Finding God in the Waves
From the host of the popular podcasts, The Liturgists Podcast and Ask Science Mike, a story of having faith, losing it, and finding it again through science—revealing how the latest in neuroscience, physics, and biology help us understand God, faith, and ourselves.   What do you do when God dies? It's a question facing millions today, as science reveals a Universe that's self-creating, as American culture departs from Christian social norms, and the idea of God begins to seem implausible at best and barbaric at worst.   Mike McHargue understands the pain of unraveling belief. In Finding God in the Waves, Mike tells the story of how his Evangelical faith dissolved into atheism as he studied the Bible, a crisis that threatened his life, his friendships, and even his marriage. Years later, Mike was standing on the shores of the Pacific Ocean when a bewildering, seemingly mystical moment motivated him to take another look. But this time, it wasn't theology or scripture that led him back to God—it was science.    In Finding God in the Waves, "Science Mike” draws on his personal experience to tell the unlikely story of how science led him back to faith. Among other revelations, we learn what brain scans reveal about what happens when we pray; how fundamentalism affects the psyche; and how God is revealed not only in scripture, but in the night sky, in subatomic particles, and in us.   For the faithful and skeptic alike, Finding God in the Waves is a winsome, lucid, page-turning read about belonging, life’s biggest questions, and the hope of knowing God in an age of science.

Finding God in the Waves Details

TitleFinding God in the Waves
Author
ReleaseSep 13th, 2016
PublisherConvergent Books
ISBN-139781101906040
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Science, Religion, Theology, Faith, Christian, Spirituality

Finding God in the Waves Review

  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    It's easily the best book I've ever written. Of course, it's also the only book I've ever written.
  • Matt LeFevers
    January 1, 1970
    This book is incredible. I read it in less than twenty-four hours (it came out yesterday). Mike McHargue is one of the best things to happen to progressive Christianity and to anyone who is wondering how (or if) they can be a person of faith in an intellectual, modern world that seems like it's leaving (mainstream evangelical) Christianity behind.The target audience for this book is probably not firmly committed Christians - in fact, McHargue pulls so few punches in describing his journey into a This book is incredible. I read it in less than twenty-four hours (it came out yesterday). Mike McHargue is one of the best things to happen to progressive Christianity and to anyone who is wondering how (or if) they can be a person of faith in an intellectual, modern world that seems like it's leaving (mainstream evangelical) Christianity behind.The target audience for this book is probably not firmly committed Christians - in fact, McHargue pulls so few punches in describing his journey into atheism that I'm pretty sure this book could trigger a collapse of faith in a typical evangelical reader. The first half is raw and unflinching, and if you stopped reading there, it would be more effective than Dawkins' "The God Delusion" because it presents the same information with none of the arrogant condescension. If you had never been exposed to these arguments before, they could wreck you.I have been already, and they raised a lot of questions, which is why I *am* part of the target demographic for this book. The second half, in which McHargue uses cosmology, neuroscience, and empirical data to try and put his broken faith back together again, is handled with honesty and transparency. His work on the podcasts "Ask Science Mike" and "The Liturgists" has already been profoundly influential on my attempts to sort through my own theology, so I loved reading a detailed view of his process.I have no tolerance for pompous, contempt-filled atheists and equally little tolerance for anti-intellectual, backwards-thinking Christians. This book contains zero trace of either, just a fair-handed, even examination of both sides and then a possible middle path. As someone who works at a progressive church trying to balance faith and intellect, I see this book as foundational - a crucial, needed voice in what (I am hoping) will become a growing movement.
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  • Danielle
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the first half of the book, but felt like I got gut-punched in the second half. I should say that I don't believe in the Young Earth view, and I do believe in evolution. I read Language of God last year and was happy (and relieved) to find a book that was honest and forthright about evolution and didn't use it as a means of dismantling Christian faith. So when I saw this book and read some reviews, I was excited to read it. However, I do think it's sorta mis-marketed. The fact that this I loved the first half of the book, but felt like I got gut-punched in the second half. I should say that I don't believe in the Young Earth view, and I do believe in evolution. I read Language of God last year and was happy (and relieved) to find a book that was honest and forthright about evolution and didn't use it as a means of dismantling Christian faith. So when I saw this book and read some reviews, I was excited to read it. However, I do think it's sorta mis-marketed. The fact that this was marketed as a guy finding his way back to God through science is somewhat disingenuous. Even if the author himself is sincere and not at all disingenuous (which I think is the case). He's basically saying, "i'm pretty sure there is a God, and you can make the case for it." "I'm pretty sure Jesus was an actual person, and nobody would call you crazy for thinking that." "Prayer works, but it doesn't necessarily have everything to do with 'God.'" He even tells the story of a woman who immersed herself in the beliefs and practices of the Vineyard (without actually "buying into the beliefs" herself) and after a year or so had a deeply mystical experience. So, it's all about training our brains with the correct neural pathways. I'm just at a loss, really. I don't even know how to review this book. If you're looking for a book that talks about how science and an orthodox Christian faith can be reconciled, this isn't it. It's not that a real, deep and sincere faith can't be reconciled with science. The Language of God would be a great book to read for that (although it's mainly about evolution). This is more of a mid-journey memoir about a guy who did (and does) love Jesus, but got blindsided by a literalist reading of the bible, and slowly fell away until he could only consider himself an atheist. He wandered around keeping it all a secret and then had an undeniable, unscientific spiritual/mystical experience on a beach. He slowly started piecing together bits and pieces of his old faith, while trying to stay true to what he knew and believed about science. He believes in evolution, doesn't think Adam and Eve were literal people and acknowledges that the Bible is full of contradictions. He kinda goes back and forth on the resurrection. And though he still wrestles with doubt and doesn't find himself back in the same old church pew, he does find himself back in the fold, back in prayer, back in a belief in a God who loves us and saves us and is with us, wherever and whenever we wander and doubt.
