Benefit of the Doubt
In Benefit of the Doubt, influential theologian, pastor, and bestselling author Gregory Boyd invites readers to embrace a faith that doesn't strive for certainty, but rather for commitment in the midst of uncertainty. Boyd rejects the idea that a person's faith is as strong as it is certain. In fact, he makes the case that doubt can enhance faith and that seeking certainty is harming many in today's church. Readers who wrestle with their faith will welcome Boyd's message that experiencing a life-transforming relationship with Christ is possible, even with unresolved questions about the Bible, theology, and ethics. Boyd shares stories of his own painful journey, and stories of those to whom he has ministered, with a poignant honesty that will resonate with readers of all ages.

Benefit of the Doubt Details

TitleBenefit of the Doubt
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 15th, 2013
PublisherBaker Books
ISBN-139780801014925
Rating
GenreReligion, Theology, Nonfiction, Christian, Faith, Christianity, Spirituality

Benefit of the Doubt Review

  • Josh
    January 1, 1970
    In his new book, Benefit of the Doubt, Greg Boyd seeks to show the reader the difference between Biblical faith and Certainty Seeking faith, which at its core is idolatry. Boyd argues strongly against the model of faith that says “the more psychologically certain you are, the stronger your faith is. In this conception of faith, therefore, doubt is an enemy.” Boyd says that this model of faith is “gravely mistaken” and damaging to the believer, the Church, and the mission of God. He has multiple In his new book, Benefit of the Doubt, Greg Boyd seeks to show the reader the difference between Biblical faith and Certainty Seeking faith, which at its core is idolatry. Boyd argues strongly against the model of faith that says “the more psychologically certain you are, the stronger your faith is. In this conception of faith, therefore, doubt is an enemy.” Boyd says that this model of faith is “gravely mistaken” and damaging to the believer, the Church, and the mission of God. He has multiple objections against certainty seeking faith including how it makes a virtue of irrationality, it makes God in the image of Al Capone, replaces faith with magic, requires inflexibility and thus creates a learning phobia, tends towards hypocrisy, creates the danger of certainty and leaves the one with certainty seeking faith only concerned with their belief being true, not having a true belief, and, finally, that certainty seeking faith is idolatrous. If that list doesn’t whet your appetite to dive into this book, I am not sure what will!Boyd’s general admonition and apparent motive for writing is that the believer should doubt, meaning that the believer should consider other truth claims and seek to know whether he/she is right or wrong and should be applied by all. If the Christian claim is true it will be proven true even under scrutiny. If the Christian claim is false, then the believer should desire to know that more than anyone, regardless of the cognitive dissonance this will assuredly bring. If, as Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living, then Boyd is right in saying that this “applies to faith as well”. The unexamined faith is not worth believing.”While I wholeheartedly agree with Boyd’s point of the dangers of certainty seeking faith and the need to doubt and to examine, there were many parts of this book I struggled with greatly. It seemed, oftentimes, that Boyd was embracing pluralism and submitting Scripture, God’s revelation of Himself to us, to culture and to our experience. Boyd’s handling of the book of Job is at times simply horrible.He begins early on by making the claim that God was surprised when Satan appeared in Heaven and uses Job 1:7 as his evidence of this surprise. He then goes on to show how Satan forces God to act via his cleverness and God’s apparent inability to keep control and His motivation not to lose face after being unwittingly challenged by His enemy. I cannot find a translation that even comes close to indicating any of this. I really wished that this was the extent of the butchering of Job, but Boyd takes aim at God’s sovereignty(not surprising) but does so in a way that is very unfaithful to the text (very surprising). Boyd looks at the statement by Job that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away and says that this is a “misguided conviction”. He says that people are “arrogantly misguided” if we ever “blame God (as Job did) when tragedy strikes.” “Blaming God” in the sense of Job’s words in 1:21 and 2:10. Boyd claims that God rebukes Job for making these statements. Boyd uses some real emotional, heart wrenching examples as to why one cannot attribute these things to God and how offended he is when people use these verses to draw comfort, but he refuses to address the immediate context which refutes entirely his premise. The author of Job, immediately after each statement, anticipating a negative response, cuts it off with the statement, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” The author of Job seemed to know how shocking these statements would be to the human mind, the sinful, self-loving, rebellious human mind. So he cuts the argument that Boyd raises off before it can even be raised…unless of course you just ignore completely those statements. This seems to be the approach Boyd takes, and it is well beneath a scholar of his repute.I did love a definition of faith that Boyd offered. Faith is not “psychological certainty” but “trusting another’s character in the face of uncertainty.” Amen! For his example of this he offered Jesus as He suffered through the garden of Gethsemane. He showed how Jesus, who had perfect faith, struggled in the garden and begged for another way to be offered but in the end submitted wholly to His Father’s will, knowing that His Father was and is worthy of perfect trust and allegiance. Boyd offers that this is true faith, and I would wholeheartedly agree. “So whether your struggle is with doubt, confusion, the challenge of accepting God’s will, or any other matter, the fact that you have this struggle does not indicate that you lack faith. To the contrary, your faith is strong to the degree that you’re willing to honestly embrace your struggle.”Boyd spends a lot of time attacking penal substitutionary atonement and attributes its existence to lawyers becoming theologians and attributes to it almost all the ills that face Western Christianity…this seems like an exaggeration, but not so much. I found it slightly amusing that Boyd would attribute the lack of faith-led works in the life of a believer to the belief in penal-substitutionary atonement, seeing as how the Reformers and the Puritans wholly held to this view…and we all know how lax those Puritans were in pursuing personal holiness!! The false dichotomy Boyd creates between accepting a legal view of salvation and a fruitful Christian life is laughably absurd and somewhat offensive.Boyd concludes the book by looking at how a Christian should deal with a modern, pluralistic world and Scripture. He makes some very interesting arguments, abandoning a house of cards model of Scriptural authority for a concentric circle model and submitting all revelation in Scripture to the revelation in the God-man, Christ Jesus. Boyd says one of the keys is not basing your faith in Jesus on the Scriptures but rather basing your faith in Scripture on the person Jesus. While he gives some examples of how one could come to faith in the person of Jesus apart from Scripture, I think his examples are flimsy and do not take into full account the fact that apart from the revelation of Scripture, we today would have no understanding of the revelation of the person. We receive our revelation of the person of Christ in the revelation of Scripture. To act as if we could, and should, come to faith in Christ apart from the Scriptures seems misguided.That reservation, although a large one, aside, I was greatly intrigued by how Boyd dealt with all revelations being in submission to the ultimate revelation in Jesus Himself and how this impacted how we deal with certain debated points (the historicity of Jonah, evolution, global deluge, Samson, the character of God in the Old Testament, etc…). Essentially, the point of revelation is to point us to Jesus Christ and Him crucified and inerrancy is only important as it deals with that specific revelation of God’s character. Boyd labors intensely to deal with the violence of God in the Old Testament. It is especially troubling to him and he feels a genuine need to go beyond the surface reading and, in some way, rescue the character of God from the plain reading of the text. This is imperative in a system that, while claiming to submit all Scripture to the person and work of Christ, actually quite often submits all Scripture to the experience and opinion of men. Not once,as best I can recollect, in this book does Boyd even offer the argument that instead of doubting the Scriptures when conflicted with experience, reason, science, visceral reaction, etc…, that the reader should maybe doubt his or her experience or reason or science or visceral reaction. The doubt always seems to be placed at the foot of Scripture and Scripture seems required to conform, rather than vice versa. Boyd trumpets this throughout as a new way to look at Scripture, but it really seems like the same old way that unbelievers have always looked at it. The unbelieving heart is probably not the best role model for faithful, Biblical exegesis. Boyd seems to feel that appealing to mystery in these hard texts is a cop out, that it is not genuine faith. I think that maybe it would be a more humble and more faithful way of dealing with hard texts that we all agree are troublesome to one degree or another rather than feeling the need to be absolutely certain about what they do or do not/cannot mean.Boyd is a great writer. This is an easy read that really makes the reader think. While I disagreed with much of this book, I would recommend it to the discerning reader to have his views on many things challenged, to be led to doubt, and to find that the truth of God and the faith He gives to believers can and will withstand much scrutiny and much doubt.I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.com for review purposes
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  • Luke Dubbelman
