Saturday, August 19, 2017

Crucifixion of the Warrior God



Introduction to volume 1

Part 1: The Centrality of the Crucified Christ
Jesus is the center of the Christian faith. And the cross is the center of Jesus' ministry (and revelation of God). Therefore, we must view violent portraits of God (in the Old Testament) through a Jesus lens with a cross focus.

Chapter 1: The Faith of Jacob
It's OK to wrestle with Scripture as Scripture
Chapter 2: The True Face of God
Jesus is the revelation of God
Chapter 3: Finding Jesus in the OT
Christians read the OT through the lens of Christ
Chapter 4: The Cruciform Center 1
God is love. Love is defined by the cross.
Chapter 5: The Cruciform Center 2
The New Testament is thoroughly Cruciform
Chapter 6: Is [The Thesis so far] Defensible
The Cruciform Thesis stands up to scrutiny

Part 2: The Problem of Divine Violence
The problem of divine violence (especially in the Old Testament) is real. We can't simply dismiss God-breathed texts that we don't like (there are too many of them!). Nor can we make them fit with the revelation of Jesus (they are contradictory!). While both of these attempts are well motivated (and demonstrate healthy 'wrestling' with Scripture), they are ultimately unsuccessful insofar as they fail to show how these texts point to Jesus.

Chapter 7: The Dark Side of the Bible
The Old Testament is filled with ugly depictions of God
Chapter 8: Wrestling with Yahweh's Violence 1
It won't do to simply dismiss these texts as non-revelatory
Chapter 9: Wrestling with Yahweh's Violence 2
It won't do to try to synthesize the violence with Jesus

Part 3: The Cruciform Hermeneutic
The Cruciform Hermeneutic equips us to see how all of Scripture (even the violent texts of the Old Testament) points us to Jesus. When we interpret such texts with this method, we are able to remove the veil and see the Jesus-like beauty contained deep within.

Chapter 10: A Meaning Worthy of God
Origen was on the right track... there's a deeper meaning!
Chapter 11: Through the Lens of the Cross
This hermeneutic removes the veil and find the beauty
Chapter 12: Interpreting Scripture as God's Word
Let's read all passages as passageways to Christ

Introduction to Volume 2

Part 4: The Principle of Cruciform Accommodation
When God breathed Scripture to the covenant people, the revelation was given gently and with much stooping on God's part. Like a good doctor, God was able to administer the medicine that would lead to future healing, but was willing to give it to the people in a flavor they could handle (even if that 'flavor' was in otherwise bad for them... a reflection of their corrupt taste-buds, if you will).

Chapter 13: The Masks of a Humble God
God accommodates us even to divine detriment
Chapter 14: The Heavenly Missionary
A good tutor teaches at the pace the students can handle

Part 5: The Principle of Redemptive Withdrawal
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 self-destruct. This is exactly what happened in Canaan and would later happen to Israel itself.

Chapter 15: Divine Aikido
God's wrath is non-violent withdrawal aimed at redemption
Chapter 16: Crime and Punishment
Scripture is filled with examples of wrath equaling withdrawal
Chapter 17: Doing and Allowing
God is sovereign, but doesn't actively engage in violence
Chapter 18: The Question of Divine Culpability
This principle stands up to scrutiny
Chapter 19: Defending Divine Genocide
Copan's defenses fall short in multiple ways
Chapter 20: When God's Nonviolent Plans Fail
God's original plan for Canaan got distorted by violence

Part 6: The Principle of Cosmic Conflict
There are powerful creatures of chaos in the cosmic realm. When God withdraws from a given context, these chaos producers have opportunity to wreak havoc. God is capable of accomplishing 'judgment' simply by withdrawing and allowing these cosmic forces to do what they do (as in natural disaster judgments).

Chapter 21: The Battle of the Gods
Powerful wanna-be God's exist
Chapter 22: Caught in the Cross Fire
God's secret plan is what wins w/o a fight
Chapter 23: When All Hell Breaks Loose
God did no violence to Job or those Outside the Ark
Chapter 24: The Dragon-Swallowing Dragon
God did no violence to Korah, Egypt, or Sodom/Gomorrah

Part 7: The Principle of Semiautonomous Power
Authority and power, once gifted by God, is not controlled by God. Therefore, even some of the 'heroes' of the Old Testament occasionally abused their spiritual power by using it violently.

Chapter 25: Mauling Bears and a Lethal Palladium
When God grants power, it is sometimes abused/misused

Postscript

Appendeces



Friday, August 18, 2017

CWG (Postscript)

Postscript

Boyd uses his interpretation of the Book of Revelation to show how earlier violent depictions of God have been turned on their head by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Foundational to Boyd's project were the twin ideas that 1) The cross is central to theology and 2) the rest of Scripture, particularly troubling OT texts, must be read in a cruciform way. Just as Jesus stooped down to become human and bear the sin of His people, so too was God willing to stoop down in Old Testament times so as to appear to be like other Ancient Near Eastern gods.

Via the 4 principles of the cruciform thesis, Greg's project has attempted to show that the 'warrior God' that we sometimes find in the Old Testament, is not a direct revelation of the Christian God. It is an indirect revelation insofar as it shows how far God was willing to go to stay in relationship with His covenant people. The idea of the warrior God was crucified with Christ.

CWG (Chapter 25)

Chapter 25: Mauling Bears and a Lethal Palladium

In this lone chapter, Greg presents the 4th principle of the cruciform thesis: "When God confers divine power on select people [or even objects], he does not meticulously control how they use it." In essence, the point here is that since God is all about love, and therefore not coercive, He doesn't control the usage of a gift once given.

For Boyd, this principle helps explain stories like when Moses abused (and got in trouble for abusing) the power of his staff, Elisha & Elijah's (wrongful) abuse of power/violence, Samson (if not most of the book of Judges!), and the strange stories of Israel's doomsday device (The Ark of the Covenant).

In all of these cases, Boyd believes that the violence present in these stories was not authorized by God directly, but the authors of the violence were. God granted them power/authority, but the power/authority was mis-used and abused. This runs counter to Christ, who had authority from God, but refused to use it for his own purposes and, most importantly, refused to use it violently. Rather than call down angels to defend Him, He allowed Himself to be crucified.

