Top critical review
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OK but contains several problems
on November 25, 2000
First, let me state several things: 1) I have an M.Div. from Bethel Seminary, the same school where Dr. Boyd teaches; 2) I picked up this book with great anticipation, as I have heard many positive reviews; 3) I too am very involved with apologetics, which is Dr. Boyd's specialty. With this being said, I have to state upfront that this is not a book that I will freely give to my skeptic friends or recommend to my students. Without sounding like a fundamentalist--which I am not--I disagree with some major points that I'm not convinced are peripheral issues.
Having read about Dr. Boyd's Open View of God (which, to me, appears to be an adverse reaction against Calvinism, going so far as to say that God is ignorant of the future), I was wondering if this issue was going to be dealt with here in one of Boyd's first books. Unfortunately it was, as the doctrine is summarized on page 30. I guess I will have to read his new book that deals exclusively with his explanation of the view, but I must say that Dr. Boyd is not very convincing about it in Letters. Even Boyd's dad is amazed with the position, saying in his next letter, "I admit your view sounds better than the standard one...but I wonder if your view is just your own creation." Wow! This skeptic (at the time) recognized something amiss, showing a great perception that he had throughout the book. (I have to say, the dad was as sharp as they come, and my hat goes off to him for working through these issues over the several-year period.) I realize that Bethel has declared the issue to be within the bounds of orthodoxy, but how can a doctrine pertaining to the nature of God be considering anything but essential?
Another problem I had was how Boyd seemed to be so zealous in his fight to win his father to the Lord that he tried to water down several other issues. The attitude seemed to be, "Hey, there are many people who hold opposing views on this issue of (blank). Feel free to choose whatever strikes your fancy." Letters from a Skeptic thus became a book with no backbone. "Just accept the Gospel message," Dr. Boyd seemed to be begging, "and don't worry about the exact details." I have a problem with evangelists trying to get potential converts to repeat a prayer with no clue as to what they are doing. Tickling ears to win converts is not a commandment of God. It is certainly not the standard set forth in the New Testament. A good example of what I am talking about is the issue of hell dealt with in correspondence 25. How you believe on this issue doesn't matter, Dr. Boyd tells his dad, and he even suggests that the annihilationist position is true. While this has become a very controversial issue, I wonder why we, the mere creatures, have such a problem with allowing God the freedom to mete justics to His creation. Just because I don't like a doctrine (it doesn't suit my tastes?) doesn't make a doctrine false. If I only chose doctrines that I liked, I guess I'd have to throw most of them out, including the integral issue of the atonement. It appears to me that Dr. Boyd's presuppositions have gotten in the way of his properly interpreting the passages of scripture that, though hard for us to understand, are very clear. What then happens is that a God best fitting the image of what Dr. Boyd believes sounds good is therefore created. (I notice a lack of scriptural references, which I understand would not have been very convincing to his dad, but just where did Dr. Boyd come to his conclusions? We rarely know.) Obviously this can be a very dangerous technique.
I know I am sounding pretty harsh with this review, but I just wanted to state my disappointment in the book. For 90 percent of the book, I'm right there with Dr. Boyd, agreeing with his arguments and even anticipating what he is going to say. (About 80 percent of what he deals with are issues discussed in my own classes.) It's just too bad that parts of very important theology had to be watered down in order to get a point across to the dad. I truly wish this could have been a book receiving my recommendation.