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of several books on doubt and christianity that has come out in the last couple years (a few others: Barnapas piper: help my unbelief. Pete Enns: The sin of certainty). I think this was a good book, but not a great book. To be honest I think people would be better off listening to the "house of cards" sermon series that Greg preaches to learn the essential core ideas of Boyd's thoughts on faith and doubt which I will quickly summarize as (1) biblical faith is covenant/relationship ba This is one of several books on doubt and christianity that has come out in the last couple years (a few others: Barnapas piper: help my unbelief. Pete Enns: The sin of certainty). I think this was a good book, but not a great book. To be honest I think people would be better off listening to the "house of cards" sermon series that Greg preaches to learn the essential core ideas of Boyd's thoughts on faith and doubt which I will quickly summarize as (1) biblical faith is covenant/relationship based, not certainty-seeking/intellectual based; (2) christocentric faith- Greg proposes the idea that we should believe in the Bible because we believe in Jesus, not that we should believe in Jesus because we believe in the Bible. For him this important, b/c it means our faith is not based on interpretive disagreements or views of authorship but rather the center of our faith is in who Christ is and what he has done. (3) Wrestling it out - I think the most significant takeaway for me from this book is the overall attitude and message to wrestle with difficult questions from a place of relationship and commitment to God. Don't wait to be certain to be committed to following Christ, follow Christ in the midst of uncertainty. This is like being in a marriage where one does not wait for the problems to be fixed or to know the other person completely before committing to love them. In a marriage, you choose to commit to loving the other despite mysteries and problems. The book is good, but like I said above, I would encourage people to listen to the sermon series or even just the single sermon below:http://whchurch.org/blog/3819/topplin...One last thing, on the subject of doubt. Roger Olson has a really good blog post titled "clearing up some christian confusions about doubt" (link below). For anyone interested in christianity and doubt I would encourage them to read that short but excellent blogpost. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereol...
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    I read a lot of books, but this might be the first book I've read where I found myself thinking that this is the sort of book I'd want to write. I felt like Greg was at times writing out my own thoughts. If you've ever struggled with doubt, or just felt like you aren't a good Christian because you don't feel as certain as others around you appear to, this book is for you. Greg writes both as a brilliant scholar and as a real person whose struggled with doubt. He actually said at one point that t I read a lot of books, but this might be the first book I've read where I found myself thinking that this is the sort of book I'd want to write. I felt like Greg was at times writing out my own thoughts. If you've ever struggled with doubt, or just felt like you aren't a good Christian because you don't feel as certain as others around you appear to, this book is for you. Greg writes both as a brilliant scholar and as a real person whose struggled with doubt. He actually said at one point that this is his most autobiographical book, and he shares a lot from his own life.I've been a Christian my whole life. When I went to college and seminary and began to fall in love with learning, especially learning more about theology and the Christian faith, I yearned for certainty. I think, deep down, I struggled with doubt and I hoped if I read and studied enough I'd find a full-proof answer that would satisfy even the most skeptical person. Of course, I didn't find that. At the very least then, I hoped I could figure out what the real truths of Christianity are so as to know who was a real Christian and who was not. If anything, the reverse happened. The more I studied different issues, the more I realized how sincere, Jesus-loving people disagree. And I also came to see that most of these issues don't really matter, at least as it pertains to the most core truth of Christianity.Boyd argues that there is one core, which is to know Jesus Christ crucified, as Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians. Beyond this there are other beliefs and doctrines which we hold to different degrees of confidence. In terms of concentric circles, at the core are the dogmas of the Christian faith, things Christians have mostly always agreed on (Trinity). Next come doctrines, things that tend to separate different Christian denominations (ways to baptize, Calvinism v Arminianism, etc.). In the outermost circles are things that are just opinions. I've often thought the same way, Boyd's insight is the addition of the one core point of Jesus Christ crucified, prior to the dogmas and doctrines.There is much more good in this book. Boyd argues you cannot truly grow in faith if you do not doubt, for if you think you are certain then you won't seek to learn more. He also calls out Christian apologists who hypocritically expect others to examine their views without being willing to question their own viewpoints. Perhaps most important, he emphasizes the definition of faith not as belief, things you assent to, but as trust. It is different to believe things about God then to trust in God.I am a fan of Greg Boyd, listening to many of his sermons and reading his books. He is a passionate and intelligent disciple of Jesus. And this book is truly a gift to the Church, I know i will recommend it to many people in the future.
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  • Phil Aud
    January 1, 1970
    Doubt, for many christians, has become a bad word. Many, in fact, are told not to let any doubt enter their minds. Worse yet, they are told not to speak any doubting words. While some say not to even mention a doubtful word, Boyd has written a book about the positive effect that doubt can play in our lives. How can we have such opposing views on doubt and faith? Boyd argues, and it is his main thesis, that there are two very different ways of understanding our faith in God: we will either view o Doubt, for many christians, has become a bad word. Many, in fact, are told not to let any doubt enter their minds. Worse yet, they are told not to speak any doubting words. While some say not to even mention a doubtful word, Boyd has written a book about the positive effect that doubt can play in our lives. How can we have such opposing views on doubt and faith? Boyd argues, and it is his main thesis, that there are two very different ways of understanding our faith in God: we will either view our faith as contractual or covenantal. He shows that how we read and understand the bible will be determined by which of these two understands of faith we have. Biblical faith, as Boyd shows, is covenantal.One of the things that I love about this book is that it is that while it shows that faith as “simply a mental conviction that something is true” can actually be idolatrous, it doesn’t make an idol out of doubt either. I read somewhere that modern people were like architects who believed that they were building the perfect building. Post-modern people, on the other hand, are more like archeologists who are examining ruins without any attempt to rebuild. Boyd in no way holds up doubt and skepticism as trophies. He simply points out that they are a natural part of our faith journey and that it is better to be honest with our doubts before God than to pretend that we don’t have any. Why? Because that is what covenant is all about–relationship. If faith is about deepening our relationship with God, than let’s bring our doubts out in the open deal with them. Better to limp than to have never wrestled. As I read this book I found my heart “strangely warmed.” Is it ironic that a book about doubt helped build up my faith? I don’t think so, because while Boyd is a theologian, he is also a pastor and while I enjoyed reading Boyd’s arguments, I also found his writing very pastoral. Boyd makes some strong statements, but he is not “in your face”. His writing is both compelling and compassionate and, perhaps more than on any topic, both of these are needed when dealing with people’s faith.This is a book I would love to get into students’ hands (and heads) before they graduate from High School. Their parents could probably use a copy too.*I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley
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  • Terry Wildman
    January 1, 1970
    Every book I have read by Greg Boyd has impacted my life and my faith in ways I never expected, always drawing me closer to Jesus. Greg is a "Jesus freak" in the best sense of the word, always honoring Jesus and placing him above all else.I give "Benefit of the Doubt" 5 stars, not because I agreed with everything he wrote, but because everything he wrote made me think. It challenged me to dig deeper into what I actually believe. Most of my theology has been developed haphazardly over a lifetime Every book I have read by Greg Boyd has impacted my life and my faith in ways I never expected, always drawing me closer to Jesus. Greg is a "Jesus freak" in the best sense of the word, always honoring Jesus and placing him above all else.I give "Benefit of the Doubt" 5 stars, not because I agreed with everything he wrote, but because everything he wrote made me think. It challenged me to dig deeper into what I actually believe. Most of my theology has been developed haphazardly over a lifetime of embracing teaching after teaching that I often had to later adapt or sometimes reject. I wish this book had been around when I was a new believer, it would have helped me in my journey with Jesus and the Bible.I am still "wrestling with God" (a phrase from the book) over many questions I cannot find solid answers to in the Bible. Benefit of the Doubt didn't answer any of these questions for me, but it gave me Biblical and Christi-logical reasons to continue to wrestle through the questions without shame or guilt.The most amazing concept this book gave me is the difference between "contractual" and "covenantal" faith. I confess that I have often approached the Scriptures like a lawyer, looking for iron clad assurances that would "guarantee" earthly outcomes to my prayers. The chapter on "Legal Deals or Binding Love" is alone worth the price of this book.This is a book I had to sit with and some sections I had to re-read more than once, as I found myself erecting barriers in my mind to his initial statements. It was not easy for me to let down my well guarded theological "convictions" and take an honest look at the what I thought were solidly held Biblical beliefs.In the end, I can honestly say that there is genuine benefit to questioning our beliefs. It will help purify and strengthen our faith. Not because we can be "certain" of everything, but to have the confidence that the Bible serves it's inerrant purpose of pointing us to the one and only sure author of our faith--Jesus the Son of God!Thank you Greg Boyd for your courage and honesty in writing this book.
