In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity 20% OFF

Through a small bit of providence that isn’t at all
important, two years ago I happened to be with author, pastor, seminary teacher,
honest dad, and all around good guy, Jim Belcher, a day or so before he went to
study abroad.  We were at an event
sponsored by the Center for Public Justice in DC and of course we had a book
display there.  We visited briefly
as he moved a ton of stuff in to an apartment there and it was obvious that he and
his fam hadn’t packed just for the little conference, but that they were soon
heading out on a year-long adventure. A very big adventure.

Lin search of deep faith .jpgittle did I know (and I suspect the Belcher’s didn’t
either) that his study year was going to be so adventurous or life-changing or
that a major book would come from their journey, an amazing new work that our
mutual friend Steve Garber has called “a Pilgrim’s
for the twenty-first century.”  The resulting book is called In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into
the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity
(IVP; regularly $17.00, on sale here for $13.60.) As Garber’s hint
and the subtitle suggests, it really is a travelogue through the ups and downs
of faith, explored while studying at Oxford and during an extended family trip
throughout Europe.

Unlike Bunyan, though, Mr. Belcher is narrating a real trip,
and it isn’t just a story of basic, personal, Christian growth; it is a real
pilgrimage to places that were somehow instrumental in his own life – settings
and sites of authors whose important insights and phases of growth
significantly shaped his own faith journey— as he tries to share the
significance of those places to his wife and children. He had it in his head that he just had to visit some of the real spots where some of the pivotal books were written or where some of his life’s hero lived or died. A neat idea, no?

In Search of Deep
tells of revisiting key ideas and insights from his earlier
discipleship by way of actually visiting the sites of the authors whose books
so influenced him.  By literally
going on a European sabbatical to visit places and revisit ideas, this memoir
is not only a great narrative of a guy seeking refreshment and a rekindling of
heart and mind, but an extraordinarily guide to important bits of church history,
important cultural leaders or social reformers, and, often, very important Christian

To be clear, In Search
of Deep Faith
tells the story of Belcher and his wife taking their children
to visit places like the spot in London where Church of England reformer Cramner
was imprisoned and eventually burned at the stake; over in Oxford they visit
the Eagle and the Child, the pub beloved in Lewis & Tolkien lore; they seek
out the out-of-the-way place of the underground seminary founded by Bonhoeffer
and well as the terrible death camp where he was killed.  Some of this is very moving (how could
it not be, telling of walking through the gas chambers, or visiting the home
where Corrie Ten Boom’s family hid Jews from the Nazis?)  But there are delightful stops as well
such as when they visit the beloved Von Trapp home, exploring the real story
behind The Sound of Music And
despite the heavy and heartbreaking backstory, their visit in Holland to the Vincent Van Gogh home and the search
there for “broken beauty” is just wonderful. What a good guide he is as he
introduces us to rich and thoughtful people and their stories.  This is a great book!

I know I have been exuberant in
praise for several other spectacular and vitally important books this season,
but I trust you know I am not just being temperamentally enthusiastic or overly
opportunistic,  just trying to make
some quick sales.  If I wanted to blow
smoke about a book to garner favor or finances, I could pick one a little less
complicated and easier to promote to the masses.  Joel Olsteen, John Spong, or the latest inspirational romance
or political tirade could be pitched in simplistic and profitable ways.  We could be much more profitable if we
pushed the most popular items, pandering to this market or that.

No, we are trying here to explain books that are truly
important, helpful, wise, and good,  but also pleasurable to read, book that can nurture the sorts
of reading habits that we feel are truly best.  Belcher’s In Search of
Deep Faith
is exactly the kind of book we most want to promote – it is
ecumenical, well-written, nicely educational, warm, and spiritually-mature. His view of “deep” is deeply rooted in historic and evangelical faith, not in an arcane or heavy sense. His search, and the book about it, would be great for those who are young in faith although will be more appreciated by somewhat older folk, those who are in perhaps a mid-life season of searching. I like the blurb by his friend Tullian Tchividjian who says it is a “probing and
provocative adventure into the robust realism of the Christian faith”

Mr. Belcher is a fascinating guy (you
should know his book Deep Church, which is an open-minded but orthodox,
Reformed conversation with the emergent movement) and here he isjim-belcher_web.jpg introducing us to
people and places and practices that are not only interesting to read about,
but also are truly commendable and beneficial.  It is solid and meaty without being obtuse or dry.  Did I say I want to be exuberant in my
praise?  For Hearts & Minds
friends and fans, it is surely one of the great book choices of the year.  So, yes, indeed, I want to encourage
you to buy it, to give it, to discuss it, to explore what it may offer in your
own life.  In Search of A Deep
Faith: A Pilgrimage into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity
is a fine, fine book.

There are three aspects of this
book that strike me as particularly unique and helpful. I could describe every chapter, sharing what I learned, or what moved me (as much of it truly did) but
allow me to highlight just three themes.

