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Ask questions, enhance religious literacy

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Life’s Ultimate Questions: Exploring The Stories that Shape Our Everyday
Jake Wiens
Friesen Press

Reviewed by: David

What is the subject?

The reviewer considers Life’s Ultimate Questions.

“The thesis of this book is that it is important for us to discover and examine the faith foundations of our lives. It is important to realize that everyone, even atheists, have faith assumptions that underpin their whole belief system.”

Self-discovery and individual spiritual journey is at the heart of this book, as it examines questions of truth and finding answers which lead us to laying foundations in our life.

Also included are subjects of humanity (our purpose as humans), ethics (how we behave), evil (where does it come from?), and ultimate questions about life after death (the end of the cosmic story).

Who is the author? 

Jake Wiens is a life-long learner, searching for the deeper truths of life and being honest in his pursuit of the foundational questions we all face. He is a husband, father to four boys, and grandfather to seven grandchildren.

He has been a teacher and church planter, and is now retired and enjoying building a retirement home.

As a teacher at Cedars Christian School he was the leader of a missions trip for the Grade 11–12 classes. His passion to see these young people mature in their faith was a contributing factor and vision for writing this book. This passion is evident as you read from start to finish.

Why this book?

The context of this book is bold in its approach both to examine the religious meta-stories of different worldviews, as well as to interact intimately with our own spiritual assumptions.

One of the threads throughout the book is trying to answer the question of “How do we disciple young people in today’s culture of religious ignorance?”

It will enhance your own religious literacy while examining your perspectives on why you believe what you believe.

Finally, you will find it does not shy away from answering life’s tough questions, but boldly exposes them to reason, history, faith, and today’s experience.

Comment on the book’s theological perspective in light of the MB Confession of Faith. 

One of the key distinctives of the Mennonite Brethren is our desire for peace, reconciliation, and non-resistance through the work of Jesus on the cross. Peace can only be found in our hearts through a belief in how Jesus sacrificed his own life for ours. As we encounter others with differing views, we are called to love them by displaying the love God has shown us.

Jake Wiens writes about religious meta-stories with love, and yet does not retreat from his own conviction. He is honest in saying that it is actually impossible for a person to approach any subject without their own underpinning bias. This aspect draws me to the beauty of open dialogue, in love, yet maintaining conviction.

Key insight: 

Near the end of the book, we encounter a set of 12 stones meant to act as ‘keep-the-faith’ pillars during the spiritual journey. Jake Wiens gives 12 aspects of his faith journey that help him as struggles may arise.

One of the challenges he gives us is to create our own list of memorial stones that will help us in our journey when times get confusing.

What are my 12 stones?

Where the book fails: 

By the author’s own admission, it is impossible to write about worldviews with a completely unbiased view. Anytime we talk, write or examine another religion or belief system, it is inevitable we will observe it through our own personal perspectives. While the author does a great job in keeping an impartial frame of reference, there are places where Christian attitudes infuse the discussion.

Other relevant information:

There are many resources referenced throughout the book, giving it more credibility and demonstrating it as a reliable tool to use in our spiritual journey. Concluding the book with a full list of resources, appendices, survey, and direction to the website complement this as not only a book, but a useful tool for self-discovery. It could be used as a study guide for groups wanting a primer in religion or parents wanting to understand how to mentor their children in today’s cultural diversity.

Who should read it? 

Anyone wanting to take an honest look at their own spiritual assumptions, or gain understanding about today’s different cultural and religious principles should let this book influence their life. As a parent and mentor, I found Jake Wiens’ writing helpful in knowing how to approach my own children on some of today’s cultural assumptions around atheism and other worldviews they encounter. If you are either personally looking for answers to some of life’s ultimate questions, or are walking with someone who is, this book is a great place to begin searching.

The author himself is targeting young people who are slipping out of churches at an alarming rate. He is asking the question throughout the book, “What are we missing, as a Christian community, in our discipleship with young people which might be causing them to choose to leave the church?” The book tackles this question and reveals truth in the questions we need to keep asking as we disciple young people.

Favourite quotes

“The answer is not to avoid the topic of religion as our culture is hell-bent on doing. The much better answer is to create the forum that allows for personal reflection, for honest and respectful discussion, for debate and for research surrounding the issues raised.”


[David, along with his wife and three children are currently living in Austria and resourcing the church in Europe and Central Asia. He holds a BA from Bethany College and MA in leadership from TWU. More importantly, he loves Jesus and is committed to using his gifts in God’s kingdom around the world.

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