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Valentinus

The Sin of Certainty

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Beautiful! Often wonder if I'm one of those that needed a hurdle in order to learn faith. Before the faith crisis I just knew the church was true and wondered why leaders said we needed to constantly work on our testimony.

Edited by Tacenda

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1 hour ago, The Nehor said:

That said I do not like where this writer goes with it. Experience with God (primarily the Holy Ghost) increases and gives certainty. Then again, if you do not have the Gift of the Holy Ghost maybe that approach has some merit. His approach is to turn to Christ. How will that help if your trouble is in believing that Jesus was divine or even existed. Meh, I’ll pass.

Yup. Exactly. 

I do agree that practice matters more than correct beliefs. But it's not like correct beliefs don't matter at all - if only because you have to have a belief of what to do in order to have correct practices. To be ethical is to have beliefs. To think something is unethical is to make a factual claim. To trust Jesus is to at minimum make a claim about some beliefs (as opposed to others such as in other religious systems).

Edited by clarkgoble
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2 hours ago, The Nehor said:

Being dogmatic (even if you are right) is limiting because it costs you the ability to expand your views.

That said I do not like where this writer goes with it. Experience with God (primarily the Holy Ghost) increases and gives certainty. Then again, if you do not have the Gift of the Holy Ghost maybe that approach has some merit. His approach is to turn to Christ. How will that help if your trouble is in believing that Jesus was divine or even existed. Meh, I’ll pass.

I don't think your response fair given that you only know so little about the book.

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1 hour ago, clarkgoble said:

Yup. Exactly. 

I do agree that practice matters more than correct beliefs. But it's not like correct beliefs don't matter at all - if only because you have to have a belief of what to do in order to have correct practices. To be ethical is to have beliefs. To think something is unethical is to make a factual claim. To trust Jesus is to at minimum make a claim about some beliefs (as opposed to others such as in other religious systems).

This is equally reductive as I assume you've not read the book. "Correctness" is relative to the belief system.

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From your comments to Nehor and clarkgoble,  do I need to have read the book to share my  thoughts on the OP?

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

I think different people have different perceptions of what "questioning" means.  Questions about the accuracy and completeness of our knowledge of and/or obedience to the Gospel, and our efforts to address such things through faith / study / prayer / fasting would, of course, be laudable. 

However, I think an alternative perception of "questioning" seeks to justify and rationalize disbelief.  Or contempt for and criticism and judgment against prophets and apostles.  Or scorn and ridicule.  Or impatience.  Or ignorance.  Or inadequate study, attention and effort.  Or insufficient application of Gospel precepts.  Or conflating the Gospel with (and/or subordinating it to) the philosophies of men (often including sociopolitical and sexual concepts that are difficult or impossible to square with the Restored Gospel).  Or some combination of these and other factors.

Since the dawn of time, I think.  "And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning."  (D&C 93:24-25).

Truth matters.  Our perception of it matters.  Our pursuit of it matters.  Our willingness to accept and abide by it matters.

We continue to pursue wisdom, "by study and also by faith."  D&C 109: 7, 14.

What does he think should be "standing there?"

I have always liked this summary by Joseph Smith: "Let us here observe that three things are necessary for any rational and intelligent being to exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.  First, the idea that he actually exists; Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes; Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which one is pursuing is according to His will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive. But with this understanding, it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness unto the praise and glory of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

I think Joseph Smith was correct to the extent we need to have "a correct idea of his [God's] character, perfections, and attributes."  This would be "believing the right things."  We still need to leave room for modifying and correcting and expanding this "correct idea," but pursuing and obtaining such an understanding is very important.

I have spent 20+ years examining and re-examining what I believe and why, often in an adversarial construct.  I have found the resources available to the Saints (scriptures and "best books," continuing prophetic guidance and counsel, and personal study and revelation) to be quite trustworthy.

Thanks,

-Smac

Truth according to who exactly? God cannot be the answer because there isn't a single universal faith with access to such an answer. People of faith have perceived truths but not absolute truth. One of my biggest contentions with Christianity is the arrogance that it is the true faith of God. The audacity of such a narcissistic claim is astounding, annoying and a seriously bad joke. Such arrogance is enough to make Narcissus vomit.