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    I first heard Mike on Pete Holme's podcast "You Made It Weird" (because I had been listening to his podcast for years). At that moment in my life I was in a mournful period of unraveling and walking away from my traditional beliefs. It seemed Mike's thoughts where my own, even some experiences mirrored mine (parents divorce, bullied kid, etc). Since that show I've talked with Mike (via email) a few times and have continued to explore new ways to understand the world more realistically, more logi I first heard Mike on Pete Holme's podcast "You Made It Weird" (because I had been listening to his podcast for years). At that moment in my life I was in a mournful period of unraveling and walking away from my traditional beliefs. It seemed Mike's thoughts where my own, even some experiences mirrored mine (parents divorce, bullied kid, etc). Since that show I've talked with Mike (via email) a few times and have continued to explore new ways to understand the world more realistically, more logically, and more scientifically. I've heard most of what's in the book in some form from Mike and others. I'm sure many people who consider themselves "Christian" or even "religious" will have issues with what Mike discusses so honestly, earnestly, and methodically. Despite the many months (maybe even years?) of reading and listening to Mike, I still find myself in the middle of antipathy and belief. I do not consider myself an atheist, but I do not consider myself a "Christian" (by nearly any definition of the word). This book is challenging. I grew up in the church. I grew up in a tradition of strong theological focus (Presbyterian). My beliefs are hard-wired into my identity. Removing them completely from my worldview might be impossible, but I'm also unable (or unwilling) to accept, adapt, or reconcile so many things I once thought were not just truth, but fact so that my "hard-wiring" remains. I feel disingenuous pretending to believe something for the benefit of gaining comfort (not that my life doesn't already have those) while building a bridge between what I know and what I believe.My entire life will likely be spent wrestling with these topics, and what I appreciate most about this book is the extraordinary care that is given to avoiding absolutism, certainty, fear-mongering, or condemnation. The axioms of faith Mike has developed are brilliant and succinct, and might be the most impactful words to refining my views that I've read in many many years.
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  • Jamin Bradley
    January 1, 1970
    Having been taught to stay away from some scientific ideas throughout my early life, I was amazed at how much I found God in those same ideas over the past few years. After watching Neil Degrasse Tyson's show "The Cosmos," I was surprisingly taken into a place of awe for God. I began to make science an important study in my Christian life. I especially love learning about space and how vast and complex God's work is. Interestingly enough, I'm also an avid charismatic which came from a few years Having been taught to stay away from some scientific ideas throughout my early life, I was amazed at how much I found God in those same ideas over the past few years. After watching Neil Degrasse Tyson's show "The Cosmos," I was surprisingly taken into a place of awe for God. I began to make science an important study in my Christian life. I especially love learning about space and how vast and complex God's work is. Interestingly enough, I'm also an avid charismatic which came from a few years in a Pentecostal church. I've seen God's supernatural ways at work over and over again to a point that I cannot deny it.I found McHargue's testimony to be amazing. I didn't resonate with shared feelings all the time, but I recognized his story in many others and loved the honesty and straightforwardness.Unfortunately, I was very hurt by his chapters on resurrection and forward. I wasn't hurt by his personality—the man writes and loves and cares about people like few books I have read. But I was hurt by there being so much emphasis on science at that point that there didn't really seem to be any balance of faith from then on out. That being said, I find his story to be amazing but his theology to lack much balance with faith and yes, to be dangerous and out of sync with a lot of trusted tradition. I know it's his story, but as a pastor I fear for people to read that section of the book blindly.There's plenty I loved and learned from this book outside of these chapters though, so it's very difficult to review.
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  • Brianna Silva
    January 1, 1970
    For anyone struggling to reconcile faith and science, this is a beautiful half-memoir, half-science book that I heartily recommend.While I may not agree with the author on absolutely everything, (although, when can two people completely agree when it comes to something as mysterious, undefinable, and experiential as God?), I found this book inspiring and absolutely delightful to read.I very much appreciate Mike's vulnerability and authenticity as he shares his personal story. And the science par For anyone struggling to reconcile faith and science, this is a beautiful half-memoir, half-science book that I heartily recommend.While I may not agree with the author on absolutely everything, (although, when can two people completely agree when it comes to something as mysterious, undefinable, and experiential as God?), I found this book inspiring and absolutely delightful to read.I very much appreciate Mike's vulnerability and authenticity as he shares his personal story. And the science parts were accessible, easy to understand, and downright fascinating. I just loved this book, okay?I loved it.
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  • Shelby Rogers
    January 1, 1970
    I've been a huge fan of Mike's podcast (Ask Science Mike and the Liturgists.) I have heard his story through these avenues and was excited to read this book.The first half of this book - the story of how he lost his faith - was so honest and helpful for me. It was well written and I'm sure will be a comfort for many like it was for me.The game changer for me was the chapter on prayer. Mike uses science to show us how God is experienced in the brain and how prayer and meditation can be used to he I've been a huge fan of Mike's podcast (Ask Science Mike and the Liturgists.) I have heard his story through these avenues and was excited to read this book.The first half of this book - the story of how he lost his faith - was so honest and helpful for me. It was well written and I'm sure will be a comfort for many like it was for me.The game changer for me was the chapter on prayer. Mike uses science to show us how God is experienced in the brain and how prayer and meditation can be used to help us feel closer to God, even if we aren't sure who or what God is. It has inspired me to continue spiritual practices even in the midst of doubt. It has changed how I approach prayer and meditation and has given me hope.
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  • Reese
    January 1, 1970
    I found his arguments against God and Christianity stronger than his arguments and reasons for. He sees the Bible as (merely?) art, isn't sure about Jesus' resurrection (not sure what he thinks about his divinity), and sometimes seems to suggest that you have to turn the logical, reasoning part of your brain off (or keep it separate) and just experience God in order to believe. Maybe I missed the point, but if so, the fact that that is possible means I can't recommend this book to others
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  • Aaron West
    January 1, 1970
