A few weeks ago, I was asked by my friend Karl Denteneer to read and review a new released book by Reinder Bruinsma. At first sight, the title is really attracting Facing Doubt, but yet too general until you read the sub-title: “A book for adventist believers ‘on the margins’.” Best chosen subtitle.
I have read the book riding the train from home to Paris and back, and spare moments in the last two months. I just finished a few minutes ago, with an intense need of sharing it with others, specially with some friends who now are former pastors and former Seventh-day Adventists.
In my opinion, pastor Reinder Bruinsma has chosen wisely a very large collection of pearls and treasures from other authors and has put them in the right order building a wonderful reasoned structure glued by his large personal experience in how to deal with doubts when you are misunderstood and/or feel uncomfortable with the tendency nowadays seen in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In other words: “DO NOT QUIT … YET!” There is Hope for you! (fill the gap with whatever you are ready to give up, ministry, membership, etc.)
9 chapters, almost 200 pages, with close to 200 references. Yet it is not a thesis or an investigation, but benefits the background of a very deep and studied basis. Easy to read but with needed breaking points. Not because it is too dense, but because you will need to stop to readjust your own thoughts and accommodate your mind and spirit to a wider reality unfolding within the book.
The first half of the book it might seem a bit like, “okay, I already know this, I am a pastor, or I have been a believer for many years, so?” So, you better read it as I did, because the first half of the book will depict in a very serious way with strong basis form other studies, what is going on in the Christian post-modern world, and why we see many people leaving the church through the back door, almost at the same fold as they enter through the main door, in some places.
In these first chapters you will see the context in many denominations today, to put in context our reality as Seventh-day Adventist. Oh yeah! We are not the belly button of the Universe! We share and have inherited many beliefs, doctrines (if we can use this term), tendencies and weaknesses as well. This will enlighten our understanding of how and why we have got here, yielding to these “doh!” moments while reading.
Reinder Bruinsma, in an extraordinary exercise of objectivity, lists and pictures the most important tendencies in our church either on the “liberal” side and the “conservative” as well. You will go through a roller coaster while reading, with moments of, “yeah! That’s what I say!” and other moments you will see yourself pictured as the “ugly guy” as well.
Yes the reading of this book is a most needed exercise of personal humility. None, absolutely nobody is 100% liberal or 100% conservative. We are all a mix of both, or as the author says, when correctly understood, we are all progressive. You really need to read the first part of this book to get a whole picture of modern Christianity, which frames the nowadays Seventh-day Adventist Church, which at the same time, frames your local church, where you struggle sometimes to fit in. That’s why it is addressed to those “on the margins”, but don’t be discouraged, there’s room to fit in!
“Adventism in crisis?” Women’s ordination, 28 fundamental beliefs, Creationism, end time prophecies, Spirit of prophecy and other hot topics are revised, not to find a solution, this is not the book to solve them. But this book will give you clues and hints in the second half of how to address personally all these issues, and many others. It is not a matter of “issues” or “topics”, it is a matter of how do we face the situation, how do we handle them, and how do we handle the local church as well, because, at the end, that is your church, your home church.
The author will invite you to a “leap of faith” along the book oftenly. Not to a leap of blind faith, but a reasoned based faith. I do not want to rip up the book, but I do want you to give it more than just a chance. I have underlined many treasured sentences, folded many pages to find more easily the shiny treasures that have enlightened my spirit (I am sorry dear Reinder, I have mistreated your book, but with all respect!).
The author will guide you in a how-to re-open your heart and mind to the Holy Spirit process. As I said before, despite the fluid and easy reading, you will need to stop to make up your mind. This book will help you to pick up the pieces of your long-ago broken heart to stick them back. In other pages you will be willing to close the book because you will find a mirror and you might not like what you read (or see), but in the bravery is the victory. Do NOT act as those who have harmed you or pushed you to the margins of the church (if not further). Every healing process has some painful moments that you will thank eternally, never better said.
There’s a section where I wondered, why is so important to understand “what is doubt”? Because, if we do not know what it is, if we do not understand it, then we will never be able to handle it. Doubt is not bad, nor a sin, but we need to understand it. And the best place to start is, the doubt about the existence of God himself. From there onward in the book, you will start to put all the pieces of your broken heart back together as a big puzzle. The author warns us. Some pieces will be missing, but the whole picture will be recognizable. Once you have finished the reading, that will be the beginning.
Give the imperfect church of God a chance. Give God a chance to handle your damaged life (if it is the case…). Give yourself a chance by reading this healing book, even if you remain on “the margins” … someone must to live on the edge … otherwise, where would be the edge? Only God is infinite.
Title: Facing Doubt: A book for adventist believers ‘on the margins’.
Author: Reinder Bruinsma. / Ed. Flankó Press. / ISBN: 978-0-9935405-2-3
Paperback / 192 pages / 9 chapters / 189 references / Price on Amazon: 14,90€