Rabbi Wolpe: Finding Meaning in Faith

Wolfe_review_08212014David J. Wolpe. 2008.  Why Faith Matters.  New York:  HarperOne.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Rabbi David J. Wolpe’s book, Why Faith Matters, came to my attention as I prepared to teach a class on Hebrews 11. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Wolpe is more philosophical and focuses on the quest for meaning. “Faith believes in the legitimacy of asking ‘why’–that the very question is an animating force in life” (193). While I am interested in the question and believe that faith is a journey, the truth of faith begins with its content. Wolpe provided me with snapshots of brilliance when what I searched for was direction in faith’s journey. Though we travel different paths at this point, I loved his book.

Wolpe’s strengths as a writer include his ability to dialog with the reader, his keen insight into the human condition, and his brilliant analytical mind. In his prelude, for example, he tells the story of a man using his sickness to teach his children and grandchildren how to die. He writes about his friend Isaac: “Here was a chance to teach his greatest lesson. They would remember much about him to be sure, but they would never forget how he died” (xiv).  As a pastor, I have used this lesson in hospital visits.

Wolpe is a master of the anecdote.  Pick a page; find a story.  One I liked was the man standing before God in heaven.  Wolpe writes:

“Dear God…Look at all the suffering, the anguish and distress in Your world. Why don’t you send help?”..God responded:  “I did send help. I sent you” (38-39).

Those of us that go from point A to point B to point C can only stand and applaud.

After a brief prelude, Wolpe organizes his book into 8 chapters:

  1. From faith to doubt;
  2. Where does religion come from?
  3. Does religion cause violence?
  4. Does science disprove religion?
  5. What does religion really teach?
  6. Reading the Bible;
  7. Is religion good for you? And
  8. Why faith matters.

His introduction is written by Pastor Rick Warren.  Rabbi Wolpe was honored as the number 1 pulpit Rabbi in America.

Wolpe’s brilliance comes in getting to the heart of complex matters quickly. Why do atheists try to make science into a religion? They confuse puzzles (which can be figured out) with mysteries (which are unsolvable) (11). Why does Nietzsche dislike democracy and Christianity? He is a classicist who prefers the morality of masters (classical view) over that of slaves (Christian view) (48-49).

Wolpe’s writing is a joy because of these many insights and anecdotes.

Rabbi Wolpe: Finding Meaning in Faith

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net

Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com


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