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Graham Seel
Conflicted Faith
Graham Seel, author

Adult; Spirituality/Inspirational; (Market)

Conflicted Faith is a devotional commentary on John Donne's Holy Sonnets. These evocative, personal, raw poems are put into a modern context and speak for all people on a journey of faith. Personal stories, explanations of Donne's poetic imagery and biblical allusions, and extensive Scriptural quotes of hope and promise lead the reader through Donne's own spiritual growth into their own.
Seel provides a commentary on and paraphrase of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet sequence of poems, with a particular focus on how Donne’s nineteen sonnets, which were published two years after the poet’s death, model the experience of a person struggling with their faith. Seel acknowledges that spiritual conflict is at the heart of maturing faith, and Donne’s sequence serves as a helpful navigation through the various stages and moods of such conflict, as the poet explores such topics as the fear of death, hurtful romantic losses, and a lingering tension between God’s grace and works of faith. At the end of each sonnet, Seel provides introspective questions in a reflection format that can be used in small group discussions to incorporate scripture and invite readers to engage more deeply with Donne’s themes.

Conflicted Faith offers helpful paraphrases of Donne’s 17th century verses, which can be archaic in language and at times challenging for the contemporary reader to parse. The commentary is almost line-by-line, taking sections of each poem and reading them in light of the personal conflict that the poem expresses, and Seel closes each study with a modern poem, reflection, or hymn that parallels that sonnet’s theme. Some readers may wish for more background on the literary scholarship about Donne, at least as a guide for further exploration of the poetry.

Seel’s commentary originated from his own experience mentoring others through their faith journeys, and readers will feel almost as though they are reading along with him, listening to stories and engaging in introspection under a wise advisor. Conflicted Faith also delves deep into scripture as Seel explores wide ranging doubts and conflicts in faith–both scriptural encouragements as well as examples of paragons of faith who also faced struggles with God. This grounds the poems, as well as provides avenues for profound reflection, especially for believers. Donne is a sage teacher, and Seel is a discerning guide to these enduring—and still gripping—sonnets.

Takeaway: Christians seeking to grow in their faith or looking to explore John Donne’s Holy Sonnets more deeply will find this commentary invaluable.

Great for fans of: Philip Yancey’s A Companion in Crisis, Lina AbuJamra’s Fractured in Faith.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-