2014-04-11

iDoubt: When Faith Falters

By C.P. Fagan  


This is a dangerous book. It asks questions not often asked, and it doesn’t actually give any answers. But sometimes, being able to ask questions is a powerful part of the healing.

The author is an enigma, about as well hidden as a superhero’s secret identity. Might be a catholic priest. Might not.

Eat the meat & spit out the bones. This is not a book that’s going to hand you nice clean answers on a plate. It will help you think.

The publisher says this:

You want to believe in God. At one time, it was so simple. God loved you and you loved God. And that was it. For a season, you were committed to Christ. But the season passed. Unfortunately, life hit you hard and you began to have doubts. Your doubts grew and your faith shrunk. It was like a cancer that no amount of prayer could stop. You turned to the church for answers, but your issues were never fully addressed. You were an inconvenience, rather than a person who needed sincere help. Your doubt about God’s love and his very existence was unfathomably uncomfortable to others. Somewhere along the line, it seemed like you were forgotten. Forgotten by God. Forgotten by your church. Forgotten by other Christians.

You prayed earnestly, but God and church seemed to drift farther away. You were like a scuba diver chasing after his boat that was adrift in the ocean. Eventually, your faith was lost on the horizon.

The loss of your faith left you empty. It also left you wondering whether it had ever been real. Was God just a fairy tale? Did your life really have meaning? Why did other Christians seem to despise you for raising these questions?

Your life has gone on, but you can’t get Christ out of your head. You know that you must deal with him, but don’t know how. You want to be loved, but have no idea of how to find your way back to him. Is it worth the hassle?

Faith seems so easy for others, but not for you. You are tired of trying to justify your misgivings to other Christians. You have doubts about God’s existence, the fairness in the universe, and misgivings about church. But you still hope, even though you don’t know why.

This book tackles heady issues that are rarely discussed in church. How can you overcome doubts that plague you? Can you be a Christian if your faith waivers from day-to-day? Is hell fair? Why does God stay hidden? Does death make sense? How does faith co-exist with science? Will the church knock off judging everyone? What if you want to love God but don’t want to go back to church? Is that possible?

The answers don’t always come easy, but you won’t be treated as an outcast when reading this book. The goal is to discuss out loud what is normally only whispered in churches. Not all Christians are alike. Not all faith is alike. But faith can be found in a troubled world.

And the reviews are mixed:

I thought this book was pretty well written and interesting. More than that, it's a fairly brutal look at some of the more common issues that drive people away from church (or more importantly, faith in God). I relate personally with a lot of the examples used, especially those related to growing up in the fundamentalist church.

Unfortunately, I don't think this book presents a compelling argument against most of these doubts. Instead, the issues that plague many skeptics seem to be trivialized.

One clear example: when considering whether a loving God would send people to hell, Mr. Fagan tells us not to worry about the eternal fate of others. Instead, "Focus on the offer that has been made to you. You are free to accept God's grace and escape hell. Period." So...we should celebrate because we're all good even though our 'loving' God may be condemning millions to eternal suffering?

Also, Fagan (like many apologists) ignores a key point in his discussion of inerrancy. If the Bible contains errors (quite a few are documented) and/or uses poetry or allegory interchangeably with fact, how are we to trust our personal or even historical interpretation of the "overarching message of Scripture"?

Finally, some, after reading the Bible, could come to the conclusion that all this talk about 'personal relationships' with God, or God caring about you as an individual is nothing more than a modern attempt to make God more approachable. I thought the chapter on suffering/death could have addressed this, but again comes across as a bit trite..."God uses horrific instances to ultimately bring about good things." What believers fail to say is that those horrific instances may directly impact or kill us. God's 'good' things may have nothing to do with our good here on earth...they may be at our expense.

Criticisms aside, I think this is a compelling book that will force anyone to reevaluate their faith (or lack thereof).