Sometimes a promising book escapes my attention, only later making me think, “How in the world did I not notice this?? Was I abducted by aliens?”
But shame on me for overlooking Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir by Carolyn Weber about her pilgrimage from spiritual
agnosticism to personal faith in Jesus Christ during graduate studies at Oxford University. After reading the book’s Prologue, titled “Doubt Wisely,” I’m hooked.
The Prologue recounts Weber’s senior year as an undergrad in Canada. The only evangelical she knew was a sage 17th century poetry professor, Dr. Deveaux. Dissecting John Donne’s well-known Holy Sonnet XIV (i.e. “Batter my heart, three-person’d God….”), Weber thought she nailed the poem’s meaning, interpreting it as typical male dominating feminine-phobia laced with Christianity.
Dr. Deveaux’s response? Umm, not quite:
The truth is in the paradox, Miss Drake [Weber’s maiden name]. Anything not done in submission to God, anything not done to the glory of God, is doomed to failure, frailty, and futility. This is the unholy trinity we humans fear most. And we should, for we entertain it all the time at the pain and expense of not knowing the real one” (p. 3).
His candid rebuke takes an unconventional turn, jolting Weber and later setting her on an unforeseen trajectory.
There’s simply too much winsome prose to replicate here that I’d risk copyright infringement. See for yourself.
For some glowing reviews and to read the first chapter go here.