Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review of GOD AT WAR by Gregory A. Boyd

Rating: 4 out of 5

For a long time I’ve heard people say things about God that didn’t quite add up either logically or biblically concerning why evil exists in the world. Most people struggle with the idea of evil and suffering existing in a world created by and governed by a perfectly loving and powerful God, so it’s natural to want to try to reconcile how this can be true. Since the days of Augustine, the common solution has been the Greater Good Theodicy, which states that any evil event that happens, God allows to happen in order to bring about a greater good. In fact, in this scheme, evil is mysteriously a part of God’s plan without him being guilty of causing it. I began to question this idea because if God needs to allow an evil event in order to bring about a “greater” good, then that makes the evil event necessary. Put simply, God needs evil to bring about good. Put that way, it’s an appalling thought. A perfectly loving and powerful God couldn’t need evil to bring about his purposes. Yet evil still exists, and Christians still believe that God is perfectly loving and powerful. So how do we reconcile these two truths?

In GOD AT WAR, theologian and pastor Gregory A. Boyd spends considerable time tearing down the biblical inconsistency of the Greater Good Theodicy. Though I don’t agree with Boyd’s stance on God’s foreknowledge (Boyd is an open theist), I found this book to be incredibly illuminating about the nature of the world we live in and how evil exists within it while God is perfectly loving and powerful.

Boyd proposes a warfare worldview, that we live in a universe that is at war, between God is who is good and beings he created that started out good but went bad of their own free will. Boyd takes us on an exploration of key texts in both the Old and New Testaments to show that beings endowed with creaturely free will often do things that are in opposition to God’s desires, and God allows this, not to bring about a greater good, but because he created a world of free creatures who, in many ways, can do what they want. Of course, God isn’t just standing idly by while people are suffering. God is very active in the world to eradicate evil, but his desire in the beginning was to work through people. Therefore, God works in people and through people to eradicate evil.

Boyd shows how fallen angels have free will and make decisions and take actions that are often harmful to us as human beings. God is at war with these beings, and this presents the warfare worldview. We shouldn’t think that Boyd is presenting a weak God, but a God who deeply loves his creation and can do anything he wants yet chooses to work within the created order he instituted.

GOD AT WAR is a thorough book with many endnotes. This is very helpful for doing deeper study. Body cares much about people and how God is presented to them. I really appreciated this book and its accurate portrayal of a warfare worldview.

Review copy provided by InterVarsity Press

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