Augsburg Fortress

An Examined Faith: The Grace of Self-Doubt

An Examined Faith: The Grace of Self-Doubt

When both George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden cite God as being on their side, it dramatically illustrates the public use and contemporary clash of religious languages. But even more common, says renowned ethicist James Gustafson, is the everyday dissonance between religious language and the many "secular" interpretations of the same events. How do Christians understand providence, divine action, and other religious realities in our complex, multivalent world?

In this important work, expanded from his Princeton Warfield Lectures, Gustafson strongly urges Christians to take a hard look at their religious discourse and its relationship to all the other discourses—scientific, secular, philosophical—that inform our worldview. Pastors, theologians, and laypeople alike, he argues, regularly and unthinkingly accommodate their religious views to these other realms, or allow their religious views to be manipulated for other purposes.

Gustafson sets out a helpful typology of relationships, from complete religious rejection of secular discourse to full accommodation. Citing contemporary thinkers and examples from a full range of fields, he challenges Christians to a greater self-consciousness and honesty about their religious commitments and doctrinal formulations.

As relevant to the pulpit as to the podium and the poli- tical stump, Gustafson's brief, thoughtful volume calls all Christians to face the hard intellectual work that is necessary to forge an honest and publicly relevant faith today.
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  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800636289
  • Age/Grade Range Adult
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 136
  • Publication Date November 18, 2003


"In this work, America's senior Protestant ethicist continues his trenchant critique of feel-good religion, naive consolation, self-serving piety, and tribalistic churches. Taking a hard look at history, science, and the darker corners of human experience, Gustafson challenges believers of every faith to resist platitudes and confront the reality of divine sovereignty, as well as the contingency of the human condition. The result is an iconoclastic but faith-filled, moving testimony to Gustafson's pastoral honesty and deeply theocentric convictions. No religious believer can afford to ignore his questions."
— Lisa Sowle Cahill
J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College

"Gustafson illustrates what is involved in a self-critical use of religious and moral language given the manifold ways persons and events are also interpreted by scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, and economists.... Whatever one's theological persuasion, anyone who cares about the integrity of religious and moral discourse in our time has much to learn through a careful study of this latest gem from James Gustafson."<
— Paul E. Capetz
Associate Professor of Historical Theology, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities