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The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Volumes 1 & 2 Paperback – April 17, 2017
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"Nothing shakes the faith of the morally sensitive more than the shocking violence of God as depicted in specific Old Testament texts, and yet nothing confirms the faith of the same people more than the cruciform love and peace of Jesus in the New Testament. Boyd's proposal is to bring these two poles into a cruciform hermeneutic. The old approach of Marcion doesn't resolve the problem, and neither do dismissals of the Old Testament in favor of the New nor do question-betting theological explanations help. What Greg Boyd does in The Crucifixion of the Warrior God is nothing less than a stunning re-imagination of how to read the Bible afresh through the cross of Jesus." --Scot McKnight, Northern Seminary, author of The King Jesus Gospel
"Gregory A. Boyd has written an impressive work: theologically alert, careful and thorough in its treatment of many difficult texts, comprehensively referenced, and moving in depth through both testaments. It deserves wide attention from readers across theological disciplines." --Terence E. Fretheim, Luther Seminary
"Here a world is opened up where the violence of the Old Testament becomes not merely tolerable but illumines the God who loves, never coerces, and rejects all violence in Jesus Christ. A monumental work. Breathtaking in scope. A stunning accomplishment from one of the brilliant theological minds of our day. I could not be more thankful for a book." --David Fitch, Northern Seminary, Chicago, author of Faithful Presence
"In this evocative new book, Gregory A. Boyd has taken the canonicity of Scripture seriously, avoiding both the pitfalls of Marcionism and Christomonism, and articulated what promises to reset the conversation around Scripture and violence. Boyd has pointed toward the scriptural scandal of a God who is crucified, and asked us to stand still to consider the implications for how we engage a violent world." --Myles Werntz, Hardin-Simmons University
"The phrase "magnum opus" and the term "magisterial" truly apply to this two-volume workfor this is Gregory A. Boyd's voluminous gift to the church as well as to the contemporary theological enterprise. I predict that these volumes will quickly take their place as must-reads for Christian exegetes and theologians of all stripes." --William Hamilton Barnes, University of Minnesota
"Gregory A. Boyd looks the violence of God, as attested in scripture, full in the face without flinching. But he submits that testimony to the absolute and ultimate truth of the cross that both permits and requires the recognition that we are not supposed to take these violent divine portrayals at face value. Boyd mobilizes the remarkable resources of the Christian interpretative tradition to show that such divine violence is strategic, pedagogical, and accommodating but is not definitional for the truth of God that is to be found in the self-giving of God in the cross. This is a most welcome and daring study that may indeed change the terms of our ongoing wonderment about how to read scripture and how to trust and obey the God who dwells therein." --Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
"Divine violence in the Old Testament has, in recent years, become one of the most pressing problems for Christian thinkers. Common ways forward include either synthesizing this material with the nonviolent portrait of God revealed in Jesus or dismissing it as lacking in any real revelational import. In this groundbreaking new work, Gregory A. Boyd charts a third way, a largely unexplored path that recovers lost intuitions of the early church. In the process, he offers a new hermeneutic that promises to put Christ and him crucified at the center of all biblical interpretation in a consistent fashion. This two-volume project is both sweeping in scope and stunning in its many insights." --Paul Rhodes Eddy, Bethel University
About the Author
Gregory A. Boyd is an internationally recognized theologian, preacher, teacher, apologist and author. He is the co-founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, president of ReKnew Ministries, and the author of many books, including The Myth of a Christian Nation.
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When it comes to this new book of his, I agree with him on about 90% of what he has written. But I disagree with the central point of his book, which is that God withdraws from sin so that evil will be destroyed by evil.
But I tend not to give negative reviews of books that I disagree with if they are well-written, well-argued, and thought-provoking. Such is the case with Crucifixion of the Warrior God. Whatever you believe about the violence of God in Scripture, this book will present you with a new way of looking at things so that you no longer have to choose between accepting that God is violent or writing off the Bible as hopelessly full of error. There are other explanations.
Greg Boyd has presented one such explanation.
