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Clear Winter Nights: A Journey into Truth, Doubt, and What Comes After Hardcover – September 17, 2013
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Q&A with Trevin Wax
Q. Your other books are non-fiction, so what inspired you to try your hand at fiction?
A. I started out writing fiction, actually. As a teenager, I wrote lots of short stories and enjoyed circulating them among my classmates, friends, and family members. In some ways, writing fiction again is like going back to my roots as a writer. I thought it would fun to dive into a fictional world and create some characters who could engage in dialogue about the big questions of life and faith
Q. The book is described as “theology in story.” How would you describe your purpose in that?
A. That's a way of saying, "This isn't your normal fiction book." I'm being up front about the purpose of the story - to teach. Readers who pick up this book will learn something from the characters and their questions and conversations. It's not just a theology book, because this is a narrative about two people engaging the big questions of life. Neither is it just a fiction book, because there are certainly some theological teachings that come through in the dialogue. It's both - theology in story.
Q. The main character, 22-year-old Chris Walker, starts to doubt his faith during his senior year of college. Why do so many young people go through a season of questioning and doubt?
A. A lot of kids grow up in the church and they're taught what to think, but not necessarily how to think. Then they go off to college, run into people with radically different perspectives on the world, and it causes a crisis of faith. They aren't sure whether or not they will stick with the Christianity they grew up with. So they wonder, "Do I just go through the motions of my faith? Or do I really own my faith? Or do I walk away?"
Q. How can parents, pastors and friends support those who are asking the tough questions or who have been disillusioned by faith?
A. Don't ever be dismissive of tough questions. At the same time, look at the questions behind the questions. Often, the questions are not merely intellectual quandaries but are connected to issues of morality, personal choices, and relationships. We are not talking heads doing theology in outer space somewhere. We are real people in a real world who are wrestling with truth at all sorts of levels. It's important for parents and pastors and friends to not rush to judgment, but to walk alongside those who have doubts.
Q. Does Chris discover that the faith of his grandfather is still relevant today? How does he come to understand that truth is unchanging even in an ever-changing world?
A. I don't want to give away too much of the book. I think what surprises Chris the most is how Gil peels back the layer of his heart to show the root issues of many of his problems. Gil is never satisfied to just give answers. He throws questions back at Chris in a way that challenges his way of thinking.
Q. Chris struggles with the hypocrisy he sees in other Christians. How does Grandpa Gil help him process through this?
A. Two ways: by helping Chris see that his disdain for hypocrisy is actually rooted in the Christian faith he's doubting. And by modeling for Chris what authentic, humble Christianity is.
Q. How does Gil explain evangelism to Chris? How had Chris’ experiences of studying religion in college affect whether he knew God or just knew about God?
A. Again, I don't want to give away too much of the content of their conversations, but I will say this: Gil shows Chris that it's not inherently intolerant to persuade others to put their faith in Jesus. He also shows how scholarship can be either a tool to help us know and love God more, or something that distances us from God's claim on our life. It's not enough to know about God. God wants us to know Him.
Q. Does Chris resolve all of his doubts by the end of the weekend he spends with his grandfather?
A. Readers will have to pick up the book to find out, of course! I would just say that this is a realistic look at faith and doubt and truth, and that a happy end with a person's doubts erased after a few conversations isn't the way real life works. Not when there are serious issues and struggles being faced. That said, there is a resolution to the book that I think will prove satisfying to most readers.
Q. What do you hope readers will take away from the story of Chris and Gil?
A. 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.
“Trevin Wax’s Clear Winter Nights is an engaging story about something fresh and vital—the old kind of Christian, transformed by Christ, doing battle with sin, relying on Jesus day after day. The book raises honest questions and offers honest answers based on what’s rock solid, not on our culture’s ever-shifting worldview. I enjoyed the moving
relationship between a young man and an old one, with history, heritage, mentoring, and friendship. I found Clear Winter Nights to be warm, compelling, and thought provoking.”
—Randy Alcorn, author of Heaven, Deception, and If God Is Good
“The best novels leave you wanting more. As I read Clear Winter Nights, I wanted to join the characters’ conversations and felt the pain of separation from them when I finished. Trevin Wax has given us the gift of a compelling story about family, doubt, faith, and the biggest questions of life.”
—Collin Hansen, editorial director for The Gospel Coalition and co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir
“Trevin Wax takes you on an honest intellectual and emotional journey as he explores the exclusive claims of Christ that everyone has struggled with at some time or another. His characters draw the reader into the conversation and leave you feeling satisfied about where they end up, bringing in a whole new dynamic to how we typically approach
—Matt Carter, co-author of The Real Win
“‘Tell all the truth, but tell it slant,’ said Emily Dickinson. This book does exactly that. This book goes to the guts of the gospel, and it shares the good news story straight by telling it slant. Thank you, Trevin Wax, for putting your imagination as well as your theology in service to Christ.”
—Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University and general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture
“Chris is struggling with his faith in God, his relationships are falling apart, and he doesn’t know where to turn. He doesn’t have to go far to find a faithful friend in his grandfather. Trevin Wax’s Clear Winter Nights tackles faith, doubt, theology, the person of Christ, evangelism, and our struggle with sin. Clear and insightful; the pages pour out God’s amazing grace to sinners and His unfailing love to those who’ve wandered away. A perfect book for anyone with questions about faith in the one true God.”