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  • John Powell
    January 1, 1970
    I really enjoyed this book, though I'm not sure I'd recommend it to just anyone. Parts of it were easy to read, but parts of it required a little more effort. For me, the effort was worth it.A lot of us have been "given" a flavor of Christianity that comes with a lot of baggage. And some of us have been told it's a package deal. Either you believe all of it, or none of it. And so, unfortunately, lots of people choose none of it.Greg helps expose the flaws in that kind of thinking and helps creat I really enjoyed this book, though I'm not sure I'd recommend it to just anyone. Parts of it were easy to read, but parts of it required a little more effort. For me, the effort was worth it.A lot of us have been "given" a flavor of Christianity that comes with a lot of baggage. And some of us have been told it's a package deal. Either you believe all of it, or none of it. And so, unfortunately, lots of people choose none of it.Greg helps expose the flaws in that kind of thinking and helps create a healthy framework within the context of "faith", that allows us to question and doubt and wrestle with all kinds of stuff.Too many churches create an environment where church is the *least* safe place to question anything. If we followed Greg's example, we could have all kinds of discussions and disagreements in church, and everyone could still get along.He's not telling us what to think in this book. He's helping us create a healthy way of approaching questions and issues.Questions like "Do I have to believe the Bible in order to be a Christian?" "All of it?""Do I have to be against homosexuality?""Do I have to be pro-life?"Can we create an environment where people can wrestle with these questions without being ostracized?Greg says not only a resounding YES, but that a "Bible-Believing" church that really lived what they claim to believe would create a safe, caring, supportive, loving community where people can discuss these things and have the freedom to disagree with each other."Faith isn't about striving for certainty. It's about striving to remain faithful in the midst of uncertainty." p.213"A church need not abandon or water down its doctrinal stance to welcome people in this radically open way. It simply needs to have an understanding that not everything is equally important, and the one and only thing that is absolutely essential is a relationship with Christ. It thus only needs to be encouraging all its people to get all their life from Jesus Christ and to therefore be gracious enough to allow space for people to disagree, to doubt, and to be in process." p173
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  • James
    January 1, 1970
    Faith is sometimes contrasted with the reality of doubt. We believe we ought to believe. Questions and skepticism sometimes make us feel like we don't believe enough. If we could simply believe, wouldn't our prayers be more powerful? Wouldn't we see God do incredible things? If mustard seed faith can move mountains how much more our mountain of true belief!But Greg Boyd argues that it doesn't work that way. We are not saved by our certainty, we are saved by Christ and his cross. If we make certa Faith is sometimes contrasted with the reality of doubt. We believe we ought to believe. Questions and skepticism sometimes make us feel like we don't believe enough. If we could simply believe, wouldn't our prayers be more powerful? Wouldn't we see God do incredible things? If mustard seed faith can move mountains how much more our mountain of true belief!But Greg Boyd argues that it doesn't work that way. We are not saved by our certainty, we are saved by Christ and his cross. If we make certainty our goal, we will never struggle through the questions and grow in our confidence in Jesus. Through out this book Boyd uses the illustration of marriage and marriage vows. People with good marriages don't 'trust the strength of their original marriage vows.' Nor do they enter a marriage with anything like certainty about the future. Nope marriage just requires enough trust to act on it. Similarly we don't need to be certain about every aspect of our faith or spiritual life, we only need to have enough trust and Jesus that we will act on his behalf. Faith is covenantal. It is relational. It is something we do something with. Boyd shares his own journey with doubt and faith, his past struggle with sin, his awakening to the reality of grace, his wrestling with difficult passages and his rebuttal of the certainty proof texts. Good book. First book I read on my Kindle Paperwhite.
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  • John Walker
    January 1, 1970
    I have always been naturally inquisitive. Even as a little kid, I grilled my parents with questions about providence, fore-knowledge, science, history, etc. I wasn't content with only knowing what I believed, I wanted to know why I believed it, and why I should believe it. As I've grown older, I've retained that spirit of inquiry, however, my questions have matured and grown more complex. Out of necessity I have had to become comfortable with a considerable amount of ambiguity in my worldview. O I have always been naturally inquisitive. Even as a little kid, I grilled my parents with questions about providence, fore-knowledge, science, history, etc. I wasn't content with only knowing what I believed, I wanted to know why I believed it, and why I should believe it. As I've grown older, I've retained that spirit of inquiry, however, my questions have matured and grown more complex. Out of necessity I have had to become comfortable with a considerable amount of ambiguity in my worldview. Often, I admit that I really have no idea what a certain passage means or what perspective on a certain theological issue is correct, or whatever. Sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with me because it seems that no one else is asking the same questions that I am. I wonder why the world seems so simple for countless others, yet I'm confused and unsure on heaps of issues.It is with this mindset that I received Greg Boyd's latest work, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, courtesy of Baker publishing. The book claims to help followers of Jesus "embrace a faith that doesn't strive for certainty but rather for commitment to Christ in the midst of uncertainty." As you can guess from my preface, this book had great appeal to me. I certainly (no pun intended) have had my share of doubt and have wrestled with intense feelings of cognitive dissonance, so I approached this book with hopeful anticipation that it would lay a groundwork for how I ought to respond to these feelings.In short, I did not find Boyd's overall proposal convincing. I am not going to summarize chapter-by-chapter, but I will point out the areas that I found helpful, and those that I did not.[...]READ THE REST AT freedominorthodoxy.blogspot.com
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  • Michael Frickstad
    January 1, 1970
    Every once in awhile I need a shot of Greg Boyd and Woodland Hills to remind me how loving God is and how muddied the message gets in the "kingdom of the world." This book follows in the tradition of his others in that his premise is immediately arresting and provocative. Throughout his writings he enlightens and uses Scripture in a scholarly way that is at once logical, real, and exciting. Ten years ago I would have rebelled against the idea that doubt and honest reaction to life's trials could Every once in awhile I need a shot of Greg Boyd and Woodland Hills to remind me how loving God is and how muddied the message gets in the "kingdom of the world." This book follows in the tradition of his others in that his premise is immediately arresting and provocative. Throughout his writings he enlightens and uses Scripture in a scholarly way that is at once logical, real, and exciting. Ten years ago I would have rebelled against the idea that doubt and honest reaction to life's trials could actually bring one closer to God. Boyd reveals that both are part of a covenantal relationship rather contractural pact with the Almighty. The self-sacrificing love love of Jesus is to be our model rather than the self-protecting legalism of the world. While I loved the message and the insight, I did have to pause occasionally to digest, reflect, and celebrate...none of which is a bad thing. :)
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  • Carl Jenkins
    January 1, 1970
    Boyd is always an interesting read, and this is no exception. He, as usual, challenges the status quo and argues his case well. I've often struggled with how to approach the issue of doubt within the context of my faith, and Boyd does a good job in presenting many reasons why doubt should be something that we embrace when it shows up so that we can grow in our faith.I didn't agree with all of Boyd's arguments, most specifically those concerning his approach to the Old Testament, but his chapters Boyd is always an interesting read, and this is no exception. He, as usual, challenges the status quo and argues his case well. I've often struggled with how to approach the issue of doubt within the context of my faith, and Boyd does a good job in presenting many reasons why doubt should be something that we embrace when it shows up so that we can grow in our faith.I didn't agree with all of Boyd's arguments, most specifically those concerning his approach to the Old Testament, but his chapters dealing with covenantal faith verses contractual faith, prayer and faith, and what the promises of God to us are were pretty fantastic. I'm skeptical about many of his Emergent positions, but overall it's a good book on how to appreciate doubt.