Reaction
This is an interesting final principle. It makes a lot of sense, but it is not something I've thought a lot about before. I really appreciated some fresh ways of looking at these troubling stories.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Who's Right in the Peaceful Fight over 'Religion'?

Even the best of friends sometimes disagree. This is inevitable even when we share a common goal (Jesus) because we do not share identical starting points, contexts, perspectives, use-of-language, etc. Disagreement isn't even necessarily a bad thing. Iron can sharpen iron. What's more, in a culture of constant conflict, the WAY Christians disagree (and work through disagreement) can itself be a sign of the Gospel. We will disagree from time to time, but we need to show the world that it is possible to disagree well.

A good example of this friendly, iron-sharpening-iron, kind of disagreement may be found in the different uses of the word 'religion' by people like Bruxy Cavey and Brian Zahnd. Two of my favorite preachers, these men have a lot in common. They are both Jesus-centered and peace-loving. They probably don't disagree about very much of substance. But they do disagree about the word religion.

Cavey suggests that the shutting down of religion was a core element of God's plan in sending Jesus. He has stated that the problem with 'organized religion' is the 'religion' part. The church where he pastors has a slogan... 'A church for people who aren't in to church.' He echoes the popular mantra that 'Jesus is more about relationship than religion'. Bruxy believes we needed (and still need) to be 'saved from our religion'. Jesus replaces religions sacrifices, priests, temples, rituals, and rules.

Zahnd, in contrast, recently preached a sermon titled 'saved by religion'. He agrees that Jesus didn't come to start a religion, but that's only because Jesus already had a religion (Judaism). For Zahnd, religion was not only inevitable considering the massive nature of the New Covenant, but it is also necessary if we desire to pass on the Jesus-movement to subsequent generations. He admits, of course, that there is 'bad' religion, but says jettisoning religion because of its distortions is like starving yourself to death because you once got food poisoning.

Those are clearly opposing views of religion.

One could argue that their disagreement is mostly semantics. Bruxy is defining 'religion' as man's attempt to earn a relationship with God (what Zahnd might call empty or bad religion). Zahnd is defining religion as the form one's spiritual life takes in response to God's grace (what Cavey prefers to call 'faith').

But it's not JUST semantics. I think there's some deeper disagreement here. The two men have different backgrounds, pastor in different contexts, have different approaches to liturgy, etc. Ultimately, they both largely reject the same thing (empty religion) and approve of the same thing (a structured and disciplined life of faith), but they probably genuinely disagree on some of the details.

And that's OK. Cavey and Zahnd, who are friends and dialogue partners, know how to disagree well. They've acknowledged their disagreement, but simply prefer to focus on the fact that they share much more in common (without 'ignoring' the subject... they stay friends in the midst of this disagreement).

I believe it's healthy for the body of Christ to hear both men speak boldly on this subject. Bruxy is passionately anti-religious (after all, he considers 'shutting down religion' to be one of the four main elements of the Gospel). Zahnd is passionately religious (He even goes so far as to claims that the anti-religion viewpoint has more to do with Voltaire and Nietzsche than Jesus). I actually appreciate when people speak their opinions boldly (so we actually know what their opinions are).

Personally, I don't think it's important to determine who is RIGHT in this disagreement. I've been edified by both men. I'd encourage readers to check out Bruxy Cavey's books AND listen to Brian Zahnd's sermon. But even if you conclude that one man is right and the other wrong about 'religion'... we can all learn from both men how to disagree well.* Who's 'right' is less important than the fact that they've demonstrating the right way to disagree.

*Evidence of their friendly and affirming dialogue is observable, at the very least, on twitter.

Friday, August 11, 2017

(Re)Union

I just finished reading "(re)union" by Bruxy Cavey.












Summary
This book wasn't primarily written for me (a Christian pastor). It was written "for people who sense they are free-floating kites in need or reconnection to a guiding hand." It's a book about the Gospel (The Good News). Bruxy is making his best-effort to present the good news to seekers, saints and sinners. The good news starts with the fact that God IS love (Trinity). The fact that love requires choice (and risks) created some bad news (sin and death) to which the good news is the answer. He aims to present this good news in a simple manner.

Cavey's most succinct summary of the good news is simply "Jesus". Christianity is, of course, all about Christ. What's our theology? Jesus! What's the point of Scripture? Jesus! There's no real need to add anything after "Jesus" but to clarify matters Bruxy also presents the Gospel in 30 words... "Jesus is God with us, come to show us God's love, save us from sin, set up God's kingdom, and shut down religion, so we can share in God's life." The rest of the book discusses each phrase of this Gospel summary before inviting non-aligned readers to make a decision to follow Jesus.

Highlights...
1. Bruxy begins with a kite analogy. We humans long to soar, but we often think we can do this best by being detached (autonomous). In reality, we do this best by placing ourselves in God's capable hands.
2. Bruxy uses his tattoo (a biblical reference... Leviticus 19:28) as a conversation starter to talk about the difference he sees between religion and faith-in-Christ.
3. Bruxy believes the best 1-word proclamation of the Gospel is "Jesus"
4. Bruxy believes the best 3-word proclamation of the Gospel is "Jesus is Lord"
5. Bruxy believes that many popular methods for sharing the Gospel focus only on certain aspects of the Gospel. He aims for a more complete presentation.
6. Bruxy presents the Gospel in 30 words: "Jesus is God with us, come to show us God's love, save us from sin, set up God's kingdom, and shut down religion, so we can share in God's life."
7. Jesus is the proof that God really is love.
8. Sin separates us in a multitude of ways, but the good news is that we can be reconciled through Jesus. God not only saves us from something, but to Someone.
9. The good news is that there is a kingdom that will never end (because it's Jesus' kingdom). This kingdom is already here. Jesus' people pledge their allegiance to Jesus in the here and now. And His law is love.
10. Jesus came to shut down religion. No more sacrifices, priests, temples, rituals, rules... at least not in a 'do-this-to-get-that' way. It's all about grace and response/celebration now.
11. The end-result of the good news is that we are invited in the love life of the Trinity!
12. Bruxy ends by appealing directly to his readers to make a faith-decision. It's not a blind leap. It's an active trust in Jesus. It's about receiving a gift. It's about learning, step-by-step, to follow Jesus.

