Perhaps: Reclaiming the Space Between Doubt and Dogmatism, By Joshua M. McNall alt


Reclaiming the Space Between Doubt and Dogmatism

by Joshua M. McNall

  • Length: 260 pages
  • Published: September 21, 2021
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5521
  • ISBN: 9780830855216

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The Christian life requires faith. That means that believers are sometimes faced with uncertainty. But is all uncertainty bad?

Theologian Joshua McNall encourages readers to reclaim the little word "perhaps" as a sacred space between the warring extremes of unchecked doubt and zealous dogmatism. To say "perhaps" on certain contested topics means exercising a hopeful imagination, asking hard questions, returning once again to Scripture, and reclaiming the place of holy speculation as we cling to a faith that stands distinct from both pervasive skepticism and abrasive certainty.

In this day especially, it's time Christians learned to say "perhaps."

"Perhaps a meadow exists between dogmatism and skepticism, a fruitful space for cultivating beautiful truth. Perhaps Origen, Augustine, and Edwards can converse there with Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy. Perhaps instead of rehearsing or debunking information, we can foster theological imagination. Perhaps Joshua McNall's wit and wisdom has pointed the church toward a better future. Perhaps we should listen."

Matthew W. Bates, author of Gospel Allegiance and associate professor of theology at Quincy University

"Drawing on the best insights from believers, thinkers, and artists of the past, Perhaps demonstrates that the brightest future of the church will be cultivated through the kind of theological imagination modeled here. Such an imagination—robust and inviting, informed and inquisitive—encourages a confidence in Christian belief that, paradoxically, can come only with a willingness to wonder what might be. Perhaps is one of the most faith-building books I've read in a long time."

Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books and Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me

"In a polarized world with the rigidity of fundamentalisms on the one hand and the nihilism of skepticisms on the other, McNall enters to sketch a way forward for the holiness of intellectual humility. This is a creative book that not only argues winsomely from Scripture, theology, and literature, but also invites the reader into a narrative that portrays how the weight of its claims press on everyday life. Perhaps will be especially helpful for the student wrestling with the challenges of Christian orthodoxy, and all looking for breathing room to wonder, hope, and ultimately, trust."

James M. Arcadi, associate professor of biblical and systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Faith is not knowing all truth. And faith is not making it up as you go along either. McNall presents faith as an expedition into the unknown led by a known God. This is a hope-filling book that intentionally does not give you all the answers. Pilgrims: take this book with you on your journey."

Nijay K. Gupta, professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary

Read an Excerpt


Introduction: Farewell, Pangaea

Part One: Understanding Perhaps
1. What Abraham Discovered: Faith Seeking Imagination
2. "Perhapsing" Church Tradition: Origen, Julian, and Jonathan Edwards
3. Guardrails on Moriah: How (Not) to Say Perhaps

Part Two: Against Dogmatism
4. Survival of the Shrillest: What Dogmatism Sounds Like
5. The Trouble with Certainty: A Guide to "Knowing Darkly"
6. We Three Kings: Scripture Contra Dogmatism

Part Three: Against Doubt
7. Descending Santa Scala: How Scripture Counters Doubt and the Divided Heart
8. Cogito ergo None? A Snapshot of Conversion
9. Split Brains or Divided Hearts? A Snapshot Continued

Part Four: Practicing Perhaps
10. Dead Animals: Creation, Science, and Prehuman Sacrifice
11. What If God? Rethinking Vessels of Wrath
12. After the End: The Marriage Supper and the Great Divorce

Name Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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Author of Joshua McNall

Joshua M. McNall (PhD, University of Manchester) is associate professor of pastoral theology, ambassador of church relations, and director of the honors program at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. He is the author of The Mosaic of Atonement: An Integrated Approach to Christ's Work, Long Story Short: The Bible in Six Simple Movements, and A Free Corrector: Colin Gunton and the Legacy of Augustine.