Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: Help My Unbelief

Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. Barnabas Piper. Foreword by N.D. Wilson. 2015. [July 2015] David C. Cook. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Help My Unbelief is one of the best books I've read this year. It is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's an honest look at doubt: believing doubt and unbelieving doubt. It is about coming to terms with the tension of the Christian life. In part, it is inspired by an encounter found in Mark 9:17-29. I'll share the most relevant verse: I do believe; help my unbelief.

Barnabas Piper shares a bit of his testimony and what he's learned since his big "aha" moment when he realized the vast difference between knowing about God and knowing God.

His story was incredibly easy to relate to. I think many people who have grown up in the church can relate to it as well. The book is honest and straightforward. It isn't a book that promises to have all the answers to all the questions you might have today and in the future. It isn't a book that promises an easy fix to your current faith dilemma.

I should mention that one thing this book is not: it's not an apologetic book seeking to prove anything about God: his existence, his goodness, his perfection.

It is a book that explores questions like: what is faith? what is belief? what is doubt? is there more than one kind of doubt? can doubting ever be a good thing? where do I go with my doubts and questions? what can I know--what can anyone know--about God? Can I have peace even if I don't have all the answers? will I always struggle with sin?

I loved, loved, LOVED this one. I loved it because it was thought-provoking and engaging. I loved it because it was so very honest. I thought Piper made some great points as well. I thought the appendix READING THE BIBLE TO MEET GOD was absolutely wonderful. It should be must-read for every believer.

I want to share a few quotes from the foreword by N.D. Wilson along with a few quotes from the text itself.

From the foreword:
Thank God that our salvation is not dependent on an absence of our own fears. Our failures. Our doubts. In fact, our salvation is not dependent on us at all. It doesn't depend on how we feel. It doesn't depend on how well we answer challenges and questions, and it doesn't depend on how deeply and authentically we really, really feel our answers deep down in our hearts. Our salvation is on the cross. No matter how broken we may be, no matter how much we might struggle and fail to see and to know the truth (every truth) clearly, we can rest in the One who sees all and knows all. When we cannot see, we are still seen. ~ N.D. Wilson
From the introduction:
No amount of belief moves us beyond "help my unbelief." Rather the stronger our belief, the more urgent our plea.
What the Bible reveals of God is precisely what God wanted revealed of Himself, no more and no less. But it isn't everything about Him. Scripture raises as many questions as it answers. It asks the impossible and describes the miraculous. The Bible tells stories that are grotesque and stories that are heartwarming. Parts of it are horrifying and others are befuddling. It is written in multiple genres and has thousands of characters. In short, it is representative of the real world and God's relationship with it, not a book to simplify the world so we can understand it all. And it is just the way God wanted it. 
Questions indicate belief only if you actually want an answer.
God is infinite. While the finite human mind can understand aspects of His character, even those cannot be understood in full. His bigness is too big, His goodness too good, His wrath too terrible, His grace too profound, His knowledge too deep. Because of this, God is inherently mysterious to us. We simply cannot fathom the fullness, or even a portion of the fullness, of who He is or what He does.
The Bible gives everything we need but not every answer; all the necessary truth but plenty of room to wonder.
When we are in relationship with God, His Word becomes more than a book; it becomes alive…It is a window into who God is; one that He gave us to share exactly what we need to know of Him.
Scripture doesn't offer the answers to most mysteries that we want. It offers the ones God wants us to have. And if He wants us to have them, then they are the ones we need.
True belief is that which perpetually, magnetically pulls us toward the "not yet" of Revelation 21. 
Table of Contents

  • Foreword by N.D.Wilson
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Tension
  • Chapter 2: What is Belief?
  • Chapter 3: What Can We Know About God?
  • Chapter 4: A Prayer from Where?
  • Chapter 5: Unbelief and Doubt
  • Chapter 6: Belief in Action
  • Chapter 7: How Do We Believe?
  • Chapter 8: So What and What Now?
  • Appendix 1: Reading the Bible to Meet God
  • Appendix 2: Suggested Reading
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

1 comment:

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Sounds really good! Thanks for the review!