Firstly, there is the really good
information here about nearly a dozen important figures, and Jim’s passion for
visiting their haunts, relearning their lessons (sometimes by re-reading their
books in the location in which they were written) and telling his children
about their significance makes for a great learning experience. I don’t think there is hardly a reader
anywhere who won’t come away having learned something new; most religious
readers will come away inspired and challenged as well.

He looks at pilgrims and martyrs
in old London, and the more recent story of Sheldon Vanauken (which is powerfully told in the splendid book about his
conversion, marriage to Davey, her subsequent death, and his correspondence
with C.S. Lewis called A Severe Mercy.) In a bit of a surprise he unpacks the story of Jekyll and Hyde (what a chapter!) He is strong on heroic leaders, and has a great chapter on the call and work
of William Wilberforce; he beautifully describes his visit to Le Chambon, France, where they meet
the descendants of the Andre Trocme family. (By the way, I don’t know if Belcher learned about Trocme
from his time years ago when he had Steve Garber as a teacher, who may have bought it from us, but I know I was
promoting Phillip Hallie’s brilliant Lest
Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There

in those years, so I feel nearly proud that he knew that book and was moved
enough by it to revisit that remarkable story. Trocme has been important to me since I read him in the 70s as an apologist for Biblical nonviolence. It wasn’t until reading Hallie that I knew his story.)

These and so many more good
pieces on fascinating people and good authors make In Search of…  a splendid education on moral formation
and the complexities of Christian living just by introducing us to people and places and stories
where faith was discovered, deepened and lived out.

belcher fam.jpgSecondly, there is this really
nice sub-plot running through the whole book, a sub-plot that makes it all so
very real: he is on this road trip with his family, after all, including four children, and it is his plan to teach his children well.  If you have had children and educational
goals even mildly similar to the Belcher’s grand vision, you know that, well,
it ain’t easy.  Kids get cranky,
parents get cranky, weather turns bad, moving episodes are altered by something
unexpectedly funny, and fun stuff is ruined by something distracting. You know.  Thoughtful Christian parents who are
self-reflective, sometimes wonder if they are pushing their kids enough or (in this
case) too much. 

This isn’t exactly
a handbook on the spiritual formation of children, but, in a narrative style, telling
of their often trying, sometimes mundane, occasionally thrilling experiences as a
family on-the-road, In Search Of Deep
could almost be called “In
Search of Deep Faith For Me and My Kids.”  Jim is quite candid in the book about his dreams for his
marriage and family, and we’d all be wiser if we had these kinds of hopes and
made such intentional efforts to help our children grapple with the biggest
questions of life, in the deepest ways possible for their own ages and stages
on the journey. I think this is, surprisingly, the best parenting book I’ve
read in quite a while. 

aside: as much as I like this and know Jim and his wife are the real deal,
there were a just few times when I had to scratch my head just a bit. Really?  Your kids put up with you saying that, and you pulled off taking them there, and your family devotions really were that meaningful? I’m glad that there were
some awkward failures and at times serious doubts and that the family foibles were well-documented, which
gave it the real ring of truth.)

Thirdly. I can’t quite put this
into clear words, but I sense in the reading of this book a rare blend of ideas
and practices, of theology and daily living, of learning and life.  The book is seamlessly integrated – the
memoir style helps  – as the author
shifts from teaching us about, say, the power of story by way of Lewis or
“Heidelberg and Normandy: Lessons from the Castle and the Cliff” to his own
honest struggles to incorporate these truths into his own life.

The book is only partially about rediscovering spiritual roots,
getting refreshed by revisiting earlier influences. As Part Two puts it, the
search includes explorations of “Life as a Journey and the Need for a
Map.”  That is, it seems the book
is about — in the best sense of the word! —  worldview formation. 
It is about discerning meaning and purpose, real struggle and growing
faith, about living into truth and by grace, gaining patterns of belief and life that give witness to hope. I really do appreciate the
evangelical good news of this, but also the vision of life lived for the common
good, in ways that are beautiful and honest and true.

The epilogue, about their return to take up a teaching
position in South Florida, is not a simple coda, but is itself an important
rumination on the meaning of all of this for daily life back in the “real
world.”  He updates us on stuff
going on in the family, in the lives of the children, and invites us all to the
metaphor of journey and pilgrimage. (Yes, he wonderfully uses Frodo’s poem, “the road goes ever on…”) 

In other words, the practical nature of
this story, well written and profound as it often is, means it really is a book
that can assist you in your faith and life. Having read the book, we have traveled along with the
Belcher family, looking over their shoulder as they’ve lived and learned and
processed and prayed. And you will be better for it. 

As Kara Powell of the Fuller Youth Institute writes,
“Chapter by chapter, Jim takes you and your family on a practical theology
pilgrimage that will expand your vision for Christ-centered living.  You’ll be thinking about it and talking
about it long after you finish the final page.”

in search of deep faith .jpg


In Search of Deep Faith
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