My inspiration for reviewing this book came not so much from its impact on my own life - though that was significant - but from the negative reviews which only serve to reinforce Boyd's thesis.
One reviewer writes:
"Too lopsided on one aspect of God's character ... Does not balance personal skew with God's holy wrath against sin."
These words exemplify the essence of Boyd's concern, as stated in the chapter titled 'The Center is Love:'
"Even as I write these words, I can hear someone saying, 'Yes, we must love. But we must balance love with truth. ... Love has its place, but we must not forget God's wrath.' ... We have to wonder where anyone got the idea that love in any way competes with truth, holiness or biblical doctrine. Love is the central biblical truth; it is the essence of all holiness." (p. 57-58)
Boyd in no way infers or states that we should gloss over sin in our own lives and the lives of others, but in discerning evil, or sin, we should be motivated by the love of Christ that lives within us, not our need to draw worth from our power to judge others, a desire rooted in our fallen, or 'old man.'
As Boyd so clearly states, our focus on hatred of sin is often rooted in our desire to play God, by deeming who is worthy of love and who is not, based on their love-ability. This, simply stated, is heretical to the very nature of the God, who IS love, and portrays a skewed image of Abba Father that believes the divine's hatred for sin, not his lovingkindness, sent him to the cross.
All the writers of the New Testament clearly state that all we do should be done in love, and even our acts of apparent harshness, discipline and discernment need be motivated by what is best for the others involved, not a sense of righteousness. Boyd captures this sentiment wonderfully and saturates this thesis with countless scriptures and a theology that, while unsettling to our paradigms, is sound to those who have tasted of the grace of God.
The further accusation of antinomianism is baseless, and, as is so often the case with those who are quick to toss about this term, indicates a failure to understand its actual meaning. Antinomianism is the belief that God's grace, as evidenced through the cross, eradicated the law by destroying the reality of wrong and right, good and evil, and this belief is a a lie; it IS heresy. Boyd's thesis far from antinomian. Like the Apostle Paul, he is simply stating that its power to either condemn us when we fail to fulfill its demands or its ability to ascribe to us worth when we fulfill is demands IS DEAD.
While we still seek to discern sin and the lies that bind us, the law and its power died to us at the cross, and the only thing that matters now - the only law that binds us, is the law of liberty, or as Paul states, faith expressing itself through love.
This IS the gospel. We no longer view God, ourselves or the world through the grid of the law, but through God's love, and God's love is selfless and always seeks the best for the other, and so, as Boyd states, we must discern those things that harm us - the lies we believe and the sins that bind us - but never to establish our goodness before God, as our goodness is found only in the person of God through Christ.
I believe Boyd expresses well the truth that love need not be balanced with truth, as if his lovingkindness, grace and tenderheartedness and his truth, holiness and majesty are opposites, but these are all many expressions of the essence of God who is love. Boyd quotes philosophy professor Peter Kreeft to drive this point home:
"God is not half love and half wrath, or 99 percent love and 1 percent wrath. God IS love. Wrath is how his love appears to us when we sin or rebel or run away from him. The very light that is meant to help us, appears to us as our enemy when we seek the darkness (p. 59)."
Boyd further states: "All the attributes of God are to be defined by Christ. In the crucified Messiah we see God's just and holy wrath against sin, but we see it as a manifestation of God's love. ... Everything that God does, even his expressions of holy wrath, are done out of love (p. 59-60).
And at the risk of overquotation, let Boyd's word best summarize the heart of this writing: "Hence, as those who are called to live in such a way that people can know God by knowing us, we are called to love. We are only balanced in our understanding of love when we understand that it is the one thing we must live in - to all people, at all times, in all situations, without exception. If we do this, everything else we need to do will get done. If we don't do this, there's simply nothing else worth doing (p. 60)."
While one may not agree with all the practical applications of Boyd's thesis, the doctrinal and spiritual soundness is unquestionable in light of the apostles' writings and the living expression of God's love as found in the life of Christ.