Seeing Is Believing: Experience Jesus through Imaginative Prayer by Gregory A. Boyd

To the consternation of many of my friends, I really like Greg Boyd. He is a smart, thoughtful and passionate for Jesus.

This book is a defence of imaginative prayer, or cataphatic prayer.

Why don’t Christians live in the freedom and joy of the gospel? Boyd argues it is because information about the gospel does not transform you. You can believe in your mind that 2 Cor 5:17 is true – you are a new creation, but that will not enable you to become a new creation.

Boyd argues:

We tend to have a naive conviction that if only we read

another book or get involved in another Bible study,

our lives will be significantly changed. As a matter of

fact, this is not the case at all. Indeed, contemporary Western Christians are as a whole arguably

the most informed generation of Christians in all of church history.Yet no one would be so foolish as to

suggest that we are the most transformed.To the contrary, research suggests that the faith of American

evangelicals generally has very little effect on our day-to-day lives.

Boyd also says:

The most fundamental reason why believers do not experience who they are in Christ, and thus don’t 
experience the peace they can have in Christ, is that their experienced self-identity is rooted in the 
flesh.Their experienced self-identity is not in line with their true identity as believers in Christ. 
The way they see and experience themselves, and thus the way they see and experience God and the world, 
is not in conformity with the way things actually are. They are to some degree caught in the web of deception 
that is the flesh.They intellectually believe the truth, but they do not experience the truth as real and thus 
do not consistently live according to truth.
 

The book is about how to experience the truth of KNOWING who you are in Christ. I confess that I found the book a blessing and very helpful as I read it. And I think there is much in this book which can be helpful, even for those who do not like Boyd’s theological position. He firmly states that there is NOTHING we can do to achieve our status in Christ and the Church and Western Christianity has preached for too long, and with damaging consequences a “try harder” message.

What the “try harder” solution does is confuse the effect with the cause. It puts the caboose before the engine. It implicitly assumes that what the believer does determines who the believer is, rather than vice versa. It makes behavior the means to acquiring a new identity rather than making a new identity the means of acquiring new behavior.

This book challenges us to quit trying harder, and to enter into the reality of what Christ HAS done and is doing in us. Let me finish with a final quote from Boyd which I think summarizes his position well:

The key to experiencing the peace of God as an ongoing reality in our lives, then, is not in trying hard to achieve it. This can only make us more anxious! The key, rather, is to cease from our own striving and let the Holy Spirit do his work in pointing us to Jesus. The key is in allowing the Holy Spirit to make Christ real to us and to rest, just as we are, in this reality. In doing this we allow the Holy Spirit to overcome deception in our lives with truth, performance in our lives with grace, hiddenness in our lives with openness, and thus destruction in our lives with wholeness. As we through the power of the Spirit experience the peace Jesus offers us as we are, in the midst of all our anxiety, the peace that characterizes his life becomes ours by grace. As we behold the glory of his peace, we are transformed into this peace from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).
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