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The Crucifixion Of The Warrior God, In An Epic Constructive Investigation, Takes Up The Set Of Dramatic Tensions Between Depictions Of Divinely Sanctioned Violence In Scripture And The Message And Life Of Peace Of Jesus Centering The New Testament Over Two Volumes, Author Gregory A Boyd Argues That We Must Take Seriously The Full Range Of Scripture As Inspired, And The Centrality Of The Crucified And Risen Christ As The Supreme Revelation Of God


10 thoughts on “The Crucifixion of the Warrior God

  1. says:

    Greg Boyd s two volume study on the problem of violence attributed to God vis vis the pacifist teachings of Jesus is most likely the most ambitious available At least I hope so For many readers, the study will be too long and too detailed I found it so many times, but that is mostly because he covered ground I was familiar with Other readers would have needed to see that ground covered.Boyd seeks to argue for a strictly consistent cruciform hermeneutic St Augustine and Martin Luther among many others argued that the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ was the touchstone for interpreting all of scripture, but they still ended up accepting the violence attributed to God in the Old Testament while earlier Patristic writers posited alternate interpretations to avoid such attributions Boyd points out a correlation between the Constantinian Revolution in the Church and the tendency of theologians to accept violent portrayals of God After all, politics is politics.The early Patristic way of absolving God of violence was to argue that Old Testament texts that seemed to ascribe violence to God really meant something else The usual method of the time was to interpret such passages symbolically Boyd discusses Origen at great length as the most prominent and formative of scripture interpreters in the Christian centuries The basic argument was that anything inconsistent with Jesus absorbing violence on the cross rather than committing it had to have a meaning under the surface consistent with the Cross For example, exterminating the Canaanites is symbolic of the need to exterminate the sinful impulses within each one of us Boyd affirms the basic principle of seeking a cruciform hermeneutic but he suggests that this symbolic approach is not persuasive in our time The rest of the first volume is devoted to evaluating various attempts to deal with the violence in Old Testament texts and showing where he finds them wanting All of this is important and valuable, but for the purpose of this review, I will focus on the new approach to a cruciform hermeneutic that Boyd offers under four categories.1 Cruciform Accommodation Boyd suggests that in cultivating the chosen people, the Jews, God had to act like a missionary, tolerating many evils in the culture because the people are simply not able to learn the whole truth at once Boyd uses the image of masks where God pretends to be violent when God is really non violent because violence is the only thing the people understand This category suggests God purposely disguising Godself, but occasionally Boyd lets on that there is a problem of hearing God rightly That is, people hear God commanding violence when God is commanding something else For example, God really told the people to occupy Canaan, not exterminate everybody This category works reasonably well in the second sense, but not the first sense.2 The Principle of Redemptive Withdrawal This is the main lynchpin of Boyd s cruciform hermeneutic When people disobey God and act violently, God allows people to suffer the consequences of their own violence That is, God protected the Jews from the Assyrians for many years, but once the social injustice reached an intolerable level, God stopped protecting Israel from Assyrian and Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom Same thing with Babylon and Jerusalem later on There is a huge amount of support for this notion throughout scripture for this and it is an important principle The weakness I see in Boyd s presentation is that it implies that people who are overrun by violent countries like Assyria deserved it because of their sins For that matter, Assyria and then Babylon suffered the same fates they imposed on Israel and Judah and many other kingdoms But not always In Judges 18, the Danites search for a new territory Their valiant scouts come to Laish The five men went on, and when they came to Laish where they observed the people who were there living securely, after the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and unsuspecting, lacking nothing on earth, and possessing wealth Judg 18 7 God withdrew protection from Laish and the Danites destroyed them, although the narrative gives us any reason to believe they deserved it In Psalm 44, the worshipers complain All this has come upon us, yet we have not forgotten you, or been false to your covenant Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way, yet you have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness Ps 44 17 19 The people may have been wrong but should be credited with having really tried to figure out what they had done wrong to deserve their fate and couldn t do it This second category is important and explains much, but not enough.3 The Principle of Cosmic Conflict This can be a problem for many readers as Boyd argues that the supernatural powers are real and that they inflict havoc on humans Girard s analysis of human violence through mimetic desire goes a long way in accounting for the sense of eviol s transcendence without need actual demons, but I m not interested in trying to refute Boyd s understanding here If supernatural powers are real, they only extend the same field of mimetic conflict analyzed by Girard That is, Satan engages in mimetic rivalry with God and tries to draw humanity into the same conflict It is fundamentally the same story as humans rebelling against God and trying to draw other humans into that same rebellion More to the point Boyd argues that God protects humans from cosmic forces until their violence becomes so inveterate that God withdraws protection from these forces Which leaves us with the same pluses and minuses of principle 3.4 The Principle of Semi autonomous Power This idea seems at first the most bizarre, based on a magical view of reality from times of early humanity This includes the power imbued by God into Moses staff and the ark of the covenant Once the power is there, it can be used rightly and wrongly and God can no longer stop that power Hence the damage of the plagues of Egypt, for example If we translate this principle to the powers that human have to do good and to inflict horror, this principle becomes the most important Humans have the power to organize in armies and invade other countries as the Assyrians do And they do it As is well known, we have the power to inflict apocalyptic violence with our weapons These principles lead to where I personally see a cruciform hermeneutic based firmly on the Cross Boyd writes about Jesus Heavenly Father withdrawing protection so that Jesus is arrested and crucified It is important, though, that Jesus willing accepted this burden at Gethsemane More important yet, Jesus was entering space of the people of Laish, of Achan who was stoned in Joshua, of the couple murdered by Phinehus when he stood up and intervened and killed one multi racial couple That is, Jesus entered the place of all who have suffered the effects of human violence from social injustice to military violence Here is where I think we arrive at a deeper cruciform hermeneutic than we get from the redemptive withdrawal of God.


