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Dear Chris: Letters on the Life of Faith.

By Warren McWilliams. Waco: Baylor University Press, 1999. 186 pp.

The call to be a university professor is unique. Even more unique is the call to teach religion in the context of a religious university. Many students who come to church-related universities do so with some background in the basic elements of the Christian faith. The religion professor must explore the intricacies of the Christian faith while often the student sees this type of study as either superfluous or erroneous. Academic approaches to the Christian faith and Scripture are often seen to be unneeded for the Christian student. Naively, students believe that since they know Jesus, they do not need to know anything else. If the religion professor treads any new water and covers material or approaches new to the student, the professor is often seen as lacking in faith and the new material is disregarded. However, some students who once espoused this approach, later come back to campus, call, or write after a few years of graduate study, ministry, or life in the "real world" when they face questions their nice and neat way of thinking cannot answer.

Warren McWilliams's Dear Chris: Letters on the Life of Faith, is a fictitious compilation of letters (or email messages) between Chris, a newspaper reporter, and his former religion professor, Dr. Mac. Bound for a career in the ministry, Chris heads off after college to seminary for a year, but does not return for the second year due to his questions and problems with theology, the Church, and the Christian faith. Throughout the one and one-half year email correspondence with Dr. Mac, Chris admits his past and present theological naivete, but now seeks the wisdom and counsel from Dr. Mac.

The correspondence is arranged by questions, experiences, and musings from Chris about theological issues and situations. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Mac teaches Chris that the important thing in his quest is not necessarily the answers, but that the questions often have more value. Dr. Mac and Chris toss around a plethora of subjects. They discuss the doctrines of Christ, God, and the Trinity. They study soteriology, eschatology, and pneumatology.

Together, they explore theodicy and ethical issues, such as in vitro fertilization. From Chris's various experiences, Dr. Mac offers advice in hermeneutics helping him to face issues of biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and interpretation. As Chris struggles with the institutionalization of the church, questions about women in ministry, worship styles, and pastoral authority arise.

McWilliams offers some help to religion professors, students, and laity who desire to approach hard issues with a sense of integrity. He points out that loving God with the mind is part of being created in God's image and that part of the joy of theology is not answering all the questions absolutely, but is finding the fortitude to answer questions with a definite "maybe."--Reviewed by Terry-Michael Newell Jr., Campus Minister, Campbell University, Buies Creek, North Carolina.
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Author:Newell, Terry-Michael, Jr.
Publication:Baptist History and Heritage
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1999
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