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Jim Belcher, “In Search of Deep Faith”

I first became acquainted with author Jim Belcher back in 2009 when I read Deep Church. It appears I didn’t review it here on the blog, but my Goodreads review gave it four stars: solid but not revolutionary. Now Belcher is back, with In Search of Deep Faith.

deep faith

I feel like I’ve seen bits and pieces of this book already, having followed Belcher on Twitter for the past few years. In Search of Deep Faith reads like a travel journal crossed with Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, as Belcher recounts his family’s adventures through several months of “pilgrimage” in Europe. Belcher, his wife and four pre-teen children spent several months in Oxford, England, where he was a visiting scholar at the university there. They then spent time exploring European sites that were notable because of the saints who had lived there.

Belcher’s chapters bounce back and forth as he shares his family’s adventures in finding and exploring the locations – from Corrie Ten Boom’s house in Holland, to C. S. Lewis’ home in Oxford, to a fruitless search for the location of Bonhoeffer’s hidden seminary – and then interspersing the stories of these saints, with an emphasis on how their deep faith led them to be devoted even during times of crisis and under threat of death.

Belcher’s concern in this memoir seems not primarily for his own spiritual health, but for that of his young children. He reminds us (several times) of studies telling us that children with shallow faith roots will abandon their faith in adulthood. How, Belcher wonders, can he inspire the faith and spiritual understanding that will allow his children to remain firm in their faith throughout their lives?

In Search of Deep Faith is an entertaining read. Most readers will find at least one of the historical faith stories to be new to them – the full story of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was particularly interesting to me – and Belcher drives the reader to reflection on the health of one’s own faith.

Cranmer burned at the stake

My one big gripe with the book is Belcher’s style of driving his argument via what I’m assuming must be invented dialogue. Sure, some of the conversations on his trip probably happened as they are written, but even though page after page of his book is filled with quoted dialog (“‘why do you think he did that?’, my wife asked.”), either he provided a script for his family to read their questions from, or he’s putting words in their mouths later as a device to move his arguments along. And while literature has been using the forced question-and-answer format at least since Plato did it in The Republic, after too many chapters of it from Belcher it just feels contrived.

In spite of that gripe I’d still recommend reading this one if you think you’re at all interested. Style aside, it’s an encouraging and educational read.

Disclosure: InterVarsity Press provided me a free ebook copy of In Search of Deep Faith in return for posting a review here and at Amazon.com. The contents of the review are mine alone.

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