  2. says:

    Overlong and unnecessarily complicated, Greg Boyd presents a reading of the Old Testament through the lens of the crucified Christ resulting in claims that are times compelling and at other times perplexing From a rhetorical structural standpoint, the book could have easily been pared down from its too massive 1500 pages to a manageable 500 pages just by a few simple rewrites and removing the majority of the first six chapters.Boyd s proposal, called the Cruciform Hermeneutic, is an intriguing idea what if we re read the OT using the epistemology of the Cross as our grounds It s not necessarily a new ideas as Boyd points out, Origen attempted something similar interestingly, so did Geerhardus Vos but Boyd provides it with methodological succor that gives the reader hopes on its ability to deliver.Unfortunately, Boyd s precommitments to his radical theological beliefs namely, open theism and his unique version of Christus Victor atonement often shine through clearly than his interesting hermeneutical strategy, resulting in re readings of the OT that are suspicious than they are sound In particular, his Principle of Divine Withdrawal fits all too nicely in a system of thought that would benefit from its claims.His claims regarding spiritual warfare and the kingdom of the devil are the most interesting, in my opinion, and I do think that, from time to time, he opens up an interesting new reading for certain disregarded passages of the OT But his refusal to allow Yahweh any action he determines is violent a term that Boyd never defines for us results in a perspective on the Torah that demands much convolution than exegesis in order to make sense of what is happening.Altogether, the work hovers between the realms of ooh, that s interesting and why are we talking about this , giving the feel of an incomplete doctoral dissertation rather than a masterwork of ten years scholarship There are questions that are begging to be asked and discussed that are ignored or pushed away, while Boyd spends inordinate amounts of time on questions that, honestly, are insignificant for his thesis.The book was largely a disappointment, but, fortunately, I still think that the Cruciform Hermeneutic has value, if it could be harnessed in a way that doesn t require it to submit to the user s presupposed definitions on ideas like Love, Violence, and War I have also written a formal review of the book, available on Theologian s Library.


