I found this book through the blog Jesus Needs New PR, by Matthew Paul Turner (of Churched and Hear No Evil fame). Jason Boyett (who has a pretty interesting blog himself) is cut from a similar bolt of cloth as Turner, though with perhaps a little more serious food for thought in his writing. They are both representatives (and not the only ones … watch for another interesting review coming up soon) of a breed of young (by which I mean, of course, youngerthanme) evangelicals who have moved away from more conservative or fundamentalist backgrounds and are able to view those backgrounds with critical and sometimes irreverent humour, but who haven’t left the wider fold of evangelical Christianity.
From that perspective, Jason Boyett addresses the question of doubt. While liberal Christians are comfortable quoting statements like “Doubt is the handmaiden of Faith,” you don’t get a lot of that in more conservative churches, including my church, where doubt is at least a borderline sin if not an outright transgression.
Any natural-born skeptic who’s grown up and been educated in an environment where certainty is the ultimate virtue and it’s not safe to voice your doubts (worst case scenario: you might “shake the faith of a weaker brother”) will probably feel the same flood of relief and recognition I did upon reading this book. Of course, for some people, the obvious solution is to ditch the faith and embrace the doubts: turn your back on God if you can’t be 100% sure he’s there. But Boyett, like me and lots of other people, doesn’t choose that path. Rather, he chooses (as I do) to continue living out the Christian faith without the benefit of that absolutely certainty that many Christians around us seem to enjoy — and which, to be honest, always sounds a teensy bit suspect if you don’t share it. Boyett does a great job of gently poking fun at Christians who are certain the Lord speaks to them about every insignificant decision of daily life.
While this is a book for people who have decided to stay with faith rather than abandon it, it’s not a handy Christian how-to guide on “Getting Rid of Your Doubts” or “Overcoming Doubt and Embracing Certainty.” Boyett freely admits that he doesn’t have that to offer, and, perhaps more shocking to some, he doesn’t even really want it. There are, he argues, benefits to doubt, not least being that people who never admit to doubt and are 100% certain of their faith can be just a little scary and intolerant sometimes. OK, I’m not sure whether that last point is really mine or Boyett’s, but this is one of those books where I was nodding in agreement so much that I sometimes got the author’s thoughts confused with my own. As someone who’s wrestled with various doubts for most of my Christian life (which is also most of my actual life), I found it refreshing to read about someone who was willing to admit to having similar doubts without offering easy answers.
So think of this book as a guide to learning to live with your doubts. Drawing on his own experience, Boyett sketches from possibilities for figuring out what you can be sure of, recognizing the moments when God actually shows up in your life (even if it’s not every day as He helps you find the parking spot right in front of WalMart), and living a Christian life that’s focused more on following Jesus rather than on believing a particular set of propositions about Him.