A Firm Foundation: Responding to Greg Boyd’s Benefit of the Doubt

About a month ago, I finished reading through Greg Boyd’s recent (well, somewhat recent) book Benefit of the Doubt and I think that it is an important text for many who have serious, nagging doubts about the Christian faith.[1] Characteristic of Boyd’s oeuvre, the text moves in several different directions, but never loses its point; to give an alternate understanding of the center of the Christian faith. This I think is Boyd’s central thesis; that most of the issue with faith and doubt comes from a misunderstanding of the foundation of the Christian faith. Since that is the case, I think this is a great book for a certain set of people. Actually, a large set of people, but for many I think parts of it will be lacking. What I am attempting to do is blog through the books major themes, points, movements and respond to them, all in an effort to support and critique the text.[2] So, to start with I want to go over the introduction for the text.

Boyd introduces the book by quickly chronicling how he moved from a misbehaved, Catholic schoolboy, to a fire and brimstone Pentecostal to eventually embracing the nuanced faith he does now. He frames all of this by explaining that he will walk the reader through the development of this nuanced faith all the while building to the main point; that the only certainty is to be found in Christ and Christ crucified.[3] Interestingly enough, Boyd doesn’t leave anything to the imagination in the scope of the book. The outline format here basically follows the parts of the book, and this hints that ultimately Boyd isn’t arguing for the same thing someone like Peter Rollins argues for; a melding of faith and doubt.[4] Rather, Boyd outlines that he wants people to understand faith and doubt in proper contexts. I think this sets up the book to be read in a very specific way. You can’t read it with the idea that you are going to learn something new and Boyd has some great secret. Rather, the book needs to be read almost like a devotional. You know what you are going to get, essentially, but how he gets there and how Boyd gets the reader there, are yet to be seen. That’s the almost refreshing part of the book; I know from the get go what I’m getting into. The flip side of this, of course, is that sometimes it feels almost as Boyd already covered this ground. Still, this makes the material very approachable and this is important to remember as we move into part 1 of the text; False Faith. This is where we will pick up in the next post.

 

[1] For someone like me, who has only held Christian or Agnostic beliefs, the book is very good at tackling the tough questions that come with those positions. Not so much on the less tough questions, but I think that’s part of the point.

[2] I should mention that I do this all in complete support. Boyd’s work has meant much to me and this is a truly great book on many levels. I’m just an angsty post-modernist type who can’t help but critique.

[3] Boyd, Benefit of the Doubt pg. 12 and 19

[4] For Rollins, see How (Not) to Speak of God and Insurrection

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