I haven't read the book yet to know what Enns believes should be "standing there". Read the book with me and we'll find out together.

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3 minutes ago, alter idem said:

From your comments to Nehor and clarkgoble,  do I need to have read the book to share my  thoughts on the OP?

Considering that both have literally judged the book by its cover...

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26 minutes ago, Valentinus said:

Truth according to who exactly?

According to the individual, I suppose.  In the end, belief in God is not an objectively quantifiable exercise.

Nevertheless, I really like what the Church teaches on this topic.  We seek truth through study, faith, obedience, and revelation.  In time, this process may yield a sure knowledge for some.  For most, however, "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).  And I'm okay with that.  

26 minutes ago, Valentinus said:

God cannot be the answer because there isn't a single universal faith with access to such an answer.

In the grand scheme of things, God is the answer.  As a practical matter, however, we can seek to approximate discerning truth from God.  Again, through study, faith, obedience, and revelation.

26 minutes ago, Valentinus said:

People of faith have perceived truths but not absolute truth.

Agreed.  But we can get there.  "That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day."  (D&C 50:24)

26 minutes ago, Valentinus said:

One of my biggest contentions with Christianity is the arrogance that it is the true faith of God.

This sounds rather provincial.  Do you likewise slander Jews for their exlusivistic claims?  Muslims?  Buddhists?  Most religions have some sort of exlusivist truth claims, but you only disparage the Christians for theirs.  Why is that?

26 minutes ago, Valentinus said:

The audacity of such a narcissistic claim is astounding, annoying and a seriously bad joke. Such arrogance is enough to make Narcissus vomit.

Again, this sounds like ideological provincialism.

Thanks,

-Smac

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4 hours ago, Valentinus said:

I purchased this book by scholar Peter Enns and am excited to read it. 

From the back cover:

“I had never openly explored my thinking about God, because I was taught that questioning too much was not safe Christian conduct—it would make God very disappointed in me, indeed, and quite angry. So dangerous thoughts lay dormant, never entering my conscious mind. . . . But a common and ordinary moment worked unexpectedly to snatch me from my safe, familiar, and unexamined spiritual neighborhood and plop me down somewhere I never thought I’d land. It was a forced spiritual relocation.”—The Sin of Certainty

 

When did being “right” with God come to mean believing the right things about God—believing the right doctrines, reading the Bible the right way, holding the right views? For many Christians, this idea is at the very center of their religious lives. And that’s a problem. Because this focus on being correct can actually distract us from faith and from God. What happens when the security of “knowing what you believe” gets disrupted—as it does sooner or later? What if once-settled questions—like “What is God really like?”—suddenly become unsettled?

These are some of the questions that teacher and scholar Peter Enns addresses in The Sin of Certainty. Here he explores what goes wrong when we have “believing the right things” at the center of our faith and what, instead, should be standing there. For those who have experienced their once rock-solid beliefs beginning to falter, Enns offers hope and guidance for finding a more trustworthy anchor. By exploring scripture and reflecting on his own journey, Enns reveals that challenges and crises of faith may be opportunities for deepening our faith and that God may be the one encouraging us to face those dangerous questions—in order for us to move from needing to be right to trusting God instead.

Why “Having the Right Beliefs” Is Not the Same as Having Faith

Many Christians have gone off course by putting belief and certainty at the center of their faith instead of simply following and trusting Jesus."

Anyone else read this book? 

So after you have studied it for 50 years and stripped away all certainty and then have built up again an entire view with certainty,  including the idea that one can never be certain, is it ok again to be certain that uncertainty is the answer?

Certainty is a state of mind, nothing more.

Mental states are not sins.

The problem is simply that he eschews certainty and then seems to affirm that he is the only one with authority to tell us to "be uncertain" and then takes on the air of being the authority on NOT being certain

His true  faith IS uncertainty and he is looking for converts.

NOT so?

Then why did he write the book?

 

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2 hours ago, Valentinus said:

I don't think your response fair given that you only know so little about the book.

 

2 hours ago, Valentinus said:

This is equally reductive as I assume you've not read the book. "Correctness" is relative to the belief system.