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  • Neil Bassingthwaighte
    January 1, 1970
    I was actually surprised by how much I liked this book. I was a little worried that Greg Boyd would use it as an opportunity to push Open Theism. I was pleasantly surprised by how little he did. In fact Greg spends much of this book speaking to a key issue in the North American Christian world - the fact that we actual have "faith" in our beliefs as opposed to Jesus. He presents a compelling case for faith in the person of Jesus in a covenantal relationship, as opposed to what he describes as a I was actually surprised by how much I liked this book. I was a little worried that Greg Boyd would use it as an opportunity to push Open Theism. I was pleasantly surprised by how little he did. In fact Greg spends much of this book speaking to a key issue in the North American Christian world - the fact that we actual have "faith" in our beliefs as opposed to Jesus. He presents a compelling case for faith in the person of Jesus in a covenantal relationship, as opposed to what he describes as a contractual relationship. This is a very good read.
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  • David Holford
    January 1, 1970
    One of the most important books I've readThis book completely transformed my understanding of faith and doubt. I am renewed in how to walk in Christ no longer bound by trying to stay mentally convinced, but rather believing by living faithfully. Every chapter addressed my walk and my life.
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  • Ben Graber
    January 1, 1970
    I really liked this book. What raised it to 5 stars was more so because of some key concepts I came away with that immensely help me picture/understand my faith better and also the heart that Greg puts into the book, with parts of it being autobiographical, all in the desire to serve Jesus and also in the empathetic desire to help others who may be dealing with similar pain and struggles he has gone through. At the end of the day, Greg just connects with me, and while not all of his writing is q I really liked this book. What raised it to 5 stars was more so because of some key concepts I came away with that immensely help me picture/understand my faith better and also the heart that Greg puts into the book, with parts of it being autobiographical, all in the desire to serve Jesus and also in the empathetic desire to help others who may be dealing with similar pain and struggles he has gone through. At the end of the day, Greg just connects with me, and while not all of his writing is quick/easy reading, it is often very insightful, and full of empathy, grace, and humility. Some would prefer a writer/pastor/leader that makes claims of certainty, boldly drawing the line on what is or is not the "truth." But frankly, I am happy that Greg is very cautious to do any such thing, which often brings about more judgement than redeeming love. In any case, one doesn't have to go around making audacious claims of what is truth, in order to be bold and stand up for what they feel is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, through Christ Jesus.Being that this is a book review, I will get more specific and note a few more things regarding this particular book. I found it to be very refreshing and eye-opening in the big-picture views it provided regarding the Christian faith and the overarching story line we find in the bible, especially in regards to existential matters. Namely, the suggestion to look at our relationship to God as more of a covenantal one, rather than a contractual law-based one of you-do-this-then-i'll-do-this, and consequently the importance of trustworthiness, pledging ourselves to be faithful in this relationship. Near the end of the book, Greg also frames how to look at the concept of faithfulness through the cross; that through the cross we see what we can trust God for (to love us unconditionally, ascribing unsurpassable worth to each of us, or in other words, that God is for us, not against us), and also how we show our faithfulness to God, (by imitating God's character as shown through the cross by loving our enemies, ascribing unsurpassable worth to all of God's children, even if we suffer with the retaliation of a world that sees the way of the cross as foolishness).Overall, there are many different concepts that could be referenced or discussed but reviews aren't a place to provide a whole summary. If you've come across this book perhaps it's because you've had doubts and have struggled to find a safe place to explore and express them. Perhaps one of the main things the book seeks to proclaim, like it says in the back jacket cover is to, "Let your questions lead you to a stronger faith," to not have fear of your doubt but wrestle with God with it, like the biblical story of Jacob and the angel, and you may find that you come away blessed, albeit changed forever. I know having the space to talk about such doubts with others is not always easily found. I hope and pray to any with such struggles, that you may find persons of peace that seek to build relationship with you rather than convert you to their camp and way of seeing the world.
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  • Colin McKay Miller
    January 1, 1970
    Greg Boyd’s Benefit of the Doubt depends on your experience and relatability to work. I’m pretty sure you can figure out what the book is about when you see the full title, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, and its category placement in Christian apologetics. There’s a lot I like here: I like that Boyd breaks down how Christians have made an idol by trusting in their certainty of faith more than they trust God (stressing that we should trust in our relationship with God more Greg Boyd’s Benefit of the Doubt depends on your experience and relatability to work. I’m pretty sure you can figure out what the book is about when you see the full title, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty, and its category placement in Christian apologetics. There’s a lot I like here: I like that Boyd breaks down how Christians have made an idol by trusting in their certainty of faith more than they trust God (stressing that we should trust in our relationship with God more than the ruleset). As Boyd notes in the text, “faith isn’t about striving for certainty. It’s about striving to remain faithful in the midst of uncertainty.” I also like his assertion that many people have doubts about God because they took a Bible verse for a specific situation and expected it to be a universal promise for them. However, the issue with a book on doubt is that your stance on it will inevitably be shaped by A) how you’re dealing with doubt currently; and B) if you can relate to how the author worked through his or her doubt. Personally, I’m not in a place of doubt faith-wise and once I saw that I didn’t accept how Boyd worked through his own doubt (as in: that wouldn’t answer it for me), I stopped reading (at about the two-thirds mark) for about three months. I liked some of his build up, but I didn’t care for the payoff. It also doesn’t help that he repeatedly telegraphed what he would be doing in future chapters. (Dude, I can see you wrote a book; I trust you to get there…) Past the first chapter, I find any extended reference to what will come in future chapters annoying, and Boyd does it way too often here. I also think that Christian authors need to begin every book with a caveat that reads: “Sorry, I will not be able to flush out the depth of theology on every topic discussed in this one book. Thankfully, we live in the information age and you can research any topic that I do not adequately cover to your liking here. Hopefully I cover enough that you can follow the main goal of this read.” In the end, your personal experience will shape how you receive Benefit of the Doubt and mine gave me a shoulder shrug here. Maybe like Letters From a Skeptic it will stick with me over time and force me to reevaluate my stance. For now, two stars, but reaching higher.