  3. says:

    Recently a few people in the United States government said that the Bible teaches you should obey the laws of the land It is not uncommon for Christians, and others, to point to a Bible verse here or there to justify some act The problem is, the Bible says a whole lot of things As Philip Jenkins showed in his book Laying Down the Sword, Christians have used violent texts in the Bible to justify violence It is a simple part of American history that Christian pastors used the Bible to argue for the continuation of slavery See Mark Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis The question at the root of any of these debates immigration, violence is how do we interpret the Bible Greg Boyd s book, which we should call his magnum opus, is one long argument to interpret the entire Bible through the lens of Jesus At first, this does not seem too controversial When it comes to spiritual questions, Christians agree that Jesus is the final word The Old Testament may speak of animal sacrifice or the necessity of circumcision or dietary laws, but we essentially discount that and look to faith alone in Jesus Jesus, in terms of salvation, is the final and clearest revelation of God Where Boyd goes with this is perhaps what is controversial, as he argues this ought to be our principle for interpreting all of scripture.Growing up, as I think back on it, I learned that Jesus was the final word on salvation But it seems, once you are saved, Jesus is sort of reduced In terms of Christian living in a secular world, Jesus offers teaching on that but his teaching is right alongside of other texts So should Christians use violence to defend themselves or their country How should we treat immigrants Well, let s see what God said in Leviticus or PsalmsThe problem, Boyd argues, is that this makes Jesus just one of many pictures of God If we are going to be Trinitarian though, and even if we are going to follow what the Bible itself teaches about Jesus, we must recognize that Jesus is the clearest picture of God Jesus is our image of God against which we compare every other picture of God Boyd brilliantly applies this principle to the violence in the Old Testament Often when Christian apologists discuss these violent acts, they basically explain it away One example of this is Paul Copan in his book, Is God a Moral Monster Books like that one basically say that while God is violent in the Old Testament, the other gods in that culture were worse God used violence, but not as much Boyd shows the absurdity of this Is killing children every right I found Boyd s argument freeing because rather than having to uncomfortably say yes, if God says so, Boyd shows how you can say no, and God never commanded it Besides, if you say yes then, conceivably, in certain situations, you could assume killing in God s name is legitimate Boyd argues that we compare the Old Testament to Jesus we see that what is actually happening is that God is allowing people to harm him by saying God does things that are awful If God allowed humans to literally kill him when he became human in Jesus, then why would it be unheard of for God to allow humans to think wrong things about him But in Jesus, we see who God truly is God goes to the fullest extent, allowing humans to harm him in myriad ways, to be in relationship with us.Boyd adds to this a number of arguments God s judgment is not active judgment but simply withdrawing protection and allowing evil to rebound on itself God allows free will, even to spiritual creatures, and sometimes this free will is used violently So whether it is ancient Babylon or the sea, these forces are held back by God until God stops holding them back and allowing them to destroy, as they want to.Of course, Boyd is open to the question of whether God allowing something is much better than just doing it He addresses this, and basically argues for free will The other option is that God determines everything which, if you are a Calvinist, I suppose makes sense Really, either side has problems Either God determines it all, thus God puts the idea in the emperor s head to destroy his enemies or sends the flood to drown people Or, God who could stop it, allows it to happen I would, and I suppose Boyd would agree, appeal to some degree of mystery here We can never know precisely how God works Honestly, I wish Boyd had emphasized this point a bit But I d rather go with God allowing and not being sure why, then with the ultimate power in the universe destroying people Plus, if we truly see God most clearly in Jesus, then God, in sorrow, allowing people to destroy and harm makes sense.If you are familiar with Boyd, a lot of his big ideas make it in here Some, such as Christus Victor theory of atonement and emphasis on spiritual powers of angels and demons, are helpful The angels and demons stuff was especially challenging to my own modern worldview His critique of Aquinas and push for Open Theism seemed ill thought out and poorly argued This is where I wish he had emphasized mystery some I don t think you need reject Classical Theism in total to buy into the rest of Boyd s thesis.Overall, this is a brilliant book It is not hard to read, despite its length It certainly has contributed to my own thinking As someone who has long leaned towards nonviolence anyway, but was never entirely sure what to do with the Old Testament, I am comfortable with putting it up against Jesus The challenge here is how to explain this to people A student of mine said his question, and even the question his atheist friends would ask, is that this sounds like you are discounting the Bible or you don t really believe the Bible I d say that illustrates how deep the flat reading of the Bible, with Jesus as just essentially a prophet, has filtered into our culture At the same time, I think this method of interpretation is already where most Christians are with many things again, we don t sacrifice animals and, if we truly reckon with Jesus as God in flesh Trinity then we rest on our final authority as God and not the Bible The Bible is not the word of God primarily, instead it points away from itself to Jesus.In other words, when I hear people worry about being Biblical, I am now prone to quip May we be Christlike, not Biblical.


