This is the fourth book of Greg Boyd's that I have purchased this summer, and I have 3 more in my cart. There is a good reason for this. Is God to Blame? - Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering is--I think--the layman's version of his book Satan & the Problem of Evil. In it, we find that Dr. Boyd is very good at answering the toughest theological questions. I hear next year he will be coming out with a book about the violent portraits of God in the Old Testament, to be called The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, for which I am extremely excited. He is dedicated to the tough questions--something I greatly admire. In my own life, I aspire to be that kind of theologian and Boyd has become an inspiration to me.
In Is God to Blame?, Boyd refutes the "blueprint theology" in which all things are considered to be part of God's divine predestined plan. I have found it to be a great source for the book I'm writing against Calvinism.
However, the book is mainly focused on answering hard questions. Why is this happening to me? Why is there suffering? Why does God seem so arbitrary? Why are my prayers unanswered while others' are answered? Why do I suffer while others are blessed? Why do my prayers fail when the prayers of others come true? Does prayer even make a difference?
You may think these questions cannot be answered--after all, they have been asked and pondered for thousands of years--but Boyd does an incredible job answering them. His answers are about as good as it gets. One thing I really respect about Boyd is how close he stays to Scripture. All of his points are backed by considerable Scriptural support. Another thing I respect about him is that he never settles for cliches or "pat answers" but always faces the problems head on, considers their reality, and provides a solution that--though could never take away the pain--can satisfy the doubt and the intellectual frustration with God and life in general. I wish people like Woody Allen would read this book.
The only problem I had with the book of which I can think was with chapter 8. In this chapter, he analyzes the blueprint interpretation of Romans 9 and explains why the interpretation is flawed. Then he provides his own interpretation. I do not feel that it was a very strong chapter. In fact, it's the shortest chapter in the book. Not that short means weak, it just wasn't very thorough. If I were an educated Calvinist, I don't think I would be convinced. As someone who has studied Romans 9 quite a bit, I felt that there was a lot more he could have fleshed out. That being said, it doesn't seem like this is an academic book geared toward a biblical-theological studies audience and, thus, he cannot be faulted for not diving in real deep.
Also, I don't think I agree with his solution for the question "Why does God harden hearts in the Bible?" although I won't bore you explaining why--maybe in a future post.
To conclude, the problems Boyd confronts in this book are relevant to all people, and his answers are incredibly sufficient and helpful. Reading this book has been a great encouragement to my walk with God and has been great fuel for my faith. I highly recommend it.