My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I've said it before, and it's worth saying again. I'm pretty certain I'm right...but there's always that niggling little question mark in the back of my heart and head. I've been seriously wrong before, and I just could be wrong about some things now. Austin Fischer, lead pastor at Vista Community Church in Temple Texas, brings his doubts and question marks to the fore in his recently published 183 page paperback, "Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt". Mildly irreverent at times, forcefully honest, leaning toward Eastern Orthodoxy while remaining securely Protestant, the author challenges the "certainties" of Fundamentalism and fundamentalist Evangelicalism. Primarily, it is a book that seeks to give voice to the misgivings Christians can have, and to soften some of the sharp, jagged edges of rock-hard answers.
Fischer tackles evil, the silence of God, Fundamentalism, evolution and the place of Genesis 1-3, God's existence and apologetics, and hell. In many ways its a wonderfully useful read because the author is not only skeptical, but skeptical of his own skepticism. Fischer moves through all of these subjects toward his main concept: certainty is an enlightenment, rationalist notion; and Fundamentalism swallowed that pill long ago and has been infected since. Therefore faith "is not the absence of doubt. Faith is the presence of love" (146).
"Faith in the Shadows" has many bright points. I enjoyed the way Fischer dealt with Job, doubt, and evil. Another bright spot that I wasn't prepared for was as the author recounts the reasons he now embraces evolution as okay with Scripture. Here he throws himself his own curve ball that he just can't hit: "Simply put, evolution is a brutal, vicious, wasteful, and cruel process. It involves the creation of life through monstrous violence over immense ages of time. It is difficult to believe that God who would use evolution it bring about humanity could be the same God who took on flesh in Christ to redeem humanity" (109). Exactly so! I have said it all along! And here is someone who has come to accept theistic evolution, and sees one of the major problems with theistic evolution.
"Faith in the Shadows" is a decently written dossier on one pastor's loss of Fundamentalist certainty, and his willingness to walk forward following Christ, while being willing to voice his own doubts and queries. Though there are conclusions the author makes that I simply can't swallow, nevertheless he has drawn forth a beneficial perspective: faith requires humility, not hamfisted certainty. "Christianity promises more than we can hope for without giving up control" (160). In light of some of my concerns already mentioned, I can still give my prudent recommendation.
I am truly thankful to IVP for sending me a copy of the book at my request. They made no demands, and they issued no diktats. Ergo, I am free to give my own review as I see fit, which I have done here.
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