Monday, April 9, 2012

My review of IS GOD TO BLAME by Gregory Boyd

Photo Credit: Intervarsity Press

I’ve always had a sense that the idea that God allows evil in order to bring about a greater good didn’t quite make sense, either logically or biblically. If this were God’s reason for allowing evil, then he would need the evil in order to bring about the good. I don’t think we want a God who is dependent upon evil to govern his creation. Yet this is the comfort many Christians try to give people. Or perhaps someone well-meaning believer tries to comfort us in the midst of our suffering with the idea that God is purposefully bringing (or allowing) this evil into our lives to teach us something we wouldn’t learn without the suffering, which is a result of evil. But what happens if you can’t quite figure out what it is God is trying to teach you in the midst of the suffering? Does that mean the suffering will continue until you unlock the magic door that reveals the purpose behind God’s allowance of evil into your lives? Of course, the Bible does reveal God bringing about good out of evil actions or intentions, though it’s not called a greater good. And sometimes God does want to teach us something in the midst of our suffering. But the comfort we try to find in the source of evil often relies on God being behind why the evil is happening. We would never accuse God of bringing about evil, but it’s often the logical conclusion of our beliefs about it.

In the book IS GOD TO BLAME?, Gregory Boyd plunges into this difficult theological issue with both a heart for people who suffer as the result of evil and a heart to see God revealed for the loving, evil-fighting Creator that he is. Boyd reveals the disconnect behind the comfort Christians often try to find in believing that God is somehow directly responsible for the evil in our world for our own good. How we view God is truly the most important thing about us, and Boyd reveals a picture of God that is biblical and beautiful because he shows evil to be the result of a creation that is at war. He shows evil to be the result of the devil initially and the free choices of flawed human beings secondly. Creation isn’t the way God designed it to be. God, out of love for his creation, gave human beings the freedom to choose him or not, knowing beforehand that they would choose otherwise. Then he went to war to fix the problem the devil and free humans created in his universe. The Bible is the history of God setting things right again, and this is most fully revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Boyd treats the Bible very Christocentrically, which I loved. He points out that the fullest picture of who God is and what his character is like is revealed in Jesus. This shows God to be a God of love and a God who wars against evil.

The book reminded me at times of Brian Little’s Creation-Order Theodicy because Boyd paints a picture of God’s creation as one that he set laws into place that help govern what can happen in the world. Boyd is an open-theist, and I’m not, but his open theism doesn’t figure prominently in the model he’s proposing.

I can’t say that I agree with everything Boyd said in the book. I’m a little uncomfortable with the limitations he suggests God has placed upon himself, but I understand the logic behind it. I’ll have to look into it more. And while open theism doesn’t figure prominently in the book, I have to say that I believe that God knows the future exhaustively and that human beings have genuine freedom.

IS GOD TO BLAME? was a very encouraging and enjoyable read because Boyd’s heart for God and for people shines through. It’s definitely a good book to explore a more Christocentric view of the problem of evil.

I received this book for free for review from Intervarsity Press

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