This month’s book was one that I was truly happy to have read. This book came across my desk at a time when I was really down and had trouble keeping up with my faith. God seemed so far away that I felt that He truly did not care about me. Then I read this month’s book, Faith in the Shadows by Austin Fischer from InterVarsity Press. This book came out in 2018 and is designed with discussion questions in the back so you can have a small group discuss the content of this book. But what is the content?
Fischer takes on the concept of doubt. This is not the kind of doubt someone may have when they say “I’m not sure there is a god” or “I don’t believe you.” Instead, the doubt that Fischer writes about is that doubt that says, “I know there is a God, but my experience is inconsistent with what I believe. What do I do now?” It was surprising to me to read how open an honest this pastor is not only about the reality of faith amidst doubt, but his own personal experience dealing with doubt (even after being a pastor). I think that there are too many people within the Christian community that believe that once you have faith in Christ, there is no room for doubt. Fischer makes the argument that it is impossible to grow in your faith without coming to a place of doubt. He states, “Doubt makes people abandon their faith, but people don’t abandon faith because they have doubts. People abandon faith because they think they’re not allowed to have doubts.” I thought this was a particularly jarring statement to make of the Church. No matter where you are, or what age you are at, it is okay to have doubts and the Church should be a place you can express them and work to find answers.
“So if my son cannot begin to comprehend some of my ways (and I lack a single created universe to my credit), why should I think I can even begin to comprehend all of God’s ways?”
Fischer is open an honest about his own experiences of faith. He talks about several different ideas: the concept of doubt in Job, what science means for faith, and a woman coming into his office to say, “I believe in hell, but I’m not happy about it.” Fischer walks through how he is able to reconcile his own religious beliefs with his intellectual understandings. Ultimately his makes the argument that it might be the Church’s influence of fundamentalism that may be causing the problem. Fundamentalism is what causes people to see that the Church remains ignorant of what the world around us looks like. One popular example of this is dinosaur bones. Some fundamentalists might claim that these bones were hidden in the ground by Satan in order to confuse us against God.
“So if you’d like more faith, quit trying to think your way into faith and instead, empowered by the grace of God, go love your way to faith.”
As I said, I picked this book up at a time when I needed it. I believe that this book is an important book that and clergy or layperson ought to have on their own bookshelves. You never know when doubt is going to come your way, or who in your life might have this experience. I believe that it is important for the Church to be equipped for any situation to help people where they are. That is what Austin Fischer has done. This is a book for equipping the Church to understand and deal with the issues of doubt. I have had doubt. Fischer has had doubt. You or someone you know may have doubt. This book gives you the language to be able to speak into this situation and help to move in the right direction. Will this book give you all the answers? No. But it will help you understand the emotions that doubt in faith can bring. I enjoyed this read, and I think you will too.