Science and Faith as BFFs: a book review

When I was a teenager, in my fundy evangelical days, I was taught to be suspicious of science. Scientists were you using their big bang black magic, their carbon-dating-voodoo, and evolutionary processes to explain away the Creator.  My youth leaders would do role-playing exercises designed to help us take a brave Christian response to our godless philosophy or biology professors when we got to college (I’m convinced that the entire plot to God’s Not Dead was written in a youth group). I was told if Genesis 1 was not literally how God created the earth, that would mean you couldn’t trust anything in the Bible (there is a logical fallacy there, see if you can spot it).

8741I can’t say this is all entirely to blame for my undergrad, underachieving self, but it is pretty hard to make yourself try hard in class if you think your Geology professor is lying to you (I think this suspicion of sciences is also partly to blame for certain Christians’ ambivalence to global warming or evidence-based research).

Thankfully, there are a number of Christians today which are exploring the interconnection between science and faith. Among them is Greg Cootsona. Cootsona directs Science and Theology for Emerging Adult Ministries (STEAM) at Fuller Theological Seminary and teaches religious studies and humanities at Chico State. He wrote Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults as a manifesto for pastors, emerging adult ministries leaders, and emerging adults themselves (18 to 30-year-olds). He discusses the disconnect between science and faith, places where they may be brought into greater integration and dialogue, and he provides various case studies of relevant issues to faith and science.

Mere Science and Faith unfolds in eight chapters. In chapter 1, Cootsona describes his own history of science and faith—his Christian conversion in college at UC Berkley, and subsequent antagonism toward faith he experienced from faculty and fellow students. He then introduces his thesis, an integrative approach to faith and science. In chapter 2, Cootsona cites psychological and social scientific research to discuss how to engage science and faith with emerging adults (18 to 30-year-olds). He concludes that the conversation between faith and science has shifted with the development of new technologies (e.g. artificial intelligence, transhumanism, screen time), new understandings of faith, and the eclectic “Spotify mix” style of engaging faith and science of emerging adult Christians today which breaks down some of the old dichotomies (28-29). A bricolage of mismatched ideas (Spotify) instead of an LP album, allows emerging adults to see connections between science and faith, or at least regard them as independent spheres without any felt antagonism. Cootsona extends this analysis in chapter 3 (“Emerging Adults: Are They None and Done?”).

Chapter 4 and 5 are a crash course on biblical hermeneutics. Chapter 4 has an eye to how best make sense of the creation passages in our Scientific age. Cootsona discusses creation narratives of Genesis 1-2, and other relevant passages.  Chapter 5, looks at  Adam and Eve and human history. Cootsona concludes this section on hermeneutics with 5 reflections on reading the Bible:

  1. We hold to the Bible because there we find our relationship to God through Jesus Christ.
  2. Although we seek integration, we need to  interpret Scripture with a sufficent dose of independence between science and faith when necessary
  3. The interests of the interpreter are critical to the task of interpretation [i.e. we bring ourselves to the text and engage it with critical realism]
  4. Science is not the sole arbitrator of truth.
  5. Our biblical interpretation is about learning to live with the narrative of Scripture (96-98).

These hermeneutical reflections help Christians navigate truth in science and Scripture while acknowledging that each has a peculiar lens for comprehending reality. Chapters 6 and 7 describe the gifts and limits of technology and chapter 8 concludes the book.

Interspersing these chapters are various case studies exploring: the New Atheism, Cognitive Science, the Big Bang and Fine Tuning, Intelligent Design and the problem of irreducible complexity, climate change, and human sexuality. If the chapters are more conceptual, these case studies explore the nature of the dialogue between faith and science as they relate to particular issues.

I didn’t have this book during my own emerging adulthood, but somehow I discovered that pressing into scientific questions (e.g. evolution, cosmology, geology) and adjusting how I understood particular passages, did not cause my faith in God to slide down a slippery slope toward secularism. For myself, it was exposure to Christians outside my narrow evangelical bubble that enabled me to make my peace with science, but certainly, a book like this would have been quite helpful. As an erstwhile and intermittent pastor, I appreciate the sound advice which Cootsona offers in guiding emerging adults to greater integration of science and faith. I particularly liked the emphasis on hermeneutics. I was reminded of one of my seminary professors saying, “When science and faith disagree, there is always a hermeneutical problem. Either we are misreading God’s Special Revelation (i.e., the Bible) or we are miss reading Creation. Or both.” Cootsona explores how to navigate the issues well (I did wish his chapters on technology probed the issues a little more, but this is a short book).

