Ed Cyzewski is one of the most encouraging Christian writers I know. He writes in a straightforward, accessible, non-preachy way, and he is incredibly self-effacing and funny.
The picture at the head of this article shows his slim little volume, measuring 1/2″ thick. At the bottom of this review is a short stack of theological books, measuring about 4 1/2″. These address the same issues Ed tackles in A Christian Survival Guide. I could have piled on more to go as broad as Ed does.
Why this comparison? So you understand what type of book Ed has written.
A Christian Survival Guide is not a verse-by-verse systematic study of theology. It is a simple guide to the larger picture of faith in Christ and how that impacts our daily growth. Yet Ed manages to address briefly and with humor practically every difficult area of struggle people often end up wrangling about with God.
His guide is written in winsome, everyday language, making this small book appealing to anyone who is puzzled by faith, God’s actions, or by the explanations they’ve been given. This book is for someone who doesn’t want to read straight-up theology, who, in fact, might be turned off by the very idea.
I am a lover of theology. Give me a pile of systematic theology texts, an inductive Bible study by Precept International, and my Logos online study platform, and I’m in Christian Theological Geek Heaven. If you want to investigate that way, I’m your girl.
Yet, in spite of all my personal studying and discovering of answers that satisfy me, I found Ed’s approach to difficult issues unique and mind-stretching. The way he words his questions, the application of God’s unchanging nature yet flexibility within each culture and era, and his deep love and trust of God’s goodness temper everything Ed writes.
I found some of Ed’s explanations the best I’d ever seen given of these difficult topics. In other areas, I had reached different conclusions in my own study. Nevertheless, Ed approaches every issue with an eye to both God’s goodness and justice, while giving complete acknowledgement to the tension in each. I heavily underlined his introduction and all his discussions of violence, evil, and the nature of pain.
Ed poses questions, offers his thoughts, and gently assures the reader that God can be trusted, that he does love us. Yet, Ed reminds the reader throughout the book that his guide cannot and does not attempt to answer every question.
If Ed had been writing in 1995 when I had my own faith battle with God, this book would have been a gentle arm about my shoulders turning me back to face God and to listen to what he had to say.
Ed and I have some theological differences, yet none centered around the gospel, so there’s no need to list our dissimilar conclusions. However, he presents his ideas in such a thoughtful way that he helped me to understand the other “side” of issues. In fact, I think this is one of the best things about this book. It allows the reader to grasp the thinking of other Christians as they consider who God is and why he does things as he does.
In-fighting between Christians drives people away from the church and causes people to doubt their faith. Yet there is room in the church for different views on matters that are not central to the gospel.
Knowing how someone else thinks reminds us of their humanity and their reason, preventing us from dividing over disputable matters. Ed’s book provides an important bridge for people to understand one another. This book is for thinkers, not knee-jerk reactors.
Ed gives help to those who question God with white-hot fury, as I once did, or with disillusioned coldness. But he also helps those of us who fought that battle with God a long time ago. We would do well to remember that fight. Recalling our own struggles gives us compassion for those currently struggling with the same issues. Well done, Ed!