Jim Belcher, In Search of Deep Faith: A Pligrimage into the Beauty, Goodnes, and Heart of Christianity, IVP, 2013, 318pp.
I read Deep Church when I started doing vocational ministry and it absolutely shaped my approach to ministry so I began to read this book with very high expectations. It’s safe to say that my expectations were met, and even exceeded.
As the title implies this book is about a “Pilgrimage,” specifically a pilgrimage in search of deep faith. Belcher’s pilgrimage takes him on a journey to ensure that his “roots are deeper,” his “maps are better,” and his “destination is clearer.” (291) Roots, Journey, and Destination are what this book is about.
As you begin reading, you are immediately thrown in to a tense situation; you find Belcher and his family stuck in an RV in a shady part of Poland, looking for Bonhoeffer’s secret seminary at Finkenwalde. The rest of the book is filled with that same sort of suspense you encounter in the first few pages, except the suspense isn’t limited to his family’s adventures throughout Europe; the suspense comes from the stories of several historical figures he introduces us to.
The book is broken up into three parts: 1) Rediscovering our Roots, 2) Life as Journey and the Need for a Map, and 3) Seeing our Destination.
- Rediscovering our Roots: These chapters emphasize the need for making our faith our own, and how making our faith deep bears upon our daily lives. Here we hear the stories of his family’s move to Oxford, but also the stories of the Oxford Martyrs. We also hear the story of Sheldon Vanauken’s search for beauty. Belcher also recounts the story of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, he explains that this story teaches us about our own struggle between desiring holiness and desiring our sin. He ends this section with the story of William Wilberforce.
- Life as Journey and the Need for a Map: These chapters expand the metaphor of the Christian life as a pilgrimage, and show us that we need a “map” so to speak if we are to walk faithfully on that pilgrimage. He uses the stories of Vincent Van Gogh, Andre Trocme, and Corrie ten Boom as examples of people who didn’t have a “map” (van Gogh) and people who had the “map” to guide them in their journeys.
- Seeing Our Destination: You can’t be on a pilgrimage if you don’t have a destination… Here Belcher emphasizes the need to know our “destination.” In times of trouble knowing our destination gives us strength to persevere. Belcher uses the stories of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria von Trapp (The Sound of Music) as examples of people who knew their destination. He concludes his journey with a trip to Heidleberg, the source of the Heidelberg Catechism. This final chapter is the clearest articulation of how the Gospel and the destination it points us to shapes our lives.
- It’s a Great Introduction to Church History – I would not have expected it, but this book is actually a great primer on European church history, spanning the time from the reformation up until the 20th century. If you know somebody who could use an exciting introduction to church history then this is the book for you.
- It’s a Great Book on Parenting – Throughout the book one of Belcher’s concerns is instilling a deep faith into his children. I got a taste of how difficult that actually is, to be honest it freaked me out, but at the same time it gave me hope that its possible to pass on a deep and meaningful faith in Christ to our children.
- It’s Very Well Written – At the end of the book Belcher credits several author’s influence upon his writing, as you read you can tell that he has really worked on his writing skills. Yes, Belcher was a good author in Deep Church, but his writing skills have really improved. He crafts suspenseful stories and makes his points in a very clear manner. His writing kept me engaged the whole time.
- There are no real con’s – Some people might have some issues with his reformed leanings. Others might have some issues with him using Vincent van Gogh as a sort of “spiritual hero.” But there really isn’t anything to complain about here….
In a season of my spiritual life where I have been feeling spiritually dry and aimless, God used this book and Jim Belcher to encourage me to stay excited about moving forward on the journey God has put me on. The stories of Thomas Cranmer, Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, William Wilberforce, and even Maria von Trapp encouraged me. Seeing their deep faith, which was grounded in the truths of the Gospel is sure to encourage anybody who reads this book. With that, I highly recommend this book. Whether you have been a Christian for a long time or whether you are just beginning to explore Christianity there is something for everybody who has decided to take a journey into Deep Faith.
(Note: I was given a free review copy by IVP and was under no obligation to give it a positive review.)