Chris is a young man who appears to be on his way to a good marriage, a job in the ministry, and a promising future. He’s finishing college, engaged to his girlfriend Ashley, and working with a group of other young adults in planting a new church in Knoxville.
But Chris has doubts, and the doubts are growing. He’s not sure how much of the Bible he can accept as true. He’s feeling a lessening of the commitment to the church plant. And he doesn’t share the assurance that his girlfriend has about faith. What’s driving his thinking is something that happened in his past – the family abandoned by his father – and something happening in the present – the strong influence of a non-believing college professor.
Chris breaks off his engagement, walks away from the church plant, and is considering continuing his religious studies program to become a professor. If that sounds contradictory, that’s because it is. He is one confused guy.
He spends a few days leading up to the New Year’s holiday with his much-loved grandfather, a retired Baptist minister, a recent widower, and the victim of a recent stroke. The two will spend the holiday talking about faith, the Bible, belief, and what actually happened with Chris’s father. It will not be an easy conversation for either Chris or his grandfather.
Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After by Trevin Wax is written as a novel. But the story is more a discussion of doubt and faith, and what many young people raised in Christian homes struggle with in their personal lives and the culture at large.
Wax is the Bible and Reference Publisher at Lifeway Christian Resources, general editor of The Gospel Project, a blogger at The Gospel Coalition, and a teaching pastor. He is also the author of Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals (2010); Counterfeit Gospel: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope (2011); Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the Scripture (2013); and This is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel (2017). He and his family live in Nashville, Tennessee.
Clear Winter Nights doesn’t have a nice, all-loose-ends-tired-up-and-all-doubts-resolved type of ending. That’s what make it seems so real, not only in the lives of young people but in the lives of many older ones as well. Wax tells a good story, and he tells a real one.
Top photograph by Allessandro Viaro via Unsplash. Used with permission.