Of all the possible things for Faith in the Fog to remind me of it is the Composition classes that I teach. Where it particularly becomes obvious is when my classes start to delve into basic grammar. It seems like every student that comes in has some odd trick or crazy notion on how grammar is supposed to work. I even had my mother call me up once to ask, “What is that trick you told me about that always lets you get grammar right?” Confused I hesitantly responded, “Study and apply it everyday.” This was not the answer she was looking for.
What I realized in reading Jeff Lucas’s book is that Christians can be much the same way about religion. They have heard some clever saying, read some bumper sticker, or skimmed the newest, most popular book and they think they know the “trick” to religion. They then proceed to offer awful advice that is neither biblical nor fruitful. In almost all cases, these pithy, easy answers lead new (and even not-so-new) Christians down a dark path of confusion and disappointment. What is the trick to understanding the Bible? “Study and apply it everyday.”
Even this is too simple by far, but at least it is a step in the right direction. This, along with similar concepts, is what Lucas is exploring in Faith in the Fog. Through a personal narrative that helps the reader understand his trials and triumphs, Lucas is able to share how well-meaning people with a limited understand and application of the Bible can do more harm than good. Moreover, he shows by example, and some biblical reference, how we can become our own worst enemy.
The implication that Lucas creates is that many Christians have bought into a glamorized, Hollywood friendly version of what it means to be one of the faithful. We hear often-embellished stories of spiritual success that seems to demonize the person who is not instantly caught-up. We hear massively over-simplified explanations of topics that scholars having been debating for centuries, and we begin to doubt ourselves and our walk with Christ. Lucas sums this up when he says, “someone asks a question or honestly expresses their struggle with doubt or admits to a concern about doctrine that in turn creates controversy, and the label-pinning begins. Liberal. Doubter. Even heretic.”
What Lucas does well is that he shows that becoming a disciple is a life-long journey. It is sometimes a journey of striving ahead and other times a journey of regression. It is a journey during which we will have friends like Job who offer us well-sounding but ultimately ridiculous advice. More importantly, it is a journey that we make with the Spirit leading us. A journey of prayer, Bible study, thoughtful seeking, and hopefully good teaching. While the journey is rarely easy, we can be comforted by knowing that Christ is there with us, and that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6)
As someone who is also a composition teacher, and not just a theologian, I did have some starts and stops with the book literarily. In some places, the narrative did not flow from idea-to-idea very smoothly leaving me wondering where Lucas was going with his points – sometimes for pages. In other places, his biblical illustrations, while accurate, where somewhat clumsily entered into and extracted from. There were also areas where the reader is given an over-abundance of information that is not strictly pertinent to what is being discussed. I assume this was meant to create a sense of cathartic connection between the reader and the author but it made long sections seem to amble on. Finally, there were areas where Lucas’s wording was a bit stilted and I had to re-read what he wrote, but (to an extent) I am nit-picking. In the arm wrestling contest between the theologian and the writer in me: however, the theologian wins hands down. Lucas has made some very important point and offers some good advice both implicitly and explicitly in his book Faith in the Fog.
Trent Nicholson, Ph.D., D.Min.
Desert Bible Institute, President
Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.
The book for this review was provided free of charge by Zondervan Non-Fiction through NetGalley.com. This book was provided without the expectation or requirement of a positive response. Thank you to both the publisher and NetGalley.com for the opportunity to both read your advanced copy and to provide this unpaid evaluation. All opinions in this review reflect the views of the author and not DBI, NetGalley.com, or the publisher.