Reaction
I was first made aware of Bruxy on a Christian message board. A fellow poster posted a link to a sermon of his. In order to give feedback I listened to the sermon. I didn't totally agree with Bruxy, but I really enjoyed listening to him. Since then, I have listened to dozens of sermons and read, now, both of his books. He seems like a great guy (I've met him on 2 occasions and, though those meetings were brief, they seem to confirm he's a great guy).

I think the main value of this book is that it is a corrective to other presentations of the 'Gospel'. Just within the past couple of weeks I've had some great conversations with people who have a very narrow understanding of what the 'Gospel' is. Bruxy has identified that we've often focused exclusively on the 'saves us from sin' part of the Gospel at the expense of emphasis on Jesus' life of love, His Kingdom, and how what He offers contrasts with religion.

I'm inclined to quibble with a few things here or there in this book, but I'm trying to be less of a quibbler. So I'll simply say that this is a good book that I would recommend to seekers, saints & sinners.

The book is available on Amazon

Thursday, August 10, 2017

CWG (Chapter 24)

Chapter 24: The Dragon Swallowing Dragon

In this chapter, 3 more Old Testament stories are considered. In each of these stories, God is depicted as violent. Nevertheless, based on his project up to this point, Boyd offers an alternative interpretation.

Korah's rebellion is met by 'fire' and 'wrath' from the LORD. But Paul seems to suggest that this judgment was directly administered by a destroying angel. While the original authors thought of God like the other ANE gods (willing to use violence), the revelation of God's character in Christ allowed Paul (and us) to see things differently.

The same holds true for the story of the Exodus. Here, Boyd sees Pharaoh/Egypt as one demonic stronghold and the sea as another (even more powerful) god. Creation was crashing back into chaos in these events. It was only by the hand of God that the Israelite children... and then all the Israelites... were protected from such chaos. Once God removed His protective hand, chaos ensued. God didn't kill the Egyptian army, one dragon (the pride of Pharaoh) succumbed to another (represented by the sea).

There's no getting around the fact that the author of the Sodom and Gomorrah account believed God to be directly responsible for the destruction of those cities. But references from elsewhere in the canon provide clues that confirm a cruciform reading is possible. In all 3 of these cases, there are clues in Scripture that are really only made visible once we have allowed Christ to change the way we read Scripture.

Reaction
I found this chapter very impressive. I think Boyd made a strong case for allowing progressive revelation to alter the way we read early biblical texts. All of his work in the project thus far are coming together well in these case studies.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

CWG (Chapter 23)

Chapter 23: When All Hell Breaks Loose

When God withdraws from a situation, the void is filled with violence (from human and/or spiritual forces). In this chapter, Boyd focuses on the latter while examining the story of Job and the story of the Flood.

Boyd, who believes the story of Job to be largely fictional, focuses especially on the prologue. We find Satan, an adversarial character, making false claims. God essentially has no choice, in the narrative, but to allow Satan to attack Job in order to prove the devil's claims untrue. The book is not so much a theodicy as it is a reminder that we humans are too ignorant to really grasp the cause of evil. The one thing we do know, in light of Christ, is that God is not the cause of evil. Thus, Boyd considers "the book of Job to be a superb illustration of both the Principle of Redemptive Withdrawal and the Principle of Cosmic Conflict."

Moving on to the Flood story, Boyd avoids controversies about the nature of the flood (though he does believe it to be historical). He believes that while "the author of this narrative interprets this disaster to be a judgment that was directly carried out [by] God"... we know better in light of Christ. More than that, because we know this, we actually find elements of the narrative that confirm the Christ-centered interpretation. Boyd points out that God's Spirit withdrew once the ark was completed and all the violent activity that constituted the flood was the natural consequence of His protective presence being removed. Creation was undone, as cosmic forces filled the void. God does not run from responsibility for, but grieves the events of the Flood.

Reaction
While I would want to quibble with issues like the historicity of Job and/or nature of the Nephilim, I was generally impressed by Boyd's work here (especially in regards to the flood). I do believe it is possible (and preferable), now, to read these texts in a way that doesn't attribute violence to God and that makes us more aware of the powerful cosmic forces that exist within creation.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

CWG (Chapter 22)

Chapter 22: Caught in the Cross Fire

Boyd believes that the New Testament amplifies and clarifies the 'cosmic conflict' worldview of the Old Testament. Jesus viewed Satan as a powerful agent and functional ruler of the earth. Indeed, Jesus ministry was about overcoming the rule of Satan and establishing a new rule. And His crucifixion is the act by which this overcoming was accomplished.

Boyd's view is similar to that of C.S. Lewis. The devil simply did not understand the 'secret' plan that God was carrying out via the cross of Christ. Selfish Satan could not comprehend selfless love. Violence done to Jesus isn't what saves us. Jesus willingness to love without limits is what saves us, for it reveals the true character of God (destroying the devil's false-teachings about God's character).

In the remainder of the chapter, Boyd touches on the fact that we DO have, within us, an image-of-God bearing warrior instinct. It was never meant to be directed at people. It is intended toward the cosmic conflict. Because this instinct is legitimate, there are valuable lessons we can learn from the violence in the Old Testament (actual violence and imprecatory Psalms).

Reaction
This chapter felt a bit scattered in nature. Authors sometimes like to try to keep the chapter lengths close to the same when, to my mind, it's okay to have numerous short chapters.

In any case, I did find what Greg had to say about the 'secret' nature of God's plan intriguing. This is not a motif that is talked about all that often, but it is present in Scripture. I think his criticisms of (at least) the popular versions of Penal Substitution Atonement are valid. I think he's right that there is a legitimacy to the 'warrior instinct' and that that is relevant to the usefulness of these Old Testament passages.

I'm not with him on the imprecatory Psalms, though. I think it is far easier to interpret them as simply honest expressions from human beings. They are 'inspired' in the sense that God is pleased when we deal honestly with HIM instead of taking out our anger, frustration, and hatred on others.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

CWR (Chapter 21)

Chapter 21: Battle of the Gods

Boyd believes that "the most fundamental thing that the cross accomplished... is that it in principle defeated Satan and all other forces of destruction that had held us captive and corrupted the creation for eons." The third principle of the cruciform thesis is thus: "The agents that carry out violence when God withdraws... include perpetually-threatening cosmic forces." In other words, when God withdraws, it is these forces (not God) who actually carry out or are behind the carrying out of) the violence.

