Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Letters From A Skeptic : A Review

Letters From A Skeptic


Dr. Greg Boyd

A Review

Letters have long been a means for those who are a part of the Christian Church to communicate truth. Over half the New Testament are letters, the letters of Augustine, Luther, and Wesley are all studied by scholars to help better understand these leaders of the church. Many have been introduced to the formal study of theology and apologetics by reading C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. In 1994, Greg Boyd contributed a set of letters between his father and himself.

Boyd’s father had given up on the church and faith years ago - perhaps it was a position that was cemented when his wife died, leaving him to raise his children as a single parent. Over the years, the resentment, the anger, and the confusion had grown - to the point, that as the book begins, he is not certain about what he does believe; though he feel fairly certain about what he does not believe.

It is at that point that Dr. Boyd and his father begin a two years correspondence concerning the major issues the unbeliever has when he or she considers Christ as Lord and Savior. The compiles this correspondence topically and somewhat chronologically. Issues are address one by one - using history, philosophy, and scripture. The answers are accurate and well thought out, though rarely getting heady or unintelligible.

I have two concerns about a book of this caliber that is now entering its 4th edition. The first is the lack of documentation. With very few exceptions, the author does not provide references for scripture (whether quoted directly from an English translation or merely a paraphrase written on the fly by the author). The same is true for statements made from third party sources. I can understand why these were not part of the original correspondence; but as the book enters its 4th edition, it would make sense to add the references - even while clearly noting that they were added to the original letters years after they were written.

The second concern is that a book that is entering it 4th edition provides no path for further study. Again, though not part of the original written correspondence, it would seem important to guide the reader in discovering additional resources that explain the ideas discussed in the book. The addition of a set of discussion question covering each topic does help the reader in processing the ideas - but provides not guidance in better understanding the history, philosophy, or scriptures that support those ideas.

The book would make a great textbook on apologetics with the addition of references and suggestions for further study. In a classroom, these missing elements can be provided by the instructor; but the reader is at a loss if the book is being read without the direction of an experienced teacher.

But even with those flaws, the book still serves as an excellent tool for evangelism. As the author makes clear, by the end of the correspondence, Ed Boyd (Dr. Boyd’s father) did come to faith. It has served the same purpose in the lives of others. It will continue to be so in the lives who read it in the future.

This review is based on an electronic copy of the book provided by the publisher.

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