It all started with the apocrypha. My Intro to the Bible course required a Bible with the apocrypha. I hadn’t ever heard of the apocrypha, but since it wasn’t in the NIV Bible I had been using most of my life, I was instantly wary. My expectations were high going in to my first year at a small, Christian college and this wasn’t the start I was picturing.
While my classmates and professor discussed different theories behind the canonical order of the gospels, I sat cringing in my seat. By the time we started reading from the Gospel of Thomas, I had mentally, emotionally, and spiritually checked out. Biblical criticism was a new concept for me and I wasn’t prepared for the inner conflict welling up as we studied various viewpoints on Scripture. I was confident, maybe a little cocky, in what I believed, but I found myself unable to explain many of my convictions in the face of these new concepts.
I hadn’t expected my beliefs to be academically challenged. That’s certainly not what I had been looking for in a “Bible class.” Since I purposefully didn’t take another religion course in college after that, God found other ways to break through my spiritual comfort zone, which, in retrospect, was one of the best things about my college experience. Those four years became a turning point in my spiritual journey. I began to wrestle with my beliefs and make faith decisions for myself. There was less spiritual assumption and more circumstances that required me to articulate my beliefs.
As I continue to follow Christ, I’ve realized that questioning your faith and having your faith questioned is an essential part of spiritual formation. Unfortunately we live in a Christian culture that doesn’t always encourage questions. Especially if you’ve grown up in the church, questions are associated with doubting and woe be unto thee who doubts…
As someone who comes in contact with youth on a regular basis (my husband, Tim, is a youth pastor and I’ve volunteered in middle and high school ministries for the past four years), I want to be someone who embraces and encourages questions.
Tim models this very well in his own life and in ministry. He’s chosen a book for the high school group to walk through on Sunday mornings together that encourages students to explore their faith and ask tough questions. I was challenged to grapple with my convictions about the character of God, women in ministry, and the validity of Scripture while reading through this book.
Despite being geared towards students, I couldn’t help but wish everyone would read Can I Ask That? 8 Hard Questions About God & Faith. Even though it was written as a curriculum for students, the content promotes conversation and critical thinking about common questions asked by believers and non-believers alike.
The authors of Can I Ask That? don’t give answers to the 8 difficult topics covered. They guide readers in discovering their own convictions and help them to articulate the why.
- Design: The graphics, layout, and illustrations are just plain cool.
- Format: Each question is approached from five different angles – story, questions, notes, scripture, and dialogue. The stories and dialogue are fictional but so relevant and relatable. I’m not too old to know the authors have taken an accurate pulse on the current generation.
- Conversation: You can just tell Can I Ask That? was created and crafted to promote conversation. The authors provide tips for promoting healthy dialogue (in the leader guide) and the question sections are designed like conversation bubbles. Readers may not recognize the hints, but this book is filled with the subtle message to get talking!
Can I Ask That? would be an awesome book to go through as a family, too. I’m excited to be part of the conversations we will have on Sunday mornings with our high school group this Summer and I’m even more excited (and somewhat terrified) about having these conversations with James as he grows.
I never want to be too old or too comfortable in my faith to ask questions. Can I Ask That? is a great place to start.
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