Review – Mystery of God by Steven D. Boyer and Christopher A. Hall

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I received the electronic version of this book free in exchange for an honest review.

There will be some who will not like this book. They will give it low ratings and pontificate about watering down the gospel or how the authors are wrong on one point or another. They might even say the book is dangerous. There will be some whose minds and eyes are closed and believe they have figured out God and have God in a nice package that can be studied, dissected, and controlled.

The reason why some will not like this book is because Boyd and Hall strike at our pride in believing that we have or even can know God completely. They address God’s incomprehensibility and transcendence choosing to focus on the mystery of God while recognizing and hold tight to God’s revelatory nature. Mystery serves to remind us, that God is God and we are not. Our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and even our best thought about God pales in comparison to his glory. It is a good book and I believe an important book.

There are two main sections. The first section discusses the need for mystery in our theology. The authors do a wonderful job in moving their readers from an introduction to mystery through a historical account of mystery and then finally to a place where mystery can be utilized as one thinks theologically. The second section outlines how mystery can help in understanding several, apparently, paradoxical (some would say contradictory) theological issues such as the Trinity, God’s sovereignty and humanity’s completely freedom to choose, Jesus as both human and divine, the why and how of prayer (if God knows all things, why should I ask or tell him anything?), and finally, how Christians can learn from others.

The book is well thought out and written. Each chapter builds on concepts and arguments given in earlier chapters, so it feels like the authors are taking you on a journey. The destination seemed to be the possibility of Christians learning about God from non-Christian religions. I believe it will be the last chapter that will cause individuals the most disdain, but it also seems it is where the authors want Christian theologians to arrive. Some may not make it that far. Some will not like the conclusions the authors draw about what may be viewed as essential beliefs and theological stances.

I encourage readers to finish the book out and give the authors fair hearing. Near the end of the book they do give some warnings, dangers, and cautions. They are not encouraging one to move outside of orthodox faith, but to recognize that God, in God’s essence is transcendent. They are encouraging humility, not only in our spiritual life, but also in how we think about God and what those outside our “camp” might have to say.

I highly recommend this book. It was enjoyable to read. The authors are versed in philosophy, theology, and the history of the church. Their discussions are well thought out and they take time to address potential questions and concerns. The book also brought me to places of worship as I contemplated how far God is beyond me, but how he is also close to me. It caused me to be thankful because God has revealed himself in Jesus. It also brought me expectant anticipation of growing in knowledge, grace, and humility as I seek him.


Have we gotten heaven all wrong? – N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright is my favorite biblical scholar. He has helped me work through many issues regarding biblical faith. Here’s an article where Wright addresses the concept of Heaven and how we have gotten it wrong. I highly suggest to not just read this article, but also work through the belief systems that have created a Heaven that keeps us from living out God’s life now. The Good News in all of this is that we don’t have to die in order to live!

First-century Jews who believed Jesus was Messiah also believed he inaugurated the Kingdom of God and were convinced the world would be transformed in their own lifetimes, Wright said. This inauguration, however, was far from complete and required the active participation of God’s people practicing social justice, nonviolence and forgiveness to become fulfilled.

 

Once the Kingdom is complete, he said, the bodily resurrection will follow with a fully restored creation here on earth. “What we are doing at the moment is building for the Kingdom,” Wright explained.

 

Indeed, doing God’s Kingdom work has come to be known in Judaism as “tikkun olam,” or “repairing the world.” This Hebrew phrase is a “close cousin” to the ancient beliefs embraced by Jesus and his followers, Wright said.

via Religion News Service | Faith | Doctrine & Practice | N.T. Wright asks: Have we gotten heaven all wrong?.

N. T. Wright on Resources for the Gospel writers

It seems to me that the evangelists may well have faced, as a major task, the problem not so much of how to cobble together enough tradition to make a worthwhile book, but of how to work out what to include from the welter of available material. The old idea that the evangelists must have included everything that they had to hand was always, at best, a large anachronism.

John, in his gospel, basically says this same thing at the end of his Gospel. “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25)

Sometimes I Feel the Same Way

Found this in an introduction to Philo. He lived from about 20 BCE – 40 CE. It amazes me how someone from two centuries ago can pretty much sum up life in the present age.

In at least one important passage Philo reveals something of his perspective on his life and work (On the Special Laws 3.1–6). Here Philo remembers that “There was once a time when, devoting my leisure to philosophy and to the contemplation of the world and the things in it, I reaped the fruit of excellent, and desirable, and blessed intellectual feelings….I appeared to be raised on high and borne aloft by a certain inspiration of the soul….â€? But this life was interrupted with “… the vast sea of the cares of public politics, in which I was and still am tossed about without being able to keep myself swimming at the top.â€? But all was not lost, for “… even in these circumstances I ought to give thanks to God, that though I am so overwhelmed by this flood, I am not wholly sunk and swallowed up in the depths. But I open the eyes of my soul … and I am irradiated with the light of wisdom…. Behold, therefore, I venture not only to study the sacred commands of Moses, but also with an ardent love of knowledge to investigate each separate one of them, and to endeavour to reveal and to explain to those who wish to understand them, things concerning them which are not known to the multitude.â€?

from Philo, o. A., & C. D. Yonge. The Works of Philo : Complete and Unabridged. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1993.

On Humility

If there is good in you, see more good in others, so that you may remain humble. It does no harm to esteem yourself less than anyone else, but it is very harmful to think yourself better than even one. The humble live in continuous peace, while in the hearts of the proud are envy and frequent anger.

– Thomas, à Kempis

Humility is the path to spiritual fulfillment. It seems so easy, yet, humility is one of the difficult qualities to develop. Even when I seem humble, I may not be. My lack of humility usually comes when I’m stressed. Sometimes it looks like impatience, because, after all, I’m too important to have to wait. If I could develop true humility, I would find peace.