This is a book about science, but not really a science book. Cootsona mentions research and some important thinkers, but this is pretty accessible to us non-scientists. I give this four stars – ★★★★

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Nurturing the Faith to Sustain: a ★★★★★ book review

Sophfronia Scott came to Christian faith as a child, having read a religious tract and praying the prayer at the end. Her family wasn’t regular churchgoers, though her father listened to eight-track tapes of Reverend C. L. Franklin and movies like The Ten Commandments, King of Kings and the Greatest Story Ever Told.  When she was in college, at Harvard University, she reacted to a Christian friend’s harsh judgmentalism towards athiests and this increased her wariness of church. She  had thought about getting baptized, even spoke to Rev. Peter Gomes about it, but Gomes’s requirement for baptism was being committed to a Christian community, and she wasn’t about to join a church.



she came to church and a more significant faith as an adult. Her young son, Tain Gregory,  heard Where is Your Hairbrush? on satellite radio in the car. This led to the discovery of other Veggie Tale Silly Songs and the Veggie Tale cartoon. As Tain learned about the Bible from vegetables, he began to show an interest in faith, God and spiritual things. One day he


said he wanted to go to church. So Sophfronia, her husband Darryl and Tain decided to start attending church together. They settled on Trinity Episcopal Church, the church that Tain’s preschool had been in.

I knew before reading This Child of Faith, that Sophfronia had a son who was a third grader at Sandy Hook Elementary School when a gunman entered the school. The events of that day entered the national consciousness. It was the fourth largest, single shooter massacre in U.S. history.  I figured, given the significance and severity of that event, this would be a difficult read, knowing that any Sandy Hook story would be intense.

And it was. Tain lost a close friend (a godbrother) and other people he cared about. Sophfronia struggled with the best way to help Tain process the trauma. But despite the way that day impacted their family and community, this memoir is not really the story of the Sandy Hook shooting. Rather, this is a story of a mother and son, each growing in their Christian faith and the resource their faith was to them.

Sophfronia tells us of Tain’s faith and childlike wonder, the way he saw God everywhere, his gregarious and generous spirit, and the things this called up in her. She also describes what she did to help nurture Tain in the faith, her lesson planning for children’s worship (which she was conscripted to occasionally lead), and the day she and Tain were baptized together. She talks about how their pastor walked with them through difficult stuff, such as the death of a friend’s husband and Sophfronia’s sister.  The school shooting happens near the end of the book. It is Sophfronia and Tain’s faith journey that would give each the resources to process that painful event. Their family worshipped together at Trinity church, they were fed by sacraments, oriented by liturgy and the liturgical calendar, and bolstered by devotional practice and prayer, surrounded by the community of faith.

Sophfronia lists Tain as her co-author. She wrote the book but includes occasional memories and reflections from Tain. With an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College, this is a well-written memoir. And despite its graphic and heart-rending conclusion, this signals hope. Their faith carries them through trauma and loss.  I highly recommend this. Five stars! – ★★★★★

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from Paraclete Press in exchange for my honest review.

On thoughts & prayers

This blog is called thoughts, prayers & songs.  Here, I think through issues related to theology, justice, calling, and faith, or whatever comes to mind.  My thinking has been shaped by the reading of books and I have reviewed many books here (and on my Goodreads account), but I don’t think of this primarily as a ‘book review blog.’ It is a blog, and books are some of my conversation partners as I think through issues, and seek to grow in my Christian walk. I know stuff, but I don’t want to just be knowledgeable. I want to be wise and have a vibrant devotional life: to pray, read Scripture, and live out a compelling, missional faith. I want to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with God. So, in addition to book reviews, I have intermittent liturgical reflections, poems, scriptural musings and theological meanderings.  My blog tagline “My journey from self-absorption to doxology” captures the movement that I strive toward:

From thoughts, ⇒  to prayers, ⇒  to & songs.

And I hope people take the journey with me.

