Saturday, January 25, 2014

Book Review - Stepping Out In Faith: Former Catholics Tell Their Stories

Edited by Mark Gilbert

  Mark Gilbert choses eleven former Catholics to tell the stories of their spiritual journeys to find peace with God.   While all of the stories are of people who left the Catholic Church, Mark Gilbert’s purpose is not to disparage the Catholic Church, but to show what errors of doctrine keep people from finding peace with God and to show how many people have found that peace.  In fact, some of the stories express appreciation for certain experiences they had within the Catholic Church.  One example of this is when story teller Alex Morbelli says “As I read and discussed God’s word with the others in the group I realized how important my Catholic upbringing, which had given me an understanding of many important truths, actually was.” She then goes into some detail about what she already knew and believed about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The titles of each story reveal the key weakness or need in a person around which their story of finding healing in Jesus Christ’s finished work becomes possible. These titles are:
  •     When everything else is gone
  •     Confident in God’s love
  •     A wretch like me
  •     The ultimate fresh start
  •     Letting in air and light
  •     Words of eternal life
  •     Authentic church
  •     No more fear
  •     Learning to trust
  •     A retired Catholic
  •     Certainty for eternity

Each story explains in the story tellers words, how he/she came to see the impossibility of pleasing God through good works.  These are stories of substance and written in such a way that people can easily identify with them. There is enough variety in the circumstances to make each story interesting, yet there is a unity to the stories that helps tie them together in a way that accomplishes the author’s purpose of helping Catholics not yet at peace with God, to find the way to that peace.

The strength of this book is the way in which Mark Gilbert accomplishes his purpose.  Each story is quite believable, not written in an academic way yet not trivial and provides enough detail for the reader to identify in some way with the storyteller. He bookends the stories with an introduction and a final chapter titled “Call to Action”, which gives the reader a sense of closure to the task Mark Gilbert set out to do and a gentle call to seek God out.

Some may find fault with the writing of some of the storytellers. Not all of the stories are polished, but I think that adds to the author’s ability to convey the depth of change that has occurred in ordinary people and validates the message of the book.   He is letting real people tell real stories. 

Also, for this American reviewer, the fact that many of the stories have Australian slang adds charm to the book.

I received this book for free from Matthias Media via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review.

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