I rarely listen to music in the car these days. Instead, I take the opportunity to redeem the time and listen to podcasts, lectures, or books that interest me. One such book I recently listened to was Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science, by Mike McHargue – a.k.a. “Science Mike.”
I first heard of this book while listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Justin Brierly’s Unbelievable? I was intrigued by what the author would have to say about his journey from belief to atheism and back to faith. However, it did not take long to realize that this book was definitely not what I was expecting. McHargue is a very engaging story teller and the book is a very transparent account of his struggles with belief, doubt, and unbelief. I am also thankful that he is charitable to the evangelicals he has crossed paths with through the years.
I have spent the last 24 hours turning over in my mind what to say about this book, and I must say that I have two sets of thoughts.
On the negative side:
- The author is clearly a smart man who has spent a lot of time reading and studying. What gets annoying is that he comes across at times with something of a superiority complex – a kind of, “I know all of this stuff and you rubes don’t” kind of vibe. Now, he never uses that kind of language, it is strictly my read on his language at times in the book.
- I am curious impact his own deconversion and reconversion to his new brand of faith has had on that of his family. Families tend to follow the dad when he is in the picture. From the book, it sounds like his family worships with him at the progressive church he attends, but I wonder if his family also abandoned their evangelical faith and ultimately followed the same path as him.
- It didn’t take long to realize there was something fishy going on with the way Mike viewed the world and his retooled belief system. And, sure enough, it eventually became apparent that He is some sort of materialist (my words, not his). I am not alone in thinking this, an article in the Christian Research Journal zeroes in on this point quite succinctly. At the end of the day, a purely materialistic worldview is not compatible with Christianity.
- The book takes a strange turn when Mike has his spiritual moment at the beach. Strangely, his materialism seems to be put aside (yet never disavowed) without explanation. In one place in the book he makes sure to let the reader know he corrected Rob Bell at a conference when he was telling the crowd that science cannot explain the “why” of things. To this, Mike objected and made the case that science can very well explain the “why.” Yet, toward the end of the book he plays some sort of semantic shell game and tells of how science can’t explain everything. Now, it is possible I did not hear something correctly, but I do remember this standing out and leaving me wondering why he was doing the very thing he had earlier claimed to correct others for doing.
- The book mentions Christian apologists in a blanket fashion, but he never names any or speaks of any real engagement with their work. On the flip side, however, he drops the names of New Atheist and Progressive Christian writers.
On to the positives:
- The book is a very transparent telling of the author’s struggles. His story gives readers (especially clergy and counselors) a wonderful glimpse into the inner workings of someone struggling with doubt. Mike is not the only one who has, or will, experience such struggles. As such, it is worth having an awareness of what some of those struggles might be.
- As noted earlier, the book is charitable to the numerous Christians he encountered through the years. Whether conservative evangelical or mainline, he treats all sides with dignity. This was refreshing.
There is more I could write on this book, but for the sake of everyone involved, I will stop here.