The typical testimony in churches is ‘I once had doubts but now I’m certain.’ It is indicative of the well-earned reputation American Christianity has as being black and white. Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found it Again Through Science is far from a typical testimony. It’s more of a coming to faith, walking away, stumbling back, and embracing uncertainty kind of story, which means I enjoyed it, but a lot of Christians will hate it.
Mike McHargue speaks to a rapidly increasing demographic of Christians who are tired of strict doctrine, hungry for honest communication, and are jaded by churches that require rejecting science in order to follow God. He also writes for the skeptic who might want to believe, but is not fully convinced that spirituality isn’t fantasy. McHargue makes a compelling argument that it’s possible to have science and faith, because the pursuit of God goes beyond a literal interpretation of the Bible.
What I appreciate most about this book is that it’s written for people in the middle of the spectrum of absolutism. Inevitably, there will be Christian readers who deride this book for being too lukewarm, as well as nonreligious readers who will scoff at the idea that there is any room at all for the supernatural in the life of a scientist or science-minded person. Finding God elaborates on a popular saying: science explains the how, but religion explains the why. Science explains how life begins, but not its purpose.
The skeptical reader who can’t quite wrap his head around a virgin birth or a dead man coming back to life is invited to, at the very minimum, contemplate Christianity’s answer to our reason for being. This thought reignited McHargue’s faith and enabled him to attend church again. The God he writes about is less concerned with correct beliefs than he is about the condition of one’s heart. The faith McHargue recovers is arguably more genuine and honest than what he started with, because he is learning to engage with God on his own terms rather than follow prescribed formulas.
While that honesty is by far the strongest asset of this book, some chapters in the second half unsettle me. McHargue doesn’t discredit Jesus’ resurrection, per se, but does imply that it doesn’t have to be literal in order to still be a Christian. I have enough questions on my plate that keep me from calling people out for heresy (aren’t we all heretics, to an extent?), but this book does raise a question I will be wrestling with for a long time: how much of the Christian story can be doubted before you cease to believe Christianity anymore?
Throughout my own journey with faith and doubt, I have come to the conclusion that playing “salvation police” is a waste of time: only God can know for certain who is truly his. So long as one claims to follow Jesus, I take them at their word. Still, I do hold to some near-universal standards that distinguish Christianity as its own religion, namely the idea that Jesus is divine, and that the resurrection was a literal event. But I also believe in evolution and consider Noah’s flood to be myth, so who am I to judge?
I recommend this book for people already on the “doubt” end of the religiosity spectrum as a starting point for introducing the idea that, yes, you can believe in God and belong to a religion without being crazy; you can have a relationship with Jesus that is not comparable to a child’s relationship with Santa Claus. For people already established in faith, this book might produce confusion and frustration where there wasn’t any before, but that shouldn’t scare them from reading it. The unexamined faith, like what McHargue had in the beginning, is the kind most likely to crumble when confronted with the slightest amount of tension.