I 100% agree with Greg Boyd that Jesus reveals God to us, especially through His crucifixion. Greg Boyd calls this the cruciform (or crucicentric) hermeneutic. I have referred to this elsewhere as reading the Bible with a crucivision lens.
I 100% agree with Greg Boyd that God did not punish Jesus on the cross for our sin, and that God is not angry with humans about sin, but seeks only to rescue and deliver us from it.
I 100% agree with Greg Boyd that sin bears its own punishment, so that when sin comes to fruition in our life, it brings forth only death and destruction.
I could go on and on about the many areas of complete agreement I have with Greg Boyd and this book.
But the only primary area I disagree with him on is the main thesis of his book, that sometimes God is faced with no choice but to painfully withdraw Himself from our sin and rebellion so that He allows sin to have its way in our lives and this world, since this is the only way that God can both show us the devastating consequences of sin and deliver us (and future generations from it).
The flood event in Genesis 6-8 is one example. Greg Boyd says that since wickedness had spread over the face of the earth, all humanity had become corrupted by the sons of God (Gen 6:1-8), and so Noah was literally the last pure man on earth, and so to save, rescue, and deliver humanity from complete destruction, God had to step back from humanity and withdraw His protection so that sin would destroy humanity and a new creation could occur through Noah and his family, whom God rescued and delivered from the flood through the ark. Boyd argues that God's only activity in the flood was to rescue and deliver Noah. The flood waters came on their own as God stepped back.
I am extremely uncomfortable with such an explanation of the flood account, or such a way of reading Scripture. My discomfort is not because Boyd's thesis is new, but because I think it ultimately violates one of his preliminary points, that all of Scripture must be read and interpreted through Jesus Christ, and especially through Jesus Christ on the cross. I do not believe that what we see on the cross is God withdrawing from sin, but rather jumping head-first into it.
I believe that the incarnation is the missing element to Boyd's thesis. God does not back away from sin to let it have its way. No, God, in Jesus, enters fully into our sin, not to participate in it, but to deliver us from it. He does not draw away; He dives headlong into the mess.
I do not believe that God allows sin to have its way with us, even if we continue to rebel and live in it. This is little more than another form of child abuse. A neglectful, absentee parent is barely better than an abusive one.
I do not believe that God destroys sin by letting sin destroy itself. I believe that God destroys sin through redemption. He destroys sin by tearing it apart from the inside, not violently, but through love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and revelation. I believe God destroys sin through the revelation and illumination brought by the incarnation. He rescues, not be retreating, but by redeeming. Jesus said "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." And neither does God. He never withdraws. Never backs away. Never leaves us alone.
Does sin hurt us? Yes. Does sin bear its own punishment? Yes. God does not punish us for sin. But the blows we feel from sin are the glancing blows that hit His back first.
This is starting to turn into a book of my own, so I will stop here. Look, read this book. Absolutely read this book. Even though I disagree with the central point of the book, I give it five stars because it does a fantastic job of presenting some truths that all Christians need to hear. But if you are uncomfortable with Greg's point that God withdraws from sin to let it have its way, that's okay ... be uncomfortable .. for there are other ways to maintain Boyd's cruciform hermeneutic without turning God into an absentee parent when we need Him most.
1) The book mainly suffered most from length. While his work is meant to be academic in nature, and that does come with certain expectations of "dialogue partners" and fending off potential objections to his thesis, the Crucifixion of the warrior god could have shaved off most the contents in volume 1 in order to streamline the argumentation and thesis. Or, at least, been almost 2/3 the size that it is.
