Before You Go
Help and Hope for Those Struggling with the Loss of Faith
by John Marriott and Shawn C. Wicks
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Pub Date 08 Feb 2022 | Archive Date 28 Apr 2022
Abilene Christian University Press & Leafwood Publishers, Leafwood Publishers
A crisis of faith isn’t always what it seems.
To alleviate a crisis, you have to get to its source, not just treat the symptoms. Many say they are leaving the faith as the result of conscious intellectual doubts or relational hurts. But often, what’s driving the doubt is just outside of one’s conscious awareness. Unbeknownst to those struggling—and those trying to help them—these unconscious factors can be the actual source from which their doubt springs.
Before You Go is a diagnostic tool for addressing doubts. Rather than rehash surface-level apologetic answers, Marriott and Wicks dig deeper into overlooked factors that frequently are the real culprits when it comes to faith crisis, namely the unconscious aspects of our experience. Find real hope for those struggling to maintain their faith and genuine help for those trying to prevent faith loss in those they love.
“Marriott and Wicks are wise guides for those seeking to understand and help those on the verge of losing their faith. Before You Go goes beyond traditional apologetics to ask deeper questions about what lies behind one’s doubts and questioning of Christianity. Their answers are thoughtful and their writing is engaging. A remarkably helpful book!”
—Uche Anizor, Associate Professor of Theology, Talbot School of Theology, author of How to Read Theology
“If you know someone struggling with the loss of faith, this book is for you. Based on extensive research and personal experience, Marriott and Wicks explore many of the underlying reasons why people lose faith. Yet Before You Go doesn’t just describe the problem; it offers practical wisdom for those of us who want to lovingly come alongside our friends and family members struggling with faith.”
—Sean McDowell, PhD, Associate Professor of Apologetics, Biola University, author of over twenty books, including So the Next Generation Will Know and Evidence That Demands a Verdict
“In this book, Marriott and Wicks pull back the curtain to reveal the many forces that shape what we believe and why we believe. Those willing to be challenged will find the book an insightful companion to self-knowledge. The practical applications will reassure those who walk alongside doubters that you don’t have to be an apologist to be helpful.”
—M. Elizabeth Lewis Hall, PhD, Professor, Rosemead School of Psychology, Associate Editor, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality
“In an age that is becoming increasingly secular, the phenomenon of people walking away from Christianity is becoming more commonplace. If you are on the verge of leaving, this book will help you ask the questions that you need to ask before making that jump. If you have been hurt by someone you care about walking away from Christianity, this book will help you think through what happened, and give you the tools to better understand why this person might have made that choice. No matter where you sit in relation to Christianity, there is something here that will challenge you, and help you better understand our current culture.”
—Sam Welbaum, PhD, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, California Baptist University
“Before You Go promises ‘hope and help for those struggling with the loss of faith.’ It delivers! As a thirty-year pastor I have grieved with families of those who drifted from any recognizable relationship with Jesus and I have walked with strugglers who can no longer reconcile what they ‘know’ to be true with God’s word. These journeys are usually complex and just leaning into truth or offering a good apologetic often seem so inadequate. This book brings clarity and maps out practical steps for navigating these waters more effectively. I highly recommend it!”
—Robert Bishop, Senior Pastor, Redemption Hill Church, Whittier, California
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 4 members
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.!
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.
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.)
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.