After Doubt

How to Question Your Faith without Losing It

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About

Is there a way to walk faithfully through doubt and come out the other side with a deeper love for Jesus, the church, and its tradition? Can we question our faith without losing it?

Award-winning author, pastor, and professor A. J. Swoboda has witnessed many young people wrestle with their core Christian beliefs. Too often, what begins as a set of critical and important questions turns to resentment and faith abandonment. Unfortunately, the church has largely ignored its task of serving people along their journey of questioning. The local church must walk alongside those who are deconstructing their faith and show them how to reconstruct it.

Drawing on his own experience of deconstruction, Swoboda offers tools to help emerging adults navigate their faith in a hostile landscape. Doubt is a part of our natural spiritual journey, says Swoboda, and deconstruction is a legitimate space to encounter the living God.

After Doubt offers a hopeful, practical vision of spiritual formation for those in the process of faith deconstruction and those who serve them. Foreword by pastor and author John Mark Comer.

Contents

Foreword
Part 1: Deconstruction and Doubt
1. Deconstruction and Doubt
2. The Theological Journey
3. The Problem of "Freedom"
Part 2: Following Jesus through Deconstruction and Doubt
4. Knowing the Whole Self
5. Going to Church
6. Feeling Everything
7. Learning to Tend
8. Practicing Being Wrong
9. Discerning the Truth
10. Embracing the Whole Kingdom
11. Trusting the Right Way
Postscript


Endorsements

"Many of us feel torn from the cultural and theological categories handed to us in the modern church. We are often filled with both faith and doubt. In this remarkable book, A. J. guides us into a path of stronger faith through the surprising valley of doubt. I resonated with this book at a profound level and think you will too."

Jon Tyson, Church of the City New York; author of Beautiful Resistance

"After Doubt is a kind, pastoral companion for Christians who have questions. Whether you're in the midst of the isolation and disruption that doubting your faith often leads to or if you're leading those who are, A. J. Swoboda's voice is one of a well-differentiated leader, accurately articulating the struggle many Christians are experiencing and casting a hopeful vision for a way forward together."

Emily P. Freeman, author of The Next Right Thing

"A. J. Swoboda has quickly become one of the most thoughtful, interesting, and engaging Christian writers of our day. And his new book After Doubt is a must-read for anyone who has realized that not everything we grew up believing about Christianity is true. With much wisdom and wit, Swoboda navigates us through the turbulent waters of deconstruction-reconstruction. I really could have used this book fifteen years ago."

Preston Sprinkle, president of The Center for Faith, Sexuality & Gender

"A. J. Swoboda invites us to reimagine what's happening when we doubt the coherence of the Christian faith. What if the disorientation is actually a strange gift, pushing us toward growth and transformation? In this book you'll find wisdom and guidance as you take your questions deeper."

Tim Mackie, cofounder of the BibleProject

"Swoboda claims that the community of faith has copious resources for the journey from doubt to faith--but far too few for the journey from faith to doubt and back to faith. I completely concur. As a college professor who daily watches the challenges of life and the ideologies of the age batter my students' confidence in their Christian faith, I am eager to put this book into their hands. Here Swoboda tells his twenty-year tale of 'walking with people along the paths of doubt and deconstruction' and offers himself as a companion along the way. This book offers an informed, insightful, and deeply empathetic conversation about the road home."

Sandra Richter, Robert H. Gundry Chair of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

"In this elegant and profound book, A. J. Swoboda has taken on the monumental task of addressing the dark side of doubt and disillusionment. It addresses these problems not by solving them but by unmasking them. In the spirit and style of G. K. Chesterton, A. J. reveals how doubt is actually an act of faith, that doubt is based on a firm belief that there is something truer and better and more beautiful than what one has perceived Christianity, or the church, to be. By the time I was done reading this, I was able to embrace my doubts-as-longing as a gift and found myself loving Jesus and his church in a new and deeper way."

James Bryan Smith, author of The Good and Beautiful God

"If you have ever experienced doubts about God (and who hasn't?), After Doubt will both comfort and challenge you. Speaking from two decades of experience ministering in the Pacific Northwest, Swoboda provides biblically sound direction for the doubting among us, filled with practical wisdom on how we can question our faith without losing it!"

