Faith and Doubt (by John Ortberg)

I've enjoyed several books by the American Christian pastor John Ortberg. Most of them have extremely long titles, and are quite inspiring as well as being well-written and sound, from a relaxed evangelical viewpoint.

When I start enjoying a writer's books, I tend to start collecting them all. And so the latest addition to my shelves by Ortberg is his latest book, with the surprisingly short and succinct title 'Faith and Doubt' (and later, confusingly, republished as 'Know Doubt').

The topic, unsurprisingly, is that of doubt within the Christian faith. Unlike some more legalistic authors, he insists that doubt is an essential part of real faith. After all, as he points out, if we have no doubt at all - if we are totally, 100% certain of something - then there is no need for faith.

Ortberg looks in some depth at reasons why people doubt God, or are dubious about Christianity. He looks, too, at problems that can arise when doubt is taken too far, or turns into skepticism, cynicism or worse. He also considers a few of the questions asked by agnostics, and while he doesn't give any answers, he explores the issues pretty thoroughly.

It's good stuff. Sound, clear, with interesting anecdotes and the occasional amusing aside. The style, as with his other works, is casual yet well structured, and I find his books reasonably easy to read. I've read a chapter or so each day for around the past ten days.

And yet... it didn't inspire me. Perhaps I've read too many Christian books on similar theme, or perhaps it wasn't a book I needed right now. I may read it again, I might well recommend it to friends. But I'd class it as good, rather than great.

Recommended to anyone wondering whether it's appropriate to have doubt, or hoping for a little more certainty about their faith.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, May 2009

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