2) The biggest issue comes through the theme of Gods divine condescension as reveled through the cross. Is the clearest picture of God found in Jesus? Yes. Is the cross the place where Jesus' life and work most evidently point to Gods love/humility/character, etc? Indeed. Cruciformity is humility, and that's the divine trait over-and-against human pride (the root of sin). None of that need be argued about. It's quite a convincing case; the NT seems clear on this, and the church has a long history of understanding Jesus this way. What is less convincing: the need to always understand God's "undoing" of evil and sin through the lens of non-violence (my critique is coming from a worldview that positively embraces Jesus' non-violent human ethic for citizens of the Kingdom). One of the prime examples would be Boyd's conception of account such as the flood; essentially, Boyd argues that the flood is God withdrawing his divine protection from creation enough that demonic forces are responsible for the consequences (because evil is unsustainable, and the forces of evil will only collapse/implode when left unchecked). Yet, it seems like God would still ultimately be responsible despite this line of reasoning, even if he removes himself from the equation somehow (something along the lines of Kants moral imperative and a philosophical "trolley" analogy spring to mind). So, Gods not exactly "off the hook" in a moral way. And Boyd's pitbull analogy--while not a straw-man per se--did not seem to account for necessary details in the problem of evil. But....I'm honestly not sure why, if God is good, His assessment and methodologies in dealing with evil can't be trusted, even if they're "violent" looking. Full disclosure: the only problems I have with violent portraits in scripture stem from human-on-human violence that seem to be assumed as divinely ordained (such as herem passages). Ultimately, I think that Boyd's work actually didn't explore how vastly ahead of its time the OT was. There's something supernatural about its composition when you start to actively investigate how ANE laws, like the lex talionis, are mitigated differently in Israelite Law codes (compared to Hammurabi's codes, etc). Further, bringing in the concept of psychological trauma, the APA defines it as such: "a type of damage to the mind that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event. Trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one's ability to cope, or integrate the emotions involved with that experience." Now, a trauma-informed worldview actually highlights that trauma is about how we process something (please read THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE by Van der Kolk on the subject). One thing can be traumatic for someone, and not traumatic for another. Because this is how human brains are wired, it creates space for "violence" to be more circumstantial. I.E...a divine portrait of violence doesn't necessarily "have" to be perceived as traumatic, if it's processed (the action was "just" per se), or healing can still happen (a broken limb can be traumatic on a brain/body, but healing can happen, and the trauma dealt with). I don't see the need to find a "non violent" interpretation of God's character mitigated by the cross in every single "perceived" picture of violence in the OT. The concept of violence may be too abstract to justify a need to do so. But I am more persuaded by a joint Crucifixion-and-resurrection hermeneutic than I am by a sole "cruciform" thesis. My hope is placed on Jesus as the crucified-and-resurrected king, and in God's (re)new(ed) creation. Which brings me to my third and final critique.
3) I am persuaded by a cruciform king and his cruciform kingdom (cf, chapter one in Michael Gorman's INHABITING THE CRUCIFORM GOD, and Jeremy Treat's THE CRUCIFIED KING). But not for Girardian scapegoat reasons (google "why Girardians exist" for a one-stop shop, devastating, critique of Girardianism), or for a purely non violent atonement theology. PSA, as well as Christus Victor, and all the various other kaleidoscopic facets of atonement theology, are too convincing to eject from a rich understanding of what happened in the cross. Further, the resurrection is where our hope lies—that's even basic to Judaism leading up through the first century. Is the resurrection possible without the cross? I don't think so. But to only have a cruciform thesis, not a co-equal emphasis (or, possibly, greater emphasis) on the resurrection and (re)new(ed) creation as a part of the structure seems like a pretty big misstep for a Christian hermeneutic. According to Paul in 1 Cor 15, more hermeneutic emphasis is given to the implications of Jesus' resurrection beyond His purely having "died according to the scriptures." Rather, He was "buried, and rose again three days later, and then appeared" to a lot of people. And, based upon these resurrection-based experiences, Paul extrapolates the support for Christian experience, baptism, the nature of the resurrected body, etc.. His point has more to do with the implications of the resurrection. Again, to summarize this last critique: I think a better hermeneutic would be a cruciform-and-resurrection one.
Anyways, that's just my opinion. Again, I think Boyd did a commendable job. I would want that clear. And I am persuaded that the cross is not central enough to the church's hemenutical principles as a whole. Boyd's spot-on in much of his critique of the church's historic collusion with violence and "power(s)" that lead to destruction. I would hope that my words here would be understood as they're intended: a critique, not a tearing down as to offer something different/new. I would like to build off the cruciform thesis, and modify it to a cruciform-and-resurrection thesis.