    Having enjoyed The Liturgists podcast, I had heard a lot about this book--not only through that medium, but through several friends of mine, and decided to pick it up. Mike McHargue, AKA "Science Mike," delves into his fascinating story of leaving faith, and coming to terms with it again, all--of course--through legitimate science. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Science Mike sometimes came across as unapproachable or posh to me on the podcast. But I can legitimately say I was mista Having enjoyed The Liturgists podcast, I had heard a lot about this book--not only through that medium, but through several friends of mine, and decided to pick it up. Mike McHargue, AKA "Science Mike," delves into his fascinating story of leaving faith, and coming to terms with it again, all--of course--through legitimate science. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Science Mike sometimes came across as unapproachable or posh to me on the podcast. But I can legitimately say I was mistaken to have had those preconceptions of him. This book isn't an attack on faith or science. It's not a defensive apologetic or a proclamation of doubt, It's a heartfelt testimony and the story of a man in the process of learning more about who--or what--God is, through earthly means. And that's frankly what's most impressive about this book. He speaks about a lot of fears and insecurities that many Christians (or believers in God) feel. He's blatantly honest about how he lost his faith. And he doesn't write that experience off or rationalize it away as he learns more about faith in his life nowadays. He's open and honest--and admits when things sound crazy (to nonbelievers) or crass (to us believing folk). The book is most impressive because it's not a closed case; it's not a done deal. Through stated axioms about what tenets of Christian faith are to him now verses when he was a part of the Baptist Church, he explores what he's coming to believe. He's a unique case, but I doubt he's alone in his experience of being somewhat in-between orthodox religion and skeptical nontheism. Where I used to roll my eyes at hearing him explain some of his nontraditional views, I now listen. And realize that he's playing a very important role, beginning conversations that need to be had. There were two chapters that I found particularly interesting (besides his personal story of finding God in the waves): the discussion about how God is a tangible network of neurological pathways in our brains (the digression into the "Angry God" and "Loving God" dichotomy), and the beautifully anachronistic, personal, and yes--sometimes flawed perspectives, accounts, and piecing together over time that is the library (not book) we know as the Bible. He had a very comforting/fascinating view of what it means to be inspired by God, drawing a beautiful comparison to Van Gogh's post-impressionistic works. It opened my mind to a new train of thought that I hadn't truly considered before. In addition, Mike asks some tough questions about the Resurrection and gives some great advice about prayer, regarding what it's physically capable of doing (to your own mind, rather than having a genie in the universe give you what you exactly want). At times in the book I questioned if Mike wasn't just attributing spiritual titles to phenomena that happens in spite of them--scientific phenomena to be exact. But again, that's the point...perhaps science is God (at work), and God is science (in our eyes). He creates a paradigm linking those two together that is sure to challenge scientists and Christians alike. But one thing is certain: the two are capable of coexisting, being one in many ways. I'll close with a powerful quote from the end of the book: "I'm finished trying to let my faith, my theology, my reading of the Bible trump humankind's crowning system for uncovering facts about the physical world. I'll never do it again. There is absolutely nothing as effective for learning about physical reality as the sciences, and I love them for it. But my faith gives me something else. A sense of meaning, belonging, and purpose in the midst of all those facts. It gives me hope that all things work out for good, that love is the basic reality of our existence, because God is love. These ideas don't have tremendous empirical merit, but they change my life when I hold them in an open mind. Science gives us fact. Faith gives us meaning. These two lenses, so often set up in opposition to each other, are most powerful when used together. Somehow, life becomes more clear--and dear--when I refuse to water down one stance for the sake of the other and, instead, dive deeply into both streams of experience and feeling, collecting the truth that flows from each. We don't have to choose one or the other. Beauty and mystery surround us in every moment. They're easy to miss and easy to crush in the grip of our desire to control them. But if we open ourselves up to receive both, we'll be surprised by what we find. And God will meet us there."
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    This book helped me answer some, not all but some of the things I have been feeling for a while.
  • Colleen Pettit
    January 1, 1970
    I have the honor of calling Mike one of my dearest friends. When I left Tallahassee, my heart broke because I knew how much I would miss my friend and knew there was so much more I wanted to learn from him. This book was like getting to sit with him again at lunch as he shared snippets of the vast amount of information that is stored in his brain. He is not only the smartest person I know, he is the kindness and has more empathy than anyone. I recommend this book to anyone who has lost faith in I have the honor of calling Mike one of my dearest friends. When I left Tallahassee, my heart broke because I knew how much I would miss my friend and knew there was so much more I wanted to learn from him. This book was like getting to sit with him again at lunch as he shared snippets of the vast amount of information that is stored in his brain. He is not only the smartest person I know, he is the kindness and has more empathy than anyone. I recommend this book to anyone who has lost faith in organized religion and the possibility of a God but still hopes against hope that they're wrong. Because while eternity may be a scary thought to grasp, nothingness is far worse.
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  • Paul Lewis
    January 1, 1970
    So, I read this (listened to it actually because I'm lazy) and am not totally sure how I feel about it. His story is a captivating one -- he grows up in faith and then becomes an atheist but hides it from his loved ones and his Church. His recalling of when he brought his daughter to Christ even though he didn't believe in Christ was moving. His feeling of doubt and insecurity and loneliness was heartbreaking to listen to. This book challenged me and scared me, it made me angry and frustrated, i So, I read this (listened to it actually because I'm lazy) and am not totally sure how I feel about it. His story is a captivating one -- he grows up in faith and then becomes an atheist but hides it from his loved ones and his Church. His recalling of when he brought his daughter to Christ even though he didn't believe in Christ was moving. His feeling of doubt and insecurity and loneliness was heartbreaking to listen to. This book challenged me and scared me, it made me angry and frustrated, it excited me and educated me. I don't agree with a lot of it, but thoroughly enjoyed most of it.
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  • Trent
    January 1, 1970
    There is much I love about this book. The author does a great job of telling the story of his loss and return to faith. However I struggle with how he handles science and theology. I love both. I love science and I love God and I feel this book leans more on personal opinion and less on healthy understanding of both for ones own life. It also didn't leave me optimistic and hopeful. If I could I would rate the first half of the book 4 stars and the second half 1. This book wasn't meant for me in There is much I love about this book. The author does a great job of telling the story of his loss and return to faith. However I struggle with how he handles science and theology. I love both. I love science and I love God and I feel this book leans more on personal opinion and less on healthy understanding of both for ones own life. It also didn't leave me optimistic and hopeful. If I could I would rate the first half of the book 4 stars and the second half 1. This book wasn't meant for me in this season.
