Gregory A. Boyd and Edward K. Boyd. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1994. 264 Pages. $9.99, cloth.
This is a book for those looking for answers to life’s tough questions. These might be the issues of suffering and pain: Where was God when the six million died? Or they might be issues of philosophy: What room is there for God in a scientific worldview? Letters from a Skeptic is not for people who prefer to be like ostriches with their heads in the ground. It is for those who genuinely want to know, who are willing to look honestly at the world—in short, for those who are honest skeptics.”
The dishonest skeptic is really nothing more than a cynic. Cynics say, “Here are all the reasons why I won’t believe. I won’t listen to answers even if they are reasonably given.” In contrast, an honest skeptic is one who says, “I would like to believe, and if you can show me enough information that is reasonable and satisfies my natural curiosity, then I will truly consider it.” That is the kind of person for whom Gregory Boyd has published this three-years’ worth of correspondence between him and his father.
The father, Edward Boyd, is a skeptical seventy-year-old former Catholic. His son Gregory is a thirty-something associate professor of theology at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Some may think that they will encounter stuffy, intellectual answers in these pages. In fact, this book is heartfelt and allows us to see an honest conversation between a father and son, where life’s most difficult questions are handled with truth and integrity. Gregory Boyd is not didactic, arrogant, or academic; rather he squares off with the issues raised. Similarly, Edward Boyd is genuinely seeking real answers to questions that have been on his mind for most of his seventy years.
A single question, honestly and reasonably answered, often sparks another query. So it is with Letters from a Skeptic. The series of thirty back-and-forth letters unveils the family concerns of the Boyds even as it leads from one set of questions and answers to another.
Does a book like this have any special value for Jewish believers in Jesus? Indeed it does, because it provides a wealth of answers to some of the very questions Jewish followers of Yeshua have asked. Even though these men are both Gentiles, the questions are answered from a very Jewish cultural worldview. In fact, there are so many references to the Holocaust that one would think this was written by Jewish people. Most of the father’s theology is post-Holocaust, and his complaints about God are laced with Auschwitz orientation. What makes the book of value for Jewish believers is that many of the arguments the skeptical father puts forth are not typical of “Catholic vs. Protestant” debates but are the kinds of issues about which Jews are thinking.
Letters from a Skeptic may be especially good to give to a Jewish family member who does not yet believe. One reason is that it comes in the back door, so to speak. Some who would find it difficult to read something directed specifically at Jews will find it easier to listen in on someone else’s conversation. Here they can overhear as others converse about religion and faith, about objections and answers.
Bob Mendelsohn directs the Sydney, Australia branch of Jews for Jesus.