Boyd spends time, in this chapter, showing how the Old Testament talks about these powerful forces (the raging sea, cosmic monsters, chaos, etc.). In a real sense, they are rival gods... part of the heavenly counsel. They have free will and some of them are in rebellion against God. These truths do not deny God's sovereignty. Boyd wouldn't even say they threaten it. But they do complicate it in relation to how many Christians today imagine the spiritual scene (most seem to ignore the reality and power of these forces).

Reaction
I have read Boyd on this subject before. I think he makes some very strong points about the nature of monotheism and the reality of powerful spiritual beings other than God. He does a great job of showing the form this cosmic conflict takes in Old Testament literature. He also suggests (as will be made clear in the next chapter) that this motif isn't pushed to the side in the New Testament. The opposite is true. The nature of the cosmic conflict is clarified and amplified in and through Jesus.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

CWG (Chapter 20)

Chapter 20: When God's Nonviolent Plans Fail

Finally, in this chapter, Boyd puts his cruciform hermeneutic to work as it is applied to the 'herem' command (specifically, the command to annihilate the Canaanites). Starting from the cross, Greg knows that God is non-violent. Given this fact, certain elements (even inconsistencies) from the Old Testament story of Israel's conquering of Canaan come to light like never before.

For instance, Boyd observes a thread within the story that God's original plan was to bring the Israelites into the land (and take the Canaanites out of the land) non-violently. God planned to use non-violent phenomena to slowly remove the Canaanites. But when the Israelites (Moses & Joshua) received this plan from God, it got distorted by their pre-conceived notions that violence would be necessary to accomplish such a task. Nevertheless, elements of God's original plan were preserved in the text. When we look at the text with 'cross-vision', we find them.

The remnant of the original (non-violent) command actually produces a number of 'inconsistencies and incoherencies' in the text once it is mixed the typical ANE violent worldview. Again, those with 'cross-vision' are able to recognize such things and attribute them to God's accommodating nature. Since the people of Israel rejected God's non-violent plan, God stayed in relation with them in spite of their violent behavior.

God did intend to 'judge' the Canaanites... just not via violence. But because Israel disobeyed God, He instead had to endure their judgment being performed violently by Israel. And God did intend to bring Israel into the land promised to them... just not via violence. But because Israel disobeyed God, He instead had to endure their violence against the Canaanites (and His reputation being attached to violence). God was willing to endure all this to stay in covenant relationship with His people for the good of the entire world.

Reaction
It was nice to see the various elements of Boyd's approach (so far) brought together in a case study (of sorts). I think Boyd made a good case that the original plan, from God, was for Israel to be given the Promised Land in a non-violent way. I think it is very believable that Moses and Joshua, being men from the ANE, misunderstood and distorted God's plan.

Nevertheless, it is still difficult (for me) to think of Moses and Joshua being so wrong about so much and their stories still being considered holy Scripture. What's more, they seem to be praised as heroes in Scripture (and in Sunday School classes today). It would be difficult, to say the least, to convince a typical person in the pew of this view. That's not to say the view is wrong.

Of course, Boyd does have an answer for how such texts are still inspired Scripture. It's the answer he's been giving throughout the 2 volumes. These violent stories are still Scripture in the sense that they show God stooping to our level to stay in relationship with us, just as He did on the cross through Jesus Christ. They reveal how far God will go to be with us.

Friday, July 07, 2017

CWG (Chapter 19)

Chapter 19: Defending Divine Genocide

Here, Boyd narrows in on the 'herem' command (the call to annihilate the Canaanites) and how it is 'defended' by, especially, Paul Copan. He starts with Copan's defense of a literal reading of the text and then moves on to Copan's suggestion that the commands were heavily hyperbolic.

Copan argues that 'genocide' isn't an appropriate label for what happened (Copan does believe it happened) since 'herem' was also applied to Israelite towns who fell into idolatry and because some Canaanites were purposefully spared. Boyd thinks these minor points are not enough to overcome the obvious parallels between this motif in Scripture and what we would normally call genocide. He believes defending this violence opens the door to violence today.

Copan suggests God has the 'right' to take lives (being the Creator), but Boyd responds that it's not about God's rights. It's about God's character. It's not whether God 'could' take lives. It's about whether God 'would' command His people to slaughter other people.

Copan says it was necessary to destroy the Canaanites to protect Israel from their idolatry. While Boyd recognizes this rationale is given in Scripture, he points out that it didn't really work (even in the world of the text). Or, in a similar argument, Copan says it was necessary to destroy the Canaanites because they were SO evil. Boyd asks what could be more 'evil' than annihilating an entire people group!

Moving on to Copan's claims for Hyperbole, Copan believes the conquest of Canaan mostly involved the defeat of military strongholds. Women and children were not actually killed. Boyd considers this line of defense much more compelling than the first. But, ultimately, he lists a number of reasons for rejecting it. Perhaps most importantly, the hyperbole interpretation would STILL not be Christlike. Boyd recognizes that ANE people exaggerating the 'numbers' of those killed in military battles, but argues that they didn't exaggerate the 'type' of people killed (women and children really were killed). He questions whether God would happily endorse such violent hyperbole.

But Boyd's lengthiest argument against the hyperbole defense involves the numerous passages which seem to clearly demonstrate that women and children were the victims (in the text, at least) of the 'herem' command.

In the end, Boyd thinks Moses got it wrong. What Moses claimed God said doesn't match up with what we know about God through Jesus. What is needed is not a 'defense' of the violent command, but an 'explanation' for how this violent command may actually reveal (indirectly) the God of the cross.  God accommodated the violent worldview of His people in order to stay in covenant relationship with them as He attempted to pave the way to peace.

Reaction
I don't think Boyd was entirely fair to Copan in this chapter. For instance, on page 922 he says that Copan's view would open the door for people today to practice violence so long as they feel called by God to do so. But in the previous chapter (page 910), Boyd seemed to shut the door on that very way of thinking.

Additionally, I thought Boyd's critique of Copan's insistence that all babies go to heaven was lame. Greg uses the way he has organized the chapter (literal defenses followed by the 'hyperbole' defense), to force Copan into a box that he's not really stuck in (since he doesn't have to separate his arguments like that). I say it is a 'lame' argument because it doesn't actually seem like Boyd disagrees with Copan on this point to any significant degree.

