by Christopher A. Hall [Baker Academic]
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.