for doubt, don’t tempt it to arrive out of time. But neither is doubt the terrifying final word.

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, courageously for however long it takes. True transformation takes time.

Being conscious of this process does not relief the pain of 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… 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 jus the part people see, but the parts so buried no one sees them.

Not even us” (Pete Enns, Sin of Certainty, HarperCollins, 2016, p. 164-165).

Suggestions for action

It can be tempting to pursue doubt as a way of overcoming the faith we know from our childhood or the culture around us. Enns warns us against doing that, and actually says that doubt can be useful to us. As I write these entries for Circle of Hope, I’m comforted to know that we resist surface-level Christianity. That “going to church” isn’t really a part of our vocabulary, let alone the experiences we are of faith. I’m encouraged that we actually do honor mutual care, spiritual direction and therapy as tools to go deeper with ourselves and with God. I think Enns would be right at home in Circle of Hope. Thank God for that today.

1 Comment

  1. ARTHUR P BUCHER JR

    I’m loving these Pete Enns entries! This post has encouraged me that resurrection is the perfect antidote to the sin of certainty. We’re allowing God to take us beyond what are our for believed for-certain final boundaries. I wanna push the envelope against the certainty of death a little more: what if resurrection isn’t always a metaphor? And, for example, our experiences with Jesus are with an actual bodily resurrected person. And what if that points to God’s meaning to actually undo at some point, all our human deaths with, against all evidence and certainties, bodily resurrections from death. Jesus’ non-metaphorical resurrection is a huge undoing of the sin of certainty, since death’s finality is one thing most people are pretty sure about. Thanks for giving us Pete’s tools to help us get into a wild faith that isn’t so sure of itself, and can let God push the limits of our understanding in the direction of our transformation.

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