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  • Paul Froehlich
    January 1, 1970
    Evangelical Christians typically embrace a doctrine that the Bible is infallible and inerrant. Their faith is shaken, even abandoned, when some realize the earth is more than ten thousand years old, the Bible is not a reliable science book, and one or more stories in scripture may not be historically accurate. Gregory C. Boyd rejects that all-or-nothing, house-of-cards model of faith. Instead, he contends a more biblical model of faith does not demand certainty, but allows room for ambiguity and Evangelical Christians typically embrace a doctrine that the Bible is infallible and inerrant. Their faith is shaken, even abandoned, when some realize the earth is more than ten thousand years old, the Bible is not a reliable science book, and one or more stories in scripture may not be historically accurate. Gregory C. Boyd rejects that all-or-nothing, house-of-cards model of faith. Instead, he contends a more biblical model of faith does not demand certainty, but allows room for ambiguity and doubts. A gifted writer, Boyd offers insights in one pithy passage after another. His book provides a detailed and persuasive critique of the evangelical model of faith that requires members to hold certain beliefs that must be embraced in an all-or-nothing fashion. As a teen, Boyd was taught that if one thing in Scripture were untrue, then the whole book “is a pack of lies.” Consequently, believers are taught they must reject evolution, accept the “inerrancy” of the Bible, interpret every Bible story literally, and accept that every Biblical narrative is historically accurate.“It this this model that the church by and large continues to give young people,” Boyd writes, “which goes a long way in explaining why roughly sixty percent of young people walk away from their faith sometime after high school.” Boyd proposes a more flexible model of faith with three concentric circles of belief. His faith is grounded in Jesus, and therefore Boyd embraces scripture. Many conservatives, by contrast, start with belief in scripture and because of that come to faith in Jesus. Boyd contends that it does not matter if Christians harbor doubts about the accuracy of, say, the great flood and Noah’s ark, so long as they are confident enough of Jesus crucified and resurrected. Faith need not be a “package-deal gospel,” where to accept Christ one must also interpret every Biblical story literally. Our faith is best grounded in a person, not in a book; Islam is the “religion of the book.” The only foundation of the kingdom of God is “the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11)The problematic aspects of Scripture are reframed, explains Boyd, when Jesus, and not Scripture, serves as the ultimate foundation for faith. With Jesus as the basis, one’s faith need never be shaken when and if a believer encounter discrepancies or evidence a biblical story lacks historical veracity. Nor need they feel obligated to defend genocide or to torture the text to make apparent contradictions disappear. With the plausibility of faith anchored in Christ, believers need not lose faith because of the vengeful prayers in Psalms or the violent depictions of God. “I can wrestle with this material in the secure context of a covenantal committed relationship with Christ...precisely because my source of life is found in Christ, not my beliefs about the Bible.”Boyd makes other points in his critique of certainty-seeking faith:• There is nothing virtuous about the ability to make oneself certain of things.• Faith is covenantal, and is demonstrated by how a person lives, rather than by how firmly he suppresses doubt. • Certainty-seeking faith is like magic in depending upon doing and believing certain things to gain God’s favor.• This model of faith is inflexible, and if one belief is lost, the brittle faith may shatter.• If salvation depends upon remaining certain, then believers will shun learning things that could cause them to doubt the rightness of their beliefs.• Doubt-shunning faith tends to be hypocritical, since Christians expect non-Christians, such as Muslims, to doubt so they may be converted.• Certainty in faith is what distinguishes cults and terrorism.• A person can’t simultaneously pursue truth while suppressing all doubts.• It is idolatrous to replace a relationship with God with confidence in beliefs.• “Any faith that is alive must evolve,” just as the relationship in any good marriage must evolve. Change should be celebrated, not feared.• Even Jesus struggled on issues related to faith, demonstrating that perfect faith is not free of struggles. • Rather than suppressing doubts, “Scripture encourages us to embrace a faith that invites us to boldly raise questions, to honestly embrace ambiguity, and to fearlessly entertain doubt. Biblical faith is grounded in willingness to be honest with ourselves and with God about whatever questions, doubts or complaints we have. Jacob, for example, wrestled with God all night long (Gen. 32:22-32), and Abraham questioned God’s justice when he announced plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:20-33).In his analysis of Scripture, Boyd makes some telling points:•If the ultimate purpose of Scripture is to point us to Christ, then we remain confident that Scripture does not fail to do that. Thus Scripture is infallible in its intended purpose, regardless of some imperfections and limitations in the text. • Christians ought not hold Jesus to promises made under the old covenant. Christ-followers “are to consider his teaching and example, as well as his revelation of God’s character, to carry far more weight than everything that preceded him” in Scripture. In other words, while all Scripture is inspired, it does not all have equal weight.• Modern Christians often confuse faith with legalism, as if only a particular statement or ritual is required for salvation. Yet Scripture speaks of salvation in past, present and future tense. “The past pledge is significant only insofar as we’re faithfully living it out in the present.” Consequently, the crucial question is not whether we once pledged our life to Christ, but whether we are honoring the pledge by how we live in the present. “Faith is not just something located in our heads. It is an active and vital thing that can be identified by the way we live. “• Jesus rewrote the law, not just reinterpreted it. While the Old Testament commands people to make oaths in God’s name (Deut. 6:13), and to take an eye for an eye (Deut. 19:21), Jesus forbids oaths and commands people “not to resist an evil person” but to turn the other cheek. Boyd finds it hard to avoid the conclusion that Jesus was repudiating the law and telling us not to retaliate, even proportionally, but to love our enemies. This “implies we should replace every Old Testament law that requires offenders to be violently punished with his command to love.”• Boyd rejects the notion, as proposed in The Secret (2008) by Rhonda Byrne, that if Christians believe without doubting and confess it fervently, they have a divine right to health and wealth, based on several scriptural passages. “Whenever people interpret hyperbolic expressions in a literal way, they ignore the complexity of the world and transform the principles expressed into magical formulas.”Most Christians will find this book rewarding, even if they don’t agree on every point. Readers will gain insights into faith and gain confidence that asking hard questions and lacking certainty does not preclude commitment.