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  • Shawn Birss
    January 1, 1970
    I really like Science Mike. I listen to his podcast, though I have fallen behind. He even included my emailed question in one of his episodes, and his answer was kind, thoughtful, and well spoken. I find his axioms helpful. I was reading his blog and listening to his podcast when still a believer, and was still listening and reading through my loss of faith and the grief that followed. I was looking forward to this book. I'm sorry to say that I was disappointed, and truly, actually heartbroken t I really like Science Mike. I listen to his podcast, though I have fallen behind. He even included my emailed question in one of his episodes, and his answer was kind, thoughtful, and well spoken. I find his axioms helpful. I was reading his blog and listening to his podcast when still a believer, and was still listening and reading through my loss of faith and the grief that followed. I was looking forward to this book. I'm sorry to say that I was disappointed, and truly, actually heartbroken that this is so. I know now that my hope for this book obviously created a greater expectation than it could reach. I want my faith back. I read this book. It isn't back.It may seem strange, silly, or naive to approach any book this way. However, I've followed Mike's work enough to know that he likely has a similar hope for his readers as I had for myself as a reader. Mike wants those who want to have faith yet struggle to have that faith. Maybe this book would work for some. It did not for me.My story is not like Mike's. Furthermore, I do not hear in this book an understanding from Mike that anyone could even have a story like mine. This was extremely frustrating. When Mike lost his faith, he was reading the Bible like a fundamentalist literalist, and then also reading criticisms of the Bible from atheists who read it the same way. I, however, had rejected that reading of the Bible over a decade before my deconversion, and had been reading the Bible as Mike describes his reading of the Bible now for many years. He references Peter Enns, whose book I read last year, and in which I found an accessible description of a way to read the Bible that I had assumed for many years, and did not consider particularly progressive or radical. In fact, I was an evangelical pastor, lead pastor in my church in Canada, preaching expositional sermons at least forty times a year with this understanding of the Bible, without much difficulty or push back. I read the Bible through several times a year, for several years, and loved it, without a fundamentalist or literalist framework. And now, as an unbeliever, I still love the Bible over all other literature. I've tried the Qur'an since losing my faith. It isn't the same. But even with my knowledge of and love for the Bible, I do not have my faith.I accepted evolution before even becoming a pastor, and even included my reasons why in sermons on Sunday morning. I accepted and affirmed LGBTQ sexual activity and relationships before my deconversion (but after leaving the ministry). Permission given by this book to believe these things as a Christian does not convince me I can be one.As Mike happily shares in this book, I already know Jesus was an historical figure, and am still excited by the stories of his life, and the strong likelihood that he was crucified, meaning that he died as an insurrectionist against empire. I still seek to emulate him. But I also miss the feeling of his constant presence.I no longer pray. However, I have learned to meditate, and am aware that the practice has the same physical and emotional health benefits as prayer. In fact, I meditate more often and more deeply now than I ever prayed. So Mike's encouragements to pray for the health benefits simply do not help me have reason to believe. Mike himself describes the ways in which those who do not believe explicitly in a god or spirituality can still have mystical experiences, live ethically, and find meaning. His description of God as he understands God to be is interesting, but I do not find it helpful for connecting to a real, personal god if such a god actually exists. In fact, I failed to find clear evidence in this book that Mike even literally believes that such a god literally exists. It seems to me that Carl Sagan, were he alive, could read Mike's understanding of a god, and concede that he also has similar feelings of awe at the waves he observes in gravity or the movement of particles, without being a theist. This is a far cry from the personal god I so miss.The most frustrating and heartbreaking part of the book for me though, was the chapter on church. I believe Mike that church is important, not just for belief, but for all around well-being and all over health. However, I was enormously disheartened by his insistence that not only does he not believe this can ever be truly found outside of organized church, combined with his cheery, simple assurance that there really is a church for everyone. He even went as far as to use himself as an example of how if he could find a church to accept him, then anyone can. I cried.Mike is not as weird as he thinks he is. Furthermore, he seems wholly naive to the cultural experiences of those outside the Southern United States. I am not convinced that anyone can find a church because a young, white, married, heterosexual, educated, published, (self described) extroverted, friendly, neurotypical man is able to find a church in a part of the world more populated with churches than literally anywhere else on earth. This part of the book and the assumptions it contained upset me so much that I intend to write Mike a letter asking him to expand and rewrite it in newer editions. Most people on earth do not have his privilege to easily travel to whatever flavour of church they like to find one that fits them. Some towns only have three churches. Some people don't own cars. Some people have needs for accommodation for their family, or for physical or mental disability that are simply unavailable within three hundred kilometres of their residence. Some are bound by poverty to their work and are simply unable to attend to participate in a congregation close to them. Some are ethnic or sexual minorities that cannot find an accessible church in which they do not find prejudice. Some don't have a church nearby that speaks their language.I miss church. Terribly. I am writing this review up late on a Saturday night, deeply saddened that I cannot join my family for church tomorrow morning, so far the closest church we could find in this small town to an ideal one for me, because my anxiety disorder is once again keeping me away. I escaped spiritual abuse. This led to my leaving ministry, and eventually was a large part of losing my faith. We thought we had found a church that would not trigger me. It turns out that it has my triggers.Mike's book describes him coming back to a faith that is only a relative shade left of the faith that I had when I lost mine. I am happy for him. I wish his story could help me return also.Despite my disappointment in what is mostly the second half of this book, I found the first half of the book helpful and interesting. It is here where Mike has most of his scientific content. His descriptions of what goes on in the brain of a believer was especially insightful. He speaks with incredible clarity about concepts far beyond most lay persons' understanding. He puts it together in ways engaging and insightful. I felt like I understood myself and my own experiences better having read it. I believe that the weakness in the second half is largely because of Mike's ignorance of the Bible, theology, and church culture, compared to the first half where he is so strong in his understanding of science. I would be very, very happy to read a follow up book co-authored by Science Mike with another author with a deep knowledge of biblical theology and historical Christian theology, and a greater breadth of knowledge of Christian culture worldwide. Until then, I recommend this book to North American evangelicals who are mildly frustrated with church culture, who question their faith but wish to keep it, and who either already have a church, or are likely to find one easily. I do not recommend this book to anyone seeking a reason to believe who does not have faith, or anyone seeking to regain it once it has been lost.Despite this, I do still recommend Science Mike's blog and podcast, as well as The Liturgists podcast, which I continue to follow as I continue to seek a reason to believe and a way to express it.+EDIT, APRIL 30, 2017Re. Waking Up by Sam Harris Several times as I read Waking Up I was reminded of having read another book this year by the name Finding God In The Waves: How I Lost My Faith And Found It Again Through Science by Mike McHargue aka Science Mike. I had high hopes for that book that it did not come close to fulfilling. This book, however, filled the role I hoped for that book. Readers interested in Science Mike's book may do better to read this one instead. It has a lot of the same material, but is better written, with a greater intellectual rigour, and contains far more extensive notes.(I also have a short review of Waking Up on Goodreads)
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  • Jon Gill
    January 1, 1970
