Are there questions or realities your faith can't handle? Consider these discussion questions for groups and individuals from the new book After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World Is Shaken. For more resources on the book, including an online discussion on faith and doubt, visit the Patheos Book Club.
Kent Annan's book very personally explores some of life's big questions—faith, doubt and suffering. For Annan, the reason for taking on these subjects is the devastating earthquake in Haiti, where he has been working for eight years. But the same questions about suffering and uncertainty are relevant to each of our lives wherever we live—whether in relation to a cancer diagnosis, a child's accident, the suffering of a loved one, the poverty so many people face around the world or a million other occasions. Many of us face crises of faith at different times. Can we make it through these "after shocks" without denying either reality (in both its beauty and cruelty) or God? This is an honest, engaging—and ultimately hopeful—look at a difficult subject. We hope you'll find After Shock meaningful in your own search for honest faith.
1. Do you find it hard or easy to discuss the big questions about God? Explain.
2. What kinds of events—whether they happened to you or to someone you know, or on a large scale like 9/11 or an earthquake—have caused you to feel something like "spiritual aftershocks"? Explain.
3. Which kind of suffering do you find it hardest to understand—what is caused by nature ("acts of God") or by humans (people's cruelty to each other)? Why?
4. Kent lists (in "An Annotated Wish List," right before the chapter "Accept Uncertainty") some changes he would propose for God. What do you think of writing something like that down? What would be on your own list of how you'd like to see God work differently in the world? And why do you think God didn't do differently the things on Kent's list and your own?
5. What are the clichés about God that you find yourself or people around you using? (Kent discusses a few in the chapter "Spiritual Aftershocks.") What element of truth do they have? Why are they inadequate? What would be better to say instead?
6. Kent writes that he considers this more a psalm than a theological book about suffering, faith and doubt. What is the difference between a psalm or poem and something that tries to explain the answers? does it make a difference in how you read if the author isn't claiming to "answer" the problem but is trying instead to wrestle honestly with the questions?
7. How can a personal crisis of faith or questions about suffering lead us toward working for more justice?
8. Kent is a Christian—but he expresses that some days he also feels like an atheist or an agnostic, or in conflict with or indifferent toward God. What do you think of talking about faith like this? Can you identify with having faith (or lack of it) that varies in a similar way?
9. Kent mentions a few of the most meaningful psalms to him. discuss which psalms—or poems, songs or books—are most meaningful to you on the topics of faith/doubt/God and why.
10. Do you experience God as near? Do you experience God as distant? How?
11. Have you ever left your faith—and if so, did you come back to it? Why or why not? If you did return to your faith, what helped bring you back, and how was your faith different?
12. Is Jesus part of suffering for you? Kent prays to Jesus on the cross and Jesus gone from the cross (in the chapter "Jesus [Crucifix Versus Cross]"). Do you find Jesus most connected to our lives when you consider him (a) with us in our suffering or (b) as the one who rescues us from our suffering?
13. Kent writes that his search is for "honest faith." Do you ever encounter in yourself or in others something that seems like less-than-honest faith? How would you define "honest faith"?
Taken from After Shock: Searching for Honest Faith When Your World Is Shaken by Kent Annan. Copyright(c) 2011 by Kent Annan. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press PO Box 1400 Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com.
1/4/2011 5:00:00 AM