Matthew Sleeth, MD, executive director of Blessed Earth and author of Hope Always

"Doubt often draws us into a spiral of isolation and mental exertion, which themselves can be our undoing. With pastoral insight, Swoboda brings doubt into the open, removing the shame and inviting us into practices that draw us back into our bodies, communities, and tradition. After Doubt builds our capacity and courage for the normal, lifelong process of being formed in the wrestling."

Mandy Smith, pastor and author of Unfettered: Imagining Childlike Faith beyond the Baggage of Western Culture and The Vulnerable Pastor

"For many, deconstruction is viewed as a Christian's unraveling, a dead end to what was once a living faith. In After Doubt, A. J. Swoboda makes a beautiful and compelling case for how the journey through doubt can actually lead to a stronger faith in Jesus. Deconstruction does not have to result in deconversion. This exceptional work is required reading for anyone who has ever wondered if it is possible to ask hard questions of our faith and come to deeper and more satisfying conclusions."

Terry M. Crist, lead pastor, Hillsong Church

"The church is facing a crisis of faith in our post-Christian world, and the options before us seem grim: to either demonize doubt or wear it as a badge of honor. A. J. Swoboda invites us to go deeper, to join him on the messy but ultimately healing journey to find God on the far side of our brokenness. Warm and confessional, bold and prophetic, heart-stirring and intellectually deep, After Doubt is a book 'for such a time as this.'"

Richard Beck, author of Hunting Magic Eels: Recovering an Enchanted Faith in a Skeptical Age

"Many pastors, leaders, and parents wonder what to do as multitudes of younger Christians deconstruct their faith, often losing it in the process. A. J. Swoboda offers a blueprint for the spiritual journey of all those facing real doubt. He weaves faith and hard questions together in a delicate dance while sharing a profoundly personal account of his own journey. The result is an intimate and practical book that's sorely needed. I know from long years of ministry together that A. J. marries intellectual heft, cultural insight, and pastoral care in a manner few authors can manage. If you care about the epidemic deconstruction of Christian faith among young people, I recommend you read this book."

Randy Remington, president, U.S. Foursquare Church

"'Not all those who wander are lost'--that was written by Tolkien a couple of generations ago. Swoboda reframes this: Not all those who doubt are faithless. Our questions and doubts can lead to a deeper and richer walk with Jesus. Swoboda brings hope to the cynics, the disillusioned, and even the 'dones.' So many disenchanted Christians have been yearning for a book to help point them back to Jesus. After Doubt is that book."

Nijay K. Gupta, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary

"Doubt has played a significant role in my faith over the past thirty years. In each season of crisis, I have entered with fear that I would lose my faith. I am happy to say many times I did. My faith was a false construct of the faith, and my false construct needed to die. Those seasons of doubt ended with a more honest faith and a God who was better than I had ever imagined. I wish I had A. J.'s book during those moments. He has given a guide to one of the most necessary and scary processes Jesus asks his followers to walk through. Thoughtful and honest without pulling punches, A. J. leads you through this critical process like a good friend and a wise counselor. Every person who feels like they no longer fit comfortably inside their faith needs to read this book."

Rick McKinley, lead pastor, Imago Dei Community, Portland, Oregon

"After Doubt is a timely book--an exploration of doubt and deconstruction, written winsomely by one within the faith and from the perspective of spiritual formation. For reasons that A. J. explains, deconstruction has become the metalanguage and framework for our generation. And he is certainly a qualified guide for such terrain. As a campus pastor, a church planter, and now a professor, he has helped people navigate the hardest issues of the faith. Yet what makes this book so valuable and unique is the attention it gives to how we are shaped by these experiences. Theological deconstruction may be an inevitable part of faith formation in the twenty-first century. But After Doubt shows there's a way to reconstruct the faith and return to our 'first love' that forms us into more faithful disciples of Jesus."

Keas Keasler, assistant professor of Christian spiritual formation, director of MA in Christian spiritual formation and leadership, Friends University


The Author

  1. A. J. Swoboda

    A. J. Swoboda

    A. J. Swoboda (PhD, University of Birmingham) is assistant professor of Bible, theology, and world Christianity at Bushnell University. He also leads a Doctor of Ministry program around the Holy Spirit and leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the...

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