In any case, I ultimately think Boyd is right when he says that Copan has argued in the wrong directon. "Copan should have started with the revelation of God on the cross and then moved on to interpret the defective divine portrait in the conquest narrative in this light." Boyd offers his strongest critique of Copan's strongest claim when he points out that there are some texts in which it seems inarguable that women and children were present on at least some of the occasions involved in the conquering of Canaan.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Tierza's Excuses

Below is a list of Tierza's excuses for coming downstairs after being put to bed.

8/19
I'm scared. Kenzie goes potty a lot. And she doesn't tell me when she goes.

8/19
I'm scared. Sometimes scary stories... I remember them and then I'm scared.

8/19
I can't sleep. I'm scared. I'm scared. I'm scared. Sometimes I think that Mr. Grinch is in the closet. I'm scared. I know he's not real, but sometimes it just pops inside my head and I don't know why.

7/24
I can't fall asleep because I'm scared to have a bad dream

7/16
Kenzie's being mean, I can't take it any more up there

My finger hurts

I am too scared to go upstairs alone because I am afraid of monsters still

7/11
I can't go back upstairs without kitty [kitty is 'lost' in her bed]. I'm scared when I'm upstairs, but I'm not scared downstairs. I need kitty.

Kenzie found a spider web and told me about it and I freaked out. I'm scared. I'm really scared.

7/9/17
I can't sleep because the TV is off and there is a red light and it's scary. And I can't sleep if the TV is on because it's too bright.

7/8/17
I forgot if we're supposed to take off our shirts or not

I'm afraid of the dark. I'm too scared.

I'm scared of the part of Veggietales that WAS scary

7/7/17
I can't sleep because I'm thinking of a pretend thing, but when I think about it it's real.

7/6/17

I can't sleep because there's a bug and I think it's a stink bug because it smells bad.

I can't sleep because I'm scared of the Gremlins in that episode of rescue bots that is over

I can't sleep because every time I come downstairs I don't feel scared, but everytime I go back upstairs I feel scared again

I remembered the gremlins again

I tried to stop thinking of gremlins but my imagination's too strong

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

CWG (Chapter 18)

Chapter 18: A Question of Divine Culpability

In this chapter Boyd wishes to respond to 4 anticipated rejections to his principal of redemptive withdrawal.

The first objection suggests that withdrawal is not enough to secure an outcome. In other words, if God wants to accomplish at outcome (like judge one nation via another nation) it is necessary that God meticulously controls the details (micro-manages the attacking nation). Boyd rebuts this supposed necessity. It doesn't align with the character of God (since God would be the one doing the violence). What's more, it isn't even necessary since God can essentially secure outcomes by recognizing what Boyd calls the 'solidified character' of certain agents. Besides, it is clear that these agents, in Scripture, are not meticulously controlled (for they sometimes over or under perform compared to God's intention).

The second and third objections are philosophical in nature. Isn't withdrawing protection akin to unleashing a rabid pit bull? Boyd thinks the analogy is flawed insofar as 1) Those being judged WANTED God to withdraw 2) Are not innocent bystanders 3) God withdraws out of love and grieves the results. But isn't God being involved at any level a denial of genuine freedom? Again, Boyd rebuts by reminding us that freedom doesn't (in fact, cannot) mean that freedom is absolute in every sense. Other factors (and other agents, including God) affect the choices available to us and the consequences of our choices.

The fourth objection is that this view lends itself to the idea that every time something bad happens it is the result of God's decision to withdraw from a person or a people (like 9/11... or the Holocaust). But Boyd says we may only speak confidently when we've received revelation from God. Many agents (like the Nazi's) go against God's will. Bottom line: One simply cannot know (given the number of factors) why bad things happen unless we are given direct revelation.

Reaction
The objections mentioned in this chapter were well-anticipated (some of them were forming in me as I read the previous pages). Boyd responds to them well (I found his rebuttals satisfying). Surely his answers won't be satisfying to those who believe in meticulous sovereignty (though it should make them re-think their position). And sometimes Boyd seems to try to have his cake and eat it too (some agents are solidified in their character, but also under or over perform vs. God's expectations?). Additionally, I'm not sure on what grounds Boyd would find it 'dubious' to believe that God STILL (to this day) sometimes withdraws protection from a given nation (maybe because God no longer is working through a particular nation?). But, overall, I think Boyd has defended his position well from possible objections.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

CWG (Chapter 17)

Chapter 17: Doing and Allowing

In this chapter, Boyd points out that the Old Testament literature often contains a 'duel speech pattern' insofar as any given text can suggest both that God perpetrated violence AND that God simply withdrew and allowed violence to take place.

Exegetical considerations may help explain this phenomenon. Greg reminds us that in the ANE, everything that happened under the authority of the king could be applied to the king. In the case of God (the King of kings), this would apply to everything. Further still, God gave His people His name (authority) and they sometimes used it for evil.

But Greg doesn't find such considerations to be capable of getting us around the fact that the OT authors genuinely believed Yahweh was capable of violence. The cruciform hermeneutic is necessarily employed here. In cases where the exegetical considerations don't eliminate the issue, we must remember the first two principles of Greg's thesis.

Over and over in the Old Testament we find God being depicted as violent, but upon closer examination we see many hints that it was not actually God 'doing' the violence (He was merely 'allowing' it). Thus, when it appears that God is 'doing' the violence, we must recognize that as God's willingness to accommodate the fallen views of His covenant people (principle #1). When we get glimpses that God merely 'allowed' the violence, it is often clearly stated that God actually withdrew (principle #2).

Reaction
Boyd is piling on biblical evidence, at this point, for his position. I sense that he suspects this will be a point of tension for those evaluating his thesis (a sense confirmed by the next chapter). I, however, don't personally find the point difficult to accept. To me, this is just a matter of reading carefully. I believe the ancient Israelites, like their neighbors, so emphasized God's sovereignty that (in a sense) everything was attributable to their God. But even from that perspective, we are given hints that God wasn't the source of violent acts.

The chapter did make me wonder, though, if any 'duel speech patterns' can be found in other ANE literature. It would seemingly be damaging to Boyd's overall thesis if other ANE literature contains similar patterns (would Boyd argue that those were moments when God's Spirit broke through the hearts of Israel's neighbors as well?).

