A book review of The Hopeful Skeptic - by Nick Fiedler
A book review of The Hopeful Skeptic, by Nick Fiedler
Nick Fiedler is the co-creator and co-host of the popular Nick & Josh Podcast, and I've been a fan of the show for several years. In his new book, "The Hopeful Skeptic: Revisiting Christianity From the Outside", Nick shares a remarkably honest struggle with his faith, which may have emerged too far from the center to still be considered an insider. Although, the word "struggle" might not be the best choice of words. Nick seems to be surprisingly at ease with the tension of being both a person of hope and skepticism. I'm encouraged by his ability to embrace these two labels. I can relate to them both.
People tend to write books after they have everything figured out, or at least when they've lived long enough to think that they do. It's refreshing to read a book by someone willing to share their ideas at the beginning of their journey, when they admit they don't have many concrete answers. Nick writes with the wisdom of someone who's had a few changes in perspective, and that is rare in a young writer. I wonder how much better most theological books might be if, like Nick, the author wrote assuming they'd probably change their mind in a few years. There might be fewer emphatic declarations, and less harsh criticisms of others. Nick's ability to hold on to his ideas loosely may be the best part of this delightful book. In a chapter titled "Flip-Flopper", he expresses this concept using a reference from one of my favorite movies.
In the movie “Dogma,” Rufus, supposedly the thirteenth (and only black) disciple suggests that "ideas" are preferable to "beliefs.” His argument is that you can change an idea, and people won't kill or die for an idea the way they will for something labeled a belief. Hearing Rufus elaborate on that aspect of religion and theology was one of the most spiritually enlightening events of my life. Because we are all flip-floppers, so why not just label our beliefs "ideas?” That would make it easier for us to hold onto them in a way that would allow us to change them if we get new information at a later time, and gives us plenty of space to have "new" ideas. (pg.67)
It takes great courage to keep one foot in the culture of faith and the other dipping in the murky waters of skepticism. You can lose friends that way. I know firsthand how difficult it can be. I'm not sure how well this book will be accepted by either Christians or skeptics, but it feels comfortable to me. I've always enjoyed a bit of dissonance in my music, and I never liked movies with heroes who are too perfect, villains who are a little too easy to hate, and plots that tie up all the loose ends so I don't have to use my imagination. I loved this book and I guess I'm a hopeful skeptic also, but I'm not rushing out to get the tattoo.