I was delighted to see that The Good Book Company, who kindly sent me a review copy, have published this book. Barnabas Piper is someone I really enjoy reading – I thoroughly enjoyed his previous The Pastors’ Kid – and the topic (The place of doubt in Christian faith) is something very dear to my heart. I’m glad to say that this little book met my expectations, and is likely going to be something I recommend widely.
Barnabas is the son of the well-known pastor and teacher John Piper, whose influence is noticeable but also not overwhelming. This book is both a story of the author’s discovery of the value and place of doubt and mystery, and an extended meditation on the words of a parent bringing their child to Jesus: “Lord I believe, Help my Unbelief“. This book is one that takes theology and the Bible seriously – but also takes suffering, questions, and the pain of the world seriously.
The first big idea that I appreciated seeing fleshed out in this book is the place of doubt as a part of faith. This truth comes from both the unpacking of Mark 9:20-27, and the lived experience of the author. Part of this comes from, as Barnabas notes, the fact that “Our faith is one of brutal tensions…“, and this comes across in the way that he writes about belief and understanding. Peppered amongst personal reflection is much helpful truth, and useful pondering of some of the big questions of suffering, relationships and the character of God.
The second big idea beautifully unpacked is the theme of the reality of the Kingdom of God. As Barnabas notes, “Tension is our state of being for all of this life, and to live as a believer is to live in it“, and goes on to say that at the heart of this is the great biblical truth that “Our king came and ushered in his kingdom but then left with a promise of his return. So we wait“. This is an idea often misunderstood – yet a fully-orbed biblical understanding of what it means to live in the Now and not Yet of the Kingdom of God can help us to make sense even of doubt in biblical faith.
I would warmly recommend this book – not least because of it’s two excellent appendices on reading the Bible as a doubter, and a list of books to go deeper with. This is a timely book for those of us who have grown up in Christian contexts and communities, and have found adulthood, employment or other changes to cause us to think again about what we think we know. This is a book that invites us to embrace a deeper, more mysterious, more dare I say biblical faith than that practiced and owned by some. I would recommend this book to pastors and those discipling others, but also for people like me who like to think and ask questions and see that as a vital part of following Jesus.