Boyer and Hall set themselves a difficult course indeed, but they are able to stay on an orthodox course by reminding us of something too often forgotten in seminaries: namely, that theology must ever go hand in hand with worship. When we finally realize that God is not impersonal and unintelligible but radically personal and supra-intelligible, our proper response should not be to trade our theology for an empty pluralism that says all religious claims are equally valid, but to fall to our knees in praise of the Creator whose ways are not our ways and whose thoughts are not our thoughts.
Boyer, professor of theology at Eastern University, and Hall, chancellor of Eastern University and dean of Palmer Theological Seminary, are both excellent scholars, but they are even more impressive as teachers. Though the authors take us on a whirlwind tour of Christian theology, focusing on such heady topics as the problem of pain and predestination (Calvinism) vs. free will (Arminianism), they never once fall prey to jargon. Quite to the contrary, they hold their reader's attention from beginning to end, never missing a step or hiding behind opaque academic language or scores of technical notes. In terms of lucidity, choice of analogies, irenic tone, nuanced common sense, and connection to the practical, day-to-day life of the man in the pews, they come very close to reaching the bar set by C. S. Lewis.
The authors succeed brilliantly in focusing our eyes on the central mystery of our faith: that we are made in the image of a God whose actions, though freely chosen, are constrained by his very nature, "with the result that full, meticulous sovereignty can be sustained right alongside full, libertarian freedom." Where else in our contentious age of soap-boxing and spin can the "mere" Christian reader find an honest appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of Calvinism's Logic of Sovereignty and Arminianism's Logic of Freedom? And where else, in an age that daily blames God for war and natural disasters and that treats prayer like an ATM machine, can we be reminded that the kind of shalom God seeks is not mechanical (where faulty parts are thrown out and replaced) but personal (where flawed human beings are not replaced, but healed).
All Christians know that the God of the Bible is personal, but few have gone as far as Boyer and Hall in drawing out the full implications of God's radical, transcendent Personhood.
Louis Markos (www.civitate.org/markos), professor in English and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University, holds the Robert H. Ray Chair in Humanities. His books include From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Pagan Classics (IVP), Apologetics for the 21st Century (Crossway), and On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis(Moody).