    What a unique and beautiful book! Relatable, moving, heartbreaking, inspiring, and poetic are just a few words that come to mind, but only begin to describe it. For a first book, it is remarkably well-written; for such a left-brained science-type author, I found it full of beautiful metaphor and mysticism.I had no previous experience with "Science Mike" before reading this book, but I'm so happy to be introduced to his unique experience. I say unique because I have heard plenty of stories where What a unique and beautiful book! Relatable, moving, heartbreaking, inspiring, and poetic are just a few words that come to mind, but only begin to describe it. For a first book, it is remarkably well-written; for such a left-brained science-type author, I found it full of beautiful metaphor and mysticism.I had no previous experience with "Science Mike" before reading this book, but I'm so happy to be introduced to his unique experience. I say unique because I have heard plenty of stories where people (a) came from atheism into Christianity, (b) left Christianity for atheism, or (c) dealt with doubts in their Christianity without actually leaving their faith. While I find myself in category C at the moment, Mike's story is a full-fledged journey: fundamentalist-Baptist-turned-closeted-atheist-turned-mystical-but-still-skeptical Christian. And just like "There and Back Again: A Hobbit's Tale," there is no way to return from such a journey unchanged. Nor should we desire to remain unchanged.The beauty of Mike's story comes first from his own transparency. He leaves no traces of doubt about how marvelous it was to be a Baptist, how in love with Jesus and the Bible he was, how amazing his church community was in so many ways. There's no hint of tainting the past with his later experiences. Then, when he loses his faith, first gradually and then all at once, we too experience the deep, deep loss. Christians who have been critical of doubters will see a more human side of losing one's faith. Atheists who never really experienced faith will see what a great cost it is to lose.Mike's journey is mostly told in the first half. There were times, as a person of faith who deals with my own doubts, that I saw myself in his story, and have wondered if I too would need to completely lose my faith in order to find it again (through science or not). But the second half is just as rewarding as the first. In it, he takes us through some of his own thought processes, a few stories from his friends and internet fans (both encouraging and heartbreaking), and a set of "axioms" for faith that he's been able to lay as a sort of minimalist groundwork for a skeptical faith. These are borderline non-Christian, and certainly don't bring us fully to Christian orthodoxy, but they are a stripping away of the many layers of things we have always been asked just to accept blindly. It doesn't disallow more, it merely sets a minimum justification for faith and religion. In many ways, it reminds me of the stripping away that Paul experiences after his theologically-sound-yet-mostly-fruitless performance in front of the skeptics on Mars Hill: "I came to you in much fear and trembling...I resolved to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified." Mike's fear and trembling was also because all the things his faith was confident in were shaken - but when faith came knocking again, he resolved to investigate a series of "at leasts" and "even ifs" - things that would help his inner atheist continue to seek God in spite of doubts. It's a deep pruning that will allow good fruit to grow again where weeds had once choked him.This book is not for everyone. It's not a book to just hand out to your atheist friends who have left the faith (although it's possible they may see themselves in it, one man's story is not guaranteed to reconvert them), and it's not the book for people who don't struggle with doubts related to science, history, Scripture, philosophy, etc. We all "struggle," but not always with the same kinds of skepticism or doubts that he does. Someone who finds themselves at theological quandaries like Calvinism/Arminianism, but not skepticism, would not benefit from having the very roots of their faith questioned at that moment. Another day, perhaps. Instead, I recommend it for: (a) Christians dealing with doubts about the roots and cosmic truths of their faith;(b) left-brained analytics, apologists, philosophers, and science-bent believers and agnostics; (c) agnostics or atheists who have left faith but desire to re-examine it, and/or who miss it. If you're not ready to revisit faith, this may provide that impetus, but it will have more power if you already have that desire, rather than as a challenge.This book is not trying to do everything. Unlike some of the books I've read from the Christian Left, it's not meant mainly as an indictment of Evangelical Christianity, filled with stories of abuse from the Religious Right, high horses of what the gospel really means, or how we've distorted Christianity beyond recognition. While some stories do indicate heartbreaking things occurring, and some of Mike's opinions of the Religious Right and Evangelicalism are shared, they are mostly blips on the screen next to the vulnerable grandeur of the journey he has taken.Some highlights for me: -Mike's slow changes while still a believer are very similar to my own; politics, scholarship, apologetics, neo-atheist arguments, etc., and the way he clung to faith until it left once and for all. This was hard for me to read, not only because of his great loss, but because I don't want to see that happen to my own faith. I don't think that a believer has to become an atheist to get a faith makeover, but it's what happened to Mike.-The "faking it" years where he had left the church intellectually, but chose to stay and fake it because of the risk of losing his community - this speaks volumes to many different audiences; the actions of his church and friends are also important for churchgoers to read, in order to explore the best ways to include rather than excommunicate doubters.-His chapter on prayer (and meditation) were a surprising and new perspective for me. I have been stuck in theological quandaries, and would like to improve my prayer life and spiritual disciplines. This gives a left-brained basis for a very right-brained experience.-His chapter on the Church was absolutely fantastic, and echo much of what I've experienced and read, but with a more personal and practical touch. Instead of just indicting the church, he instead shows what it can be when it is at its best. And even when describing loss and trauma, he never trashes the idea of church, even in the Evangelical community. This helps me in my experiences, as I'm able to "hang on to the good."-His chapter on the Bible is quite good also, and his picture of what "inspired" means is beautiful. There's a lot to take from this, and many other books to look to if it's not enough. Certainly we can appreciate the Bible for what it is, even if it fails to be what we wanted it to be or had always been taught it was. And the fact that all of this comes from his own experience of loving, losing, and returning to his favorite book, just drives home the power of his testimony.I get the impression that Mike's journey isn't over. This all happened rather recently, and doubters like us don't settle easily. This is actually very healthy - if our faith isn't changing, it's probably stagnating. He eschews labels, but acknowledges that we all have a different version of faith that we share, and that's okay. His "axioms" were mostly for his own benefit, but hopefully they will not be used in the future to form some new denomination of "nontheistic humanist Christian" or whatever they would call themselves. It would defeat the purpose of Mike's experiences to just start a new branch with a new, loose theology - rather, we all should be inspired to seek God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And if we do, God meets us. I will end where he begins, with this perfect quote:"The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you." ~Werner Heisenberg, theoretical physicist
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  • Amy Neftzger
    January 1, 1970
    Mike McHargue lost his faith and became an atheist while serving as a deacon in his church. He kept this secret for 2 years, and didn't even tell his wife for most of that time period. This book is the account of his faith which started when he was younger, disappeared for a time period as mentioned above, and then found again through researching scientific explanations concerning how the world works.What's appealing about this book is how Mike (known through his podcasts as "Science Mike") thin Mike McHargue lost his faith and became an atheist while serving as a deacon in his church. He kept this secret for 2 years, and didn't even tell his wife for most of that time period. This book is the account of his faith which started when he was younger, disappeared for a time period as mentioned above, and then found again through researching scientific explanations concerning how the world works.What's appealing about this book is how Mike (known through his podcasts as "Science Mike") thinks critically about issues and provides explanations of complex theories that may be understood by the average individual. Let's face it: science is fascinating but it also scares a lot of people because the ideas can be intricate and they typically involve math. Science Mike explains these things and makes science more accessible for his listeners. He also has an applied aspect to his book and podcasts where he includes an explanation of what science means in our daily lives (such as how the words you use can trigger a response in a listener's amygdala, making the individual defensive).This book brings together two things that we often think are opposites: science and religion, and shows that (as with most things) it's not a matter of one being right and the other wrong. We don't have to believe one and reject the other because faith and science can peacefully coexist inside of the same person.