Thursday, June 15, 2017

CWG (Chapter 16)

Chapter 16: Crime and Punishment

Boyd continues to develop the principle of redemptive withdrawal with a chapter cataloging biblical examples where divine wrath equals divine withdrawal. In its most extreme form, this happens in hell (where, Boyd believes, annihilation occurs since there is no surviving once the source of life is pushed so far away).

Greg sees examples of this sort of withdrawal in Jesus' ministry, in New Testament church disciplinary practices, and throughout the Old Testament. God doesn't need to (nor would He) utilize violence to punish evil because sin carries its own punishment. We reap what we sow. This connection between sin and punishment is built into the fabric of creation.

Even though the Old Testament (especially) sometimes conveys God as the source of the 'wrath'... "The fact of the matter is that biblical authors very frequently speak as though Yahweh did what their own writings make clear he merely allowed." This quote prepares us for the next chapter which will tackle the thorny relationship being 'doing' and 'allowing'.

Reaction
It was necessary for Boyd to show evidence from Scripture to support his claim that wrath equals divine withdrawal. The chapter was quite repetitive in making the point, but I appreciate that he took the time to provide a foundation and that he anticipates the potential problems with this view (isn't God still responsible if He knows divine withdrawal will equal violence)?

Friday, June 09, 2017

CWG (Chapter 15)

Chapter 15: Divide Aikido

Greg Boyd doesn't believe in redemptive violence, but he does believe in redemptive withdrawal. The second principle of his cruciform thesis is that the withdrawal of God (allowing evil to self-destruct) is the judgment and wrath of God (as opposed to judgment/wrath being a non-enemy-loving side of God's character). On the cross, the Father withdrew from the Son (experientially), but did so with a grieving heart and for the purpose of redemption. This cross perspective is the lens through which we must view judgment and wrath as they are found throughout the Bible.

At the heart of the revelation, according to Boyd, is the Cry of Dereliction. He wants to find a balance between dismissing the genuineness of Jesus' cry and confessing an actual break in the Trinity. Boyd attempts to avoid both extremes by suggesting that 1) This plan was agreed, out of love, by the members of the Trinity before it happened and 2) distinguishing between the divine essence and the divine experience. On the cross, the experience of their relationship was broken, but the essence of the Trinity was not (since that essence IS love and love was what led to the cross).

Boyd believes the cross teaches us four aspects of God's wrath that we can apply to all texts of Scripture. First, God's wrath is not an act of violence. It is withdrawal. Second, God only withdraws in an attempt to redeem (as a last resort). Third, God grieves when withdrawal is the only remaining option. Fourth, when God withdraws, evil ultimately self-destructs. This is why the power of Satan was broken by the cross and why any wicked who persist in their wickedness will ultimately cease to exist.

Reaction
Frankly, I thought this chapter was a brilliant exposition of divine wrath. Interestingly, it seems that Boyd is getting a lot of push-back on this chapter. Some people think Boyd's view breaks apart the unity of the trinity. I disagree. He seemed to go out of his way to show how this is not the case. In the end, he's just taking the cry of dereliction seriously. Boyd's view of divine wrath is seemingly identical with my own view as expressed here.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

CWG (Chapter 14)

Chapter 14: The Heavenly Missionary

Missionary work often requires a great deal of patience and flexibility. Missionaries must sometimes put up with beliefs and practices they may find abhorrent in order to gain the right to be heard. This is never more true than in God's mission to the world. Boyd believes that God accommodated some violent beliefs and practices of the Israelites in order to develop the relationship necessary to bring about change in them and the world.

The Old Testament contains laws, nationalism, and flat-out violence that, according to Boyd, cannot be reconciled to Christ's enemy-love. This shouldn't be surprising since the Bible itself is clear that the Israelites (including biblical authors) were as mistaken in their theology as their Ancient Near Eastern neighbors.

So God revealed the medicine of truth in doses mixed with accommodation to fit the tastes of the people. Occasionally a burst of light would break through the darkness, but more often God revealed only a flicker at a time (slightly improving that status quo). Meanwhile, God was willing to take on the appearance of one who accepted (or even supported) the false beliefs and practices of the people.

Reaction
I think it is inarguable that God is accommodating and that there is evidence for this in what the Old Testament seems to advocate for. I liked the analogy from Gregory of Nazianzus of a physician who blends medicine with what tastes good to the patient. God, being non-coercive, had to work with the tastes of his people in order to give them even small doses of medicine (truth). Sometimes we don't have a 'taste' for what we actually need. The chapter contained many interesting insights into Scripture. I do think many of the Old Testament laws were given because of the hardness of hearts.

There were some points that left me less impressed. Greg seemed to suggest that 'tests' are inherently bad (if so, I disagree). He also seems to take some biblical statements in absolute ways that I think might better be interpreted less absolutely. For example, I don't think the fact that we are called to intimate relationship with God forbids the analogy that we are also servants of God (but Greg seems to think the servant role is left behind).

The strength of the chapter, though, was yet again proving that the Old Testament contains shadowy revelation that must be carefully thought-through.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Athenagoras' Plea for the Christians

ATHENAGORAS’ PLEA FOR THE CHRISTIANS

To the Emperor Marcus Aurelius,

Throughout your Empire, people worship all manner of gods and goddesses in all manner of ways. You grant this freedom on pragmatic grounds, believing it to be preferable for people to fear deities and, therefore, avoid wrong-doing as opposed to being atheists with no moral compass. Why, then, are Christians not granted this same freedom? What is the case against Christianity? On what grounds are we persecuted? A label (“Christian”) is not a crime. Nor should an accusation be a conviction. They accuse us of atheism, incest and cannibalism. Let’s investigate these charges!

It is absurd to call us atheists since we believe in the uncreated Creator. This monotheism is, in fact, much in line with the best words of your poets and thoughts of your philosophers. Even in polytheism, there has to be a unifying principle. The only difference is that the best among you have arrived at God’s unity by reason and we by revelation. How can we deny what’s been made known? And what’s been made known to us is that God is one in unity and three in distinction (Father, Son & Spirit). How can such a belief be called atheism? And what issue could one take with our brand of theism? Does one object that we are too loving (we love even our enemies)?