  4. says:

    ESSENTIAL THEOLOGICAL READING.As someone who has followed Boyd for years, I think he has outdone himself with this last outing Yes, it is extremely long, owing in part to the comprehensive nature of the case Boyd is making, along with his inclusion of pre emptive responses to possible critiques But considering the length and the academic nature of the writing, I found it much easier to read than many other works of this scope Boyd s pastoral heart pulses through every page, and insofar as he dearly wants people to grasp what he is doing, he was able to make this relatively accessible piece of serious theological reflection.This all being said, the reader should know that this is both serious theology and philosophy Boyd is conversant with the various strands of philosophical thought that bear on his perspective, and his overall argument is that much stronger for it The work is also extensively footnoted and researched, which I appreciate, but could prove to make it difficult for some readers.As to the persuasiveness of Boyd s argument, time will tell how much this impacts the work of the church But regardless of precisely how many people are convinced, the scope and coherence of his argument, as well as the humble but confident tone of his writing, should demand serious response from the evangelical theological community Personally, I find much of it compelling the principles that form the bedrock of his hermenuetic Divine Accommodation, Redemptive Withdrawal, Cosmic Conflict, Semi Autonomous Power are careful, nuanced, and deeply respectful of scripture One certainly doesn t need to agree with everything in this pages to appreciate the profundity of his argument, but anyone wishing to be in the loop with what is happening in evangelical theology today absolutely owes it to themselves to engage with Boyd s work.


  5. says:

    I don t think I ve ever spent than a year reading a book before this one Now technically it is two books Goodreads where s the love on my Reading Challenge but regardless, it is a project to complete.But a worthwhile project nonetheless.For those familiar with Boyd s mass market books, you will find this one nearly impossibly dense and full of jargon that will be unfamiliar This is Boyd s self ascribed magnum opus, the pinnacle, in his mind, of his academic and heremeneutical work It is unabashedly academic in style, referencing centuries of Western Christian thought and hundreds of sources The footnotes, which are voluminous, represent almost a 1 3 of the book, with a wealth of knowledge in them as well.Beyond the structure of the book, the content is critical Greg provides a historically grounded, theologically defensible view of 1 why and how the cross is the ultimate revelation of the character of God and anywhere God appears even in Scripture that doesn t conform to the non violent suffering servant view of God is a cultural accommodation and 2 how to apply this view to some of the most violent and morally reprehensible passages and themes of the Old Testament.The importance of this work for the future of theology is no small thing There are many places where I felt Greg s need to confirm to the clunky language of his theses and to tie himself to hermanuetical styles which are not required made the reading unnecessarily hard But academic writing is, by definition, defensive work, so much of the material written is to preempt his likely critics.In the end, the book functions probably better as a reference work than anything I will definitely be going back to it again and again But it was valuable to read it in its entirety to let the full voice of this brilliant man s lifetime of work speak for itself.


  6. says:

    This is one of the most impressive works I ve read in some time I m not sure I agree with everything that will take time, thinking, and reading but it s an impressive argument Much of what I initially felt would hinge on rationalizations turned out to be carefully done exegesis.It is long and there are some repetitious moments arguably necessary for the sake of completeness , but it s worth the read There are many big ideas to grapple with here, whether to ultimately embrace or reject, and there s hefty scholarship behind it.I m not sure how the condensed, mainstream version of this book might read Boyd s typically readable or whether the arguments carry their full force in a shortened version, but the thinking here seems to be highly valuable and worth engaging.


