When Trevin Wax wrote Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After, he did not mean it to be a conventional novel, but rather “a narrative about two people engaging the big questions of life”. Even so, the characters are so realistic and loveable and their conversations are so compelling that the book filled me with emotion. This is how to talk about some of the big questions related to Christianity…and it is a good story besides.
Chris, engaged to Ashley and involved with a new church plant, finds himself overwhelmed with doubts. Just a month ago he came face to face with the incredible hypocrisy of someone he had revered and even looked up to as a role model. If faith could be faked so well and so long, perhaps the faith itself was false. That worry, even more than his unorthodox religion professor, changed his whole life.
Chris loves Ashely but now it bothers him that she is so certain about who she is and so confident in Christ. Chris feels the opposite, and when Ashley urges him to talk to his grandfather, a former pastor, and to forgive his father, he feels that she is being far too simplistic. He wants to be free from her.
And then his grandfather, Gil, has a stroke.
A few months later, while he is still recovering, Chris comes to care for him for a weekend. Gil has not lost his sharp mind, and the two discuss all sorts of issues over meals, while Chris shovels the sidewalk, during physiotherapy, and more. While constantly showing his love for Chris, Gil stays true to his love for King Jesus.
Chris and Gil tackle topic after topic. Religion. Truth. Evangelization. Repentance. Morals. Homosexuality. Hypocrisy. Parenting. Grace. Love. God’s good news is explained and our sin is pointed out. Gil honestly and transparently deals with all the questions that Chris has but does not really want to discuss.
Trevin Wax manages to share so much biblical wisdom while at the same time presenting both Chris and Gil as real people. I identify deeply with both of them, and I think many Christians would agree with me. Although I rarely cry when reading, my eyes filled with tears a few times as I read Clear Winter Nights.
At one point I was reminded of Peter Kreeft’s The Best Things in Life (link to my review). Trevin Wax shows Christianity in action whereas Kreeft shows logic in action. While Kreeft is very worthwhile, Clear Winter Nights fills a unique place in Christian apologetics and ministry to questioning Christians. It also shows the love of God for those who are doubting, and above all it reminds us that we are all messed up, that we all need to repent, and that we cannot do so on own.
When author Trevin Wax was asked “What do you hope readers will take away from the story of Chris and Gil?” he responded, “That we can talk about big ideas with winsomeness and love. That we can walk alongside people with struggles without belittling them or their doubts. That the gospel is true and powerful and impacts everything about our lives.” In one way that about sums up the book, although it does leave out the wonderful characters and the love.
May the Lord bless this book and its message!
Disclosure: I was given an e-copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books review program. As usual, I have expressed my honest opinion and am not compensated for this review.