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  • Matt
    January 1, 1970
    As soon as I finished it, I couldn't WAIT to go to the Goodreads reviews, because I thought that Science Mike was gonna get DESTROYED by the same folks who thrash Rob Bell for denying the existence of hell. This is definitely not a book for Evangelical Christians. Is it? Interestingly, the meanest review I found was: "Not stopping there, Mike craps all over Sola Scriptura, but somehow still claims to affirm divine inspiration." That's funny! So, IS this book a bunch of heresy or not?! And why ar As soon as I finished it, I couldn't WAIT to go to the Goodreads reviews, because I thought that Science Mike was gonna get DESTROYED by the same folks who thrash Rob Bell for denying the existence of hell. This is definitely not a book for Evangelical Christians. Is it? Interestingly, the meanest review I found was: "Not stopping there, Mike craps all over Sola Scriptura, but somehow still claims to affirm divine inspiration." That's funny! So, IS this book a bunch of heresy or not?! And why are even the one-star reviewers so nice to him?!No spoilers. If you're interested in Christianity/Christian Orthodoxy/How Much Christian Orthodoxy you'll really be provoked to thought by this book. If you're comfortable with Christianity in general-and don't want to think about it much-it will either frustrate or offend you.Here lies my tension with it: having been through a college theology program, there's nothing shocking in here to me. I'm just shocked to see mainline liberal Christianity in a book that sells so well! But the faith described here is too saccharine for me. I think I'd rather not have faith than have to try this hard to keep it. And I'm not as interested in my brain meat as Mike is. I'm more mystical. Yet...this book isn't about me or how Christians of my ilk see things, and when Mike describes his faith I can certainly believe it's working for him. Not to mention he gives lengthy disclaimers and admissions of non-orthodoxy each and every time he drops a theological bomb. He's admirably self-deprecating and honest throughout.In the end, other Christians will debate whether or not Mike is a "real" Christian. Since Mike is reaching big numbers of people through media that Evangelicals are not connecting with, that makes this book relevant and fascinating for our time. I'd love to read this with a church book group! There'd be fireworks...
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  • Peter
    January 1, 1970
    I highly recommend this.For anyone who has ever struggled with their relationship to a church, faith, atheism or atheists this is a must. Also or anyone who just doesn't 'get' faith, non-theism or atheism - this is great. It's a book that really builds bridges.
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  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    It's only September, but I can already tell that this is one of the most important books I will read this year.I would recommend this book to anyone that's had a shift in their faith, but especially to those who have shifted from the opposite extremes of Fundamental Evangelicalism to Atheism/Secular Humanism. What I love about this book is that the author doesn't have any cards in this. This is not a book on apologetics. He isn't trying to win you over to his side or try to prove any absolute tr It's only September, but I can already tell that this is one of the most important books I will read this year.I would recommend this book to anyone that's had a shift in their faith, but especially to those who have shifted from the opposite extremes of Fundamental Evangelicalism to Atheism/Secular Humanism. What I love about this book is that the author doesn't have any cards in this. This is not a book on apologetics. He isn't trying to win you over to his side or try to prove any absolute truths. This book will probably piss off fundamentalists because it is so satisfying to be able to put your theology into pristine, orderly boxes in which every question has a well thought out rebuttal. This book not only does not do this, but engages a conversation that brings humanity to Christians and Atheists alike instead of pitting one against the other.This is his story of coming back to Faith. The science in this book is intelligent but approachable. For the skeptic who doesn't believe, but is interested in how one can reconcile science with faith, this book is for you. Or if you are like me and have left Evangelicalism, still believe, but aren't sure what to believe anymore, this book is a much needed embrace.
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  • Heather
    January 1, 1970
    I wish everyone, Christian, atheist, and everywhere in between would read this book.
  • Kyle Penner
    January 1, 1970
    What a delightful read! The right side of my brain loved the story of Mike's journey from faith to atheism and back to faith, and the left side of my brain loved the data and neuroscience about spirituality and its effect on our brains (and thus the world). I'm a big "Science Mike" fan, and this book doesn't disappoint. He's fair and objective, tolerant and reconciling, and values relationship as he seeks to be a bridge builder between all the differing attitudes one might have towards religion What a delightful read! The right side of my brain loved the story of Mike's journey from faith to atheism and back to faith, and the left side of my brain loved the data and neuroscience about spirituality and its effect on our brains (and thus the world). I'm a big "Science Mike" fan, and this book doesn't disappoint. He's fair and objective, tolerant and reconciling, and values relationship as he seeks to be a bridge builder between all the differing attitudes one might have towards religion (or no religion) and science. I definitely appreciated his application of cosmology, neuroscience and sociology towards faith, emphasizing the false dichotomy that some think exists between science and faith. If you're looking for a book that "clobbers" the other "side", I'd recommend something different. Science Mike is just too nice (he is a 9 on the Enneagram, so of course he'll avoid unnecessary conflict :)But if you're looking for an accessible understanding of how faith and science can work together in each of us, AND a good narrative about one man's faith journey, be sure to give this book a read. And if you're looking for some practical steps on how to nurture one's spirituality while remaining cognizant of how absurd faith can sometimes be, this book should be on the top of your list.
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  • Bekah
    January 1, 1970
    Perhaps this was simply the right book at the right moment. In a sense I agree with other reviewers that this book is not being promoted correctly... if you are looking for some sort of apologetics text, a DIY guide to merging faith and science, or a defense of Christianity, you are in the wrong place. However, if you are looking for a personally told and personally reasoned out narrative of a faith and non-faith journey that doesn't have all the answers, but tries to make the best sense it can. Perhaps this was simply the right book at the right moment. In a sense I agree with other reviewers that this book is not being promoted correctly... if you are looking for some sort of apologetics text, a DIY guide to merging faith and science, or a defense of Christianity, you are in the wrong place. However, if you are looking for a personally told and personally reasoned out narrative of a faith and non-faith journey that doesn't have all the answers, but tries to make the best sense it can... this is more the book to pick up.The main reason that this gets full stars from me is that in the midst of doubt, deconstruction, reconstruction, and spinning in circles around faith, logic, science, and life in general, this book helped me feel less alone - made me feel more connected and made me more comfortable in continuing to work out my life long history with the same sorts of questions McHargue writes about. When I think about the books, music, poetry, and art that have stuck with me most, they all have the ability to transcend a medium and create some sort of presence and connection in a moment when it was needed. This was one of those books for me. Thank you for sharing your story, Mike McHargue.
