Ruth A. Tucker, Walking Away from Faith: Unraveling the Mystery of Belief & Unbelief.
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

It was a rainy day in Georgia, and my outside jobs were put on hold for the weekend. The wet weather however, was a welcomed relief. As I watched it rain, it occurred to me that I needed to get the mail. Braving the rain, I ran quickly to the road and collected the mail from the box. Once inside, I inspected the parcel of books. I did not realize that one would demand my total attention the rest of the day.

The title was very clever, Walking Away from Faith. Naively I thought, another book dealing with the topic of Eternal Security. The writer, Ruth Tucker, Ph.D., is an associate professor of missiology at the famed Calvin Theological Seminary. That within itself was tell-tale, unless she was about to renounce her Calvinist theology. But as I read it, I soon realized that there was no real compromise in her theology. If not that, then what theological mischief was she up too?

From the very outset of the book, she made it clear that she in no way would be impacted by whatever apostasy had affected those she was writing about. She separated herself from these apostates by saying, “unlike these who have abandoned the faith, I will not — if for no other reason than the mysterious fact that God has a grip on me.” She continued to assure her readers of the Reformed position that her “salvation does not depend on the strength of” her “faith; it depends only on God’s grace.” A truer friend of Calvin can not be found in the light of the testimonies that she researched and reports.

Hence, she sets up her case for those who seemingly “walk away from faith.” As I read on it became very depressing and frustrating to follow. Were these people who “walked away from faith,” really saved or not? According to her, there is no reason to believe that they were anything but true believers.

For example, using the account of Dan Barker’s collapsed faith, she says, “Was he never a Christian? I can claim that, if it is the only way his story fits my theological system, but this means my not taking him at his word. Or I could say that although he claims he is no longer a Christian, he really is, but that would also be dismissing him. For I have no reason to assume that he will come back to faith during his lifetime.” Another example she used is the story of Chuck Templeton, who after working as a highly successful evangelist, became a celebrated agnostic. There were others who seemed to follow his example too. She spoke of a student at Moody Bible Institute who also turned from God because he was frustrated with his sexuality. Her book parades a litany of true stories of those who she considered to have fallen from faith. That is the general content of the book. Story after story of people committing personal apostasy, and even drawing others away from Christ.

While this book does speak to reasons why these people fell from grace, or walk away from faith, she seems to blame the philosophy of humanism for most of their destruction.

She also used these cases to build the idea that we all are tempted from time to time to do what these apostates did. Somehow her view of “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” means that we can not help but have this problem too. While this could be true, the real question is why would God have a “grip” on her and be cruel enough to let others slip out of His hand and into hell? Perhaps this is part of her mischief. Maybe this is a new way of proving the sovereign grace of unconditional election for some.

At first glance the book may have seemed a victory for Methodist Arminianism. However this book shows more of the same old reasoning from our Calvinist and Baptist friends. As far as I am concerned, it is only a victory if they admit that they could truly apostatize themselves. If anything is proven by the book, it is the need to take heed lest you fall. Many of the people she speaks of were successful in their calling and walked away from faith. Personally, I do not take apostasy lightly. Of all the evils, it is the most dangerous because it has the potential to be final.

Glancing out of my study window, and watching the rain pound the drive way, I was left with some ponderous thoughts. If the possibility of personal apostasy is not her point, then what is? After giving these real life examples, why does she not see how invalid her theology is in its application? While the book is touted as a no-holds-barred book, in which Ruth Tucker tackles the tough questions about losing faith, more is promised than the book delivers. Although Tucker will allow there are exceptions to the rule, those exceptions never cause her to examine the biblical basis for her Calvinistic presuppositions.

Dennis Hartman

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