Archives For Doubt


We Don’t Have to be Afraid

A Feature Review of 

Night Driving:
A Story of Faith in the Dark

Addie Zierman

Paperback: Convergent, 2016
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Reviewed by Anna Visser

In the darkness of an endless Minnesota winter, Addie Zierman packs her kids (ages two and four) into a minivan along with toys, games, DVDs, and an elaborate tote system for clothing, and she drives, away from the darkness and the death and the emptiness, to Florida. It’s a familiar enough story: an epic road trip to escape a winter both literal and metaphorical. A mom a little worn down by the typical routines of everyday life. An adult who’s not quite sure what to make of faith in a life that doesn’t look like the big, wide, passionate life promised by church groups and Christian rallies for kids in high school. Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark isn’t all that different from a lot of the memoirs that line our shelves—Christian or non—it is, at its heart, a story about searching. But the thing that is different about this story and about Zierman, and the thing that makes this book refreshing and valuable is that she’s not angry.

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Wise and Comforting Words

A Review of

The Grand Paradox:The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of FaithKen Wytsma

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2015
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Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith
This review originally appeared on The Slow Church Blog on Patheos.

In my early years of college, I went through somewhat of a crisis of faith, questioning who God was and how God relates to humanity. It was a pretty bleak time, but eventually through long series of conversations with friends and through reading certain works of writers in the Christian tradition like C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle and Frederick Buechner, I eventually grew into a deeper, more resilient understanding of God, and of how God is at work in humanity.

This crisis in my own life came to mind as I was reading Ken Wytsma’s new book The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith. I suspect that had it been in existence over two decades ago, when I was in college, I would have found this book immensely helpful and comforting amidst my struggles.

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The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, The Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith
Ken Wytsma

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2015
(Book releases January 27th)
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
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“Swirling Questions of Faith and Doubt

A review of

The Age of Doubt:
Tracing the Roots of Our Religious Uncertainty

By Christopher Lane

Review by Bryan Berghoef.

AGE OF DOUBT - Christopher LaneThe Age of Doubt:
Tracing the Roots of Our Religious Uncertainty

By Christopher Lane
Hardback: Yale UP, 2011.
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[ Amazon – Hardback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

The Victorian era was the first great “Age of Doubt” and a critical moment in the history of Western ideas.  In The Age of Doubt: Tracing the Roots of Our Religious Uncertainty, scholar Christopher Lane tells the story of the dramatic struggles of scientific discovery, philosophical inquiry and religious wrestling that enveloped nineteenth century Britain.

As the cultural battle between faith and reason continues to gather steam in our own day, we would do well to pay heed to the stories recounted here.  In the United States, questions of faith and doubt continue to swirl – the number of people claiming no faith tradition has risen, and the number of traditional ‘believers’ has been shrinking.  Yet many raised in a Christian environment even today continue to be protected from the writings and discoveries from this century of doubt.  As a result, they are presented with the illusion that those who question traditional faith and doctrines are ‘new.’  This book dispels that illusion.  As the vocal animosity between representatives on both sides escalates, Lane’s book becomes a welcome and timely entry into the discussion.  (This volume is a great companion to A.N. Wilson’s earlier work, God’s Funeral: The Decline of Faith in Western Civilization, 1999, Norton).

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“Step by Clumsy Step”

A Review of
Mere Churchianity

By Michael Spencer

Reviewed by Michelle van Loon.

Mere Churchianity
By Michael Spencer
Paperback: Waterbrook Multnomah, 2010.
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Mere Churchianity by Michael SpencerI’m putting all my cards on the table up front. I was a huge Michael Spencer fan.  In fact, I penned these words on my blog in early April, right after I heard he’d died at age 53 after a brief, intense battle with cancer:

Spencer’s prodigious output of blog posts and podcasts under the Internet Monk moniker have been touchstones in my spiritual life over the last several years. His intelligence, honesty, humor and willingness to ask lots of hard questions of God, of his fellow Christians, and occasionally, of the world at large have both comforted and confronted me. He poured out his soul and shared the mess of his journey all while doing his day job at a rural Kentucky boarding school. His insistence on Jesus-shaped spirituality in all spurred me (and at times, provoked me) to think like a disciple of Jesus. He was the real deal.

