Barnabas Piper grew up listening to one of today's best preachers and teachers, John Piper, who also happens to be his father. Barnabas embraced all he was taught, at home and at church. Even with a solid foundation of knowledge, as a young adult he had a crisis of faith. He writes about his own doubts and belief in Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt is Not the Enemy of Faith.
Piper's title is based on the story of the father whose son was possessed. Jesus came along and the father asks about healing his son. Jesus says, "Everything is possible to him who believes." The desperate father replies, "I do believe; help my unbelief." This was Piper's cry. He believed on one level in the promises of scripture, but did not truly believe. He offers encouragement for Christians who find themselves feeling and thinking the same way.
First of all, we must recognize that this is a good place to start. "Our belief is imperfect, so we cry out for help. But that cry comes from a place of belief." Even when faced with doubt, we can start with even the slightest intellectual assent. Piper makes the important distinction between "believing doubt" and "unbelieving doubt." Believing doubt is rooted in obedience and leads to repentance and belief. The goal of unbelieving doubt is to disprove, attack, "erode the asker's belief," stemming from and leading to "complete and total refusal to believe in God or His way."
Piper writes with passion and thoughtfulness, with the zeal or immaturity of youth, depending on your preference. I thought he fell short of his goal. Or perhaps he met the goal, but was aiming too low. If the goal was simply to encourage Christians whose faith journey is like his, by explaining that doubt is OK as long as we come back around to faith, the goal is met. But if a Christian is really struggling with questions of faith, he might come a way empty after reading Help My Unbelief. Piper seems to say, "Look, if you're stuck in unbelief, you need to repent. I'm afraid your doubt is 'unbelieving doubt.'"
I do appreciate Piper's laying his soul bare with Help My Unbelief. Many doubting Christians will be helped and encouraged. Overall, though, the book is incomplete and insufficient.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
2016 Reading Challenge: A book whose title comes from a Bible verse