Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review: Faith And Doubt

Book Review: Faith And Doubt by John Ortberg

Every so often there is a book that comes out that handles topics in such an authentic and daring way that I can't help but be amazed as I am going through it (Blue Like Jazz and The Shack come to mind). Faith and Doubt is just such a book. In some ways it is an instant classic.

John Ortberg is a teaching pastor who became well known during his stint at Willow Creek (perhaps you've heard of it)? Quite simply, John Ortberg is a master communicator. He tackles the thorny topics of materialism in When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box, courage and fear in If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, and intimacy with God in God Is Closer Than You Think.

Faith and Doubt feels daring because Ortberg lays it all out on the line - we all doubt so what do we do with it? He carefully but honestly explores how doubt is not only something that we deal with as we grow in in Christ but a normal (and I daresay) necessary part of having real authentic faith. Ortberg says that our honest seeking of truth is so important to God that the more we in faith seek truth, the more doubt will also naturally come along for the ride. There is always a tension between faith and doubt and our natural inclination is to go one way or the other; either we ignore doubt and treat it like cancer for our faith or we embrace doubt and let our faith evaporate. Either extreme is unhelpful. Ortberg manages to take a very deep subject that is usually kept in the closet and make it accessible to most Christian readers with an average reading ability. Stories (many of them personal) connect and illustrate his ideas quite well.

Most of the book tackles the doubt side of things while the final part tackles faith. Ortberg presents some of what he thinks are the best reasons to "bet the farm" on the existence and goodness of God. I had heard most of them before but the final one he presented was so new and powerful to me that I got pretty emotional. It's an excellent point that he takes from G.K. Chesterton and since I couldn't do it justice, I won't attempt to share it. But I've been thinking about it almost every day since I finished the book and I'd say reading the book is probably worth it just for those couple of pages.

I wholeheartedly reccomend this book to anyone who has faith but:
1. Wrestles with doubt ("I'm a bad Christian because I have doubts.)"
2. Struggles with understanding and empathizing with others' doubts ("just pray for more faith!")

I think this would be a great book to tackle with a small group or Bible study group who feels like they need something fresh, challenging, and maybe a bit dangerous to shake them up. It's easy to read, easy to discuss, and exceedingly honest. I borrowed it from my local library but I intend to purchase my own the next time I make an order from Amazon. My rating 4.8 ninja stars out of five.

1 comment:

Elayne said...

That sounds like a great book Mark. I may have to pick that one up soon. So much to little time! Real summer is almost here and I always like to spend an hour outdoors in the morning reading. Can't wait! I just got "What In The World Is Going On" by Dr. David Jeremiah (not my usual kind of reading but it was a gift so I will tackle it. It's Prophesy Clues)