Unfortunately my reading has been slow as of late. I only finished one book in February and I’ve decided to take a little break from my list during Lent (I’m reading through the gospels). However, the one that I finished was phenomenal.
I read Barnabas Piper’s Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith. This is the first book of Piper’s that I have read, but I have enjoyed several of his articles and listen to his podcast, The Happy Rant, regularly.
This book deals with doubt in an open and honest way. As the subtitle suggests, it proposes that doubt is natural and not the enemy of faith, but rather a tool to be used to deepen and grow your faith. Doubt can be a healthy thing and if properly interpreted can be a great help rather than a hindrance.
The premise of the book is set upon the idea that our faith isn’t mean to be blind. We aren’t called into an ignorant faith that is weak and fragile. Our faith isn’t baseless. We are called to a reasoned faith in God, one that is founded in who He is and what He does, both in our lives, those around us, and those that we learn about in God’s Word.
Most of the time, the word translated as “belief” in Scripture is more accurately “trust.” So, as we are called to believe, we are actually to trust. Faith can be defined as belief and trust.
I love that Mr. Piper tears down the ideas that we must have explanations and answers for everything. We often fail to see the beauty in the mystery and forget that “I don’t know” doesn’t mean that we are idiots or that we are mindlessly following a myth. Through his work, Piper shows that if we knew all of the answers about God, He wouldn’t be much of a god. Resting in this mystery doesn’t make us dim or fearful of knowledge, but rather shows our maturity in that we understand that we cannot always explain everything.
As I shared after reading Rachel Held Evans’ book Searching for Sunday, doubt is a major factor in the life of the believer. We have to wrestle with this and if we do it open and honestly then we are much more likely to have success and grow as believers rather than to continue on in darkness where the smallest stone can fracture our faith.
Unlike Evans who approaches the topic in a very personal way with literary flourish, Piper approaches doubt and faith in a very practical way. Though he does still use his personal story as a backdrop, it is more of a “proof text” rather than a major plot point. Piper looks at belief, and conversely doubt, in the broad sense and then brings it down to the level of how it should look in our everyday life. If Evans asked the important questions, then Piper took it a step further and answered them.
Though some may not like where he ends up, you cannot deny its validity. There is a very real sense in which we, as Christians, must rest in the unknown and embrace that which we cannot see. We must be able to settle into those places that don’t have the clear lines drawn so that we may better understand when we do arrive at the answers we seek.
We are not the first to doubt. Even John the Baptist questioned whether Jesus was actually the Messiah (Luke 7). He sent his disciples to ask Jesus. What better an example for when we doubt? Go and ask Jesus. We will have doubts; this is a given. But what are we to do when those doubts arise? Go and seek the answers from the one who has them.
Even though this book does get a little academic at times discussing belief and doubt in the abstract (and is missing a bit of the snark that I’ve come to associate with Piper), I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is struggling with unbelief but also to new believers so that they can arm themselves when the doubt comes.