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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Letters from a Skeptic" (Gregory A. Boyd)

TITLE: Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father's Questions about Christianity
AUTHOR: Gregory A. Boyd
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008, (256 pages)

This book fits into a genre series called letters. Through a series of questions and answers exchange between a non-believer father and a son who is Christian, the book invites the reader into the conversation. It is a book that deals openly and honestly the serious questions surrounding faith, in particular, the Christian faith.  Martin Luther famously wrote to his barber about how to pray. CS Lewis's popular book, 'Screwtape Letters' is a remarkable book of how a senior devil advises the junior wormwood on how best to deceive Christians. In the spirit of openly discussing matters of faith and doubt, the Boyds have given the public a book of apologetics that cover quite large areas of legitimate questions that Christians need to learn to deal with.

Written in 4 parts, the junior Boyd tackles 29 letters called 'correspondences' and tries to answer each question for his skeptic father, Edward, the senior Boyd. After a long time of debate and impasse, Boyd the son decides to try one more time through an invitation to tackle the most pressing doubts his father have. It is thus important to remember that these series of letters are started with permissions from both the Boyds, and are made public with full knowledge of all parties.

The Book

Part One deals with Questions about God with contains 12 questions. Part Two contains 5 questions about Jesus Christ. Part Three deals with 6 questions on the Bible. Part Four comprises 6 questions on Christian life and doctrine. The father starts the ball rolling by articulating his doubts in writing about why he is unable to believe. This is then followed by a methodical and detailed response. Some of the questions that are dealt with range from popular ones such as:
  • "Why has Christianity done so much harm?"
  • "Is your God all poweful?"
  • "Why is the world so full of suffering?"
  • "Aren't the gospels so full of contradictions?"
  • "Do all non-Christians go to hell?"
  • ....
to other less asked questions like:
  • "Why would a God care about us little humans?"
  • "Does God know the future?"
  • "Why didn't God spare your mother?"
  • "Why did God create Satan?"
  • "How can another man's death pardon me?"
The author treats each question respectfully, and explains the problem and the possible responses in a loving manner. The book ends with a series of discussion questions that study groups can use.

Additional Thoughts

Even the wording of the questions itself is enough to whet one's appetite and motivate the reading of the book. The letters are personal which comes across as an authentic conversation that readers are able to identify with. I appreciate the way the questions and answers are exchanged. The questions are briefly articulated. The answers are, thankfully, not a theological treatise but a thoughtful response given with a gentle persuasive voice. It is easy for a theologically trained son to take his dad to task with scholarly references and theological frameworks. Yet, the junior Boyd wisely refrains. Instead, he answers the questions often by first repeating what he believes is the inner doubts. I really enjoy the part about him trying to reconcile his faith with his mother's death. By saying that intellectual answers do not bring people back from the dead, the junior Boyd is putting himself on the same side of anguish with his dad.  In other words, many of the doubts are common doubts. Many of the questions are common questions. It simply takes a change of perspective. Thankfully, Boyd's dad confesses himself as a 'smart-ass-know-it-all.' Edward Boyd acknowledges Christ as his Lord and Saviour on January 15th, 1992.

I like this style of apologetics. It is a wonderful way to discuss matters of faith without having to adopt any position of superiority. In fact, when we openly admit that we do not have all the answers, and that we are always open to understand the other person's perspectives, we often build bridges instead of walls. This ought to be the purpose of apologetics: Build bridges, not walls. This book builds more than 29 bridges to help skeptics doubt Christianity a little less, and to help Christians appreciate the skeptic's view a little more.

Ratings: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by David C Cook publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered are made freely by me.

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