Wow! After having been 'raised' on Calvinism my entire Christian life last summer I read 'Troubling Questions for Calvinists' and realized the errors of that system. I had always heard God meticulously contolled EVERYTHING and NOTHING was 'out of God's hand' or as RC Sproul put it that 'every molecule was in its 'place''. If you believe that you'll be in for a big surprise as you read this book. It is very well documented. Boyd takes Scripture and ancient legends and shows from the Word of God itself how to properly understand the text. An amazing work. I had heard about the notion that the Genesis text was in fact a re-creation but hadnt given it much credence. And I certainly hadnt known about all the texts on the creation outside of Genesis. Boyd also sheds light on the book of Job which can be confusing in spots but is such a foundational book to properly understanding God and ourselves and our situation.
I could go on and on but suffice it to say if you are thinking about this book just GET IT!!! It is so worth it, you may not agree with every point of his but it will make you think and in the end I think you will be closer to the truth and to reality than before you read it. Blessings.
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Without being long winded, I feel the value of this book is to give insight into why evil is so rampant in a world where our Creator is all powerful. Boyd has given myself, and others that I have shared this book with, an understanding why injustices occur and why God is not to blame. Not only unbelievers like to blame God when they are suffering, or hear of disasters in this world, unfortunately too many Christians do also. Job had the greatest losses a person could experience and still praised God!
I read this with 2 dictionaries! A Compact Office and an Unabridged Dictionary, for the words too obscure for the compact. BUT WORTH IT! A treasure hidden in a Field! I have a fresh attitude towards my God and a renewed resistance against evil. I'm so glad I followed up on discovering this information from watching Furious Love documentary.
I will start with the positive side of my impressions :
- Boyd pleads for taking seriously in account the reality of poweful spiritual beings, some at war with God. His opposition vs. the naturalistic point of view that flaws a part of the theological world is welcome.
- He develops very interesting insights about OT texts, which reveal a deep spiritual conflict between God and the "gods" and "monsters" (such as Leviathan, Rahab, Behemoth and the Sea-Yam)
- His work is well documented and does try to develop a serious (and sometimes innovative) exegesis of key texts of the Bible about spiritual warfare
On the less positive side :
- His controversial and polemical hammering in favor of the "open theism" understanding of God's sovereignty flaws his biblical approach by introducing notions which ought to be better exposed.
- Boyd leads a total war against what he believes is the Augustinian (and calvinist) vision of the world. However, his description of that classical position is caricatural. He tries to make one believe that augustinism, in fine, calls evil "good", as evil cannot escape the sovereign mastery of God over history.
- He believes that the explanation of the presence of evil is easy, simply by admitting the reality of a cosmic spiritual warfare. That is forgetting that calvinists do take into account the reality of that ugly and scandalous state of being.
Explaining evil is giving it a "legitimate" place within the world's order, thus justifying it somehow... Such a dark mystery could perhaps be left out of the reach of human's capacities : there are secret (non revealed) things that belong to God.
- Boyd bases the existence of evil upon the necessity of creatural "free will" - a classical arminian argument - which logic should imply the eternal existence of evil as a choice alternative (Boyd doesn't go that far in his logics and believes in the victory of God over the devil and his minions)
- Boyd states that the warfare objective of God supersedes the redemptive one - thus implying that, whether God wanted to save men or not, he would have had a hard time beating the devil.
- At the root of his demonstration, Boyd gives the terrible description of Zosia, a Jewish girl in Warsaw's ghetto who had her eyes plucked out before she was slaughtered by sadistical nazis, to show that evil is not just a "philosophical" problem. From that description, he regularily underscores that one cannot integrate such a horror within a "blueprint" of a good God's sovereign guidance of history.
He chooses to judge God from that event - even though he rightly denounces "eating the fruit of knowledge" in his excellent "Repenting of Religion" essay.
More problematically, he seems to miss the fact that, even worse than Zosia's terrible martyr, the murder of the Son of God, the only innocent and pure human being, on the Cross, should the "crux" (pun totally intended) of a believer's apprehension of the problem of evil and of God's permissive will.
To conclude, I would say that Boyd does give very interesting insights about the real warfare between God and supernatural powers. I am very stimulated to lead such a study - especially at the OT level.
However, the plead for open theistic views does introduce many hasty conclusions which obscure more than they enlighten the understanding of the biblical material.
The emotional play upon Zosia's tragedy (placed nearly as an absolute paradigm of evil, while missing the scandal of the Cross) and the limited understanding of augustinian-calvinist theology flaws much of Boyd's demonstration.
My disappointment is at the level of my otherwise real and positive appreciation of Boyd's other works ("Lord or Legend?", "The Myth of a Christian Nation", "Repenting of Religion"...).
Rejecting the traditional views that God is unchanging through time and that God knows the future (page 49), Boyds book offers little hope when we find ourselves in the battles. For example, in speaking of Job he talks about how God was surprised at what occurred (page 147). Despite claims of having a high view of Scripture, Boyds treatment of the text shows otherwise. He speaks of Isaiah reworking the cultural stories to create his biblical accounts (159). Boyd goes on to claim that much of the Old Testament conceptions of Satan are merely the reworking of pagan myths. In light of the dismissal of orthodox understandings on spiritual warfare, God, and the Bible, the reader comes away with a sense that the opposing forces of God and Satan are battling for an undecided outcome (a view in clear contrast to the decisive victory of God seen in Revelation). As a result, the book presents little more than the idea behind Star Wars You have the force and dark side competing without a clear sense of who will ultimately win. Such a conclusion is a natural outcome of Boyds belief. If you are not familiar with Boyd, he is an open-theist, one who believes God does not know the future. Not all is bad in this book. Boyd does make a strong case for the necessity of prayer. He also recognizes the reality of spiritual warfare and the demonic, something many Christians ignore. However, such truths are overshadowed by the misconstrued notions as God as not knowing the future, parts of Scripture resulted from pagan myths, and a theology of warfare that more resembles a Hollywood movie than the God of the Bible. In light of these problems it is hard to recommend God at War to you. As an alternative, let me suggest Chuck Lawless books Spiritual Warfare and Discipled Warriors. Both recognize the reality of warfare but do so with biblical support and in a way that glorifies God and helps us live for His glory.