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Rachel Held Evans, Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2010)Rachel Held Evans, Faith Unraveled: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2010)

Brought up the daughter of an evangelical theologian in a thickly conservative Southern culture, Rachel Held Evans was trained early in Christian apologetics.  From grade school onwards, she took literally the apostle Peter's command that Christians "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks."  So she learned the right Bible verses and honed the appropriate debating skills until she could argue the finer points of a "Christian worldview" (one steeped in young earth creationism, pro-life politics, Biblical literalism, and the superiority of Christian truth claims) with "opponents" from any religious, agnostic, or atheistic background — all without batting an eye.

But then, eighty years after the famous Scopes "Monkey" Trial made a spectacle of Christianity and drew national attention to her hometown of Dayton, Tennessee, Held Evans experienced a religious and spiritual trial of her own: she began to doubt.  Faith Unraveled examines these doubts, and describes her gutsy journey from fundamentalist certainty to a more progressive and evolving Christianity. Though written with self-deprecating candor and a lovely sense of humor, the book is an argument — Held Evans argues with herself, with the Bible, with God, and with many tenets of American evangelicalism.  Though she credits her upbringing with instilling in her heart a love for God, Scripture, and the Church, she blasts the rigid, anxiety-based version of faith that caused many in her generation to enter the world "with both an unparalleled level of conviction and a crippling lack of curiosity.  So ready with the answers, we didn't know what the questions were anymore.  So prepared to defend the faith, we missed the thrill of discovering it for ourselves.  So convinced we had God right, it never occurred to us that we might be wrong."

Held Evans remains a devoted and passionate believer, but her faith looks and feels quite different now.  "If I've learned anything," she writes, "it's that doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves.  It is a refining fire, a hot flame that keeps our faith alive and moving and bubbling about, where certainty would only freeze it on the spot."  Widely considered one of the leading voices in progressive evangelicalism and Christian femimism, Held Evan's other books (also well worth reading) include A Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012) and Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (2014).  Faith Unraveled originally appeared under the title Evolving in Monkey Town.

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