When Everything’s On Fire: Faith Forged from the Ashes By: Brian Zahnd Publisher: IVP (November 9, 2021) Hardcover: 192 pages ISBN-13: 978-1514003336
Reviewed by Will David McCorkle
I think this is one of the most important books for our time. Zahnd in his book tackles the topic of deconstruction—how it is both often needed but also can be a dead end. How it can be good when it leads to needed reconstruction but can also lead to complete nihilism. In the end, Zahnd sides with the likes of Dostoevsky over Nietzsche.
Zahnd first does talk about his own deconstruction at the age of 45 after growing up in the Jesus Movement that slowly drifted further and further to the right and into fundamentalism. He not only changed his views on politics, nationalism, and militarism, but he also changed some of his beliefs about Christianity itself including his beliefs on eschatology, eternal torment, and the interpretation of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.
While Zahnd does think this re-examination (or as he describes it, being born again again) was deeply important, he warns that much of the current movement of deconstructionism is based in a false trust that we have in the West on the rationale and modernism. We often believe if we cannot actually prove something empirically or by the scientific method, it is not true. When this comes to faith, it is a dead end—you cannot empirically prove the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, or any other tenant of the Christian faith (though he would argue there is sufficient proof to start on that journey).
Though Zahnd compared to many ministers is deeply intellectual and well versed in history, philosophy, and theology, he in some ways goes back to his Jesus Movement roots when it comes to how to actually work through the realities of deconstruction. The only way is to be open to the mystical and spiritual and believing that you can actually have a real experience with God. If you are trying to rationally prove every tenant of your faith, it is a dead end. If you actually ask God to reveal himself to you, you may be surprised what happens. He details some of his own mystical experiences that cannot be proven, but are nonetheless real. He quotes the Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner, who told us that the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.
I would highly recommend this book. It is one of the most needed books for our time.