Posted by: Nathan | July 13, 2010

Book {re}View :: “Evolving in Monkey Town” by Rachel Held Evans

Is knowing without questioning truly knowing anything at all?

As campus ministers our communities live in a world of moral relativism and religious ambiguity.  The temptation for us is to give our students a heavy dose of “The Truth”, and leave the questioning to the “Godless Heathens” that populate the rest of the campus.

In her new book, Evolving in Monkey Town, Rachel Held Evans tells the story of growing up as a girl who needed to ask big questions in a world of absolutes, apologetics, and fundamentalism.  She shares the crisis of faith that occurred as she began to examine the bedrocks of her faith (issues such as evolution, women in ministry, the sovereignty of God in a world of suffering, and the “all Christians are Republican” ideal), and the resistance she received from those who loved her the most.

For most of us our beliefs and the community we are are a part of are inextricably linked. The foundations of all that we hold to be right and true are far too often a result of what we’ve been taught, rather than what we’ve come to understand or experienced the truth to be.  And many times we come to find out that our “Truth” holds little water outside our circle of faith.  That the “wrong” side of the argument has just as much “evidence” as we do.

So what do we do when we enter a realm of realization that our foundation is not built on our relationship with God, but rather our communities narrow view of what it means to be “Christian”?

If you’re Rachel you enter into a season of reexamining everything.  You ask big questions about God, Faith, Morality, Ministry, the Church, Poverty, Hope, Grace, Love, and everything in between.

And through it all Rachel came to understand that God is not only big enough to take the questioning, but that at the very heart of questioning is the kernel for truth that many of us spend our whole life seeking: Faith is not about the destination, it’s about process of searching the heart of God for his answers.

This book is an astoundingly heartfelt and passionate examination of Rachel’s life up to this point and the process of faith God has brought her through thus far.  It is a journey through dozens of issues that bounce around our minds each day, and the admission that the greatest destination in our faith journey is not – in fact – knowing everything.

In our ministries on campus we need more authors like this one.  Authors that are willing to admit that they don’t have it all figured out.  We need writers like Rob Bell, Donald Miller, Anne Jackson, and Rachel Held Evans who are willing to unabashedly embrace the journey of faith in all it’s glory.  It is the journey that will bring life, not the destination.

As we seek to produce fruit within our ministries, books like “Evolving in Monkey Town” begin conversations about what it means to live out our faith that are irreplaceable.  We must not fight the current of relativism that has invaded college campuses, but rather use it as an opening to start a conversation about what a true pursuit of Jesus could look like.  Aren’t these the conversations we want our students to be having? To embrace our students desire to ask hard questions will not produce apathetic and ambiguous drones, but living, breathing followers of Christ who live out their faith in a passionate pursuit of God’s heart.

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