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  • Seth Pierce
    January 1, 1970
    While I don't agree with everything in the book, Boyd presents several good concepts and many challenging questions. However, about 2/3 of the way through his own theological issues--pacifism, Christian anarchy, and a view of an open future bleed into the material a little too much. Still, the thoughts expressed are interesting even if one isn't inclined to accept them.The weaknesses of the book, due to the author's own issues being raised in a rigid Pentecostal church, are as follows:1. He pres While I don't agree with everything in the book, Boyd presents several good concepts and many challenging questions. However, about 2/3 of the way through his own theological issues--pacifism, Christian anarchy, and a view of an open future bleed into the material a little too much. Still, the thoughts expressed are interesting even if one isn't inclined to accept them.The weaknesses of the book, due to the author's own issues being raised in a rigid Pentecostal church, are as follows:1. He presents a hermeneutic of Jesus as the ultimate lens to view the Bible through, nothing wrong there. However he uses it in a way that comes close to negating many difficult pictures of God in the OT. On page 186 he criticizes the view that sees any story Jesus cites as necessarily being historical (i.e. Jonah). Yet he is willing to take a verse here and there, such as on page 181 when Jesus says to turn the other cheek as a negation of all the punitive texts in the OT. I am certainly not advocating for a violent Jesus, but I do notice several examples where he uses this hermeneutic to promote his case but ignores it when someone else might use the same method to disagree. 2. While there are different views on issues such as God's wrath, sin, punishment, consequences for sin, etc; they are completely absent from his theology of the cross. He certainly, and excellently, highlights the love of God on the cross but omits anything of the reality of what put Jesus in that horrible place to begin with. In places it feels more like a subjective atonement theory simply pointing out someone's sacrifice--but not really dealing with why the sacrifice was necessary, forgiveness, repentance, etc. However, to his credit, he does mention that the Bible uses legal language in places and that he will do further work in a massive tome dealing with the imagery of God as a warrior, etc. 3.He makes a very good case for all of scripture being inspired--but not of equal authority (citing passages such as John 5v36 and Matt. 11v11). The problem comes in the application, this principal, while certainly having some truth, also creates a very subjective experience with scripture. To some degree this can't be avoided--but who decides which passage carries more authority than the others? While comparing Chronicles to John may be an easy--what criteria does one use to determine which OT concepts/texts are authoritative and which aren't? For Boyd, the ones that don't resonate with his view of love are suspect--however he does not deal with the biblical concept of love much beyond that it is self-sacrificing. In his footnotes he goes so far as to say the violence in Revelation is symbolic (obviously) and referring to non-violence. While I will reserve judgment for his forthcoming work, to argue that obvious symbols in scripture don't mean what they mean is the same argument proponents of an eternally burning hell use with words like "destroy." They argue that words like "destruction" don't really mean destruction--something Boyd (as an annihilationist) would find absurd.4. When speaking of what happened on the cross he says, "He is, in a nutshell, stopping in some sense to become the sin and curse of the hard-hearted people He is working with. He is thereby taking on the appearance of one who engages in and commands violence, though in fact He is not" (p. 191). Not only does this smack of Docetism, but it creates a whole set of problems when trying to determine what God is appearing to be and what he actually is. Maybe all the loving stuff was an appearance and the violence was reality. I am not arguing that, but pointing out the issues that come with this line of thought.5. Finally, during his conclusion, he makes the statement, "However counterintuitive it may feel it our fallen common sense, we can be confident that God is using our decisions to love rather than hate, to serve rather than retaliate, and too be killed rather than to kill to move the world closer to a time when God will fully reign on the earth" (p. 246). My issue is with the first part--how do I know what part of my common sense is sinful? This is a book a bout embracing doubt as a tool for building faith--this passage almost feels like its saying "don't doubt this, even if it feels wrong." Thankfully, unlike Tim Jennings (who is collaborating on a future project with Boyd), Boyd admits he might be wrong, and acknowledges that there are issues that come up with his view, and that every picture of God is valuable. If Jennings had taken this tone, my rating of his book would have been higher. As for the big positives in this book:1. The author gives an excellent contrast between a faith based on a legal paradigm versus a covenant model--using his own marriage, along with the biblical metaphor, to make some awesome points. He argues that because we view salvation too much as making a deal with God we are left with a faith that is not lived out in everyday life. 2. Boyd shows how an Israelite's faith, including Jesus' s on the cross is not as strong as it is psychologically certain--but rather in its raw honesty. We have made an idol out of certainty and its effects are devastating to spiritual growth. 3. Our faith cannot grow when at the same time we are questioning we are trying to convince ourselves that what we already know is true. Honest faith means having the guts to doubt/wrestle with God in order to arrive at real answers.4. Jesus Christ is over scripture--meaning that our faith is rooted in the historical person of Jesus first, and that leads us to embrace the inspiration of scripture. This hearkens back to the passage where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for not seeing that all of scripture points to Jesus. 5. He does an interesting word study on the character and essence of Jesus as He relates to the Father. 6. His work on the "certainty" texts is very helpful, distinguishing between a faith that tries to word like magic/New Age philosophy, and a faith grounded in sanctified imagination ad the character of God. 7. His personal examples are very personal and engaging--and relevant. His use of analogy are great and for the most part in keeping with the language of scripture instead of imagining a plethora of possible scenarios that extrapolate meanings from the text. His biggest challenge, especially to groups like SDAs, is not making faith a "package deal"--in other words, make it about the person of Jesus Christ versus a massive list of beliefs we must feel psychologically certain about. The challenge will be to present dogma/doctrine as rooted in the person of Jesus Christ, which is being done in series such as Radical Teachings of Jesus.Good book, challenging, and worth the read.
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  • Mike Saunders
    January 1, 1970
    A challenging and encouraging read. Probably best summed up in a quote from the book. "Doubt isn't a problem to be overcome; it's an invitation that needs to be explored. It is not the enemy of faith, but a friend " - Gregory A. BoydIn my reading plans I now try as much as possible to include a book that builds and challenges my spiritual life. While I tend to gravitate to business and life, my spirit, and my relationship with God is of utmost importance. This book was a theological deep dive in A challenging and encouraging read. Probably best summed up in a quote from the book. "Doubt isn't a problem to be overcome; it's an invitation that needs to be explored. It is not the enemy of faith, but a friend " - Gregory A. BoydIn my reading plans I now try as much as possible to include a book that builds and challenges my spiritual life. While I tend to gravitate to business and life, my spirit, and my relationship with God is of utmost importance. This book was a theological deep dive into the area of doubt and it both deconstructed and reconstructed my faith. An important step in my journey with Christ. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who occasionally (or frequently) doubts some of what the see in Christians, read in the Bible see in the world. If you're doubting the character and possibility of God, this book will give you something to think about as you walk that journey.
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  • Lindsey Painter
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book. While I didn't agree with everything in it, the overarching ideas in the book portray a much more rational, balanced, and attainable faith than the "certainty" model of faith common in most Christian churches today. The most impactful idea for me was the outlining of the difference between covenantal and contractual faith models. I didn't even realize that I've been operating under a contractual understanding of my faith, and that a covenantal understanding not only makes more I loved this book. While I didn't agree with everything in it, the overarching ideas in the book portray a much more rational, balanced, and attainable faith than the "certainty" model of faith common in most Christian churches today. The most impactful idea for me was the outlining of the difference between covenantal and contractual faith models. I didn't even realize that I've been operating under a contractual understanding of my faith, and that a covenantal understanding not only makes more logical sense, but is a source of such joy and peace in my relationship to God.
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  • Carolyn
    January 1, 1970
    Christians often speak of faith being about a relationship, but then we box that in with viewing any doubt, lack of certainty, questions etc as being not just signs of a weak or immature faith, but as being sinful. Thus we end up trying to manipulate ourselves into feeling a specific way, into certainty and squash our questions. This book turns that on its head and suggests that we make an idol of certainty and that faith based in relationship has room for, even needs doubt
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    An important book about the relationship of faith and doubtI appreciated Boyd’s critique of the “certainty” model of faith and it’s unfortunate side-effects. Doubt should always be explored and can be a vehicle for strengthening and sometimes modifying faith that is grounded in a covenant relationship with God.The cross-resurrection event is seen as the defining characteristic of God’s nature, our relationship with God - and in turn others, and our future.
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  • Moaning
    January 1, 1970
    Gregory Boyd may be my favorite 'living' theologian (as opposed to what my friend Trish calls my 'dead guys'). This book relieved the burden of having to 'know'. We can still seek God and related to him even when we question and doubt.
  • Rosie Gearhart
    January 1, 1970
    This was the first book I ever read on this subject and it was wonderful. It lifted a weight off my shoulders. Highly recommended for anyone struggling with spiritual doubt!
