Book Review: Surprised By Faith

Surprised By Faith:  A Skeptic Discovers More To Life Than What We Can See, Touch, And Measure, by Dr. Don Bierle

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Aneko Press.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

There is a hint of irony in the title and subtitle of this book.  Given that this book has now gone through at least three different editions and was published decades ago and furthermore has been updated in subtle ways, this book has a bit of a tension between the skeptic that the author once was during his youth and the apologist that he has been for decades now. This is not a bad tension, but it does place this book in a particular place among the wide body of books that deal with Christian apologetics [1].  In reading this book, as someone who reads from this genre of books quite a bit, one gets a sense both for the similarities of this book to many others as well as the ways that the author manages to carve a distinctive place, most notably by spelling out the lessons and supplementing his text with some strong visuals.  The author manages the difficult but worthwhile task of being straightforward and uncompromising without being too confrontational to his intended audience of thoughtful and reasonable skeptics, or those who need their faith bolstered by knowledge.

Any book that has seen three different editions over the course of several decades is going to have a fairly polished style and strong organization as the editing process refines a book, and this one is no different in that regard.  This particular volume begins with a suitably laudatory foreword, then the prefaces to all three editions of the book, acknowledgements and a list of the book’s figures, and then six chapters, most of which introduce points for the author to consider.  The first chapter asks the fundamental question “Why Am I Here?” and proceeds to give an answer for it.  Then the author turns to the question of the truth and reliability of scripture.  After this the author tests the claim that Jesus was really God, turns to deal with the question of whether faith is reasonable, asks the reader to place themselves along the spectrum of doubt and belief, and asks how we can know God before closing with an invitation to the reader to join the author in a belief that does not in any way abdicate our status as rational beings.  The author then promotes his various other books, most of which would probably also be worth reading, as well as promotes events hosted by the author and the bibliography of sources used by the author, along with some notes and author bio information.  In other words, this book goes where one would expect a skillful apologetic work to go and does it well and thoughtfully.

In reviewing a book like this, as someone who generally likes a good apologetic work, I feel it necessary to point out who this book is for.  It is perhaps little surprise that being a person with a high degree of intellectual interest and high levels of education that I would be a target audience for apologetic works.  Apologetic works, after all, seek to defend the reasonableness of Christianity to an audience that appreciates appeals to reason.  They exist at the level that can be appreciated by philosophically inclined readers, of the sort that would have appreciated Paul’s own reasoned defenses in areas like Athens and before the Roman governors of Judea.  Admittedly, as an audience I am part of the “home team” rather than the person who is supposed to be convinced by the arguments, but all the same this is the sort of book that is written on my level.  Not everyone may find such books equally edifying, but for the audience they are aimed at, they seek to hold those who discuss faith in the public sphere to a standard that gives at least equal regard to the truth claims of Christianity as the seldom disputed truth claims of other ancient writings with far less attestation and far more textual confusion than is found in the Bible, and that is something that can and should be supported by any believer who wishes to see the high standard of Christianity when one is dealing with a level playing field in public discourse.

[1] See, for example:


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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