The real reason we are charged with atheism is that we don’t make sacrifices to the gods of our accusers. Nor do we make sacrifices to the One True God. Why would we? God is in no NEED of sacrifices. God is neither hungry for meat nor thirsty for blood. We respond to God’s goodness by giving our lives rather than trying to appease God through death. So it is true that we don’t believe in the same God (or gods) as our accusers (not that they even agree with each other about the gods), but this is not a matter of shame! In regards to such gods as they believe in, shouldn’t we ALL be atheists? Such gods were created by Orpheus and Homer and Hesiod. What good is a god that was created by humans and acts like humans? “God” must be the source of creation, not part of it.

At this point you may object to my argument by pointing out that there does seem to be power connected to the worship of these gods. I do not deny it. God created angels, gifted them with authority and freedom, and does not force them to use either wisely. Some angels chose to rebel against God, created false gods (using the names of ancients) and religions, and prop said religions up with shows of power in order to keep the blood flowing (via sacrifices). Thus, when there IS power connected to Greek mythology, it is the power of demons.

What of the charges that we, Christians, are incestuous? Vice has always resorted to slander in its attempt to defeat virtue. Truth be told, we Christians live lives more virtuous than their gods and it seems absurd that we would have to defend our chastity against the charges of our persecutors whose sexual ethic could only be called sickening. But to clear the matter up…we are accused of being incestuous because we call each other family and greet one another with a kiss. That is all.

Finally, on the charge of cannibalism, is anyone actually willing to testify to having seen such a thing among us? How could we eat someone if we refuse to kill anyone? We can’t even stomach seeing someone put to death justly, let alone desire to put the flesh of a human in our stomachs! Those who believe in resurrection would never make their body a tomb for another! [this accusation likely was connected to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper].

You are a learned and wise man, Emperor. Our presence in the Empire benefits you. Let us live.

Monday, June 05, 2017

CWG (Chapter 13)

Chapter 13: The Masks of God

In this chapter, Greg Boyd lays down the foundational principle for his cruciform thesis: In some God-breathed Scripture, there was a divine accommodation of the cultural depravity of the covenant people. Insofar as this occurs (as in the violent texts of the Old Testament), it is revelatory in the sense that it shows God has always been inherently willing to stoop to our level in order to stay in relationship with us.

Boyd believes classical theism was essentially inherited from Greek philosophy and prioritizes human reason over divine revelation. Aquinas played a major role in shaping the classic theistic belief that God is, essentially, the unmoved mover. Boyd thinks this approach is littered with problems. Particular germane to his area of interest is the fact that classical theism must assume that when Scripture speaks of God changing His mind, or responding to humans, or other intensely relational terms, these depictions must be instances of accommodations (since God doesn't really do those things. Boyd this this view missed out on the most beautiful aspects of God's nature.

When we start with Christ (revelation over reason), however, we come to very different conclusions (absolute love over absolute power). What doesn't 'change' in God is His moral goodness, but for that very reason God is very open to change insofar as that is the most loving thing to do in a given relationship. In fact, God is willing to put on ugly 'masks' (to use Luther's idea in a very different way) in order to relate to us (even to the point of appearing as a warrior God). The revelation of the cross must cause us to look differently at Old Testament texts in which God appears violent. In such texts, according to Boyd, God was simply stooping to the level of His people and allowing them to put on Him a violent mask and it is that willingness (in order to stay in relationship with His people) that is revelatory.

Reaction
Boyd's project is really starting to take shape here. As a personal aside, after reading this chapter I was feeling comfortable enough with Boyd's overall approach to these texts to attempt to explain his position to my wife in my own words. She's smart and open minded. And I could see questions forming in her mind as I explain Boyd's approach. She was satisfied that he anticipated her concerns and seemed generally favorable to his thesis. I feel about the same way.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Early Christian Apologetics

Below are links to concise versions of early Christian apologetic works. I have greatly abbreviated them and modernized the language while attempting to retain their overall message and tone.

Justin's 2nd Apology

THE SECOND APOLOGY OF JUSTIN MARTYR

To the Roman Senate: I, Justin, am compelled to write to you in response to the persecution of Christians.

Let me start with a story (it’s a true story). Once upon a time there was a very wicked married couple. One day, the wife became a Christian. She wanted to separate, but was persuaded to remain in the marriage in hopes that her husband might be led to faith in Christ as well. But his revelries only increased and she did, in fact, file for divorce. His revenge was to accuse her (officially) of being a Christian. But the husband didn’t stop there. He went after her disciple (a man named Ptolemaeus) and officially accused him of being a Christian as well (a point that he, of course, refused to deny). Upon seeing that Ptolemaeus was found guilty simply for being a Christian, another man (named Lucius) made his objections to this unjust condemnation known to the Emperor. In response, the Emperor asked if he, too, was a Christian (which he was and did not deny). Lucius was also sent to death. WHEN WILL IT END? Why is merely confessing oneself to be a Christian an act worthy of death? I’m sure my time, too, is short (it only takes one enemy to be officially accused!). I’ll likely be accused by someone who knows next to nothing about what it is I actually believe.

Some of you, in fact, don’t understand why we Christians don’t simply commit suicide. If we’re willing to die for our faith because we know we’ll pass on to God, then why not just speed that process up by killing ourselves? There are 2 reasons why: First, we believe that we have a purpose in the world. We live for others… to help them discover the truth. Second, we believe that to take our own lives would be to disobey the will of God. When we are accused, however, we will not deny our faith and we will suffer the consequences.

Some of you insist that if God really were on our side, we would be protected from persecution. This insistence assumes that God is in absolute control of all that comes to pass. In reality, God has delegated much authority to both angels and humans… both of which sometimes make terrible decisions. Fallen angels, in fact, have led the world astray (creating the very kind of world where persecutions take place) and are responsible for the existence of these (false) gods.

All such gods have names. That should be a give-away that they’re not really gods. For any god with a name, was named by someone preceding them. In Christianity, God does not have a name. Terms like Father, God, Creator, Lord, Master (Etc.), are not names, but titles. This is also true of the Son (the Word, the Christ, etc.), who only has a name (Jesus) in regards to His role as human and Savior. He was conceived (and given a name) for our sake (and to be the destroyer of the gods, which are actually demons). And His name, and His name alone, still exorcises these demons that your best exorcists, doctors, and drugs can’t even touch.

