Confident Faith: Building A Firm Foundation For Your Beliefs, by Mark Mittelberg
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.]
Among the types of books that I tend to read fairly often are books that serve as defenses of the Christian faith . This book manages to be an excellent book in its own right, largely because it manages to add some interest in the different paths of faith as well as talking about supports and barriers to faith, along with a few very intriguing personal stories to add a certain amount of relatability to the material of the book. Even though it is not a perfect book by any means, particularly in its occasional authoritarian defenses of mistaken doctrine, these mistakes only serve to bring the limitations of the author into relief, and to underscore the importance of an evidence-based faith that does not leave the rational mind at the door. This approach can be appreciated even if the author himself is not a perfect model of that approach.
The first section of the book provides a test that shows where the reader fits along the spectrum of six different paths of faith (relativistic, traditional, authoritarian, intuitive, mystical, and evidential), each of which is based on a different sort of appeal. It ought to come as no surprise that the author himself strongly defends the evidential path of faith (especially given that Lee Strobel, an author who has made his reputation on evidence-based apologies for Christianity, wrote the forward). It also ought to come as no surprise for those who know me that I ended up being very strong in evidential faith, moderate in intuitive and traditional faith, weak in authoritarian and relativistic faith, and nonexistent in mystical faith. Readers who want to see the various foundations that ground people, and their relative strength, will find much to think about in the first section, even given the obvious perspective of the author.
The second section of the book provides twenty different ‘arrows’ to Christian faith, divided into three chapters, one on how science and logic point toward spiritual truth, one on how evidence about the Bible points toward spiritual truth, and one on how history and experience point toward spiritual truth. Here we see that this book has two particular major struggles, one against Islam and one against Mormonism, along with a serious critique of the new atheism, and lesser critiques of New Age beliefs and Eastern religion. The final section of the book looks at ten barriers to faith and helps to encourage the reader to find a confident faith in his or her life, with some comments about his own commitment to God (as he knows it) as a young man. This part of the book ought to be especially easy to relate to for those readers who are young people trying to build a more serious and more sure ground in their faith, which would appear to be the major audience of this book. Unlike some books , this book manages to strike the right tone of sincerity and reason.
Although this book is not perfect, it is an easy-to-read, scholarly, and openly sincere book about faith and its grounds. It manages to be mostly tolerant, at least of “mainstream” Christianity while also being full of pointed analysis and critique of the fashionable errors of our time. If it is not a perfect model of rational or biblical faith, it at least points the way towards that faith for its readers, providing a lot of room for thought and encouragement towards those who want to believe God’s ways and to apply them and take ‘appropriate action.’ It even provides a fascinating quote about parental authority that is worth remembering for young people, on page 46: “We should respect our elders but also step back and make an honest assessment of their habits and lifestyles before we lock into their patterns of thinking. We need to candidly ask ourselves, “How did their beliefs and actions work out for them? Do I want to see similar results in my own life?”” The same advice applies for this book, and is applicable for those of us who are not so young, but are committed to obeying God but also being loyal to the truth and desirous of living the best life possible. We all ought to want that for ourselves, and for others.
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