Breaking the Idol of Certainty by Greg Boyd (Review)

I read a lot of books, but Breaking the Idol of Certainty by Greg Boyd 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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