Decades ago my friend-since-college Tommy McDearis (now pastor of Blacksburg Baptist Church across from Virginia Tech) introduced me to Bob Maddox who became my friend as well. An excellent pastor and insightful writer, Bob also served the White House as a speechwriter and religious liaison for the Carter administration.
In his new book, A Faith Journey: No Boundaries, No Conclusions, newly published by Nurturing Faith, Bob shares his 80-year (thus far) journey — not as a roadmap for others but as a reminder that our trails of faith are unique, reshaping and largely of our own choosing.
Unlike those who encapsulate faith and practice in narrow dogma and stiff legalism, Bob throws up the doors of spiritual inquiry without fear of going beyond God’s grace and grandeur. He is as comfortable with unanswered questions as with new discoveries.
“I am a God person,” he affirms. “…Wholly other yet completely here…The universe is on my side. This God is for me as love, an incomprehensible positive force.”
Through eight decades of “faithing,” Bob retains a healthy skepticism that guards one from the arrogance of spiritual certitude.
“I do not know any of this beyond the shadow of a doubt, nor do I need to know any of this beyond the shadow of a doubt,” he confesses. “Existential confidence intermingles with restless ambiguity. I choose this basic affirmation as a secure place to stand.”
Such an affirmation provides the needed guardrails for a journey of faith without self-limitation — as Bob reveals in a personal, reflective and insightful way.
There is no doubt as to the focus of his faith and model for living: “I emphatically affirm I am a Jesus person, existentially, first, last, and always… This ever-present Jesus remains an axial figure in world history and increasingly in my own journey.”
Writing something of a spiritual biography rich in theology as well as experience, Bob doesn’t get hung up on “my way” of faith as a preferred model for others. Rather he draws from the many influences that have shaped his life and offers them as resources for those doing their own “faithing” in different times and settings.
His book is more of an invitation, and encouragement, to embrace the challenges and rewards, faith and doubt, and ups and downs of a life not haunted by fear but driven by the grand possibilities of abundant living.
Unlike those who consider life to be the playing out of some divine script, Bob believes strongly in individual freedom.
“My faithing perspective is basically religious, my own reach for and into the transcendent, if you let me lay out religion as I understand it,” he wrote. “Religion at its bare-boned roots means to choose.”
Bob Maddox doesn’t prescribe a religious journey that calls for us to pick up his map and follow along. Rather he describes a solitary personal life from which we can draw insights that help us to chart our own faith journeys in seeking to follow Jesus.
Those who read this book will know more due to the abundant, well-cited references as well as personal recollections — and feel more compelled to face each day as an unfolding, divine gift that calls for our best thinking, believing and acting in the ways of Jesus.
Order the book here.