Brian McLaren's new book Faith After Doubt is a much needed read as many are questioning not only what is going on in the world but also their faith and walk with Jesus. Here Brian helpfully answers a few questions about this book and why it will no doubt be a helpful read for many.
Who would you say this book is mostly aimed at?
I wrote this book with doubters in mind, not only those who have gone public with their questions and doubts, but also those who are hiding them in secret. As I say in the book, it's hard enough to have doubts. It's even harder to have them and then have to pretend you don't. Secondarily, I think pastors will find this helpful, giving them resources to help people who come to them with serious doubts. And I also think the book will be helpful for parents, friends, and spouses who see people they love struggling with doubt. It's easy to try to help and only make things worse; I think this book could help them better empathise. But the truth is, sooner or later, all or almost all of us are in the first category; to be human is to doubt.
What convicted you to write this book?
I was a pastor for twenty-four years and people frequently trusted me with their doubts. I often felt that their questions were better than my answers. So being a pastor actually helped me to be honest about my own questions and doubts, and it intensified my sense that we need to bring doubt out into the open. In the years since I left the pastorate, hardly a week goes by when I don't have a stream of emails from struggling believers - including many in leadership. Here in the US, the whole Trump phenomenon has intensified doubt for many; watching religious leaders support someone who seems to embody the opposite of Christlike values calls into question much of what they have been taught.
What relevance does this book have today? Why write this now?
It's not just in the church that I see a wave of doubt. People are doubting institutions in general. And this doubt isn't simply a problem; it's actually a symptom -- that things aren't working and that we need to give so much in our lives a second thought. That idea of a second thought is really what doubt is about.
The church in all its forms, I believe, actually needs doubt. It needs to sort through what is the heart of the gospel and what is cultural baggage added on to the gospel. We can think of doubt as a fire that burns away chaff, or a furnace that burns away dross, or pruning that removes unfruitful and energy-draining excess, helping us to become more pure, sincere, genuine, and, ultimately, free and fruitful.
How much of your story have you used for writing this book?
People are telling me that this is the most personal and confessional of my books. I weave my own story in with the stories of many others throughout the book. I've come to see that doubt isn't simply an intellectual issue. It's deeply personal. It's about how we come to terms with our upbringing, our parents, our peer group and faith community, a changing world, and life circumstances that can be joyful one minute and disillusioning the next. I turn 65 this year, and as I grow older, I gain perspective on my own spiritual journey, and I'm also watching my adult kids and young grandchildren grow. I want them to have a way of being Christian that is honest and authentic, that doesn't require pretense, and that encourages them to seek goodness, truth, and beauty, wherever they lead, because ultimately, to love God is to love goodness, truth, and beauty.
What's next in the pipeline?
This book was conceived as one of a pair. The sequel or companion book is called "Do I Stay Christian?" I'm working on it now. As people become honest about their questions and doubts, they struggle with what it means to be Christian and whether they can, in good faith, stay Christian. Many leave and never look back. Many are trying to figure out how to hold on to the treasures of Christian faith without also being burdened down with extra baggage that is either nonessential or actually harmful. These two books together feel like my most important work. I hope to finish the next book this Spring for release in 2022.
You can buy your copy of Brian's book HERE