Book Review: Faith After Doubt

reviewed by Kathryn Drury Wagner

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Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do About It
By Brian D. McLaren

Brian McLaren was a pastor for 24 years. He recalls once standing in front of a mirror in the men’s room before he had to go preach and thinking, “I’m going bald. ... And I’m not sure if there really is a God.” McLaren is the author of multiple books, a speaker, activist, and public theologian who is one of the best-known voices in progressive Christianity. His latest book, Faith After Doubt, is deeply reassuring to anyone who questions their faith or the existence of God.

McLaren grew up in a fundamentalist Christian religion, and shares his own path along doubt and discovery, as well as stories of people he’s met over the years who are struggling to reconcile their beliefs. Maybe they’re turned off by their church’s emphasis on money, or its hostility to LGTBQ+ persons. Sixty-five million adults in the U.S. have already dropped out of active religious attendance, for myriad reasons. But doubt, McLaren counsels, is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a “blessed unrest” and an important companion.

He discusses the neurological and cultural reasons why doubt feels so painful—we are herd animals, desiring to belong to a group. McLaren was at the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” demonstration as a counter-protestor to the hate groups. Humans, he warns, can easily shift a religious identity into “quasi- secular religions like racism, nationalism, fascism and classism.”

But he also talks about how religious communities still hold a vital place in the world.

His book teaches us not to fear doubt and how to embody faith after doubt, with suggestions for reflection and action. “God is not a destination,” he writes. “Like a river, like a road, God takes us somewhere.”

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