Nevertheless, I know thoughts & prayers have fallen on hard times (few people will rail against songs, though a rare unmusical soul may try). Thoughts & prayers are offered across social-media whenever a friend or loved one is facing trying circumstances. A lost job, an unwelcome diagnosis, the death of a family member. “You are in my thoughts & prayers.[insert heart emoji and cryface].When we hear these words from friends, we understand that they are saying that they care and that they are holding us in their heart while we are in a difficult place. But when a politician says it in the wake of yet another tragedy we feel more cynical:

“I’d like to begin by sending our thoughts and prayers to the people of Puerto Rico, who have been struck by storms of historic and catastrophic severity,” -Donald J. Trump (source, Business Insider, “Trump on Peurto Rico Crisis,” Sept. 29, 2017)

“My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nepal” Hillary Clinton on Twitter, April 25, 2015)

Our cynicism about politicians offering thoughts & prayers is because we perceive they have the power to do something about the situation, but are not responding in a tangible way. If they offer up thoughts and prayers but fail to act to alleviate the suffering of others than we feel like they don’t care, they just say they do. This is especially true in the aftermath of gun violence. Democrats and media outlets have criticized a number of GOP politicians for offering thoughts and prayers in the wake of both last year’s Orlando shooting at Pulse night club, and last week’s shooting in Las Vegas. Here is a sampling of headlines:

GOP Congressmen Offer “Thoughts and Prayers.” Here’s How Much the NRA Gave Them to Offer Nothing More. (Slate, June 12, 2016)

Why ‘thoughts and prayers’ is starting to sound so profane (Washinton Post, Oct. 3, 2017)

Rubio and Florida GOP Offer Vegas “Thoughts and Prayers” While Taking Thousands of Dollars From NRA  (Miami  New Times, Oct. 3, 2017)


Messenger: America, land of thoughts and prayers, mourns its dead, again (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Oct 2, 2017)

This growing angst against thoughts & prayers in the wake of recent gun violence is due to a lack of effort on the part of Congress to pass some sort of common sense gun control law. Certainly, they feel bad for the people in Vegas who were killed or injured when Stephen Paddock unleashed his arsenal on a Country Music festival. But the NRA has given a number of our congresspeople thousands of dollars and Christians in America are more likely to own a gun and be pro-gun than any other segment of the population. So, nothing happens. But thoughts & prayers.

Or worse, instead of thoughts & prayers, we allow our fear of the other to cloud our thoughts and prayers. Instead of thinking or praying, we beef up our arsenals and prepare for the worst. If a bad hombre threatens us or our family, we are prepared and can take him out before he does any damage.

A couple of years ago, I was pastoring a church in Florida. When Dylann Roof shot up Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, one of the elders asked me if I wanted him to start carrying his gun to church in case someone decided to shoot up our congregation (he had a conceal carry permit). I declined the offer, but I get this desire for self-protection. There are bad people in the world and nobody wants to be a victim.

Good people carrying guns in church sounds so sensible. Didn’t Jesus say, “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one”? But two swords were enough for the whole lot of twelve disciples and I can’t see Jesus giving his blessing automatic assault weapons with armor piercing rounds. Those who live by the sword perish by the sword.

I follow Jesus. He is the Prince of Peace, Mr. Turn-the-Other-Cheek. He overcame the violence of his age by submitting to death on a Roman cross. I think and I pray to be shaped in the image of Christ. I want to be like Jesus. And while I have had few real-world opportunities to practice the non-violence of Jesus, this is the way of the cross. Christ followers who think and pray about the state of the world will be moved to a certain sort of action. Their response to violence will be cruciform. Thinking and praying are formational activities.

Some liberals and media pundits get hung up on thoughts and prayers, but thoughts & prayers are not our problems. Failing to act is the problem, both in the wake of tragedy and proactively to avert a crisis. I feel the weight of my own critique here. I am a reader and a thinker and can be accused of living too much in my mind sometimes. Yet, thoughtless actions wreak havoc on the world and prayer-less lives have no Divine spark. Think, pray and act, so that your life may become a song.

Image result for Thoughts and Prayers

Goodnight Shame

Five years ago we sent our daughter to Awana at a nearby church. We like the Bible and we want our kids to learn and love it. We sent her, confident that she would have a good time and hopefully learn a little. In general, this was a positive experience for both her and us. We got to know some of the people at that church, the same church our other daughter went to for preschool (and later Awana) and there was lots of kids crafts and silliness which kept her entertained.

One night after Awana, our daughter was a little wound up. She wasn’t listening at all, running, laughing, singing when we started to go through her bedtime routine. We tried in vain to get her and her siblings to bed. We were exasperated.  So, I made my angry dad face and scolded her sternly. I remember a look of shock before she ran off to finally got ready. Parenting win, I thought. When she had her pajamas on, she came up to me, tears in her eyes. She looked up at me and said with a whimper, “Dad, I’m sorry for sinning.”

