book review from lessons from the sidelines

Book Review: Why I Still Believe

It’s been a while since I’ve done a full book review here! I’ve been buried in writing which has left little time for reading. However, there are some books that cross over with work and thankfully I’ve got a few that are worth featuring here as well starting with this one!

why I still believe

For those who feel the ever-present tension between the beauty of salvation and the dark side of human nature, Why I Still Believe is a candid and approachable case for believing in God when you really want to walk away. With fresh and thoughtful insights, this spiritual narrative presents relevant answers to haunting questions like:

  • Isn’t there too much pain and suffering to believe?
  • Is it okay to have doubt?
  • What if Jesus’ story is a copy of another story?
  • Is there any evidence for Jesus’ resurrection?
  • Does atheism explain the human experience better than Christianity can?  
  • How can the truth of Christianity matter when the behaviors of Christians are reprehensible?

In Why I Still Believe Mary Jo Sharp shares personal experiences as a new believer with the Church. She shares about the time her clothes were criticized by the pastor’s wife rather than a simple welcome to our church. She also shares about times as a pastor’s wife and the criticism from congregations that came out of preference rather than theology.

Intertwined in these stories Mary Jo shares her faith journey from atheist to an apologist.

I found Mary Jo’s three ways people view doubt and the explanations around each of the views incredibly valuable. She also points out that doubt is a normal part of a maturing faith. That there is a difference between church culture and Biblical theology.

I love this quote: “Trying to put on my church’s cultural expression of faith made me feel like an imposter, like I was wearing someone else’s Jesus-believing clothes. Yet I had no idea how to find a genuinely fitting faith. And so doubt began to creep into my soul.” p. 26

Additionally, Mary Jo continues to remind the reader that we have to be willing to consider our own hypocrisy and flaws as we engage with the Church in order to have a relationship with God. We are all flawed, all capable of more evil than we’re willing to admit. “To think critically on a matter I’ve got to be open to the fact that I might be wrong.” p. 32

As Mary Jo takes the reader through her faith journey and the beginning of how she founded her ministry Confident Christianity she also addresses many of the common discussion points atheists bring up to support their viewpoints.

The picture of humanity is the story is that we are indeed fallen from our original relational status with God. The result is that our knowledge, intellect, desires, and will are affected, and as a result we constantly dehumanize ourselves and others. We are not going to be able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps – or, in the language of today, just “follow our dream, speak our truth, show love not hate” – because individually we continue to be the problem. Yet Christianity also pierces the human propensity to hate ourselves. God made us in his own image, so we are of highest value (Genesis 1:26, 31). p.178-179

Mary Jo Sharp Why I Still Believe

I found this book to be full of wisdom from years of hard experiences coupled with humility. Mary Jo’s timely book reminds us all that we are flawed humans created for relationship with a perfect God and other flawed humans.

For many, our experiences in the Church have been that as we’ve questioned church culture we’ve been told directly or indirectly questions revealed a lack of faith. In Why I Still Believe Mary Jo affirms that deepening our relationship with Jesus and our faith in our Creator requires study, exploration, and continued learning. Much of that will include asking questions.

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