Review: The End of Our Exploring by Matthew Lee Anderson

5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Matthew Lee Anderson
Publisher: Moody Collective
Buy The End of Our Exploring
Reading Level: Moderate

Let me just say up front: I thoroughly enjoyed The End of Our Exploring and I highly recommend it. It may be my favorite read of the half-year. Matthew engages a topic that’s crucial for the church today. Many people who grew up in the church are setting their course as adults and questioning everything. Some of these questions are better than others, but many are asked without the desire for any answers. In short, it’s become trendy to become a skeptic a la Rob Bell. All questions. No answers. Matthew offers a better path, one which ends somewhere. One which is ground in Christ. He says, “I am chiefly concerned to explore whether we can question well and what such questioning might look like” (p. 12).

He makes a piercing insight I thought would share. He points out we all grapple with different questions which shake our faith. He rightly points out children and young people often question the most, but don’t have the depth of life experience to question well. Some questions then can’t be asked without the proper life context. “The art of questioning takes a lifetime to perfect, for the most interesting questions flow from a deep well of insight” (p. 21).

I see this as a major problem in the young, restless, and reformed crowd. Many of the YRR do not have the life experience to be asking the right questions for life’s toughest problems. Or to be answering them for others. Yet here we have reformed theology with seemingly “easy” answers to sin and suffering. God is sovereign. So we go around answering every one’s struggles with the hard realities of our fallen world without the life experience to answer their questions meaningfully and also without actually reading our most thoughtful forefathers--the people who actually lived, struggled, and breathed these truths (p. 26 “Learning to Ask Better Questions”). This passage sums up my hope nicely,

Compared to the easy answers, the long, tumultuous, and frequently painful work of seeking understanding seems really hard and generally useless. . . . But questioning well means more than “finding an answer” so that we can simply get on with our lives. Those who inquire well must move from answers to understanding, from the instant gratification of our need for comfort and security toward the deepened desire for the enduring good of wisdom. (p. 72)

He also lays the groundwork for questioning well by demonstrating not all questions are good questions. He starts in the Garden and reminds us of Satan’s question, “Did God really say?” Says Matthew, “The question itself casts a shadow over the Lord God and His kindness, a shadow that becomes a shadow of death” (p. 34). Matthew asks a crucial question in this regard, “The first thing to ask when our faith is ‘called into question,’ as Adam and Eve’s was, is whether the inquiry is an invitation to join the rebellion. Does the form of the question itself presuppose hostility toward God?” (p. 37). A lot of the questioning I heard is an invitation to rebellion and sweeps many people who are questioning with good faith into the depths where they can’t swim.

My favorite chapter was, “On Doubt and What Doubt Isn’t.” Matthew questions those who praise doubt as the highest virtue and suggests asking questions within the framework of the creeds as the path to truth, beauty, and goodness (p. 49). He advocates not for the brow-beating confidence of fundamentalism, triumphalism, or shallow faith, but rather a confidence grounded in Jesus Christ who died for us.

I could go on and on sharing favorite passages from The End of Our Exploring. I’ll save something for your reading. I’ll end with this: I appreciated Matthew’s writing. It had depth. You could tell he took his time. He searched Scripture, listened to people, and asked life’s toughest questions when the time was right. That came across in this book. What he says doesn’t come across as simple. He also doesn’t stop with questioning but lands on some answers. For those doubting, feeling jaded, and questioning you won’t find a better book to guide you on your journey.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received The End of Our Exploring free from Moody. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”