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Brian McLaren – Faith after doubt: Why your beliefs stopped working and what to do about it

Hodder and Stoughton ISBN 978 1 529 38445 1 335 pages Price £14.99

I like Brian McLaren, even when I disagree with him. There can be value in reading books that take us outside our comfort zone. Faith after Doubt is one of them.

  1. McLaren is not afraid to ask searching questions about the Christian faith. He does so because he has asked so many himself.
  2. He is a compassionate listener to other people who are struggling with other questions. Such people are able to read his book with the nod of recognition: “It wasn’t just me after all!”
  3. He offers hope that the God at the heart of Christian faith is big enough to deal with our questions. After Thomas’s expresses doubts Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus meets him more than halfway.

Questions can lead us to abandon any idea of believing in God or they can lead us to adjust our understanding of God. McLaren writes about four stages of faith development: Simplicity – Complexity – Perplexity – Harmony.

This journey could be summed up in the author’s words:

“Before doubt, I thought that faith was a matter of correct beliefs.”

The issues at stake are, does McLaren react to true Christian faith or a distortion of it? Does he help those who doubt exercise true Christian faith, or one that is trimmed of the rough edges that challenge faith?

Harmony is summed up in the word love. What perplexes me is that dealing with complexity leads to using love as an elastic term that has little in the way of definition.

What McLaren seems to forget is that the shape of biblical faith and morality flows out of the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself.” At times, reading McLaren feels like listening to a plumber rethinking pipes!

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex


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