  7. says:

    This is an important book to engage with, but it s not for the faint of heart or for children in their faith It s overwhelmingly anachronistic in its views about violence and evil Apparently Boyd welcomes indeed, invites Christians to think of sin, evil, hatred, and violence from a blend of 21st century ideologies.Boyd puts on a lengthy display of the Bible s horrendous violence coupled with his commitment to view the Bible as inspired and infallible, although he s pretty slippery about what that means He is clear about what that does not mean, but not so clear about how his notions tie into orthodox commitments decided long ago by the Church I suspect that this book will receive much praise over time I certainly will not be one of them, mainly because his argument comes down to this God sovereignly allowed and inspired people throughout the Old Testament to portray Himself as he is NOT that is to say, to portray Himself falsely so that Jesus could show up and prove how unconditionally loving and non violent God truly was all along I think that s nonsense, primarily because the New Testament portrays Jesus and His Apostles as conditionally loving, but also because IF Boyd s methodology is appropriate, then there is no reason why people can t make similar, but inverse commitments to the violent character of God revealed throughout the Old Testament That is to say, in principle, Boyd offers no satisfactory rationale for accepting the inspired and infallible portrayals of this New Testament God he imagines to be unconditionally loving People especially Jesus hating theologians could easily adopt Boyd s hermeneutics and claim that the gospels and epistles depict God falsely, and the violent God of the old covenant is the true God Adding to all this, Boyd spends most of the first volume connecting his own hermeneutics with a wide swath of biblical scholars over the centuries, and especially the church fathers He fails to offer any consistency between them though Upon a closer look, his selection of quotations in defense of his hermeneutical approach is decidedly artificial it does not match with the wide variety of conflicting quotations I have gathered in my own research about Preterism, which clearly illustrate their widespread belief in the conditional love of God and the perfectly holy, just, and wrathful character of God Boyd also teaches that the impassibility of God is not true, thereby confusing christian dogmas about God s essence God, according to Boyd, is portrayed as being primarily human, which is the inverse of traditional Christian and Biblical stating points about Him.Volume one was too pseudo Marcion for my tastes as well I think Boyd could learn a lot by actually studying biblical law outside of the conventional teachings of evangelicalism and rabbinic Judaism I also think it s a shame that Boyd shows himself to be clearly aware of the destruction of Jerusalem alluded to throughout the gospels, while simultaneously failing to apply that to Jesus statements about non violence and persecution For Boyd, every appearance of negativity and conditional love in the New Testament amounts to a faulty human portrayal of God as he truly is not He is highly selective Quoting numerous contemporary scholars in favor of his idealized portrayal doesn t help either It only muddies the water On a positive note though, I was glad to see Boyd interpret the New Testament message as being opposed to wicked Jewish authorities in the first century and not promoting anti semitism in those passages I also was happy to see him interpret the winepress imagery of Rev 14 as the martyrdom of the Christian saints That comports with my own view, but also with scholars such as Caird and Leithart.This book would be given five stars by me if I wasn t aware of the Church s teachings about such issues, which are as a matter of fact a testimony of how novel and deconstructive Boyd s overall portrayal of God actually is In line with his characterization, the fear of God turns out to not be the beginning of wisdom or knowledge His own rhetorical spin about a cross centered hermeneutic is allegedly the starting point for that How unfortunate that Boyd has deflected our attention away from historic Christian tradition and it s cross centered hermeneutic that begins with the fear of the Lord.


  8. says:

    I found Boyd s principles of redemptive withdrawal, cosmic conflict, semi autonomous power, and divine accommodation truly helpful I appreciated his attempt to wrestle through the violent portraits of God in the OT and his insistence that we should see Jesus as the climax of God s self revelation, and that this must essentially be cross shaped I discovered several new dimensions to ancient near eastern culture and worldview, which serve to illuminate in several ways the accounts under discussion Oddly though, I find the overall argument less compelling than Boyd seems to, at least when it comes to applying it to particular OT passages This may simply be because I need to apply the principles through my own readings to discover for myself the explanatory force of the argument However, since we are, it seems, inescapably bound to our own times and inextricably embedded within our own culture, I wonder if perhaps the case Boyd wants to make is simply too Western Ultimately, I am glad to have read this book I ll be thinking on it for a while.


  9. says:

    It was truly everything I thought it would be A brilliant, challenging, work of theology and exegesis that I feel I went to battle with over the course of the summer months of 2017 I can see clearly that ever before, the beauty of the cross in the Old Testament While I feel there were far too many typos in the book, they are inconsequential when compared to the enormity of what the book as done for me.


