Published by HarperOne on November 2, 2021
A new collection of original writings by Rachel Held Evans, whose reflections on faith and life continue to encourage, challenge, and influence.
Rachel Held Evans is widely recognized for her theologically astute, profoundly honest, and beautifully personal books, which have guided, instructed, edified, and shaped Christians as they seek to live out a just and loving faith.
At the time of her tragic death in 2019, Rachel was working on a new book about wholeheartedness. With the help of her close friend and author Jeff Chu, that work-in-progress has been woven together with some of her other unpublished writings into a rich collection of essays that ask candid questions about the stories we’ve been told—and the stories we tell—about our faith, our selves, and our world.
This book is for the doubter and the dreamer, the seeker and the sojourner, those who long for a sense of spiritual wholeness as well as those who have been hurt by the Church but can’t seem to let go of the story of Jesus. Through theological reflection and personal recollection, Rachel wrestles with God’s grace and love, looks unsparingly at what the Church is and does, and explores universal human questions about becoming and belonging. An unforgettable, moving, and intimate book.
I’m convinced that everyone loved Rachel Held Evans, even those that hated her. Her winsome personality, passionate living, and way with words; her honesty, vulnerability, and transparency; her poignant insights, deep questions, and unbridled love—so many young Christians resonated with Rachel, her journey, and her willingness to call those in power to account while wrestling with the tension and contradiction of a faith that did not always seem to live up to its ideals.
She was taken from us far too soon, so suddenly, for a such a senseless reason. She had so much left to give. And in a way, her death personified the deep struggle with God that she’d written about so eloquently. Where’s the justice in this? Is there a God who cares? How could this happen? The strain of Christianity that Evans fought against offered pat answers to these questions. God is sovereign. He works all things together for the good. She’s in a better place. This world is not our home. Even in death, Rachel exposed the inadequacy and hollowness of these answers, inviting her fellow followers of Jesus to hold onto the nuance and tension, the grief and the anger, and grow in their relationship with a God deeper and wider than even the Sunday School song.
But this not a eulogy. Two and a half years after her death, Rachel Held Evans exists again in the form of a new book—one taken from a partially-completed first draft and other writings, published and unpublished—worked together and massaged into a cohesive whole by her friend and excellent writer himself, Jeff Chu. Wholehearted Faith is Rachel to the core. Her tone and vision shine through as she explores a faith that’s so much freer, bolder, and full of love than we’ve come to believe. If you read Rachel’s books in their order of publication, you can see her movement to this place of faith. What were seeds in Evolving in Monkey Town (2010), were in full and beautiful bloom by Wholehearted Faith. It wasn’t intended to be an end, but as an end—if only it didn’t mean her demise—it is satisfying.
In some ways, Wholehearted Faith is closure. You read this book knowing they are her last words, even though she herself didn’t know it at the time. Chu, and the team designing this book, have done a great job reflecting that. The early part of the book reads like a tribute to Evans as Chu explains how the book came to be. It’s maybe a bit lengthy, some readers will be pushing to get to Evans’ words, but it is a compelling introduction that is completely transparent about what the book is, what it is not, and why it is being published.
The second part of the book is Evans’ unfinished manuscript—about ten thousand words—carefully and lovingly edited by Chu into a cohesive message. This is the meat of the book and I don’t want to say anything about it other than it is Rachel all the way through. It’s perhaps not quite as polished as it might otherwise be, but the importance of letting Rachel’s actual words shine through outweighs any sleekness that might be missing. The latter parts of the book pull from other writings she had on the topic, edited and formatted to fit the book. Chu, again, ties everything together so well. If you didn’t know that it was cobbled from various sources, you wouldn’t notice.
The Evans family and HarperCollins could have rushed this to publication shortly after her death. It would have sold. It would have been a NYT best-seller. Waiting so long after her death to publish this, to allow the family time to grieve, to allow the book time to take shape, really shows how this the goal was to honor Rachel and her legacy. Wholehearted Faith does that exquisitely. Her last words to a people in need of them, Wholehearted Faith encourages readers to take up Rachel’s mantle and live full, vibrant lives of faith. Thank you, Rachel. You didn’t know it when you wrote it. So much as happened since you’ve passed. You would have had so much to say. But I’ll content myself with this. Bold and unrelenting, unwavering and encouraging—it’s exactly what we needed to hear.