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Monday, September 1, 2014

"How Can I Be Sure?" (John Stevens)

TITLE: How can I be sure? (Questions Christians Ask)
AUTHOR: John Stevens
PUBLISHER: Purcellville, VA: The Good Book Company, 2014, (96 pages).

It is okay to doubt, but it is not so okay to leave it unaddressed. As a way to spur the search for truth, it is good. As a way to indulge in ignorance, it is bad. Based on his experience with seekers, searchers, and believers who doubt from time to time, author and former University of Birmingham Professor, John Stevens, seeks to assure us that questions about faith are not necessarily bad. Drawing from his personal encounters with various believers, he helps us look at questions such as:

1. What is doubt?
2. Why is doubt dangerous?
3. What do I have to believe to be a Christian?
4. How can I overcome doubt as a Christian?
5. How can I develop a confident faith?

He begins with a gentle assurance that doubts are hidden struggles among many Christians, and that it is alright to ask questions. In fact, we can let these questions lead us and not to be too worried about the questions dumbing down our faith. On the contrary, these doubts are authentic desires to search for truth. For example, one may know the truth but still unable to experience it. Stevens provides us various examples of why doubt exists. For even the biblical heroes of old experience moments of doubt. At the same time, he cautions us from crossing the line toward trusting in ourselves more than God, especially when we move from faith to unbelief. Learning to see it as a way to spiritual growth is quite different than seeing it as a way to dumb down faith. He uses the engagement metaphor to show us that like the commitment to marry our fiance/fiancee, we do not let doubts tempt us to work things out with a third party. We let doubts help us work out our questions directly with the one we are engaged with.

Stevens also has some words of assurance for those who doubt their own salvation by listing down some of the basis of our faith. That saving faith is our trust in Jesus who had already done everything for our sake. He reminds us that believing about Jesus is different from believing IN Jesus. He also tackles the age-old dichotomy of faith versus experience. Gradually, readers will be led toward practices in which we can grow in increasing faith in God.

Written in a very accessible manner, Stevens has assured us once again that not all doubts are bad. He helpfully defines the difference between doubt and unbelief, saving faith and experiencing faith, and other essentials that a Christian will need. For those of us who are in a position of questioning our own faith, or know of people in that state, it is helpful to let this little book crystallize our own questions and be guided toward an assurance in God alone. Questions are often more useful than answers. Open doubts are better than closed faith. The latter tempts us toward unbelief. The former leads us toward deeper and more authentic faith. May readers be guided toward greater faith and authentic experiences.

Rating:4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of The Good Book Company and Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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