Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now
Gregory A. Boyd
In Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now, former atheist Gregory Boyd weaves together the meditations of Brother Lawrence, Jean Paul de Caussade, and Frank Laubach to encourage readers to wake up to the present reality of God. Boyd, a scholar with credentials from Yale and
Princeton, studied three theologians from three different periods and transposed their practices for application in our lives. The result seems radical to our contemporary, compartmentalized lives.
In this series of essays, Boyd challenges readers to be aware of God’s presence in each moment of our lives, posting reminders throughout the text. He effectively holds together abstract, counter-cultural, sometimes mind-blowing concepts with a concrete structure, and reminds readers to read slowly and prayerfully (25). Each chapter begins with an opening quote from Brother Lawrence, J.-P. de Caussade, or Laubach, followed by a poetic prayer by Boyd. He concludes each chapter with practical application exercise derived from his study. This structure helps to counter an obstacle Boyd foresees in practicing the presence of God in each moment. “Gathering new information is easy: translating it into transformation is the challenge” (25). Just as a weekly trip to church isn’t what makes us followers of Christ, the truth of the Bible remains mere information until the presence of the Holy Spirit convicts us and reshapes our hearts and our subsequent actions.
Until that transformation occurs, we compartmentalize God and persist as “functional atheists”. Boyd asserts, “We may still believe in God, of course, but he’s not real to us most of the time” (29). The only way for God to be real to us is to seek him in each moment. Because we can’t change the past and can only speculate about the future, all we have to offer God is the present moment. “The only thing that matters is that we—right now—cease our striving after false gods and become aware of God’s ever-present, perfect love” (54).
All Christians intellectually agree that Christ died for our sins, but only those seeking “Life” from God on a moment-by-moment basis can effectively fill themselves with his love and pass it on to others as we are commanded. To be awake to God in each moment is to die to ourselves continually. “Only now are we free to agree with God that every person we encounter, including our own worst enemies, was worth Christ dying for” (107). What an effective reminder of how radical authentic Christianity is!
Boyd closes Present Perfect with a reminder of the big picture. “As much as possible, we are to manifest now what will be true for the whole creation in the future” (150). Our full, authentic belief in God can be displayed in our actions, in each moment.
Present Perfect is inspiring, freeing and deeply convicting at the same time. Boyd effectively grounds his work in classic contemplative authors and scripture, while keeping his finger on the pulse of our modern culture. He employs challenging exercises to tie down abstract notions of a living, loving, ever-present God.
Reviewer’s notes: I highly recommend this book! My delay in writing this review is a testimony to how challenging and convicting it is. Against the author’s advice, I read hurriedly and hungrily, leaving my review copy cluttered with notes. I’m sure I will use this book as a resource in the future.