—Trillia Newbell, author and writer, and editor of Women of God Magazine
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Top Customer Reviews
Knowing that I read a fair amount of fiction Trevin asked me to review the first draft and a subsequent draft. He even asked me to help suggest a title. Mine, I report with dismay, was not chosen. I also suggested an alternate opening. His editors rejected it.
I am beginning to see a trend regarding my attempts to be published by a major publishing house. I need better editors.
It should be known that I had a difficult time with this review. I did not like the first draft at all and told Trevin as much. I do not read a lot of Christian fiction for the same reasons many people do not listen to a lot of Christian music. Alcorn and Randall Arthur are notable exceptions. My most consumed fiction authors are John Grisham, Dennis LeHane, Michael Connelly and Stephen Hunter. Other than Grisham these authors return to the same characters over and over, creating broad geographies of backstory and narrative. Stand alone stories have to be off the charts to keep my interest.
Sub-titled, "A journey into truth, doubt, and what comes after," the Clear Winter Nights story is a vehicle for addressing faith and doubt. Most of the book is dialogue connected by limited narrative. The dialogue is good not great, but does contain a few nice turns of phrase. The theology is solid. No Christian should have concerns with reading this book themselves or giving to a friend, believer or no.
The primary characters are Chris and Gil, grandson and grandfather.Read more ›
I absolutely loved and enjoyed this book. No it is not a great book (as one reviewer wrote) but it is a really, really good one. It is a book that is enjoyable, not academic. It is a book that essentially anyone could read and be entertained yet at the same time come away with loving and accurate theology about big questions they may have about Christianity. It is a book for questioners, for doubters, and especially for people who want to be Christians yet who cannot see clearly a way to do that and still be loving. That was me several months ago, and this book would have been devoured by me eagerly back then...imagine...a way to be a Christian--an evangelical--a conservative person--who DOES want to believe in Bible doctrine--YET to also live their lives in a way that would be loving! I would have been absolutely blown away!
As it was, I enjoyed it so much and am going to buy more copies for people I know who are sitting on the fence as I was--Christians who no longer attend church, who can really identify with the main character Chris, a young man about to make major decisions about his life. As they read this novel, they will learn so much from his wise, tender, loving, Bible-believing retired pastor grandfather Gil, just as I did.
The book is essentially a discussion--a life-changing discussion--that takes place over just a few days at Gil's house while Chris takes care of him. There is some plot that is intriguing, but the book is not action-oriented. Despite this seeming flaw, it completely held my interest as Chris took on many questions that unbelievers and believers ask today. Gil answers them in honest and forthright ways.Read more ›
Clear Winter Nights is the story of Chris Walker, an idealist and thinker facing a crisis of belief. At a crossroads in life, he questions it all. Like most, there are contributing factors to Chris's doubt, yet one overshadows them all. The truth behind the divorce of his parents, discovered at the funeral of his grandmother, collides with the seeds of doubt planted by a college professor.
Wanting to limit collateral damage Chris takes a break from his relationship with his fiancé, Ashley, a warm and strong follower of Christ. Chris retreats for a weekend to assist his grandfather who recently suffered a stroke. Gil, Chris's grandfather is a retired pastor. Gil's concern for the path Chris is taking stirs lively discussion throughout the weekend on faith and life.
Trevin Wax, Managing Editor for the Gospel Project at Lifeway Christian Resources, prolific blogger at the Gospel Coalition, and author of Counterfeit Gospels and Holy Subversion, leaves his readers at the end of Clear Winter Nights speculating what might come next. Would Chris and Ashley marry? Would Chris partner in the church plant? What shape might Chris's faith take in the next few years? Unlike many storytellers, Wax does not tie the story in a neat little bow with a "...and they lived happily ever after." Chris still has questions. All plot is not resolved. I found this to be a strength of Clear Winter Nights.
Not only did Clear Winter Nights leave me considering Chris's future, I also wondered about who I'd become.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I think this book really helped me think through the post modern struggles that this generation faces. Read morePublished 23 days ago by Paul Beech
Trevin does a great job weaving together many great Christian truths into this story. Through the stroking line, he addresses many questions believers and unbelievers have about... Read morePublished on March 10, 2014 by Nick Jackson
Chris thinks he has his life all planned out. He is due to graduate, has a job lined up in a company being started by a friend, and he is engaged to be married. Read morePublished on February 28, 2014 by Sherry Keller
In Clear Winter Nights you will meet Chris Walker, a 22-year-old college graduate, engaged, member of a church start-up committee and pretty sure about almost everything, until his... Read morePublished on February 25, 2014 by Henk-Jan van der Klis
What I think!…. Have you ever had doubts about your life, or faith, or maybe what is happening to you at this time in your life? Read morePublished on January 19, 2014 by ibjoy1953
It was a great read for cold winter nights. This is a story about conversations a man has with his grandpa, who was a former minister. Read morePublished on January 9, 2014 by Jenni B
Sometimes, the smallest books with the simplest of premises pack the biggest punches. Such is my experience with Clear Winter Nights by Trevin Wax. Read morePublished on January 3, 2014 by Amazon Customer
Chris thought he had it all going for him. Freshly graduated from college, a beautiful fiancee, a position of leadership in a budding church plant waiting for him... Read morePublished on December 30, 2013 by Christy