Walking Away from Faith (Unraveling the Mystery of Belief and Unbelief) by Ruth Tucker. InterVarsity Press, 2002.
I read this book a couple years ago, and have since wanted to re-read it and “blog” through it. This will be a series of posts. So here we go…
Can a Christian lose their salvation? This book is not about that! Countless books have already been written on that issue. But no matter what you believe about eternal security, we all have to admit that people can at least have the appearance of walking away from their faith.
This description is on the back cover of the book: “In this no-holds-barred book, Ruth Tucker tackles the tough questions about losing faith. She gives historical perspective by looking at prominent Christians who have struggled with faith. She grapples with difficult philosophical and theological issues. She explores the hard questions that bring people to the point of losing faith – questions about suffering, science, and more.”
And here is an excerpt from the preface of the book: “Where is the line that divides religious belief from unbelief? I’m not sure. All of us in our faith fall somewhere on the vast, subjective spectrum that ranges from absolute certainty to unrestrained skepticism. Some profess a confident belief in God that is never questioned; others cling to belief riveted with doubts, only a millimeter shy of unbelief. Some are insecure in their unbelief, while others appear to be content in their confident belief that there is no God. No matter where we find ourselves on this spectrum, we need to listen to the voices of others and refrain from hasty judgment.”
Usually Christian books that tackle the issue of faith and doubt emphasize the positive side of doubt. For example, doubt can strengthen your faith. While this is true, it seems the negative side of doubt is ignored. Tucker states: “Doubt—no matter who writes about it—is not properly respected for the power it wields….Little is said of the dark, fierce, hoary side of doubt, and of the logical next step—unbelief.”
It is not that this book is depressing, but it is simply honest. It offers a frank perspective and does not sugar coat the issues. Tucker is willing to admit that sometimes there are no easy answers as to why one person keeps their faith and another loses it. Too often believers want everything tied up with a pretty bow on top, but that is not reality. The very nature of faith is that it is faith – not certainty – and we need to get better at living the tensions or paradoxes of faith.
The issue of faith and doubt seems to touch a raw nerve for some people. Some Christians seem threatened by the mere presence of someone who has abandoned the truths they hold dear. They react with judgment and make false assumptions. Another emphasis of this book is that we need to get better at really listening to those struggling with doubts or to those who have already abandoned faith. We need to learn to respond with more grace and sensitivity.
Tucker mentions how a friend told her, in regards to walking away from faith: “I can’t understand how anyone could ever do that.” But Tucker states “I do understand” and she shares how her life of faith has always been riddled with doubts:
“Apart from God’s sovereign grace, I sometimes cannot imagine how anyone could keep on believing. As for myself, despite the ever present unbelief, I have a sense of security that utterly assures me I could never walk away. I cannot explain it. It is a mystery to me that belief and unbelief exist in ever present tension in my life – an affliction, perhaps, but an affliction that spurs me on and never lets me relax in my spiritual pilgrimage.”
I could have written that! Maybe one reason I so appreciate this book is that my life of faith so closely parallels that of Ruth Tucker. I’d love to be able to meet her sometime. More posts to come…as said, this will be a series. Part 2: here.