Steven Boyer is professor of theology at Eastern University and Christopher Hall is the chancellor, as well as the dean of Palmer Theological Seminary. Together they’ve collaborated to offer us a book exploring the role mystery plays in Christian theology. The over-riding metaphor that they use is that of the Sun as mystery. In that sense, mystery illumines what you can see, but is not something you can stare directly into without being blinded.
Using this as an organizing device, the book is split into two parts: The Sun and The Landscape. In the first part, we explore the nature of mystery (or the nature of “The Sun”) as best we can through both exegetical, theological, and historical studies. We look first at what mystery is and is not (chapter 1). Then, explore why mystery is necessary (chapter 2), as well as how it has been historically understood and employed in Christian theology (chapter 3). Finally, we look at how the knowledge of mystery relates to us as God’s image bearers (chapter 4).
In the second part, Boyer and Hall take detailed looks at several significant mysteries in Christian theology. Taking the framework articulated in the first part, they look at the doctrine of the Trinity (chapter 5), the incarnation (chapter 6), sovereignty and human freedom in the realm of salvation (chapter 7), the nature and function of prayer (chapter 8), and finally a chapter on how mystery is employed in world religions (chapter 9).
I think this book will prove to be a significant conversation starter. Even if you do not agree with some of Boyer and Hall’s theological conclusions in the second part of the book (like the middle course they try to chart between Calvinism and Arminianism in chapter 7), I found the way the see mystery relating to Christian theology very helpful. Indeed, you could make the case that Christian theology is essentially the study of three mysteries:
- How am I saved?
- Who is Jesus?
- Who is God?
Fred Sanders has a good discussion of how the first question naturally progresses to the third, but Boyer and Hall provide a good framework for discussing mystery in the first place. If you’ve thought about picking up Rob Bell’s most recent book, I’d go for this more well reasoned and well researched book instead.
- Author: Christopher Hall & Steven Boyer
- Title: The Mystery of God: Theology for Knowing the Unknowable
- Publisher: Baker Academic (November 1, 2012)
- Paperback: 272pgs
- Reading Level: Bible School/Seminary
- Audience Appeal: Pastors and Students interested in digging deeper into the mysteries inherent in the Christian faith
- Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of Baker Academic on NetGalley)
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