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293990: Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions

A Review of

Evolving in Monkey Town:
How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers
Learned to Ask the Questions

By Rachel Held Evans
Paperback: Zondervan, 2010.
Buy now: [ Christian ]

Reviewed by Zena Neds-Fox.

After Rachel Held Evans witnessed the televised execution of a woman in Afghanistan in 2001, her lifelong identity as a Christian well-versed in apologetics, is threatened and eventually abandoned.  Because she knows and has polished the answers for her entire life, her questioning is pointed at the weakest links of the Christian argument.  This fury of questions is the high point of Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions.  Evans’ bravery in the struggle to ask difficult questions is the hallmark of this striking new memoir.

Evolving in Monkey Town seems to be a Christian tale for Christians.  Published by Zondervan, it is the singular experience of an honest person raised within a Christian culture who — no matter what steps she makes away from that upbringing — is largely formed and informed by that upbringing.  There are people who will relate to Rachel’s story very much because when raised in this context, it becomes so difficult to question (which was one of the key points in David Dark’s heralded book The Sacredness of Questioning Everything, our 2009 Book of the Year, which incidentally was also published by Zondervan).  Those raised in such a way fear appearing as if they have no faith when voicing their doubts.  That Evans maintains faith while doing what equates to faithlessness in many Christian contexts  is another key strength of her story.

The defense of questioning the party lines of conservative evangelicalism while still loving Jesus doesn’t get much press.  Though the permission of questioning the faith may be granted on the back-country roads of church camps, it still takes a declaration of sorts to hold out a hand towards those whose doubts are bigger than any quick remedy.  Evans wants to bring freedom to readers who struggle in these ways against the mainstream of conservative evangelicalism.

Not being raised in church culture, I found some of her steps away to be somewhat timid.  Her questioning is big for her upbringing, but for those comfortable in the world, at times I wondered whether it necessitated a book.  It is her moments of going for the jugular of her doubt that kept me from being too high and mighty.  Fighting like only a true Pharisee can, she reminded me of Paul once his sight is restored after being blinded.  She can speak the language of those who doubt and therefore is best suited to ask the questions.


A Brief Review of

289494: O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling O Me of Little Faith:
True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling
By Jason Boyett

Paperback: Zondervan, 2010.

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Reviewed by Adam Ellis.

Confession:  I am a faithful doubter…or a doubting believer (if you prefer).  For me, faith and doubt are like eternal dance partners.  It seems to me that “faith” is more closely related to words like “trust”, “confidence”, “hope”, “commitment”, and has less to do with words like “certainty” or “convinced”.  I can’t turn off the questions.  I don’t generally find most books on apologetics all that helpful.  I resonate with the man who cried out to Jesus “Lord, I do believe.  Help my unbelief”.  On the other hand, not everyone is like me.  I’ve found that some people aren’t given to such incessant questioning, and that the things that are issues for me don’t seem to be issues for them.

      So here’s the problem:  Jason Boyett has written a beautiful, hopeful, gut-wrenchingly honest book for people like me.  I can’t even begin to tell you how refreshingly helpful it was, and how much life it breathed back into my faith.  But, at the same time, I realize (as Boyett seems to) that for people who aren’t like me, this book could be devastating.  He doesn’t shy away from hard questions, and he doesn’t answer them.  He doesn’t defend the status-quo.  He doesn’t whitewash problems.  He makes no attempt to win any debates.  He speaks with poignant honesty as one who is deeply committed to hope.  In the tradition of Kierkegaard, Boyett seems to have little use for “proofs” but rather seems to mean for his book to function as a sort of confessional invitation to a journey of hopeful commitment.  It also functions as a safe space for all of us faithful doubters…a ray of hope that says “you’re not crazy, and you’re not alone.” I can’t recommend this book to every Christian I know.  However, I know that  I will, without hesitation direct my fellow doubting believers to this beacon of hope.  It is a well of living water that I will return to again and again.