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  • Eric Gambill
    January 1, 1970
    I see a lot of reviews that are awarding or taking stars based on their theological agreement with the author. Whether or not you agree, I think, is beside the point.This book is a journey. An open and raw reflection on a crisis, and Resurrection, of faith. Most importantly, it grants permission to doubt. Doubt is the sign of a healthy and critical thinker, rather than a sign of weakness. It's important to embrace these questions and tackle them head on. And, it's important to to find a communit I see a lot of reviews that are awarding or taking stars based on their theological agreement with the author. Whether or not you agree, I think, is beside the point.This book is a journey. An open and raw reflection on a crisis, and Resurrection, of faith. Most importantly, it grants permission to doubt. Doubt is the sign of a healthy and critical thinker, rather than a sign of weakness. It's important to embrace these questions and tackle them head on. And, it's important to to find a community of people who will allow you to do this and support you along the way.I don't agree with everything Mike has to say, and we've ended up in different places here and there. But, there is plenty of overlap, and I found his journey to reflect my own in a very significant way.I almost took off a star, because there are many times where he skates over an idea or a particular passage from The Bible and I really want him to stop and dig in. But, that's another book for another time.I know there are more coming, and I'm looking forward to them.
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  • Circle of Hope Pastors
    January 1, 1970
    Not everyone is an ex-evangelical or ex-Catholic. But it is not hard to find such a person! Americans, in general, are struggling with faith. This is a good book from a person who has been there and done that. He secretly deserted his faith while serving in his church. He became an atheist and took a journey deep into atheist "evangelism." He had an experience with God he could not deny. Then he used his deep understanding of science (and research) to help rebuild a new kind of faith. This is a Not everyone is an ex-evangelical or ex-Catholic. But it is not hard to find such a person! Americans, in general, are struggling with faith. This is a good book from a person who has been there and done that. He secretly deserted his faith while serving in his church. He became an atheist and took a journey deep into atheist "evangelism." He had an experience with God he could not deny. Then he used his deep understanding of science (and research) to help rebuild a new kind of faith. This is a good book for seekers who can stand listening to ex-evangelicals (who have a worldview that may seem foreign); it is a good one for everyone who would like to welcome science into their "faith life;" it is a good one for people who want to talk about faith without all the awkward judgment and anxiety Christians often inject into that dialogue. -- Rod White
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  • Susie Meister
    January 1, 1970
    For anyone who struggles with the tension between spirituality and science, Mike's book will provide (if nothing else) comfort in knowing there are others like you. Mike does an amazing job articulating the dissonance between someone who is spiritual, but not religious, and provides a map for how to overcome the obstacles between the two if you so wish.
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  • Travis Mitchell
    January 1, 1970
    If you grew up in a traditional Evangelical church—as I did—and find yourself filled with doubt or as though you do not belong, I would highly recommend this book. Reconstructing your faith can be difficult, but this is a great place to start.Thank you, Science Mike, for sharing your story so that others do not feel alone.
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  • Charlotte Lively
    January 1, 1970
    DID NOT END MY FAITH CRISIS. ALSO DID NOT MAKE ME SPIRAL INTO EXISTENTIAL DOOM. A WIN, SCIENCE MIKE.
  • Joshua Heinlein
    January 1, 1970
    If you love science and are skeptical of the Christian God, listen to this man's comprehension of faith and science and how the universe is beautiful because of both.
  • Krysti Wilkinson
    January 1, 1970
    Loved every page.Full review: http://krystiwilkinson.com/finding-go...
  • Derek
    January 1, 1970
    TLDR version: This is a great read. Christians are likely to react against it, and perhaps even shelter their people from the “slippery slope” that McHargue creates regarding some reasonably important doctrines and dogma. But I think Christians actually ought to be recommending this book to scientifically minded doubters, because the author has created a way forward (albeit a messy one) for skeptics to return to faith.Full Review:I don’t really listen to podcasts, so Science Mike was not someone TLDR version: This is a great read. Christians are likely to react against it, and perhaps even shelter their people from the “slippery slope” that McHargue creates regarding some reasonably important doctrines and dogma. But I think Christians actually ought to be recommending this book to scientifically minded doubters, because the author has created a way forward (albeit a messy one) for skeptics to return to faith.Full Review:I don’t really listen to podcasts, so Science Mike was not someone that I was familiar with prior to learning about this book. However, the title of the book intrigued me greatly. Brief background into why I wanted to read this book: I was raised in a very conservative Christian home that was very suspicious of science. I was homeschooled for most of my Jr. High and High-school years, and “Answers in Genesis” was very influential in the curriculum. I was taught that the Earth was created roughly 6,000 years ago, and it was generally inferred that there was a worldwide anti-Christian conspiracy in the field of science attempting to destroy religion and replace it with secular humanism. But once I was out of my parents home, I was no longer sheltered from good science, and I was forced to reconcile what can be proven empirically with science and what the Bible teaches about God. And so, while I never abandoned my faith, I did have multiple instances of what you might call a “crisis of faith” that is tied directly to my upbringing which emphasized an antagonistic relationship between faith and science. All of that to say, when thoughtful and intelligent people who are “science-minded” write books about how good science and Christian faith can co-exist, my interest is usually piqued. And in this case, I was expecting a book that would be along the lines of the “BioLogos” explanations that would demonstrate a “confidence in the ultimate harmony between science and faith.” And to be clear… this book is not that. In fact, it seemed clear to me that people like me were not the intended audience for this book at all. Having said that, I think this was a really fantastic book.I would say that I find the subtitle of the book a little misleading. The book was essentially a memoir, and the title gave me the expectation that he became an atheist by studying science, but then something about science brought him back to faith. But that is not what happened. The first half is certainly true, but he did not come back to faith “through science” but by way of a mystical experience. He then slowly but surely found a way to rebuild his faith upon axioms he created that communicate a bare minimum understanding of God and faith. He affirms that these axioms are not really enough to be a “Christian” but they are a starting point. They are general enough that I think that Christians and atheists alike, despite their opposition on even the most basic beliefs, would likely be able to mostly affirm these axioms.The book is incredibly well-written, and is certainly an engaging read. Mike McHargue certainly knows how to tell his story in a compelling way that makes you want to keep reading. He is also very gifted in his ability to communicate complex scientific theories in a way that is accessible to the vast majority of readers. I can imagine that this book would create a certain amount of anxiety among Evangelicals, because he is certainly not orthodox. But honestly, I think this is a way forward that Evangelicals ought to consider embracing. His discussion of the left-brain vs. right-brain is helpful to understanding what is going on when someone loses their faith. His axioms create a starting point for someone whose left-brain no longer finds Christianity plausible. Empiricism is widely accepted in modern culture as a superior model for discerning truth. So McHargue has created a way for a someone who has accepted left-brained empiricism as a philosophy to give their right-brain some permission to experiment with the idea of spiritual experiences again. I think Christians are too