Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review of "Benefit of the Doubt"

Even though I've only read two of Greg Boyd's books, the Minnesota pastor's cerebral yet entertaining writing style is fast making him one of my favorite authors.

In a style that is both methodical and approachable, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty lays out Boyd's argument against "certainty-seeking" faith in favor of an "Israelite faith" that allows generous room for honest questioning and that lays hold of one thing: Jesus Christ crucified as the glorious center of Scripture, our faith and the universe. 

He uses logic, philosophy and biblical exegesis to make his case against a contract mindset that combs through scripture looking for legal loopholes and freebie promises to claim. In its place, Boyd presents a beautiful picture of a covenant faith that mirrors the Jewish practice of betrothal. 

This book is also full of stories from Boyd's own faith journey, from a dynamic initial salvation experience at a fundamental Pentecostal church to losing his faith in college to regaining his faith and going to seminary to a gradual paradigm shift in the way he looked at his faith. The final section of the book lays out a road map for exercising authentic faith in the face of the inevitable doubts that might pop up in a thinking Christian's mind while interacting with our increasingly global, scientifically advanced and pluralistic world.

This is a book I'd recommend to any Christians who have felt they couldn't fully commit to the entire belief package their church or denomination asserts or who have struggled with parts of the Bible or who have been afraid to let their mind even go to places of questioning for fear of judgement from other Christians or even God.

For example, if you believe the Bible is inspired by God, but have trouble reconciling the sometimes violent, vindictive portraits of God in the Old Testament with the humble servant Jesus of the New Testament, this book might be for you. If you sometimes wonder whether the stories in Genesis aren't 100 percent historical, this book might be for you. If you wonder how so many devout Christians can have such widely different sets of beliefs, this book might be for you. You might not expect or even agree completely with Boyd's conclusions from grappling with these same issues, but I think you'll find a wealth of freedom and grace to wrestle with God without fear of becoming untethered from Him. 

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