7 Books for Doubting Christians

This list of books is for people who are doubting their faith. These books weren’t written to convince you of the truth of your faith. And they’re not about apologetics, defenses, or proofs.

This is a list of books that can do one of two things:

  • Give you permission to admit your doubts and ask your questions.
  • Give you a glimpse of how wide the stream of Christianity is, opening the door for keeping your faith even though it may look vastly different than the one you hold today.

If you’re not currently doubting and are completely comfortable in your faith, then these books might not be for you yet. In fact, some of them might even offend you. And that’s okay.

I don’t agree with everything in all of these books, but I do appreciate the ways they challenge many of the assumptions I have from growing up Evangelical about the Bible, the Gospel, and Jesus.

So if these aren’t your cup of tea right now, bookmark this page and come back to it if you or someone you love are ever passing through a dark night of the soul.

1. Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty

Dr. Gregory Boyd is a divisive teacher for many people. You either hate him or love him it seems (which is true of most authors on this list). But this book is one that I think most of us can get behind.

What It’s About: Embracing mystery, doubt, and unanswered questions. Certainty is so respected in Christian culture, that we sometimes mistake doubt for a sin. This book helps remove that false belief.

Why You Should Read It: I was taught what to think about the Bible in absolute terms like, “It obviously means this. Anyone who disagrees is a heretic.” But the Bible is really complicated and it doesn’t even try to answer all of the questions it naturally raises, and I was never taught how to think about the bible.

This book helped me realize that not understanding parts of it, or even whole books, is okay. Understanding is not immediate or complete. Faith is a journey that will inevitably lead to some deep doubts. We don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

2. Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

Rachel Held Evans died not long after this book came out, and it was a shock to so many people. Undoubtedly, her death caused many people to doubt the power and goodness of God because thousands of people were praying for her and yet she died at 37. I probably could have added any of her books to this list, but I think this one is good for those currently doubting.

What It’s About: It reframes what the Bible is. It reshapes its purpose, the ways in which we should read it, and the lessons it’s trying to give us. This will be a very uncomfortable read for most of us, but it will be like a warm blanket for people that have lost faith in the Bible’s truth and efficacy.

Why You Should Read It: Evans does two distinct things in this book. She agrees the  Bible is inspired by God, while simultaneously understanding it was written and influenced by humans. Second, she makes a strong argument that the Bible is not about neat moral lessons that teach us how to behave and believe, but is instead a story that requires us to engage it with questions, disagreements, and conversations. Evans did not pretend to know all of the answers to some of our hard questions, which made this book even more likable for me.

If you have some spare time, watch this video about the formation of the Bible before reading this book. It will help. I promise.

3. The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right

Lisa Sharon Harper is one of my favorite communicators. She exudes love and grace whenever she speaks, but she also does not pull any punches, demanding followers of Jesus work for a world full of justice and righteousness.

What It’s About: Basically, Harper makes the argument that if the Gospel is not good news for everyone, then it can’t be the fullness of the Gospel. This book was birthed out of a pilgrimage that Harper took and she began to think about her great-grandmother that was a slave. She imagined telling her the Gospel that Harper had been handed and saw how short it came up.

Why You Should Read It: I know many of my struggles with the Gospel, Bible, and Jesus started when I realized how small its promises were. It promised that when I was dead I would get to live in paradise forever. It had little to offer those in suffering now. It provided little direction on what I should be doing with my life here and now. it was much more concerned with what I should be against than what I should be for.

Harper’s work expanded the Gospel for me so it had answers and input for almost every question I could come up with. While you may not agree with her understanding after reading this, I’m hopeful it will give you permission to look at the work of Jesus in a different light that makes it more applicable to the questions you’re asking.

4. A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey

Fifteen years ago, the Emergent Church was all the rage, and Brian McLaren was one its patron saints. Adulation quickly turned to charges of heresy, but this book was an enormous source of encouragement for me in a very doubtful time. I think it might be that for you, too.

What It’s About: Breaking down walls. This is the first book in a trilogy that McLaren wrote in response to his crisis of faith. He was a pastor that was losing his faith. It’s a faux-memoir of sorts.

Why You Should Read It: So much of the faith I was handed was about separating us from them. About keeping clear and easily understood precepts so that I could easily know if I was good or not. And allow me to judge you. I got to the point that the truths of religion started to feel like chains. McLaren’s book allowed me to take the chains off, examine them, and then refashion them to be the guides/bumpers/principles they were meant to be.

5. Jesus and the Disinherited

Howard Thurman is a giant of a theologian. Thurman was born in 1899 in Florida. And he was black. So, needless to say, he experienced a lot of overt and covert racism in his time. And it shaped his theology in significant ways

What It’s About: Thurman grew up hearing about Jesus, but his work is one of the first in America that re-examines the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus through the lens of the marginalized and oppressed experience. It is a beautiful and challenging read.

Why You Should Read It:  “The basic fact is that Christianity as it was born in the mind of this Jewish teacher and thinker appears as a technique of survival for the oppressed.” Thurman’s ideas and theology are another great example of different ways to apply the Gospel. It prevents the reader from keeping Jesus inside the evangelical box that so many of us have kept him in.

“Jesus and the Disinherited” showed me new ways to worship Jesus and to re-interpret his teachings, breathing new life into what had become stale and rote for me. If you’re feeling like Jesus isn’t solving the world’s problems or that evil is too great to allow for a powerful God, then you should definitely read this book from a man that experienced a lot of evil and hardship.

6. Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science

Mike McHargue, better known as Science Mike, has become one of the leading voices in the community of people that were once evangelical and are now something else. I first heard his story on the Liturgists podcast, but his book goes into more detail of journey through faith, atheism, and back.

What It’s About: McHargue’s experiences as he moved from faith to atheism, and then back to faith. He is an engaging writer, and it’s hard to stop his story once you get it started.

Why You Should Read It: If you feel alone or scared about your faith starting to slip away, or even having disappeared completely, then this book will be good for you. While McHargue does consider himself a Christian now, his book was not written as a defense of faith or to convince you to come back. It’s simply his story and journey.

It was a very encouraging read for me. Understanding that I’m not alone and that so many people have the same questions I do was very comforting. And, Science Mike is probably one of the least judgmental people out there, and it comes through in his book. It’s a safe, entertaining read.

7. Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart

Kathy Escobar is a pastor in Northern Colorado. Her journey is much like most of the people that will be reading this. She was deeply involved in church. Started having nagging doubts, but was scared to confront them, then everything started to crumble. But goodness came out of the rubble.

What It’s About: “Faith Shift” is an explanation of how our spirituality is formed and the ingredients necessary for a healthy rebuilding. Escobar assumes that most of us will go through a crisis of faith at some point, and this book was written to guide people through their journey.

Why You Should Read It: It’s kind of like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” but for people that are birthing a new faith. Maybe don’t run too far with that analogy…

This book is helpful because, even though your mixture of questions and needs are unique to you, the process will most likely move through these phases: Fusing, Shifting, Returning,Unraveling, Severing, and Rebuilding. Having a sort of road map with you will help you be less fearful of where you are and where you are going.

______________________________________

Going through a crisis of faith, a dark night of the soul, a de-conversion can be incredibly frightening, overwhelming, and lonely.

I promise: You are not alone. There are millions of people who have had the same struggles and millions more that are having them right now.

I hope you’ll pick 2 or 3 of these books and give them a read. They will probably not answer your questions, but they will encourage you and be honest with you.

If you would like prayer, we pray for each request by name on our prayer wall.

If you want someone to talk with, message me on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to listen to your story.

May God bless you and keep you. May He shine his face upon you. Deo volente.

 

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