I had Matt Roger’s new book Losing God: Clinging to Faith through Doubt and Depression on my night stand the last week in the “to-read” pile. Ever since iMonk reviewed it I have put it as priority one on my wish list. Since I was already in the middle of the books listed on the sidebar I did not want to start a new one, but since each was so deep and challenging to read, I thought I would pick up Losing God and at least get started… and I finished it in one sitting.
I am not a fan of the spiritual memoir writing. I discovered this, not by reading many, but as a blogger who wrote about himself way too much. The only other books I’ve read in the spiritual memoir genre is Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, which was another quick and interesting read, and Philosophers Who Believe in which each of the essayists bemoan the project of autobiography as inherently narcissistic. This, no doubt, is true. And yet it can be deeply compelling.
Matt Rogers’s story is very much like my own in some important ways. First, Rogers and I share a memory of despair at a powerful conference. His was at Urbana ’99 and mine was at Faithwalkers ’06. He remembers God falling forever silent during those five days of powerful worship, and I remember wondering why I didn’t believe anything that was being taught. He experienced the dark side of Calvinism that reads Romans 9 as a passage about a capricious and cruel God who arbitrarily saves some and dispatches the rest to a fiery furnace, and I too wondered if I was one of the “chosen” as I awoke from terrifying dreams. He struggled with loneliness and depression in ways that seem unbearable, and I have had my history with the dark night of the soul as well. He was a member, and now a leader, of the GCM church New Life Christian Fellowship on Virginia Tech’s campus and had JR Woodward as a pastor. I’ve attended GCM churches for the last 9 years.
And then there are ways in which we are not alike. I never batted an eye at taking medication for depression and think the whole fear of antidepressants Christians have derives from a misunderstanding of the relationship between science and religion. When the implication of Calvinism’s dreadful logic became readily apparent to me I rejected it completely. His trials lead him to leadership in the church, where mine lead me out of it.
But one thing is for sure: the experiences of doubt, depression, and eternal anxiety will leave a mark.
The book’s endorsements all come from Emergent writers, but there really is no reason the Reformed should be upset with the text (see Trevin Wax). The author retains conservative views, values the counsel from a Calvinist pastor, and rightly finds the eternal divine decrees incomprehensible and mysterious. It should serve as a warning, though, to those who are obsessed with Calvinism’s resurgence and how affections of piety are to be counted as evidence of true conversion. My favorite line in the book is when Rogers says, he didn’t want evidence, he needed proof!
Those that find comfort in the Doctrines of Grace will probably not find much in this book to appreciate. There can be a blessed assurance and confident life in Christ lived out in a Calvinistic framework. But for those tender soles that have been bullied into Calvinism and have been taught to see psychiatric problems reduced to spiritual problems will find balm for the wounds in its pages. For these I heartily recommend it.