Book review: Questioning Your Doubts
by Christina M. H. Powell
Question your doubts, says Powell. An interesting twist, isn’t it? Research on metacognition, the process of thinking about one’s own mental processes, shows that doubting your doubts can lead to more confidence, while second-guessing yourself can lead to immobilization.
Powell, a biomedical research scientist with a PhD in virology from Harvard, hardly sounds like a person who should question anything that passes through her brain. Yet, even with all her learning, she struggles with doubts about God.
Truth is, I struggled a little with her struggle … in the beginning of the book. No, the book isn’t poorly written or unintelligent. That’s far from true. In fact, I’m pretty sure Powell could think circles around me. It’s just that often I couldn’t relate to her examples, and other times I felt like no example was necessary. In discussing our doubts about God, Powell often referenced practical situations from her post-graduate work. She discussed the influence of others, the decision-making process, the role of doubting in producing quality work, and so on. The instruction she gave for the most part seems intuitively obvious, and so the topic remained flat.
But the time came in the book when Powell’s story grew personal. She wrote of her mother’s faith, which Powell concluded was flawed. Her mother felt that denying logic was a measure of the strength of her faith. When faced with cancer, Powell’s mother put her faith in God’s healing power to the exclusion of medical treatment. Her death was inevitable, which then shook Powell’s father’s faith. His faith never recovered and he remained resentful of the teachings which cut his wife’s life short until his own death.
Powell’s story came alive for me in those pages. The research she conducted at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute suddenly carried more meaning; her position of ordained minister with the Assemblies of God carried more clout; and her journey into doubt and how she learned to question her doubts kept me riveted for the second half of the book.
Says Powell, “a world of faith that mocks the advances of science breeds spiritual arrogance and plants the seeds of destruction in the lives of vulnerable people.” Today, her faith remains strong, and she encourages us to build a bridge between faith and reason.
Definitely a book worth reading.
Intervarsity Press, © 2014, 208 pages