Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace by William Lobdell (Collins)
As I devoured William Lobdell's fascinating tale of lost faith, I kept wondering how—or if—things could have turned out differently.
Losing My Religion traces the arc of a spiritually inquisitive life. That life begins in a nominally engaged Episcopal family and spins out of control through the narcissism and hubris of youth and young adulthood. Then it curves toward Christ in passionate evangelicalism, seeks intellectual rigor in mainstream Protestantism, gravitates toward heritage in Roman Catholicism and ultimately lands confidently outside the faith fold, in confirmed atheism.
Lobdell's career parallels the latter portions of that arc. When he embraces Christ as a young adult, he fuses his journalistic aspirations with his robust evangelical faith. He wins a job reporting on religion for a Southern California newspaper, and he enthusiastically tells the transcendent, triumphant stories of people living out their faith. But his job ultimately leads him to tell stories about fraudulent faith and forces him to question his own beliefs.
Could Lobdell have maintained his faith if circumstances had been different? He covered the pedophile-priests scandal while preparing for conversion into the Roman Catholic Church. The seamy stories he reported undermined his faith and led him away from Christ. What if he had another job? Could he have balanced clergy failure with Jesus' faithfulness? He says no, but I wonder.
Christians need to read this book. Lobdell's saga is sympathetic, even wistful. We need to learn how atheists think, and he provides a primer.
Marv Knox, editor
Baptist Standard, Plano
The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us by Matt Woodley (IVP)
Don't pick up this book expecting a word-by-word exegetical examination of the first Gospel. That's not what IVP's Resonate series aims to offer. Instead, approach The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us as an invitation to enjoy a brisk walk through the familiar Gospel with a new friend who offers valuable insights along the way—and who, by the way, happens to tell stories exceptionally well.
With pastoral sensitivity and a storyteller's knack for offering engaging illustrations, Woodley seeks to make the life of Christ accessible to a 21st century audience. References to popular cultural seem more natural and less self-consciously trendy than in the first volume of the Resonate commentary series. Perhaps a few of the specific allusions to novels or music may seem dated in a few years, but the personal stories the author tells likely will prove to be—in the words of ethicist T.B. Maston—"abidingly relevant."
Woodley emphasizes the central teaching of Matthew's Gospel by focusing on its bookends—the opening proclamation that the birth of Jesus signals "God with us" and the closing promise of Jesus, "I am with you always." That's a message that never goes out of style.
Ken Camp, managing editor
Baptist Standard, Plano
I Never Thought I'd See the Day: Culture at the Crossroads by David Jeremiah (Faith Works)
With this unique book, one simply has to list the chapter titles to reveal what concerns the author. The subtitle "Culture at the Crossroads" is well stated, especially for Christians. Jeremiah's introduction says a lot: "A Slow Drift in the Wrong Direction." Following this are discussions of nine areas that indicate definite disturbing trends for Christians to consider concerning contemporary American culture—"When Atheists Would be Angry," "When Christians Wouldn't Know They Were in a War," "When Jesus Would Be So Profaned," "When Marriage Would Be Obsolete," "When Morality Would Be in Free Fall," "When the Bible Would Be Marginalized," "When the Church Would Be Irrelevant," "When a Muslim State Could Intimidate the World" and "When America Would Turn Her Back on Israel."
After introducing each chapter with current—sometimes shocking—quotes, these topics are presented with scriptural answers proposed to each area. Jeremiah concludes by using Romans 12:1-2 in answering the dilemmas provided in his text by titling the final chapter "When Changing Your Mind Could Save Your Life." This well-documented book is a vital one for Christians, as well as others, to read if they truly are concerned about the direction America's culture is taking in today's society.
Ed Spann, retired dean
College of Fine arts, Dallas Baptist University