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An interesting story of a journey from fundamentalism to a more open form of Christianity. I assume it was written for American readers so there are a few words that are outside my British vocabulary but it was pretty clear what was intended.
The recent tragic death of the author impelled me to read this book. Ms. Evans presents a useful challenge to "orthodox" Christianity, especially in reminding us that a "Christianity" based on "keeping all the rules" and "having all the answers" can never be an adequate basis for a spiritual life either pleasing to the Lord or growing the believer in grace. Only a growing relationship between the believer and a gracious, loving, merciful God through His Son Jesus Christ can do that, as she points out. Her persistence through deep faith struggles, which are much more common than we are willing to admit, is to be commended. All that having been said, she seems remarkably adept at avoiding the real center of the Christian life in Christ's death and resurrection and their significance for us (virtually unmentioned in the book). She spends many pages replaying the "theological answers" debates of her youth, just from a different point of view. In the big picture, getting the "right" answers or criticizing "evangelical" opinions as to "what about those who never heard" or "were the 7 days of Genesis literal" are simply not all that important to the Christian life. Her comments on the OT laws regarding women or slavery, for instance, often completely ignore the context. Some comments are just plain wrong (fathers in OT times did not generally "sell their daughters to the highest bidder"). She also has a bad case of presentism--interpreting and judging past events anachronistically in terms of modern values and concepts. She appears never to have challenged herself by reading Bible commentaries by leading orthodox evangelical teachers and refining her opinions against them, which might have helped a lot. In the end, she appears to end up with a highly subjective faith based on her concept of "love," and downplaying or ignoring most objective (i.e., Bible-based) faith concepts. I found a lot of her writing thin and one-sided; it's almost as though the God Who reveals Himself in Scripture has to prove to her that He is worthy of her belief, and is always found to be lacking.
The original title of this book was "Evolving in Monkey Town", a name that seems to hint the book may be about a Christian's response to the topic of evolution, instead of the actual topic of this book, Evans' "personal evolution of Christianity". I am rather glad that the book was renamed to "Faith Unraveled" because the correlation between the actual subject matter of the book and the infamous Scopes Trial (the one about teaching evolution in public school science class) is tenuous, at best - Evans' lived in Dayton, the town where the Scopes' Trial took place and happened to have a crisis of faith that required her to "evolve". That's the extent of the similarities. Reading the various attempts to intertwine the two were kinda painful, such as the mostly frivolous Chapter 3 on the history of Dayton and the many times Evans' rather ham-handled mentioned how her faith "evolved" (with or without the quotations).
I've read Evans' A Year of Biblical Womanhood, and I really enjoyed that. I thought it really challenged many Christians perception of biblical womanhood - that there was ONE and ONLY ONE way to be a woman and the Bible spoke very clearly on that matter. She wrote it in a really easy to read manner and had a very pleasant, educated tone.
But this? Her personal memoir (and I believe first published novel) about her crisis of faith? Not so much. Not only because of the aforementioned desperate attempt to tie in living in Dayton with her "evolution" of faith. It's a memoir, not a really in-depth look into Christians accepting scientific principles (which the old title, "Evolving in Monkey Town", somewhat hints at), of a not-quite 30-year-old woman who is having a faith crisis. I have no doubt that many will find comfort in this, but that wasn't what I was looking for neither was I overly impressed with what I got.
Also, I find it strange how the author has this crisis of faith but never chose to look outside the Christian box for answers (or if she did research outside Christian circles, she never mentioned it). Did she investigate the historicity of Jesus by reading Bart Ehrman or Richard Carrier? Did she pick up "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins or "God Is Not Great" by Christopher Hitchens? What about other non-theistic religions? Did she research Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and many other tribal religions as well and how they answered her myriad of questions about heaven and hell and if homosexuality was a sin?
I do completely understand her journey because many Christians can be very resistant to the "hard questions": Evil, heaven and hell, abortion, being gay, etc. And I think her book could be the path to move away from hardcore fundamentalism, which seeks to "conquer and destroy" and a more encompassing form of Christianity. I just wish that I had seen (if it happened) some form of Evans reaching to a variety of sources for answers to her question. It just feels like what a highly educated woman like herself would do.
Writing-wise, I wasn't impressed. It was pretty average writing - reminiscent of books like "Chicken Soup for the Fill-in-the-Blank Soul". I'm not entirely certain who the audience is; I am around Evans' age and didn't find this all that informative (but then, I'm not really having a crisis of faith). Perhaps people who also like fluffy reads (such as aforementioned "Chicken Soup" or Joel Osteen?) and fall within that narrow age-range? I can't really imagine thought that people her age would have quite the same faith crisis and I don't imagine older people wanting to read the thoughts of someone so young.
Also, it was odd how every other chapter (after the first section) focused on a different person and Evans' interpretation of that person and some facet she could morph into talking about her "evolution". People like Adele and Sam are dropped into the story with little introduction and never revisited again, almost as if they are more important in how they shaped Evans than being people themselves.
My personal opinion is this: If you want high academic, this is not your book. If you are looking for some insight into Christians adopting scientific principles, this is also not your book.
However, if you are a Christian asking questions or seeking comfort, you may enjoy this book. And if you are the type of person that loves "feel good" reads like Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist or Chicken Soup for the "Fill in the Blank" soul, this is pretty much up your alley.
In my opinion this is a story about a girl growing up and shedding the beliefs (some founded and some maybe not) of her childhood. Good for a person who is looking for validation for some basic doubt about Christianity. Leaves you feeling somewhat better, but still with many unanswered questions. Not as good as C. S. Lewis' books if you really want to delve deeper into Christianity,