  • Trevor
    January 1, 1970
    With Benefit of the Doubt, Greg Boyd has written a personal, pastoral, philosophical, and theological book that aims to rehabilitate our understanding of faith.This book is personal.Boyd gives the reader an all-access pass into his life. He reflects on details from his childhood. He talks about his life-changing encounter with Christ as a 17-year-old at a Pentecostal church. He opens up about how he lost his faith a year later when he started college. He remembers how he was "overwhelmed by innu With Benefit of the Doubt, Greg Boyd has written a personal, pastoral, philosophical, and theological book that aims to rehabilitate our understanding of faith.This book is personal.Boyd gives the reader an all-access pass into his life. He reflects on details from his childhood. He talks about his life-changing encounter with Christ as a 17-year-old at a Pentecostal church. He opens up about how he lost his faith a year later when he started college. He remembers how he was "overwhelmed by innumerable intellectual objections,' and he could find no "adequate response" (97). He talks about how he returned to faith because of the utter sense of meaninglessness he found in a nihilistic view of the world. And he expresses in candid detail how his faith was altered after a night of screaming at the sky.This book is pastoral.Boyd is the senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN. It's no surprise, then, that his writing reflects the heart of a pastor who wants to see people live faithfully in the world. More to the point of this book, he sees the "certainty-seeking" view of faith as an obstacle to living faithfully because it's a flawed view that assumes the more psychologically certain you are, the stronger your faith is. Over against that view, Boyd offers what he calls "covenantal faith," which is "not about striving for certainty, but about faithful living in the face of uncertainty" (77).One of his observations in this vein rings particularly true to me. Many churches combine a certainty-seeking view of faith with a House of Cards view of faith that thinks if any particular belief or doctrine is doubted or denied then the whole thing will collapse. Christianity becomes a package deal, a pre-selected set of beliefs that a person must accept (or reject) as a whole. I agree with Boyd when he comments that "it is this model that the church by and large continues to give young people, which goes a long way in explaining why roughly sixty percent of young people walk away from their faith sometime after high school" (42).In Varsity Faith, I offered a similar assessment:"Because many of these students have been taught to think about faith with only 'in or out,' 'all or nothing' categories, they feel like they have no middle ground on which to stand and think and pray and believe...so they leave."While students leave their faith for a variety of reasons, I think Boyd is correct in naming an inflexible idea of faith as one of the culprits.This book is philosophical.Boyd is no stranger to philosophy. His book, Satan and the Problem of Evil, features significant and thoughtful engagement with a variety of philosophical views. In Benefit of the Doubt, he outlines numerous reasons why seeking certainty or equating faith with certainty is a quest in the wrong direction: it makes a virtue of irrationality; it has an un-Christlike picture of God; it makes faith into a kind of magic; it tends toward hypocrisy.Boyd also turns to Charles Peirce, a 19th century philosopher who is remembered as the "father of pragmatism," to unpack what true faith looks like. Contrary to what many people think, beliefs don't exist apart from our lives in the world. If they did, then we could believe something and it could have no impact on how we live. Peirce argued that beliefs determine how a person responds to certain circumstances. "If a person isn't willing to act in a way that reflects their belief, they don't really believe it, even if they claim to" (129).This book is theological.Boyd was a professor at Bethel University for sixteen years, and he incorporates quite a bit of theology in this book. Ultimately, he wants readers to make Jesus the foundation of their faith, and recognize Jesus as the ultimate revelation of God's true character. Much like my own faith journey, Boyd explains how he finally realized that his reasoning about the Bible and Jesus had been backward: "Rather than believing in Jesus because I believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, as evangelicals typically do, I came to believe the Bible was the inspired Word of God because I first believe in Jesus" (159).As the book moves toward its conclusion, Boyd spends time explaining and defending his Christocentric view of God, outlining the connections between imagination and life, and looking a few verses in the Bible that seem - at first glance - to equate faith with certainty (or at least an absence of doubt).I really enjoyed reading this book. Boyd and I have shared some of the same experiences with this topic, so I was very encouraged by the proposals and conclusions that he offers. Benefit of the Doubt has a lot to offer college students, as well as adults who experience cognitive dissonance when what they learn, what they see, and what they experience bumps up against the faith they hold so dear.Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book from Baker Books.
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  • SJ
    January 1, 1970
    i cannot overstate how important and helpful reading this book was to me. i've read things by this theologian before, but this topic was more central. i highlighted so many lines and will doubtless (haha) revisit many passages in this book--boyd identifies so many problems with the way many modern christians treat 'faith' and explains why this 'idolatry of certainty' is neither biblical nor logical, and a lot of it put into words misgivings or uncertainties i had felt for years but couldn't arti i cannot overstate how important and helpful reading this book was to me. i've read things by this theologian before, but this topic was more central. i highlighted so many lines and will doubtless (haha) revisit many passages in this book--boyd identifies so many problems with the way many modern christians treat 'faith' and explains why this 'idolatry of certainty' is neither biblical nor logical, and a lot of it put into words misgivings or uncertainties i had felt for years but couldn't articulate, while other parts provided insight and perspective that i didn't know i was so desperately awaiting. it feels like some burden has been lifted. it's not that boyd is presenting new theology, it's just the framework through which he approaches truth and scripture that makes all these verses that i have 'known' for years suddenly seem clear. and what it means to 'have faith', and what god wants from us.i think perhaps my favorite revelation in this book, that i keep thinking about over and over and that seems so obvious yet was something i never realized before, was the observation that "the God revealed on the cross is a God who loves people more than right doctrines." it's okay if you don't *know* all the *right* answers, or if you're not sure what the *correct* position is on any particular theological issue. god's not waiting for us to get everything figured out to accept us. and he's not going to stop loving us if we question him or any of the things we were taught we had to believe to be "good" christians. "but god shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, christ died for us."
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  • Philip Yoder
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes I think, "Greg, that was a stretch," and then the next moment, I am flipping pages in excitement of the hope that Christianity could be. I think he is on to something that could be huge for a more and more polarized world, even if I am tempted to call it wishful thinking.
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  • Borel119
    January 1, 1970
    "Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty" is a theological book written by bestselling author and pastor of Woodland Hills church Greg Boyd. It sits within a genre and explores themes similar to books such as "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel, or "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan; however, Boyd's tone is generally more scholarly, with elevated, formal diction, and copious amounts of parenthetical citations to other sources supporting the information and ideas that he poses. Boyd write "Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty" is a theological book written by bestselling author and pastor of Woodland Hills church Greg Boyd. It sits within a genre and explores themes similar to books such as "The Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel, or "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan; however, Boyd's tone is generally more scholarly, with elevated, formal diction, and copious amounts of parenthetical citations to other sources supporting the information and ideas that he poses. Boyd writes to any and all within the Christian faith who have struggled with feelings of doubt, and feelings that they are "less righteous," etc. as a result of this (which, I would argue, and Boyd, in his book, concurs, includes most intelligent and intellectually curious believers). Boyd wishes to offer support to anyone dealing with such issues, and poses a different view on the Christian concept of "faith"; one based upon covenantal terms as opposed to contractual, being more concerned with a relationship with God than the "terms of agreement." Combining all three rhetorical appeals (logos, ethos, and pathos) and painstakingly proving credibility by citing sources for every claim put forward, he creates a convincing, convicting argument that a model of faith as the opposite of doubt is, in fact, unbiblical and idolatrous. He asserts that those striving for, and thus creating an idol out of, a certainty in their beliefs, are in all actuality becoming more concerned with convincing themselves that the convictions that they currently hold are true, as opposed to honestly seeking out truth itself. He argues that this belief system, which is common and widespread throughout the modern church, is as well hypocritical, pointing out that Christians attempting to evangelize ask others to doubt their beliefs in order to turn to God, but shun doubts themselves in such way that creates a "faith-based learning-phobia," thus adding to the secular stereotype that evangelical Christians are close-minded, ignorant, and judgmental. The core claims made in Boyd's book are bold and counter-Christian-cultural, but are well-supported by scripture and logic. He takes away all attempts to sugarcoat various issues with the Christian faith, leaving the reader, whether they agree with him or not, with a deeper level of honesty in their convictions. Some values echo those in books such as "Crazy Love," by Francis Chan, but taken to their furthest extent. Boyd fights to remind Christians what a relationship with God is about; simply a relationship with God, and one that is manifested in love for Him and all others. He convincingly proves to the reader that doubts about any part of the Christian faith are not an enemy of it, but rather, are crucial in the pursuit of truth. He argues that there is no doubt of doctrine that should be able to hinder someone from having a spiritual life-giving relationship with the God of the universe, and that certainty only matters in that Christians must simply be CERTAIN ENOUGH of their convictions to act on them and pursue Christ in the midst of uncertainty. Taking on a scholarly and formal, and yet still colloquial and brotherly, tone, he combines appeals of all kinds, with references well-versed and well-supported by scripture, creating a life-changing shift in the reader's view of faith, speaking truth in a way that many would rather not think about, and calling the reader to action and love in the most honest way possible, embracing doubts and facing the unknown, despite uncertainty, in a relationship that trusts God for His character, and judges no one. This book was awarded five stars, not because it is perfect, but because its intent and meaning is one that is moving and convicting, forcing readers to rethink their relationship with God in way that will only help it, and reinforce their trust in and love for Him.