 

2 hours ago, Valentinus said:

Considering that both have literally judged the book by its cover...

You could put a warning up telling everyone not to comment unless they have read the book but you probably would not have many comments.

I judged the book by the cover because that is all you gave us. And no, I do not plan on reading it. My reading list is too long already.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Valentinus said:

Truth according to who exactly? God cannot be the answer because there isn't a single universal faith with access to such an answer. People of faith have perceived truths but not absolute truth. One of my biggest contentions with Christianity is the arrogance that it is the true faith of God.

What does that even mean?

3 hours ago, Valentinus said:

This is equally reductive as I assume you've not read the book. "Correctness" is relative to the belief system.

How is that different from what I said? To be correct in something presupposes a belief.

And I thought I was being the opposite of reductive since I was arguing belief and practice can't be reduced to the other. (Well I only did one half - but the idea is that they're not reducible to either)

Edited by clarkgoble

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6 hours ago, Valentinus said:

I purchased this book by scholar Peter Enns and am excited to read it. 

From the back cover:

“I had never openly explored my thinking about God, because I was taught that questioning too much was not safe Christian conduct—it would make God very disappointed in me, indeed, and quite angry. So dangerous thoughts lay dormant, never entering my conscious mind. . . . But a common and ordinary moment worked unexpectedly to snatch me from my safe, familiar, and unexamined spiritual neighborhood and plop me down somewhere I never thought I’d land. It was a forced spiritual relocation.”—The Sin of Certainty

 

When did being “right” with God come to mean believing the right things about God—believing the right doctrines, reading the Bible the right way, holding the right views? For many Christians, this idea is at the very center of their religious lives. And that’s a problem. Because this focus on being correct can actually distract us from faith and from God. What happens when the security of “knowing what you believe” gets disrupted—as it does sooner or later? What if once-settled questions—like “What is God really like?”—suddenly become unsettled?

These are some of the questions that teacher and scholar Peter Enns addresses in The Sin of Certainty. Here he explores what goes wrong when we have “believing the right things” at the center of our faith and what, instead, should be standing there. For those who have experienced their once rock-solid beliefs beginning to falter, Enns offers hope and guidance for finding a more trustworthy anchor. By exploring scripture and reflecting on his own journey, Enns reveals that challenges and crises of faith may be opportunities for deepening our faith and that God may be the one encouraging us to face those dangerous questions—in order for us to move from needing to be right to trusting God instead.

Why “Having the Right Beliefs” Is Not the Same as Having Faith

Many Christians have gone off course by putting belief and certainty at the center of their faith instead of simply following and trusting Jesus."

Anyone else read this book? 

I believe that individuals of great faith still question - said in another way, people of faith continue to have questions and seek answers. I acknowledge that in the Church we use the phrase, "I know...", when in actuality what is meant is that, "I have faith....".  

For some reason, I have a more negative reaction to the term certainty. Certainty seems to connotate something beyond faith; it enters into the realm of sure knowledge, which is not common for members of the Church. 

I believe that questions, seeking for answers, trials/challenges are all invitations for us to learn more about our Father in Heaven. However, I qualify that belief by distinguishing between this form of questioning and those who question with the objective of destroying faith. The motivation for questioning is very different between the two individuals. The motivation is vital to recognize and understand. 

Some act as if they are questioning, when all they are seeking is to be validated in their desire to destroy or tear down faith. 

Now, this idea of having right beliefs was started by the ancient apostles. They consistently called the saints to repentance for adopting different teachings that were not their own or that conflicted with the understanding of Jesus Christ and his message. The search for truth is a process of threshing our understanding of the gospel and expelling those beliefs that are not built soundly on the gospel. We all allow these thoughts and ideas to creep into the our storehouse of knowledge; it needs to be consistently cleaned in order to prevent falsehood and misunderstanding from being used as a foundation for our beliefs.

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6 hours ago, smac97 said:

According to the individual, I suppose.  In the end, belief in God is not an objectively quantifiable exercise.

Nevertheless, I really like what the Church teaches on this topic.  We seek truth through study, faith, obedience, and revelation.  In time, this process may yield a sure knowledge for some.  For most, however, "we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).  And I'm okay with that.  

