Book Review: The Dave Test

The Dave Test: A Raw Look At Real Faith In Hard Times, by Frederick W. Schmidt

Although the core of this book consists of a thoughtful examination of ten questions [1] designed to test people to see if they are genuine and real and open enough to be a faithful friend to someone suffering great loss in their lives, whether that is the threat of imminent death, the loss of loved ones, divorce, joblessness, rape and abuse, infertility, or other serious matters. The biggest question a reader will have looking at this book, though, is “Who is Dave and why does it matter?” The answer to that question provides the biggest value to this particular easy-to-read book of about 150 pages, and that is that Dave is the deceased brother of the author, whose battle with a brain tumor led to a lengthy investigation of questions involving death and the rarity of people who are willing to walk alongside the dying and the broken through the sorrows that they face with genuineness and vulnerability and without the use of language that tries to create emotional distance.

I can relate a bit personally to the subject material of this particular book. Several years ago, the death of my own father and the simultaneous pressure of having to deal with the reality of a savage and abusive early childhood combined with fears of loneliness and an early death given my family history. As might be expected, being a restrained and prim person who had not hitherto shown a great deal of emotional range, the people around me were largely unable and unwilling to deal with the serious emotional matters that had been thrust in an unwelcome way into my life in a way that was too serious and too deep to ignore. I have never been the same since then, and I hope that I have become a more understanding person who appreciates the same sort of openness and candor and compassion that I have to offer.

This is a very excellent book that deals very openly and honestly with questions of death and loss, and is full of some trenchant criticisms of the way that many churches and many of us have simply failed to be either honest or kind with those suffering with deep losses that cannot be resolved this side of the grave, preferring vague and dishonest lies and magical thinking to try to avoid what we feel might be contagious loss. Also on the plus side is that this book is easy to read and yet full of reflection. That is not to say that this book is perfect–it is very earthy and sometimes even vulgar in its language, given that it attempts to avoid any sort of high theological language out of a fear of emotional distance and unreality. There are even occasional tensions in the book, such as the statement that dealing with grief and loss cannot be solved in a step-by-step process only to offer a few step-by-step processes.

Nevertheless, despite this book’s flaws and mistakes it is a very excellent work nonetheless. One of its best features is the way in which the book seeks to appeal to a wide reading audience while showing a strong Arminian [2] and Christian perspective. Those who read this book who are aware of the deeper theological issues of theodicy (that is a justification of God’s action and inaction in a fallen and wicked world) and loss and parts of the Bible like the Book of Job will appreciate this work greatly. Those who lack this context will probably still find much to appreciate in the book’s content but will not appreciate it’s depth, which is largely hinted at in order to make its materials more acceptable to a wide reading audience mostly including ordinary people rather than theologians. Given the importance of loss and the hunger for people for comfort as well as truth in difficult times, this book should find a wide and appreciate audience, as long as the language is not too coarse for them.

[1] The ten questions are as follows:

Can I say, “Life Sucks”?
Can I give up my broken gods?
Can I avoid using stained-glass language?
Can I admit that some things will never get better?
Can I give up trading in magic and superstition?
Can I stop blowing smoke?
Can I say something that helps?
Can I grieve with others?
Can I walk wounded?
Can I be a friend?

[2] The Arminian perspective can be described here:

The contrasting view to Arminianism is Calvinism:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Book Review: The Dave Test

  1. Pingback: Book Review: God Of The Underdogs | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: God Is Just Not Fair | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Fearless: How A Diagnosis Of A Chronic Disease Turned My Life Upside Down | Edge Induced Cohesion

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