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  • Trevor Lloyd
    January 1, 1970
    Absolutely loved reading this book. Must now rate as one of my favourites. Let's quickly get out the way a couple of weaknesses - first, the use of Jesus as an example of wrestling faith, not because there is not some truth in it, but it needed to explore more fully the relationship between humanity and divinity of Christ and try to get a little clearer on this in relation to Jesus 'doubting'; second, lack of anything about the Holy Spirit and faith, of the idea of the illumination of the Spirit Absolutely loved reading this book. Must now rate as one of my favourites. Let's quickly get out the way a couple of weaknesses - first, the use of Jesus as an example of wrestling faith, not because there is not some truth in it, but it needed to explore more fully the relationship between humanity and divinity of Christ and try to get a little clearer on this in relation to Jesus 'doubting'; second, lack of anything about the Holy Spirit and faith, of the idea of the illumination of the Spirit, of 'revelation-knowledge': would have been good to have had an assessment and evaluation of this. However, judging it on what it did rather than on what it didn’t do, it is excellent. It has helped me to understand better my life of faith, away from certainty-seeking faith and towards covenantal faith; to see faith not so much as belief and more as trust. It has helped me then to look at the process of belief formation and the space for openness, uncertainty and provisionality in our beliefs. Helped me to see Christ as the centre of faith, hermeneutics and theology. I liked the whole thing on exercising faith through imagination and renewal of the mind (rather than psychological self-manipulation), to have a healthier view of principles and promises in the Bible, and to keep the cross at the centre of life and faith. Brilliant. It has encapsulated some of the ways of thinking I have struggled with and felt were unaccepted by other Christians for years. I will recommends this widely and regularly.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent book; a must-read for any Christian struggling with any aspect of the Christian faith. Gregory Boyd discusses the nature of faith and how we have twisted it to mean certainty. Faith is not about certainty. Boyd is not saying you should doubt just for the sake of doubt, but that questioning the beliefs you think you are certain about will lead you to a stronger faith in God.The core message is that it's all about Jesus. Jesus Christ is the center and the perfecter of our fait This is an excellent book; a must-read for any Christian struggling with any aspect of the Christian faith. Gregory Boyd discusses the nature of faith and how we have twisted it to mean certainty. Faith is not about certainty. Boyd is not saying you should doubt just for the sake of doubt, but that questioning the beliefs you think you are certain about will lead you to a stronger faith in God.The core message is that it's all about Jesus. Jesus Christ is the center and the perfecter of our faith. No matter what you believe about any other issue within the faith, your confidence and hope that Jesus is who He says He is, is what makes you a Christian. He is the perfect representation of the Father; when we look at Jesus we see what God is like. I believe this core message is the only one that can bring unity back to the church in North America, where divisions over small, denominational issues have shattered the church into a thousand pieces.Boyd also discusses the covenantal nature of faith. In today's Western, black-and-white culture we have treated a relationship with God more like a contract—a contract that says, since Jesus died on the cross for me, and I believe and am certain about this, then I'm saved. But throughout the Bible faith is described more as a covenant—which is more about God's character. Whereas a contract is based in mistrust, a covenant is based in trust.Several other thought-provoking topics make this a must-read for any Christian.
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  • Pauline
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the best books I've read this year. I've been wrestling with my upbringing and Christian 'assumptions' for a few years after suffering a bit of a church burn-out. Having grown up in a Christian environment I have got to the point where I needed to look at my so-called beliefs and ask myself why and if I actually believed them. I definitely have experienced enough cognitive dissonance to know I am not happy with the evangelical status-quo, especially the absolute certainty with whi This is one of the best books I've read this year. I've been wrestling with my upbringing and Christian 'assumptions' for a few years after suffering a bit of a church burn-out. Having grown up in a Christian environment I have got to the point where I needed to look at my so-called beliefs and ask myself why and if I actually believed them. I definitely have experienced enough cognitive dissonance to know I am not happy with the evangelical status-quo, especially the absolute certainty with which people engage with the Bible. My rational and logical mind rebels against it.I'm definitely the intended audience so it's maybe unsurprising that I LOVED the book. It's an easy but challenging read; I had many light bulbs and 'I so agree with this' moments. It has helped clarify my thinking and confirmed to me that there is nothing wrong with holding beliefs loosely, and that my trust in Jesus is not swayed by this and that theological argument or next scientific discovery.Do I know that my faith in God is true? Sometimes I do, but often I have doubts, however I am CONFIDENT ENOUGH to act as if it were true, and that is the crux of the matter.I would recommend this book to all my church friends who are struggling with the all or nothing approach to faith.
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  • Andrea
    January 1, 1970
    I'd give this book 3 1/2 stars if I could. I can't say I really liked it, but it was more than just a regular like. Boyd makes a coherent, intelligible argument that doubt (or uncertainty, if you will) is not the enemy of faith but actually an ally. As he states: "Doubt isn't a problem to be overcome; it's an invitation that needs to be explored." This is a great book not only for those who struggle with doubts and questions, but also for those who think they've got their faith all nailed down. I'd give this book 3 1/2 stars if I could. I can't say I really liked it, but it was more than just a regular like. Boyd makes a coherent, intelligible argument that doubt (or uncertainty, if you will) is not the enemy of faith but actually an ally. As he states: "Doubt isn't a problem to be overcome; it's an invitation that needs to be explored." This is a great book not only for those who struggle with doubts and questions, but also for those who think they've got their faith all nailed down. One doesn't have to believe without any doubt, one simply has to be convinced enough in order to act on those convictions, while always remaining open to the questions and challenges that will inevitably arise as we live in a broken world.Boyd writes in a very accessible style. There is a fair amount of theology here, but he does not present it in a dry academic way, but in a personal manner, including illustrations from his own life journey. Some might think that the very premise of the book indicates that Boyd has abandoned true faith, but I came away with the clear understanding that this is a man who cherishes faith deeply, deeply enough to be willing to wrestle with the questions and doubts that arise as he tries to understand and apply it.
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