Cover Image: Before You Go

Before You Go

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Member Reviews

There are many attacks on the Christian faith. Some come from the environment, some from slanted research or peer pressure. Other doubts arise from inside ourselves. Before you Go examines four facets of doubt and the influences that press on young adults as they leave the safety of church, family, and friends.

And when you've left the faith, or if you're considering tossing all the things you believe, is there a way back? Marriott and Wicks offer insights on the backdrops and influences toward deconversion as well as ways to examine faith and restore your trust in God and his people.

The book is well-written and thought-provoking. It should be on the bookshelves of pastors, parents, and those seeking to understand why the faith of childhood and teen years begins to unravel - and how to recover a healthy adult relationship with God.

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There are three groups of people who should read this book:

1. Those who are struggling with their faith. If someone is having a "crisis of faith" whether it is from a sudden dramatic event or something that has been creeping up slowly on them, this is a great book to read.
2. Those who are family or friends of someone who is saying they have stopped believing in God (or are hinting that they are leaning in that direction.)
3. Everyone.

This isn't really a book about apologetics as much as it is an examination of common characteristics shared by those who have walked away from the faith. Author John Marriott is also the author of books like: Going Going Gone, An Anatomy of Deconversion, and Set Adrift. So he is bringing in a wealth of experience and research and hundreds of conversations into this work. Throughout this book, I kept remembering back to what I learned in Daniel Kahneman's Thinking Fast and Slow. That book was probably the most important book I read in '19. That book changed my thinking about thinking and made me a wiser, more self-aware person. This book has taken the science related in TF&S and gives it practical real-world application.

Before You Go is broken into three sections with a few chapters each. The first section, "Preliminary Issues" deals with issues like our subconscious, the reasonableness of faith, and why doubt isn't necessarily a bad thing or something to be avoided. The second section, "Pulling Back the Curtain" shows how the stated reasons for leaving the faith are rarely the true reasons, even though those leaving might sincerely believe they are. He gives an excellent illustration of an elephant with a rider who truly has no control of that elephant. The elephant is our subconscious thought that goes wherever it wants. The rider on top is our reasoning mind that creates logical explanations for why the elephant is going wherever he wants it to. The third section, "Assumptions and Expectations" seems pretty self-explanatory.

I never really walked away from my faith, but in the five years or so after finishing my undergrad at Bible College, I did walk away from many of the doctrinal things I did believe. Some of them I have come back to. Some I have not. But in the process of learning and adopting a faith of my own, rather than what was spoon-fed to me, I truly spent many sleepless nights wondering what was happening to me. A book like this would have been so helpful to me. It also would have been so helpful to one of my mentors who instinctively knew the maturation process God was doing in me but didn't know the right words to help me through the process. We had both been ingrained in a well-meaning but unhealthy church that said doubt and questioning are taboo. This book is an antidote to that poison.

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Faith loss is a behavior that every religion must cope with and the authors, John Marriott & Shawn Wicks, handle the topic of deconversion thoroughly. Before You Go is aimed at three different groups of people, according to the authors; parents of children who have lost or are losing their faith, individuals who have lost or are losing their faith and collegiate individuals of faith who are going to college away from home for the first time. To be completely transparent, this book took me a little bit to latch onto as I really felt the introduction was going in the direction of becoming another biblical studies thesis for me to read. That said, both Marriott and Shawn hooked me into the reading when they told me their backstories and brought me into their lives. Both authors are fantastic storytellers and theologians. Some readers may struggle with parts of the terminology used by Marriott as he writes on an academic level. For example, Marriott uses the term “dichotomous thinking” with little explanation but does reference Lucia Grosaru’s work on the subject. If the attempt is to reach an audience of parents or individuals going to college for the first time, it might be better to leave advanced theological terms or psychological terms out of the equation.

The chapter on reason is worth the authors’ weight in gold. Marriott and Wicks do an exciting rebuttal of why reason cannot be the authority of our faith or lack of faith. They use down-to-earth storytelling to relate to all three of the target audiences and, quite honestly, a tone of writing that makes the topic read as both a guide for parents and intellectual arguments at the level of academics. Without giving away a bit too much of the content, all ten chapters of the book are written as building blocks on each other. Before You Go is not just another apologetics book; nor is it in defense of any particular doctrine, religion or denominational group. It does not matter the specific faith tradition background; both authors do a fantastic job defending why the Christian faith is a spiritual life or death situation.

Before You Go is different in that it not only pricks the heart of the reader but it makes good points for all three target audiences to consider going forward. Even for the Christian who believes their faith is solid and unmovable, this book helps answer the question, “why do I believe in God?” No matter what audience you belong to; parent, student, wavering Christian or lifelong Christian who is unmovable, please do yourself a favor and read this book! Buy a copy for someone you know. It will help them regardless of their faith position in life. I have never seen these perspectives in one book that is relatable to everyone in every walk of life and still pricks the heart.

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This book has so many strengths.

It speaks about real people, and real circumstances in people's lives.
It acknowledges the place of apologetics, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.
It addresses the gospel, and what those who walk away from it perhaps have understood it to be.
This book acknowledges the real role of emotions in our decision making processes.
And perhaps what I enjoyed the most from these authors is there ability to listen deeply to those “deconverting”

A word of personal testimony may be in order. I, too, have wrestled with disappointment with God, and who knows how close I have come to making a shipwreck of my faith. However, not in my 50 years of following Christ have I found such patient and wise Biblical counsel. These authors not only know their Bible, but they have a personal knowledge of the God of the Bible, in the ebb and flow of life. They write as fellow pilgrims, not as Biblical experts, though their knowledge of the Bible is their firm foundation.

This book is pastoral counseling at its best. I have checked the two leading Christian distributors of this book in Australia, and have been disappointed it’s not even available to pre-order. I would recommend this book to those faced with the challenges of life, and for those seeking to walk alongside others to help them bear their burdens.

That’s right, it’s for all of us.!

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