Excuse me?

It didn’t take me long to connect the dots. She came home from Awana where she had learned that Everyone has sinned. No one has lived up to God’s glory (Romans 3:23 NrIV). They had a short devotional teachings about what kids do that are sinful (like disobeying their parents), so that they’d accept Jesus as Savior and Lord.  She probably learned in the same lesson that When you sin, the pay you get is death. (Romans 6:23a NrIV). When her Wednesday night exuberance caused me to react in anger, she felt ashamed. Shame at who she was—a five year old hardened sinner who stayed up way too late and liked to sing. I doubt that this exact message was the one her Awana leaders intended, but it was the one she got.

I have a big problem with that.

I agree with her Awana leaders that sin is a universal problem, one dealt with decisively by Christ on the cross. But for the life of me, I can’t picture God punishing my little girl with eternal conscious torment because she was hyper and distracted at bedtime. The truth is, a lot of kid’s willful disobedience, while exasperating, is pretty adorable. If God enjoys my kids as much as I do (and I know he does),  I doubt he would even been angry if he was the one tasked with tucking them in that night. Kids are kids. He probably would laugh the way I laugh before my patience wears thin.

God is our loving Father; yet sometimes our theology paints Him as less loving than we are with our own kids. We take great pains to not shame our kids when they misbehave, but ironically we’ve been taught to shame sinners. A couple of centuries of revivalist spirituality taught us to get people to seek the gospel remedy by getting them to feel sorrow for their sins.  How can something be good theology and bad psychology? Shaming sinners gets it wrong.

Certainly I could think of out of bounds behaviors and more serious offenses my kids might do that demands an adequate response. Sin is a real issue in all our lives that we need to confess it and repent of it.  But I’ve grown wary of this shaming spirituality we see in Evangelical statements, children’s curriculum, Sunday sermons and worship songs.  There has to be a better way.



Q is for Questioning (an alphabet for penitents)

Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. -1 Cor. 8:2

“What is truth?” -John 18:38

Questions are the prerequisite to the spiritual life. If you want to grow in your understanding of God (or really anything), learn to ask good questions.

Small groups often pose questions to get people to begin to share their perspective and life together.  Good mentors learn to ask questions which help us clarify our vision of the world. Throughout the Bible, God even asks questions which invite self-reflection about where we are and how we got there (see, for example, Genesis 3:8 and God’s question, “Where are you?”). My scriptural study is most fruitful when I ask probing questioning of the text and try to chase down the answers.

We know the value of good questions, but we often view questioning with suspicion. Ask questions but don’t question the leadership. Ask questions but don’t question the central doctrines of the Christian faith. Ask questions but not too much, and some of your questions are off limits. In the Christian tribe I grew up with, I was taught to hold tenaciously to certain beliefs, and to not be so open-minded that my brains fall out. We formed our questions rhetorically in order to show that Jesus was the answer to what ailed us.  We were taught to regard scientific and skeptical questions as an attack on the Bible and the Christian worldview.  When people’s questions made us feel uncomfortable, we prayed that God would reveal to them the truth.

People avoid questions for two reasons. Either they feel assured in their knowledge of something or they are afraid of the answers. Those who are self-assured have stopped growing in either their field or faith: those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought. Those who are afraid of the questions don’t move past a surface and superficial understanding of the matter. What if asking a question is like pulling a string on your favorite sweater? If you follow where your question leads, will the whole garment unravel, leaving you tangled in doubts?  Is there a risk? Yes, an answer unearthed to a serious question may change everything.

I have not asked questions for both of these reasons. I can remember telling a Sunday  School teacher when I was twelve (the age Jesus was when his parents found him in the temple court asking questions), “Tell me what you were going to teach on today, and I will tell you all about it.”  An arrogant retort, but I didn’t leave such self-assured arrogance in adolescence. As an adult, and occasionally still, I offer up pat answers to tough questions, believing I know all there is to know about that (whatever ‘that’ is).

At other stages of my spiritual journey, I thought entertaining certain questions would shake the foundations of my faith. What is the relationship between science and faith? What if evolution is true? What insights can we gain from philosophy? From other faiths? Did Jesus really do that? Who did Jesus save us from? In what way does the cross effect our salvation? Dangerous questions,  but I learned to ask them. My faith did not implode, though it certainly changed. I am more confident today that Jesus is the answer to what ails the world. My faith grew through questioning, not avoiding the question.

