Book Review: Questioning your Doubts

question doubtsIt is with thanks to author Christina Powell for the opportunity to review her book Questioning Your Doubts: A Harvard PhD Explores Challenges to Faith (IVP 2014). A little information about Dr. Powell from the Amazon site:

Christina M. H. Powell (PhD, Virology, Harvard) is a biomedical research scientist who conducted research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. She has been a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital and a research associate at Boston University. She is also an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God and a frequent writer and speaker on bioethics and issues of science and faith.
The core message of the book is that while doubts will arise over the course of our lives, it is possible to resolve those doubts by prayerfully and thoughtfully working our way through them.  It is important we not allow doubt to derail our faith life and sense of calling but rather to allow them to challenge us toward greater faith and sense of the calling God has on our lives as Christians.   In writing the book, Powell seeks to equip Christians with effective means to question their doubts.
She writes in the introduction:
Whether you are experiencing potentially faith crippling doubt about the existence or the goodness of God, a doubt about your life direction, or a doubt about your own ability to accomplish a certain task, this book will help you think through your doubts, understand the various resources of doubts and work towards resolving those doubts (10).
This was a very appealing book for me.  I am a thinker, to a fault.  But Powell did well to help me think through some of the doubts that I deal with. For me those are not faith harming but have more to do with my sense of personal identity and life calling/direction.  I am at a pivotal time in my life right now as to what direction I need to go in regards to vocation.  Her book is helping me, a thinker, think my way through this.  Some people are feelers and others are thinkers. This book will be great for the thinkers and especially those thinkers who tend to be crippled by their thinking.
Powell actually confronts this issue of thinking.  It’s perfectly okay.  Our minds and ability to think are integral parts of how God made us – he made us to be thinkers.  I highlight this because I (as well as Powell) come from a faith tradition that tends to eschew thinking for faith as though they are mutually exclusive.   They are not and even Jesus said thinking is one way we love God (You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength).  Too often we downplay the life of the mind.
Faith, facts, and personal experience come together when a person embraces Christianity.  Knowledge of the historical facts of Christianity combines with a person’s experience of peace and joy to form a reasonable basis for belief.  Yet belief in the provision of eternal life to those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior remains a matter of faith.  Knowledge without trust is meaningless for salvation although trust flows from knowledge (46).
I share this quote because for me I found it hit at the heart of the author and the wisdom she desires to share.  It is thoughtful, informed, and pastoral. Powell doesn’t just write and tell you to have faith and stop doubting (like a lot of people do in a misapplication of something Jesus said) but she truly desires to help people work through doubts in their lives and to grow in their faith and relationship the Lord.  She does this in a very wise, gentle, humble, and pastoral way – this book could be used in a discipleship situation where a few people read it together and talk about it – or even could be used as a means of spiritual direction.
I greatly appreciated reading this book and receiving pastoral care from the author.  It was and is faith building.  Now I don’t want to sound too glowing, I know not all people read a book the same way nor do they read it and react the same way – we all respond to things differently.  If you have an allergy to the thinking life and instead prefer faith and such, well you could hate this book or you might learn from it and be freed from the shackles of the un-thinking life.  I report, you decide.

one of whom the world was not worthy

Kayla Mueller, the American humanitarian and born again Christian was killed in a recent attack on ISIS by Jordanian armies in retaliation for the burning of one of their own.  She was one of whom the book of Hebrews speaks about “the world was not worthy of them.”

She wrote in a letter to her parents:

‘I will always seek God. Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love;

I find God in suffering.

I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.’ ‘I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you.’”

She also wrote:

I have come to a place in experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator b/c literally there was no else…. + by God + by your prayers I have felt tenderly cradled in freefall. I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful. I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. I pray each each day that if nothing else, you have felt a certain closeness + surrender to God as well + have formed a bond of love + support amongst one another.

She had a strong sense of purpose and she knew how and where to live out that purpose – where it mattered most – in the midst of suffering.  Even in light of the unfortunate circumstances, was was indeed one “of whom the world was not worthy.”  You can read one of her letters here.

Amos 2 and ISIS

from Dave Black’s Blog:

In Amos 2, God condemns Moab because it violated the corpse of the king of Edom by burning it to cinders. ISIS is now the target of concerted bombing by both Lebanon and the Saudis because of its desecration of one of their coalition pilots. What goes around comes around — or, as we used to say in balmy Hawaii, “Never spit into the wind.” Washington knows full well it helped to create ISIS. Now we are paying the piper.

That’s serious stuff…

Furthering the Dialogue on Creation: Some Thoughts on Doug Wilson’s Piece

Brian Fulthorp:

There’s some good stuff here if you have interest in the ongoing discussion on the creation narrative in Genesis 1.

Originally posted on Soliloquium:

I’ve been thinking a lot about creation/science issues lately, and I have great respect for Doug Wilson, so I read his recent piece on the interpretation of Genesis 1 with great interest. I wasn’t planning on writing anything more in this area, but you know how it goes when you start thinking about something, and then you start jotting down your thoughts, and then before you realize it you’re ready to hit “publish.” This is not a thorough response, just a couple of particular thoughts generated by Wilson’s piece, and here or there they may be more informed by the larger discussion than Wilson directly. These are in the spirit of “friendly reminders” or “friendly appeals” to my young-earth creationist friends, in the interests of keeping up good, sharpening dialogue about these important issues, particularly in a few areas where I think young-earth creationism is itself not so clearly removed…

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Is the Trinity in the New Testament?

Mike Bird talks about this on his blog.  Here is conclusion:

In my mind, the Trinity is both a biblically analytic doctrine (based on the raw data of Scripture) and also a theologically synthetic doctrine (based on inferences drawn from Scripture). In other words, Scriptures gives us “biblical pressure” (Kavin Rowe’s term) to construct a Trinitarian doctrine even if it does not explicitly lay out that doctrine. That is because of the triadic nature of the economies of creation and redemption which include Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and because of scriptural affirmations about the personhood and deity of the Father, Son, and Spirit which are also affirmed in Scripture. The Trinity is the conceptual model we use to make sense of the biblical materials and to show their theological coherence. While classic Trinitarians statements in some sense go beyond the New Testament, without the Trinity we have a hard time making sense of what the New Testament says about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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