Crisis of Doubt

What has brought some eminent thinkers back to Christian faith? Malcolm Hicks offers this comment:

Crisis of DoubtI have recently been reading a book which, at first glance, might appear to be so dryasdust as to be a guaranteed cure for insomnia. But perseverance reveals a compelling narrative of the loss and recovery of faith that has as much pertinence now as in the Nineteenth Century, which is the focus of the book’s investigation.

Written by an American Professor of Theology, Timothy Larsen, Crisis of Doubt: Honest Faith in Nineteenth-Century England traces the life history of highly well informed, and often self taught men who developed impressively hard-hitting attacks on religious belief, only to reconvert to Christianity in later years. And it’s not that their reconversion was dictated at the eleventh hour faced with the prospect of death. They went on to lead as highly effective lives testifying to the saving grace of religious faith as previously they had so strongly rejected it.

Larsen gives a highly readable and fascinating insight into the sheer range of vibrant cut-and-thrust public debate which went on between believers and non-believers in Victorian England. I had no idea of the number of secular societies throughout the country, for example, whose principal aim seems to have been an attempt to demolish belief. And their arguments might suggest that our present day decriers of religion are doing something which echoes the objections of their predecessors.

That the most able exponents of unbelief became most able exponents of belief surely reinforces the persuasiveness of their regaining of their faith. And what proved to be the turning point in their careers which, often in the face of hard criticism, compelled them to turn again to religion? Nothing less than the life of Christ: it dawns on these richly experienced and thoroughly well read men that the – shall I say simple – life and example of Christ’s ministry on Earth is all sufficient. Put another way, Christ’s life they acknowledge as too good not to be true.


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