Not every question deserves an answer. Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” has merit, but he didn’t ask it honestly. It was a cynical retort he asked before leaving the room to see who he could pawn Jesus off on. On the other hand, Jesus never turned aside the honest questioner. It is in asking of good questions that we find ourselves on holy ground.


Hope for a Post-Hope and Change America: a book review

Reclaiming Hope by Michael Wear tells the story of faith in the Obama administration. Before he turned twenty-one in 2008, Wear was already a White House staffer, appointed by the president to the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships as one of the youngest WH staffers in the modern American political era. He had previously worked with Barak Obama’s election campaign and he would go on to direct faith outreach for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

240_360_book-2109-coverGiven this bio, Wear is obviously sympathetic to Obama and his legacy; however what he offers here is both sympathetic and critical. He describes Obama (and his own efforts) to intersect with people of faith and address their concerns, and the places where he felt Obama had failed to build bridges to religious communities. His book is part memoir, part political analysis with some theological musings thrown in for good measure.

The first five chapters of Reclaiming Hope, are autobiography. Wear describes his improbable journey to the White House, meeting Obama and working on the campaigns and in the White House. Despite Obama’s Christianity and his respect for people of faith, faith was of secondary importance to the administration. Many of Wear’s colleagues were ignorant of faith concerns, and occasionally antagonistic to religious concerns. This biography section gives an insider look at a few places where Obama wrestled with religion in the public sphere (i.e. his distancing himself from his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, his meeting with evangelical leaders, his appointment of Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration, etc).

The next three chapters discuss in greater detail how the Obama administration addressed (or didn’t address) the concerns of people of faith. In chapter six, he discusses abortion. While Obama and the Democratic Party are officially pro-choice, the policies that Obama promoted during his administration were aimed at reducing the overall number of abortions. The number of abortions decreased, during his tenure they were at their lowest in years with a higher number of adoptions. Nevertheless, Obama’s abortion policies were not well received by those on the Religious Right, and weren’t adequately Pro-Choice for some on the left. Chapter seven examines the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act and the tone-deaf way the administration responded to Christian’s who felt their religious freedom was being infringed on.Chapter eight describes Obama’s evolution on same-sex marriage, which put him more and more at loggerheads with traditional, religious folk.

Chapter seven examines the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act and the tone-deaf way the administration responded to Christian’s who felt their religious freedom was being infringed on.Chapter eight describes Obama’s evolution on same-sex marriage, which put him more and more at loggerheads with traditional, religious folk.

In chapter ten, Wear describes the second inauguration. In contrast to the first inauguration, the evangelical pastor Obama had asked to pray (in this case Louie Giglio) was vehemently opposed because of a twenty-year-old sermon against homosexuality. In his first inauguration both Rick Warren, a conservative evangelical megachurch pastor, and the first openly gay Episcopal  bishop, Gene Robinson prayed—a testimony to Obama’s ‘big-tent,’ inclusive approach to religion. At his second inauguration, the lines between Right and Left had hardened.

Wear’s final two chapters wax theological on the meaning of hope, not in the political sloganeering sense, but in the Christian sense. Politicians offer a piecemeal  and little hope, but Christian hope is Jesus—our hope for today and evermore. Wear closes with thoughts on how Christian’s ought to engage the political landscape, bringing hope to realms of religious freedom and race relations.

I appreciate the insider perspective Wear brings to faith and politics in the Obama era. He reflects on the places where he feels like Obama was true to his vision, and the places where he dropped the ball.  Wear strikes a nice balance between narrative and analysis. I also appreciate the insight he brings as a person of faith from the left side aisle. If Christianity gets coopted by the Right, the Left is often ignorant of the Bible and Jesus. That brings a unique sense of challenges.

This is an interesting read for anyone interested in faith and politics (something we won’t get away from in the Trump era). The hope for America and the world is not this president or the last one. Or the next. It is Jesus, hope of the nations and change we can believe in. I give this book four stars.

