Originally, Faith Unraveled by Rachel Held Evans was titled Evolving in Monkey Town. In the book she discusses her own dissolving Southern Fundamentalist Christian faith in light of surfacing doubts. I am reading this book in a study with a small group of women, each of whom I find to be delightful and so full of wisdom.
I find the book interesting because I know several women similar to the author. I live in the South and am very aware of Fundamentalist culture and its views on politics and science. However, I was not raised in a Christian home. My parents never went to church. Those few times my grandmother took us to church were not the happy faith building experience that my friends or the author describe. My grandmother went to a Southern Missionary Baptist church and attendance was not optional when we lived with her. Most of my experiences with that particular church were terrifying or extremely boring. I am reading this book as an outsider not as one with a shared experience. I think part of the appeal of this book for many people is the similar upbringing.
In the introduction the author brings up evolution. My first thought was please no. I really do not want to hear anymore about the age of the earth and monkey ancestors. Honestly, I find it all terribly dull. But I didn’t have to worry. She brings up the notion that faith needs to evolve if it is to survive. She goes on to define it as letting go of false fundamentals. Evolving faith moves from childlike certainty, to exploring doubts and finally to authentic faith.
In the first chapter she discusses certainty in faith. I converted to Christianity as an adult so I never experienced childhood convictions in God’s goodness. My father actually opposed my conversion and I endured harsh criticism on account of my devotion to Christ. I can certainly envy children with their unquestioning sweet faith in God. I have expressed strong belief in the past and do not doubt the Creator’s existence but…certainty? No, I’ve never felt certain in my beliefs about God.
I am curious to learn more about the author’s idea of evolving faith and hope the rest of the book spends more time on this idea. I’ve encountered the idea that God grows and deepens our faith in Him (not religion) over time. I’ve read about this before from Bonhoeffer, St. John of the Cross, St Teresa of Avila, Andrew Farley, Sarah Bessey, and Emergent Christianity to name a few. Because I have read so much on this topic I am not sure if I will have much to say about this book since her central idea is not new to me. I will read it with my group but since I am not coming from a fundamental evangelical background I’m having a hard time relating to the experiences that led to her personal insight about evolving faith.