In Search of Deep Faith by Jim Belcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jim Belcher and his family were at a crossroads. He’d spent ten years pastoring a church from its very beginnings into a thriving congregation. He made the bold decision to resign. His wife needed a respite from the bubble of pastoral ministry. And he was facing a significant question as a parent: how do I help my children come to own a “deep faith” in their own lives, not just an inherited faith that disappears when one is removed from a Christian social context, but an enduring faith?
Belcher’s answer was a pilgrimage through England and Europe revisiting the sites where thoughtful and courageous Christians he had looked to as heroes lived, and sometimes died for, their faith. This book is a kind of travel or pilgrimage narrative of that year.
The first part of the book follows their journeys in England exploring the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Sheldon Van Auken’s struggle for a meaningful faith, the life and places of C. S. Lewis, and the conversations that changed the life of William Wilberforce, who changed the course of British history with regard to slavery.
The second half of the book (Parts Two and Three) recount their journeys through Europe. He begins, interestingly enough with the life and art of Van Gogh, and his struggle between despair and belief. They move on to the French village of Le Chambon, where Andre Trocme and a village of Protestant Huguenots hid and saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. We shift then to Holland and the German prison camps where Corrie Ten Boom lost her sister but held fast to her faith for the same courageous act of protecting Jews. Then we consider the life and death of Bonhoeffer, and the equally courageous decisions of the von Trapp family, both like, and unlike their Sound of Music counterparts. We end with Heidelberg, and Martin Luther, and finally the soldier’s cemetery at Normandy.
Belcher interweaves the narrative of his travels and interactions with family with the narratives of each of his heroes. And this also seems to have two major parts to it–the challenge of ordinary obedience in things like home school lessons and our Jekyll-Hyde struggle with sin during their stay in England. In Europe, and particularly as they witnessed the sites of courageous acts and even martyrdom, they wrestle with what constitutes a deep faith that sustains one through despair, danger, suffering, resistance, and in the face of death. It does seem that when Belcher realizes that the education in faith of this pilgrimage is more important than math and writing and grammar lessons that they all are opened up more to what God had for them on this pilgrimage.
I’ve read other narratives of many of the lives he profiles but I found Belcher wrote with a concise freshness that brought people like Lewis and Bonhoeffer to life in new ways for me. Perhaps it was the act of inhabiting their places. And I appreciate that Belcher “kept it real” with regard to the struggles as well as the moments of insights his family faced on this pilgrimage. One of the best books I’ve read so far this year.
[I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through a contest hosted on Goodreads.]
3 thoughts on “Review: In Search of Deep Faith”
This sounds like another book I’d really appreciate. STOP adding so many books to my “to read” list! : ) Thanks for the review.
So many books, so little time, eh?
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