Note: I received this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Waving Bye and Hi to God: a ★★★★★ book review

This isn’t an apologetics book, though I took from it what I normally get from one (a rationale or some ground for continued belief). Mike McHargue, also known as Science Mike, doesn’t set out to convince you of your spiritual path. Finding God in the Waves is a memoir of McHargue’s own spiritual journey. I love memoirs, especially ones with a Hobbit-like shape ( There and Back Again). McHargue describes both losing his faith, and finding God again (SPOILER ALERT) in the waves. Along the way he shares the scientific and philosophical axioms which allow him to hold on to faith in the face of science, reason and doubt.

sciencemikePodcast listeners will be familiar with Mike McHargue from his Ask Science Mike podcast or from The Liturgists podcast which he does with Michael Gungor. The name Science Mike, a vague discipline combined with his personal name, doesn’t really communicate anything substantial about McHargue’s credentials. It is kind of like calling yourself Humanities Jane, Literature Harry, or Theology Bob. Rob Bell christened him as Science Mike, so what are you going to do?  McHargue’s bio doesn’t tell you what kind of scientist he is (or if he is), you just have his assertion that his years as an atheist, when he could examine evidence without religious ideological lenses, made him a better scientist. Perhaps, but this book is more science-y than anything approaching hard sciences.

McHargue grew up in a devout Southern Baptist family. He said the sinner’s prayer at the age of seven, grew up as an evangelical praying to Jesus and believing. Hormones and playing in a band transformed him from an nerdy fat kid into someone more likeable and cool.  For a season he broke from the church (which frowned on premarital sex), until he fell victim to the flirt and convert. Jennifer Carol Frye, a girl he was smitten with, demanded that if he was serious about her, they attend church together. So he did, trading bar gigs for church camp and a worship band. By the time he was twenty-five, he and Jenny were married and McHargue was serious about his faith.

Then his faith fell apart. The cracks came when his dad left his mom for another woman, after almost thirty years of marriage. McHargue saw no biblical ground for divorce and  wanted God to fix his parents’ marriage. He began reading the bible through at a voracious pace and praying fervently. He noted contradictions in the Bible which he didn’t know were there before (i.e. the differences between the Genesis 1 and 2 creation accounts) and doubts began to form. Reading Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis helped him move past the need to fix his parents marriage and showed him that you could be honest about your doubts in the life of faith.

His Christianity weathered his parents divorce but not its next challenger: Richard Dawkins. An atheist friend got him to read The God Delusion. McHargue read it, along with dozens of other works from skeptics. His faith fell apart, particularly as Dawkins parsed the evidence against answered prayer. He became an atheist albeit a secret one. He had no desire to undermine the faith of his wife or others. He continued to teach Sunday school and be a deacon at his church. Eventually his wife (and mother) uncover his collapsed faith, but he remained a secret atheist to everyone else until he was roped into attending a religious conference put on by Rob Bell.

Remember I mentioned the Hobbit shape of this memoir? McHargue does make it back to the shire of belief, but just as with Bilbo, the landscape changed for him because of the journey. Rob Bell, a beach house and the waves, shake him out of atheism into an Eucharistic encounter with the divine, but he doesn’t return to the fundamentalist, evangelicalism of days of yore. He finds a progressive church that he feels comfortable worshiping in and writes axioms which allow him as believing skeptic to give a rational account of subjective religious experience and its benefit (i.e. the physiological benefits of meditation and contemplative prayer).

I really liked this book and found McHargue’s story a compelling one. I found I could relate to parts of his journey. Like him, my evangelical parents’ marriage dissolved after almost thirty years and I was left there to pick up the pieces and try to make sense of it all. Like him, my reading of books by skeptics and believers alike stretched my understanding of God, the Bible and the life of faith. I haven’t ever walked away from the faith but I know the experience of dissonance between outward expression of faith and doubts swirling around my insides.

McHargue doesn’t provide trite answers to tough question or cherry-picked evidence that demands a verdict. However, his axioms are a starting point for others on their way back to belief. These axioms make smaller and more general claims than the orthodox Christian tradition about God, prayer, the afterlife, salvation, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the church or the Bible. I am unhappy with McHargue’s axioms as guiding principles for life and faith but I  appreciate the way he frames what he says. Each axiom begins by explaining what each element (i.e. God, sin, salvation, etc.) are  “at least.”  He gives skeptics a provisional place to begin their explore God. Just enough.

I give this five stars and highly recommend it. Those who have wrestled with religious doubt will appreciate the honest way that McHargue explores his own doubts. Not every skeptic will be helped by his answers and many believers will wish he voiced things with a little more theological precision and substance; Yet if you have walked this road, you will appreciate the way McHargue names the in-between-places. ★★★★★

Note: I received this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest review.