Despite Doubt: Embracing a Confident Faith by Michael Wittmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In his book Despite Doubt: Embracing A Confident Faith, Michael E. Wittmer sets out to counter the popular myth that faith is stepping blindly into the unknown. Real faith, he says, is based more on what we know than what we don’t. He makes his argument about faith and doubt within the realm of believing in the Bible and the tenets of the Christian faith.
Wittmer tackles this challenge in a two-pronged way, dividing the book into two parts. In Part One—“Belief In God”—he analyzes skepticism and shows how a belief in the existence of God is not only credible but that it is virtually impossible to live consistently as if no God existed. Some of the titles of chapters in this section give us a sense of his range of topics: “God,” “Jesus,” “Bible,” “Belief,” “Disciplines,” and “Faith.”
Part Two—“Following God”—deals with the nitty gritty of living out one’s faith. In chapters such as “Trust,” “Faithfulness,” “Promise,” “Call,” “Assurance,” and more, he deals with issues like how do we know we’re hearing from God? What sets us apart as people of faith? How can we have assurance of Salvation? Who are heroes of faith?
Wittmer says much that is practical and applicable to everyday life. Here are some of his useful insights that I underlined:
From the chapter “Unbelief” (Part 1):
“We must always be at least a little suspicious of doubt, for while not all doubt is sin, all doubt does come from sinners. Sinners have an ax to grind. We are not morally neutral. We have a vested interest in disproving Jesus, for if He is Lord, then we can’t be” – p. 86, 87.
“If we plan to continue our rebellion, we’ll need to conceal our sin beneath a thick smoke screen of intellectual problems” – p. 89.
From the chapter “Trust” (Part 2):
“Every act of willing obedience comes down to trust” – p. 109.
From the chapter “Jump”:
“Faith starts from assurance and proceeds to risk. … Counterfeit faith starts from uncertainty and leaps for assurance” – p. 115.
From the chapter “Fruit”:
“Faith means to commit to what we know and what we know for sure is what God has revealed in Scripture” p. 145.
Though I did enjoy the book, at the deepest level it left me unstirred somehow. Perhaps that’s because it downplayed the possibility of hearing from God personally and glossed over the Holy Spirit-empowered lifestyle pictured in the early church of the New Testament. Rather, Wittmer seems content with a towing-the-line, status quo faith that plods on dutifully following the Bible but lacks the warmth of personal friendship with God:
“Comfort can easily become an idol that we pursue above God, but a comfortable, middle-class existence is not necessarily an indication of sin. It may simply mean we’re prudent. Paul never commanded Christians to take radical risks for God … Rather than focus on how much we’re risking for God, we should concentrate on God’s promises and commands” – pp. 169,170.
Despite my reservations, I would say Despite Doubt is a worthwhile read. It would be a valuable addition to the library of apologists, pastors, teachers, and anyone dealing with seekers, especially if they’re of a philosophical bent. A study guide with three questions per chapter is included at the end of the book, making Despite Doubt a good choice for study groups.
I received Despite Doubt as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.
3 thoughts on “Despite Doubt (review)”
Well-done on the review. Very clear!
I’m curious what you think about whether comfortable middle-class status is an indication of prudence. Let me rephrase that question. I think that it “may” indeed mean that we’re prudent… but something about that statement bothers me, and I can’t exactly put my finger on it. Do you know what I mean?
It’s hard to delve into an author’s motivation, isn’t it. Yes, I think “prudence” may be one impulse. But from the book I also picked up a feeling of trying to assuage people, who feel they should be doing and being more radical, that they are okay. I’m a little troubled by that, agreeing with it on one hand, but also feeling it’s a rationalization of our comfortable and lavish NA lifestyle. It’s like the frog in a warming kettle of water telling the other frogs, “Not to worry. This is the way things are and should be.”
Thank you. That’s what I meant but was feeling too tired (or too comfortable?) to take the energy to articulate.
I think there’s huge danger in complacency, in the notion that “hey, I’m doing it right, and my great well-being proves that God is pleased with me.”