Review of The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson
By David Moore
Some authors just raise questions. Other authors just offer answers. To use a traveling metaphor, the former happily lead people to cul-de-sacs while the latter are always confident they possess the correct map.
Enter Matthew Anderson. Anderson’s book is a welcome exception to these two extremes. Anderson’s subtitle, “A Book About Questioning and the Confidence of Faith,” juxtaposes what many tear asunder—raising questions while remaining confident that the Christian faith is the best vantage point from which to pose hard questions. Anderson invites us to have what Lesslie Newbigin called a “proper confidence.”
There are many things I appreciate about Anderson’s book, but let me underscore a few of them:
First, our growth in godly wisdom is marked by a growing ability to ask better questions. As Anderson writes, “But if the young question most, the wise question best.” Getting older need not stymie the raising of questions. As a teacher I am energized by the penetrating questions honest Christians raise who have walked with the Lord for many years.
Anderson’s encouragement to ask questions is not without its warning label. He rightly warns that certain questions may be far from sincere. These kinds of queries are hardly interested in getting to the truth. Anderson uses the illustration of an unprincipled attorney who loves to confuse a witness simply because winning the case is the only goal. And we frame our questions more often like that attorney than we care to admit!
Third, Anderson writes with an irenic spirit, but that does not keep him from exhorting the church to do better. Anderson’s plea for churches to be communities where people feel it is safe to raise questions is a needed reminder. I have seen many fall off the planet spiritually because, among other things (there usually are several factors), they did not have the liberty to ask probing questions. I have also had people convey to me how grateful they were for a learning environment where any and all “sacred cows” could be discussed.
Anderson is concerned that evangelicals so quickly set up and then guard their “intellectual enclaves.” If you wonder whether these echo chambers are common (and by all means question it!), ask yourself how many Christian organizations, schools, denominations, and parachurch ministries have people who are willing to critique their own. If you think whistleblowers are uncommon in corporate America, I’m not sure how much better we evangelicals are doing.
Last, Anderson’s book reminds us that lament is a proper response to the pain of living in a fallen world. In my own teaching, I say that “we Americans know how to cry, but not lament.” Lament is a form of worship as Michael Card powerfully describes in A Sacred Sorrow. Anderson gets this. In perhaps his most important line of the entire book, Anderson writes, “The absence of genuine, sorrowful mourning in our worship services and communities is more to blame for the rise of doubt and instability among younger Christians than any French philosopher ever could be.”
Chew on that next time you are tempted to think the threats to us Christians are mainly external. For this and so much more, you’ll do yourself a favor by reading Anderson’s winsome and insightful book.