I am not sure what I was expecting when I picked up In Search of Deep Faith. I read Deep Church about three years ago and very much enjoyed thinking through Belcher’s third way of doing church.
So I was expecting more of a church focused book when I picked this up. (Honestly when a previous book is as good as Deep Church was, I tend to pick up books and intentionally not read much about them before I start them.)
In Search of Deep Faith was a great book to read as a new father. Belcher and his family resigned his church and moved to Oxford. Not because he was burned out, but because he was seeking after something deeper. And so he took a year off to seek after that deeper faith.
In context of searching for a deeper faith of his own, he and his wife were also seeking after a deeper faith for their children. So much of the book bounces off of the idea of modern Christianity’s tendency to be more about Moral Therapeutic Deism (and Christian Smith’s study on young adults and faith is discussed several times) and not the true Christian faith.
I think Moral Therapeutic Deism is a real problem and not just for mega-churches or seeker sensitive churches. And because I have a new daughter I am thinking about transmission of faith. Earlier this year I started going to a Spiritual Director because I was searching after that deeper faith as well. So I think that this is a book that is meaningful to a wide range of people.
Belcher is really telling two stories in the book. One is the story of his family and their desire to seek after something deeper and communicate that to their kids. The second is the story of a wide variety of great Christians (mostly 20th century) that were known for their great faith. In some ways the second story is the good kind of hagiography, telling the lives of great saints to inform the faith of others.
After almost six month in Oxford, Belcher and his family start an extended pilgrimage through Europe to visit the places where this deep faith actually happened. The pilgrimage had started in Oxford. As a family they explored Thomas Cranmer, CS Lewis, William Wilberforce and others. But it really took off once they left Oxford and started exploring others (many of them martyrs).
I appreciate that Belcher thought of both positive and negative Christian examples for his pilgrimage. Most were more like Bonhoeffer or Corrie ten Boom, but there were also those that caught a hint, but not the whole of Christianity (like Van Gogh and Robert Lewis Stevenson.)
What I is important about In Search of Deep Faith is that this was a book oriented primarily around modern reflections on Christian history. It was not Christian history for history’s sake. But Christian history as a means to deepen our current faith and speak into the lives of children. I wholeheartedly support this. Evangelicalism, in particular, seems to have a problem with ignorance of Christian history. But history for history’s sake does not solve the ignorance. Instead we need people like Belcher that write to both inform and challenge our modern faith.
There were a few places where I think the transition between the modern story of his family pilgrimage and the historical story of the various characters did not transition as well as it could have. But in spite of a few jarring transitions, the modern reflections (and the deep concern of father and mother for their children’s faith) were as important to the book as the history.
This would make a good book for parents to read over Christmas and think about how they can think about they communicate faith to their children. But it is also worth reading for those without children to think about how we are intentional about faith, both our own and those around us.
IVP provided me with a paperback copy for review. I was so impressed with the book, I bought the kindle version when I was a quarter of the way through and I am giving away the paperback copy.
I will randomly choose from people that leave comments below to give away the paperback review copy. If you want, purely for interest sake, leave a comment about where you would like to visit on a spiritual pilgrimage. I will randomly choose one person that leaves a comment before noon (Eastern) on Tuesday Dec 10th.