In the grand scheme of things, God is the answer.  As a practical matter, however, we can seek to approximate discerning truth from God.  Again, through study, faith, obedience, and revelation.

Agreed.  But we can get there.  "That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day."  (D&C 50:24)

This sounds rather provincial.  Do you likewise slander Jews for their exlusivistic claims?  Muslims?  Buddhists?  Most religions have some sort of exlusivist truth claims, but you only disparage the Christians for theirs.  Why is that?

Again, this sounds like ideological provincialism.

Thanks,

-Smac

Fair enough. Exclusivist claims are equally dangerous.

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6 hours ago, bluebell said:

The definition of arrogance is conceit, pride, self importance, egotism, etc...

Believing that there is one way back to God is not necessarily any of those things, in and of itself.   If someone asks you for directions to somewhere, it's not arrogant to tell them the directions as you know them or believe them to be.    You could be wrong, but it's not arrogant to be wrong.  It's also not arrogant to believe that there is only one set of directions that will get the person where they want to go.  Believing that there is only one way to get to a destination is not, in and of itself, conceited or prideful.  

Asserting that one way is better or more fruitful is the arrogance I detest.

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5 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

So after you have studied it for 50 years and stripped away all certainty and then have built up again an entire view with certainty,  including the idea that one can never be certain, is it ok again to be certain that uncertainty is the answer?

Certainty is a state of mind, nothing more.

Mental states are not sins.

The problem is simply that he eschews certainty and then seems to affirm that he is the only one with authority to tell us to "be uncertain" and then takes on the air of being the authority on NOT being certain

His true  faith IS uncertainty and he is looking for converts.

NOT so?

Then why did he write the book?

 

Read it with me and we can find out together.

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4 hours ago, The Nehor said:

 

 

You could put a warning up telling everyone not to comment unless they have read the book but you probably would not have many comments.

I judged the book by the cover because that is all you gave us. And no, I do not plan on reading it. My reading list is too long already.

I was clear that I had not read it either. I also asked if anyone else had read it. Lacking intent to read something after given only a brief overview and negatively criticizing it is very odd.

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4 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

What does that even mean?

How is that different from what I said? To be correct in something presupposes a belief.

And I thought I was being the opposite of reductive since I was arguing belief and practice can't be reduced to the other. (Well I only did one half - but the idea is that they're not reducible to either)

You attempted to explain away the book without reading it. To do so on the basis that uncertainty is somehow a bad thing is a bad faith argument.

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6 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

So after you have studied it for 50 years and stripped away all certainty and then have built up again an entire view with certainty,  including the idea that one can never be certain, is it ok again to be certain that uncertainty is the answer?

Certainty is a state of mind, nothing more.

Mental states are not sins.

The problem is simply that he eschews certainty and then seems to affirm that he is the only one with authority to tell us to "be uncertain" and then takes on the air of being the authority on NOT being certain

His true  faith IS uncertainty and he is looking for converts.

NOT so?

Then why did he write the book?

 

Bob: “Question authority!”

Bill: ”Says who?”

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, The Nehor said:

Being dogmatic (even if you are right) is limiting because it costs you the ability to expand your views.

That said I do not like where this writer goes with it. Experience with God (primarily the Holy Ghost) increases and gives certainty. Then again, if you do not have the Gift of the Holy Ghost maybe that approach has some merit. His approach is to turn to Christ. How will that help if your trouble is in believing that Jesus was divine or even existed. Meh, I’ll pass.

One must bear in mind that Pete Enns comes from an evangelical tradition and that he was a very faithful and ardent student of that faith -- right on through to his PhD.  He has paid a high price for calling that faith into question.  Yet you and I would also call that faith into question, because it so often leaves out the Holy Ghost.  We ought to actively hope that he finds his way into the LDS faith.

Edited by Robert F. Smith
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1 hour ago, Valentinus said:

Asserting that one way is better or more fruitful is the arrogance I detest.

So if there is only one safe or effective way to your destination and I know it, you will detest me if I tell you? That sounds like a recipe for a lifetime of disaster.

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