  10. says:

    Boyd exposits the utter centrality of Christ and the cross to all biblical theology, particularly the problem texts of the OT This is quite simply the best and the only good book I have read about the problem of texts such as the Canaanite genocide.Not many theologians get to write a book like this in their career a 10 year project written in community with many other theologians and Christians and based on an impressively comprehensive corpus The length of the two volume work is definitely warranted Boyd belabors over chapters and chapters the indispensable nature of a Christocentric, crucicentric hermeneutic, and he also points out how many, many theologians who have promoted such a hermeneutic have failed to live up to it when it comes to Yahweh sanctioned OT violence.After the hermeneutical groundwork, Boyd establishes his apparently unique Cruciform Thesis, comprised of four principles that make sense of otherwise inexplicable passages, mainly in the OT, where it appears that God commands, sanctions, or executes horrific violence that appears to be in direct contradiction to the teaching and life of Jesus Fortunately, Boyd tackles head on and completely rejects Marcionism, and he also reviews other approaches to the texts in question Finding that they fall short, he argues for a reinterpretation of the texts based on the following four principles The Principle of Cruciform Accommodation This principle will be the most controversial of the four because it does require an unconventional reading of some texts Boyd states the principle as follows In the process of God breathing the written witness to his covenantal faithfulness, God sometimes displayed his triune, cruciform agape love by stooping to accommodate his self revelation to the fallen and culturally conditioned state of his covenant people 644 Boyd coins the term literary mask for what is going on he argues that at times God is willing in his own revelation to be portrayed as a violent ANE God because the people through whom he was revealing himself were so fallen in their understanding of him Boyd believes that this representation is a literary parallel to what Christ did in assuming the position of a dangerous criminal being executed on the cross This principle will be controversial because it means reading some violent passages as not meaning what they explicitly state Boyd would argue that everything must be interpreted in light of Christ and the cross.The Principle of Redemptive Withdrawal I find it easier for me to agree with this principle, which states that God judges sin, defeats evil, and works for the redemption of creation by withdrawing his protective presence, thereby allowing evil to run its self destructive course and ultimately to self destruct 768.The Principle of Cosmic Conflict This principle is related to a lot of Boyd s work from the 1990s on the invisible conflict between spiritual forces Boyd expressed the principle this way The agents that carry out violence when God withdraws his protective presence to bring about a divine judgment include perpetually threatening cosmic forces of destruction 1010 He uses this principle, sometimes in conjunction with others, to explain such violence as the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and even the death of Korah and his rebels.The Principle of Semiautonomous Power Like the first principle, I had never really thought about this possibility unlike the first principle, I find it much easier to accept that when God confers divine power on select people, he does not meticulously control how they use it 1196 The section of the book on this principle I found quite edifying, particularly in Boyd s exposition of how Christ could have at any time disobeyed God and abused the power he had e.g., by calling on angels to deliver him from Satan, or even by not dying on the cross , but that he never did, in sharp contrast to Moses and the OT prophets Boyd uses this principle to explain incidents such as a bear mauling 42 young men.The last three principles are much easier to accept, coming from a conservative hermeneutic, than the first principle, and I need to think about the Cruciform Thesis for a long time Boyd works his Open Theism into the Thesis, and it seems to work fine, but fortunately it is not essential to the Thesis Much closer to the core of the Thesis is his Christus Victor view of the atonement, for Boyd assumes an Anabaptist, fundamentally nonviolent view of God If that view of God and the atonement is correct, then he may very well have the key to all violence in the Bible if it is not, then I still am not entirely sure where that leaves us exegetically, especially in regard to genocide in the OT The only plausible alternative I see is allegorical interpretation, which of course has its own problems But regardless of whether he is entirely right or wrong, Boyd has delivered a tour de force that represents the most honest and humble consideration of these hard passages that I have ever read Theologians and OT scholars will be able to build on his work, and I am grateful to him for reintroducing me in a hopeful way to a set of passages to which I had all but thrown up my hands.On a final note, I am just happy to have actually read the whole two volumes, and I think that it should count as two books at least on Goodreads