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The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable
Baker Academic / 2012 / Paperback
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C.S. Lewis famously noted that we do not know that the sun exists because we can see it, but because we can see all things in its light. Indeed, our world is dominated by the visual, the striking image. No society needs the image or simply, 'image', as our does. Without images, it often seems, we would be lost.
God illuminates the world and all things in it. Through his light, the light he created we are able to see all of his creation--and this vision is so powerful it inspires a metaphor that euphemistic for even our concept of knowledge, namely, what it means to understand. Yet, when it comes to God himself, we only see fragments and glimpses--wholly inadequate knowledge on our part--for understanding the divine: the Christian God remains an inscrutable mystery beyond apprehension.
In The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable Steven Boyer and Christopher Hall explore not the attributes of God, but rather, ponder and think through the mystery of God, the hiddenness of God as a positive existential quality that enhances the way we think about God himself and in relationship to the Christian life.
Far too often God's mystery is seen as a burden to be overcome--and people often think this is the task of theologian. Yet, Boyer and Hall suggest that this is a characteristic to be embraced as a positive aspect of God himself. To that end they explore "divine mystery" through both philosophical and theological categories drawing out how mystery helps to define both God's actions and his nature as a being.
How can I know God if he is incomprehensible? Is it possible to know God in a way that takes seriously the fact that he is beyond knowledge? Steven Boyer and Christopher Hall argue that the "mystery of God" has a rightful place in theological discourse. They contend that considering divine incomprehensibility invites reverence and humility in our thinking and living as Christians and clarifies a variety of theological topics.
The authors begin by investigating the biblical, historical, and practical foundations for understanding the mystery of God. They then spell out its implications for theological issues and practices such as the incarnation, salvation, and prayer, rooting knowledge of God in a concrete life of faith. Evangelical yet ecumenical, this book will appeal to theology students, pastors, church leaders, and all who want intellectual and practical guidance for knowing the unknowable God.
A fine Protestant theological treatment of mystery in theology is long overdue, and Boyer and Hall have provided it.
-Roger E. Olson,
professor of theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University
The Mystery of God is a refreshing challenge to evangelicals to reject rationalistic approaches to faith while at the same time learning humbly from the Great Tradition. Boyer and Hall mine riches from the fathers that will help their readers appreciate the beauty of the Triune God and the orthodox tradition in which he is found.
-Gerald R. McDermott,
Roanoke College; coauthor, The Theology of Jonathan Edwards
At a time when many Christians--and many evangelicals in particular--are discovering or rediscovering 'the mystery of God,' there's an urgent need for discernment. Steven Boyer and Christopher Hall's 'theology for knowing the unknowable' is a gift to the church.
editor, Books & Culture
Rightly understood, mystery is a powerful and liberating theological reality. Boyer and Hall skillfully explore the wonderful truth of mystery, employing such topics as the incarnation, salvation, and prayer as examples of how it works in the church's confession and practice. In these pages there is real wisdom.
-Kelly M. Kapic,
professor of theological studies, Covenant College
This book is a gem. Boyer and Hall display the beauty of historic Christian orthodoxy in clear, elegant prose. Skillfully avoiding the twin plagues of arrogant rationalism and anti-intellectual irrationalism, they demonstrate the tremendous potential of the concept of mystery to illuminate central doctrines and practices of the Christian faith. Scholars, pastors, and students alike will reap rich rewards from this outstanding contribution to contemporary evangelical theology.
-Jeffrey P. Greenman,
associate dean of biblical and theological studies and professor of Christian ethics, Wheaton College
Mystery is one of the most overworked words in the Christian vocabulary, and yet it's essential whenever we dare to speak about the God who is, as Luther says, both hidden and revealed. This book is both an invitation to contemplation and an exercise in humility. Boyer and Hall bring together theology and spirituality in a way that will help both seasoned travelers and new pilgrims on the road of faith.
founding dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University; general editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture
This is a welcome volume: a clearly written, insightful approach to a difficult theological topic. I especially appreciated--and learned from--its taxonomy of mysteries and its idea that as a theological category, mystery should be understood in revelational and dimensional terms. Those terms nicely clarify and thematize what's distinctive about a Christian understanding of mystery and do so in a way that will resonate with many of the book's readers.
assistant professor of theology and the philosophy of religion, The University of Chicago Divinity School
Here at last is a clear, precise, and careful treatment of mystery in Christian life and theology. Boyer and Hall chart a middle course between the cliffs of rationalism and the whirlpool of irrationalism, bringing readers safely through to the spiritual homeland, to lives hidden with Christ in God. There is no mystery mongering here. When Boyer and Hall appeal to mystery, they are not obfuscating but opening up and clarifying vast ranges of theology and spirituality.
associate professor of theology, Biola University
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