Surprised by Doubt

How Disillusionment Can Invite Us into a Deeper Faith

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"Those at a faith crossroads will want to pick this up."--Publishers Weekly

The Gospel Coalition 2023 Book Award (Evangelism & Apologetics)

Even those who live by faith sometimes doubt. Those doubts don't have to mean the end of Christian identity.

In Surprised by Doubt, Joshua Chatraw and Jack Carson help readers rediscover a deeper faith in the midst of a confusing world. They invite skeptics and doubters to explore the ancient faith for a new perspective on contemporary Christianity.

Chatraw and Carson build on C. S. Lewis's metaphor that envisions Christianity as a house with many rooms, suggesting that readers move beyond the cramped attic of reactionary versions of the faith to explore the larger, more ancient main floors of the house.

With pastoral care and intellectual rigor, Chatraw and Carson not only help Christians think through the issues confronting them. They also help readers engage their emotional journey of anxiety, fear, anger, and frustration. Readers will discover the wisdom of the past and ways to reimagine a faith that can thrive alongside doubt.


Preface: Confessions of a Theologian
Part 1: The Attic
1. This Isn't How They Told Us It Would Be
2. An Invitation to Explore the House of Faith
3. Looking Back to Look at the Attic
4. Life in the Attic
5. Finding a Better Posture
Part 2: Outside the House
6. New Atheism
7. Optimistic Skepticism
8. Open Spirituality
9. Mythic Truth
Interlude: Before Exploring Downstairs
Part 3: The Main Floor
Perspective 1: Looking At
10. The Historical Foundation
11. The Person at the Center
12. The Load-Bearing Walls
Perspective 2: Looking Through
13. Wagering Wisely
14. A Window to See Through
Perspective 3: Stepping In
15. "But I Still Can't Believe! Now What?"
16. Practicing Your Way through Doubt
Epilogue: Praying with the Dead


"Reading Surprised by Doubt is like sitting in a comfortable room and enjoying a thoughtful conversation with generous and stimulating hosts. You leave feeling challenged, more knowledgeable, heard, and understood. The coffee is on. Come. And be sure to invite your friends."

Karen Swallow Prior, author of The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images, and Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis

"For too long, doubt has wrongly been considered to be worthy of condemnation, and the unfortunate reaction to the condemnation of doubt has been the misguided idea that doubt is to be celebrated. Josh Chatraw and Jack Carson take a better approach, which is to address doubt, to seek to aid in the alleviation of burdensome doubts, and to comfort in the midst of doubt. This is apologetics at its best, grounded ultimately not in a rigid confidence in the 'right ideas' but in the person of Jesus, who is himself the Word, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This book will help you trust him."

Michael Wear, president and CEO of the Center for Christianity and Public Life; author of The Spirit of Our Politics

"Moving more deeply into a post-Christian and secular culture, we are increasingly 'surprised by doubt.' In our pews, in our homes, and in our own hearts. Josh Chatraw and Jack Carson have written a book 'for such a time as this,' a warm, urgent, thoughtful, and practical book that invites us into a faith more expansive, captivating, and compelling than we could have imagined."

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

"As a Great Storyteller once said, houses built on sand tend to fall flat at the first gust of wind. The edifice of personal faith is also prone to swift deconstruction when built on flimsy footings. This book is a gift to anyone seeking to reconstruct Christian faith on firmer foundations, with Josh Chatraw and Jack Carson acting as seasoned structural engineers. As they map out the house of faith, you will find they provide an invaluable guide to making sense of belief, doubt, and Christianity. If you (or someone you know) is surprised by doubt, read this book."

Justin Brierley, author and broadcaster

"Joshua Chatraw and Jack Carson invite us to explore our doubts, to embrace the gnawing questions, to tackle the anxieties we have about faith, truth, and everything in between. This is a great book about how to build a house of faith from the debris of doubt. Terrific for believers, skeptics, and inquirers alike."

Michael F. Bird, academic dean and lecturer in New Testament, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia

"Most pastors struggle to know what to recommend when a friend or church member asks for a book on doubt. Doubt is easily misunderstood and sometimes abused. It needs wise counselors and generous friends, which are hard to find in a book. At last, I have a book to recommend! Josh Chatraw and Jack Carson treat doubt with respect and tenderness, walking a path of steadfast hope rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm grateful for these wise counselors and generous friends, and I look forward to introducing others to them."

Rev. John Yates III, rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Raleigh, North Carolina

The Authors

  1. Joshua D. Chatraw
    Neal Goodwin

    Joshua D. Chatraw

    Joshua D. Chatraw (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Billy Graham Chair of Evangelism and Cultural Engagement at Beeson Divinity School. He lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

    Continue reading about Joshua D. Chatraw

  2. Jack Carson
    Nic Levasseur

    Jack Carson

    Jack Carson (PhD candidate, University of Aberdeen) serves as the executive director of the Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement and as an instructor at Liberty University. He lives with his wife and son in Lynchburg, Virginia.

    Continue reading about Jack Carson


The Gospel Coalition 2023 Book Award (Evangelism & Apologetics)

"Surprised by Doubt is a carefully researched but engaging solution to the problem of deconstruction. Its honesty in wrestling with the hard questions of Christianity makes this a safe book to hand to a hardened skeptic or a believer in anguish about his doubts. It answers one of the predominant challenges of the hour and will remain a useful resource for years to come."

The Gospel Coalition

"In this vigorous outing, [the authors] urge Christians struggling with doubt to ask questions of their faith instead of suffering in silence. . . . Drawing on the work of such thinkers as Blaise Pascal and René Descartes, the authors set out a methodical approach to a thorny topic and deliver it with a down-to-earth approachability readers will find refreshing. Those at a faith crossroads will want to pick this up."

Publishers Weekly