A Review of Rachel Held Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town

“I’m not yet thirty, but I feel as if over the past few years, my faith has experienced a life time of change.” So writes Rachel Held Evans’ in her book Evolving in Monkey Town that chronicles her at times confusing and difficult journey of a maturing faith as she wrestles with the questions about God, the Bible, science, and society after she graduates from a Christian College. A college at which she was taught to defend her faith but then found herself questioning its foundations and implications. Poignant and humorous, Evans’ book leads the reader through her childhood and high school years steeped in conservative Christianity. (Note: while some might call her upbringing “fundamentalist” and others “evangelical,” the broad definitions associated with both names make this reviewer choose to use the word conservative. On page 17 she does say, “I used to be a fundamentalist.) What I believe she most challenges, and is troubled by in her journey, is the overwhelming apologetic approach to faith that she ultimately found wanting. As the cracks appear in her own faith foundation, however, she does not run from her faith and thus disown it. She goes deeper into it. She does, what I believe is expressed by Paul who spoke of ‘working out your own salvation.’ Wrestling with the major social issues of the day, Evans re-examines the reasons given to her of why she should believe what she was being taught. Along the way she revisits the various aspects and, at times, interesting expressions of her Christian upbringing (illustrated in chapter 15 with the story of the Judgment Day event). As she walks through moments of great doubt, she comes to the place where she believes that “while I still believe Jesus died to save us from our sins, I’m beginning to think that Jesus also lived to save us from our sins… I do believe there is liberation in obedience. When we live like Jesus, when we take his teachings seriously and apply them to life, we don’t have to wait to die to experience freedom from sin.” This is a personal narrative of one person’s inner journey. If you are looking for a systematic statement of theology this is not the book for you. But if you are looking for an honest post-modern autobiography of a Christian believer, then I whole-heartedly recommendEvolving in Monkey Town. Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from its publisher, Zondervan, via a request for reviews by its author.

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