I have a thing for doubt. That is not even a confession but a declaration of fact. Not one I am proud of but a wrestle that has yielded good dividend. While reading Faith In The Shadows it occurred to me that I have an impressive collection of supposedly Christian apologetics books that explore the space of doubt within the context of biblical faith. Growing up in evangelical circles, my greatest peeve was the inability (or unwillingness) to acknowledge that they don’t have an answer for everything, unwillingness to marvel at the mysteries of life’s unknown and the fetish with certitude. The need to not question, to cling to hyper-literalism and make it a hill upon which to die are worrying.
Strangely, since I lost the shackles, I have embraced my doubts (without being proud of them) and found my faith enriched and unthreatened. I am not proud of my doubts, do not wear them as a badge of honour but I now wrestle with them in confidence and have often come out on the other side with my faith more robust, strengthened and more authentic. Faith In The Shadows is an added tool in the box that reassures me that I am not alone as a doubtful believer and it challenges the intellect, nourishes the soul and refreshes the spirit in the process.
The foundation that Faith In The Shadows is anchored on is that “People don’t abandon faith because they have doubts. People abandon faith because they think they are not allowed to have doubts”. In Faith In The Shadows, Austin Fisher explores how it is possible for a believer to embrace his doubts, wrestle with them and be led to a deeper and more honest faith. With wit, lucid prose, tender words, sincerity and sound biblical exposition, he dispenses with the notion that faith requires certainty and that hyper-literal reading of the bible is the route to sound biblical faith. Not even James 1:6 supports certitude. Fisher highlights a balanced view of doubt and several passages where it yielded Godly rewards in scriptures. Furthermore, doubt for the believer comes under several themes – the science/faith debacle, understanding of hell within the context of a loving God, creation/evolution, silence from God, the problem of evil, consumerism and inerrancy of the bible. Faith In The Shadows works its way through all of these, albeit in broad strokes.
In all, it is an excellent addition to other recent books that address with honesty the questions that any believer in the modern age who is not afraid of tumbling the pack of cards that certitude masquerading as faith must face. Interestingly, certitude and hyper-literal reading of the bible as manifestations of biblical faith is a recent phenomenon. Church fathers did not tow that path and Faith In The Shadows implores us not to tow it too but to honestly and with a balanced view of scripture approach our doubts reminding us that we too can worship him even with doubts. Highly recommended.