prone to argue with atheists rather than to meet them where they are at. McHargue’s axioms do this in a way that empirically demonstrate that it is good and healthy to be “religious” and to practice spiritual disciplines. I think McHargue is correct when he says that while he identifies as a Christian, a lot of Christians wouldn’t consider him to be one, because of an (in my opinion) overly strict definition of who is and isn’t in the camp. Again, he’s not orthodox, but he manages to create a way for atheists to open a door to a belief in God that allows people to walk toward a belief in Jesus. Even if such a person doesn’t land in the same place as traditional Christians do with regard to their approach of the Bible or other traditional doctrines, I can’t imagine why a Christian would think this is worse than remaining firmly entrenched in naturalistic atheism. I think what McHargue has done here is a great work, and is a service to Christians who are losing their faith, as well as atheists who are open to some form of spiritual belief.A few quibbles:1) I did find McHargue’s unapologetic embrace of empiricism a bit frustrating. I am conflicted about this because, like the author, my left brain tends to default toward empiricism and what can be proven in science to guide me in my epistemology. But I am also suspicious of the philosophy. I have recently been profoundly influenced by Dallas Willard in my spiritual journey, and in the Great Omission, Willard writes that empiricism “arbitrarily specifies the senses or feeling as boundary markers for knowledge and reality. But it cannot guide us in the interpretation of knowledge and reality, for it fundamentally misconstrues them. Its primary function was to replace religious orthodoxy with a secular, epistemological orthodoxy, as cultural authority was passing from religious to merely intellectual institutions in modern Western society. As an orthodoxy, it is, of course, repressive and, among other things, makes impossible knowledge of the human self… Of course, empiricism is not itself an empirical theory, and in the nature of the case could never be.”Again, I think McHargue does a good work by giving empiricists a way forward to religion, but I think he does something of a disservice by never questioning empiricism as as philosophy. Despite my reaction against my science-suspicious upbringing, the pendulum has never swung quite so far in the other direction for me. I am more philosopher than scientist, and empiricism has a lot of problems. It has always frustrated me that naturalists are typically unwilling to admit that they are also coming to their worldview with a set of philosophical presuppositions that they are unable to empirically justify. But I digress.2) McHargue does a good job of explaining why becoming an atheist doesn’t mean the end of morality. Secular Humanism is not the scourge that I was raised to believe it was. But I also didn’t read any critique of secular humanism in the book. He rightly critiques Christianity a good deal (and that makes sense, given the purpose of the book), but I didn’t really understand from his story why he found secular humanism wanting. Maybe he doesn’t find it wanting, and finds it a perfectly acceptable position to hold - but like empiricism, it has some real problems. Scientifically, the worst we could accuse Nazis of is being impractical toward human flourishing (even that is arguable). That doesn’t sit well with me. I need much stronger language to communicate something that evil. Additionally, I don’t think I will ever understand where secular humanists find meaning. He addresses this when he talks about his internet forum posts, writing “Let’s say humanity gets its act together, and our civilization spreads to other planets and then other solar systems. There’s a dozen ideas in physics about the eventual death of the universe. We’ll fall into entropic heat death, or protons will decay, or a new Big Bang will consume our observable universe as another is born.”I never really got a satisfying answer to this. You can live a “moral” life without God, and even enjoy it. That does nothing to actually give any meaning. All life in the universe will eventually end and there will no longer be any evidence that humanity ever existed. I can be kind to my neighbors rather than attempt to systematically exterminate them - but the end result is the same. Why does anything we do matter? The best we can do is try to enjoy our lives. That’s fine I suppose, but I’ll never understand why highly intelligent atheists (like Richard Dawkins) are so motivated to win atheistic converts. None of it has any real meaning. It’s a problem that I didn’t feel like McHargue sufficiently articulated.3) I found McHargue’s characterization of Penal Substitutionary Atonement to be unfair. I nearly left this critique off, because it wasn’t one of the main points of his book, and I also agree with C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity when he writes “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter. A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work.”Also, I am no fan of the way the Reformed tradition has communicated the theory, but that doesn’t justify the way it has been reacted against. Shitting on Penal Substitutionary Atonement is en vogue, and I often find myself annoyed by the way it is mischaracterized. Rather than try to make myself eloquent, I will simply quote Fleming Rutledge in her book “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ” where she does a great job of explaining where people get Penal Substitution wrong. She writes, “The event of the cross is the enactment in history of an eternal decision within the being of God. God is not changed by the historical event but has always been going out from God’s self in sacrificial love. The being of God also includes his opposition (“wrath”) to all that stands against his love. God’s “wrath,” or his “violence,” if you will, is not to be understood literally, as though he were choosing specific moments to unleash his rage and other specific moments to withdraw it. God’s judgment on Sin and Death — incarnated in the Son’s life, death, and resurrection — is in place within his being from before all time. God is against all that is not part of his purpose; that is the meaning of his “wrath.”“It seems perverse to argue that the theme of substitution assigns violence to the being of God. If the Son of God submits to a violent death by “the hands of sinners” (Matt. 26:45), how is that violence in the being of God? God is not committing violence. God in the person of the incarnate Son is himself a willing and purposeful victim of the violence that entered the creation as a result of the fall of Adam. How is this a sign of violence within God? The violence that we see in the crucifixion is the work of the Enemy.”Later she writes, “The problem arises when forensic imagery is given precedence over other imagery, especially Christus Victor, and is allowed to obscure it. When this happens, the single individual with his solitary guilt looms over the conceptual landscape, leaving no space for the drama of the cosmic struggle in which the new, living organism called the body of Christ joins forces with the unseen heavenly host on the frontier where the doomed and dying old aeon meets God’s age to come.”All of that to say, the idea of Jesus as a penal substitute does not require God actively and violently punishing his son instead of the guilty party. The critiques of Penal Substitution always come down to the “Divine Child Abuse” argument, which doesn’t hold up to Trinitarian theology, nor is it an accurate understanding of the way in which Penal Substitution has been traditionally understood. And all of the Biblical explanations for the atonement are metaphors. When litigated to their logical conclusions, they all eventually fall apart. Penal Substitution needs to be understood for the aspect of the atonement that it is trying to communicate, without reading more into it than is justified, and without neglecting other metaphors that the Bible also uses to describe the atonement. Again, these are quibbles, not enormous issues - but they bothered me enough to subtract a star. But this was a really fantastic book. I’ll end my review with the same words that McHargue uses to end his book.“Science gives us fact. Faith gives us meaning.These two lenses, so often set up in opposition to each other, are most powerful when used together. Somehow, life becomes more clear—and dear—when I refuse to water down one stance for the sake of the other and, instead, dive deeply into both streams of experience and feeling, collecting the truth that flows from each.We don’t have to choose one or the other. Beauty and mystery surround us in every moment. They’re easy to miss and easy to crush in the grip of our desire to control them.But if we open ourselves up to receive both, we’ll be surprised by what we find.And God will meet us there.”
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