Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Clear Winter Nights Book Review

Book Review
Author:                 Trevin Wax
Title:         Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After
Publishing Company: Multnomah
Copyright Year: 2013
Pages:         162
Difficulty Level: Beginner
Topic(s):          Apologetics, Evangelism
Rating (out of 10):  6/10

Trevin Wax has crafted a short and warm story centered on the crisis of faith that a young man experiences one winter.  The young man, Chris, spends a weekend with his grandfather, Gil.  Gil has suffered a stroke and needs someone to care for him through the New Year’s weekend.  Chris comes to his aid but is himself suffering from doubt about his faith in Christ, and depression over broken relationships, especially with his father.
Wax uses the device of narrative, especially dialogue between Chris and Gil to explore theological concepts including evangelism, ethics, Christian apologetics, and general biblical themes.  As a story, it is slow but warm.  By the end I cared about both Chris and Gil.  As theology, it is accurate and brief.  Together, it succeeds mostly in being what the cover claims, “theology in story.”  I found it helped me think through some of the practical issues that arise with lifestyle evangelism and Christian witness.
However, because Wax is clearly aiming to simply use story as a vehicle to communicate theology, the story itself is not the most engaging.  The plot drags at times and lacks much in the way of a true crisis situation.  It is perhaps a bit too normal and uneventful.  As theology, because Wax is tied to his vehicle of story, the topics come in haphazard fashion.  As such, it would be difficult to use this as a Bible study resource (as the exhaustive discussion questions in the appendix suggest).  It likely would have some benefit in sharing with a new believer or a believer in Christ struggling with faith and suffering.  

“Church needs to be a place for people to be real.  To doubt.  To question,” (3).
“When the church blew through two pastors after me?  I’ve never been so disappointed in all my life.  Personality conflicts, leadership struggles, unrealistic expectations.  Why, the Methodists in town started saying, ‘What’s with them Baptists that they can’t hold on to a good preacher?’” (15-16).
“I just worry that nowadays freedom of speech means freedom from speech.  Like the freedom to talk about everything means we don’t talk about anything…of substance that is.  Don’t talk about death.  Too morbid.  Don’t talk about sex.  To indelicate.  Don’t talk about politics.  Too controversial.  Don’t talk about religion.  Too off-putting.  If you ask me, ‘polite conversation’ is a good way to shut down interesting conversation altogether,” (17).
“Your very existence is only because of grace, he told himself.  To be is to be graced.  Within a few seconds, the resentment was gone and his joy was back,” (23).
“Right then I realized all this talk about trusting Jeus and being a true child of God meant that whatever God said about His Son, He could say about me.  He loved me- Gilbert Walker! Not because I was smart or special or had great talents or gifts.  It wasn’t because I was living the ‘good Christian life’ I was trying so hard to get right.  He just looked at me and loved me.  He delighted in me like a father delighting in his children.  It suddenly all made sense,” (33).
“The goal [of theology] is to know more about God so that you come to know Him better,” (41).
“Your intellectual growth depends on becoming more closed-minded, just as long as your mind is closing in on the truth,” (43).
“What Christian thinks that Easter is just the commemoration of a man who stood against the empire?  Nonsense!  Easter is about the vindication of the Son of God. … And faithful Jews don’t see Passover as the triumph of the human spirit.  For pity’s sake.  It’s the mighty hand of God rescuing His people and enacting justice,” (47-48).
“What is Christianity is bigger than ethics?  What if it’s not about good people getting better but about dead people coming to life?” (50).
“What if having an open mind is a mistake if it means we’re failing to close our minds around something that is true?” (55).
“One of the reasons I stepped back from the new church is…well, frankly I’m uncomfortable with the idea of evangelizing someone,” (71).
“To say no religion is better than another.  To say all religions are equal.  You know, that’s a belief too.  And I bet whoever says something like that probably believes that idea is better than yours or mine,” (75).
“Whoever says we should just keep our faith to ourselves and not evangelize – they’re really saying we ought to follow their instructions and not King Jesus.  That is the height of arrogance, in my mind,” (77).

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