Ironically, the only reason God doesn’t put an end to all evil (like the persecution of His people) immediately, is because God desires to use His persecuted people to save their persecutors. For as long as the earth endures, there is hope for wicked men (since they have free will). There is no pre-determined fate. We choose between vice and virtue. The best of your philosophers agree on this point. It is no surprise that many of them were persecuted too (since demons rage against the truth). And it is no wonder that we are persecuted even more, since we have even more of the truth.

Some say that we use fear (of punishment) to force others into the way of Christ. It is true that we speak of judgment. The truth of a coming judgment flows from the reality of a good God. Wouldn’t a good God care how people live? Wouldn’t a good God provide people with laws? And must there not be consequences to breaking these laws? Our whole society is founded on these principles.

And anyone who argues that truth is relative is absolutely wrong. Lies have been promoted, by demons, as competing truth claims… but that doesn’t make them true. Truth is not relative, but it is sometimes partial. Socrates possessed the truth in part (and was persecuted for it), but no one was willing to die for his doctrines. We die for Christ because, in Him, the fullness of truth has come. We die because we’d rather choose the truth… virtue… which has ever-lasting rewards than falsity dressed up as the truth… vice… which has ever-lasting punishment.

Even before I became a Christian, I could tell that the rumors against the Christians were simply slander. They were accused of loose sexual ethics, cannibalism, and the like… but why would such people show no fear of death (where opportunity for such things is removed)? The more I looked into the matter, the more I became convinced of the truth of Christianity. In becoming a Christian, I did not have to forsake all that I had previously believed (for there were kernels of truth in many such teachings). But all truth is God’s truth. Seeds of the truth give way to The Truth (Jesus).

So I request that you publish this little book. Let the conversation on these matters be public. Let’s discuss the ‘justice’ of putting our people to death simply for being Christians. Let’s not make decisions in the darkness of ignorance. When we make such judgments, we subject ourselves to the One True Judge.

I wrote this treatise for the good of all. We’re not ashamed of our beliefs. They stand up to sober scrutiny. Indeed, they are of surpassing worth to all other worldviews (most of which have un-persecuted adherents).

I have made my case and shall now be silent. My only role now is to pray for all… including you.

Justin's 1st Apology

THE FIRST APOLOGY OF JUSTIN MARTYR

To the Emperor, Senate, and all Romans: I, Justin, native of Palestine, present this address and petition on behalf of those of all nations who are unjustly hated and abused, myself being one of them… a Christian. Those who are truly pious and philosophical should love what is true, not necessarily what is popularly stated. I write this that you may consider whether or not we Christians are what we are accused of being. Investigate us for yourselves. Punish us only if it is just.

First off, by no means should a group of people be condemned merely for their name. Why should the mere accusation that we are ‘Christians’ be enough to find us guilty? Innocence or guilt should be determined by actions! Of course, we could just deny that we are Christians when accused. But we refuse to live by telling a lie. Besides, we are proud to be labeled Christians.

Second, we are sometimes accused of atheism. It is true we do not participate in idol worship (why worship things we make?). Such idols are, at best, nothing and, at worst, representatives of demons. We make no apologies for not worshiping these virtue-less ‘gods’ (consider their lives!). We agree with Socrates (who was also accused of atheism for exposing the falsity of these gods). Reason (Logos) must prevail. And it has prevailed in Jesus Christ (who IS the logos)! We are monotheists, not atheists. And the one true God does not require the kinds of sacrifices these idols ‘ask’ for.

Third, we are sometimes accused of trying to set up a human kingdom in opposition to Rome. But our kingdom is of a different nature (otherwise, why would we be so willing to die?). Indeed, it is actually in Rome’s best interest that people become Christians. For those who believe in an all-seeing God who calls us to virtue will undoubtedly be good citizens of this earth (Jesus even commanded us to pay our taxes!). The only people who should be concerned about our existence, then, are the executioners (for their job security will be at stake if all become good!).

Here’s what we believe:

We believe there that there is one God, that Jesus (crucified under Pontius Pilate) is the Son of God, and that God has a prophetic Spirit. Many can’t fathom why we worship a man who was crucified. Let me tell you why… His word was the power of God and has transformed us into better people (there are countless examples!). We become pure of heart, even to the point of loving our enemies. We help those in need (even the children you leave exposed). Any who claim to be Christian and give no evidence of this transformation… do to them what you must.

We believe that God cares for people. In fact, the reason why God has not yet eliminated all evil has to do with this. He wants more people to be saved and knows they may yet be because He made us with freedom (otherwise we would not be accountable). When people reject the truth that God cares for His creation and grants genuine freedom, they end up either not believing in God at all or believing in a very immoral or inactive God. A good God cares by giving genuine freedom.

We believe in the virgin birth. You have similar tales. We believe Jesus is the Son of God. You believe the gods have many sons and daughters. We believe He was crucified. Your gods suffered too. We believe He did miracles. You believe your gods can do miracles. We believe in resurrection. The best of your philosophers have believed in life after death as well. Whole industries depend on the existence of a spiritual realm. We simply take this all one step further.

We believe the dead will get their bodies back. If this seems ridiculous, consider that fact that we all believe that our complex bodies come from a small drop of seed. The only difference between us and some of your best poets and philosophers is that we believe God is capable of more and we actually have evidence (Jesus’ resurrection) on our side. Given these many parallels, how are we alone guilty? Our beliefs are even more anciently rooted and presently attested. In fact, some of your best writers were Christians--in a sense--before Christ in that they absorbed the beliefs of the ancient prophets).

We believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. The timing of His coming, the virgin birth, and His miracle-ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension were foretold over many millennia by various prophets (Moses, David, Isaiah, etc.) as they were moved by the Spirit. It was also predicted that many of the Jews would reject their Messiah and that many of the Gentiles would be included into God’s family. And we are that Church—a body of believers made up of every nation on earth! It becomes more than reasonable to put one’s life in the hands of a crucified man if that man’s crucifixion was foretold and came to pass as predicted.

If all of these prophecies have come to pass in Christ’s first coming, then we have good reason to believe the prophesies of His second coming may be relied upon. We believe there will be eternal life for those in Christ Jesus. The demons knew that Christ was coming (from the Prophets) and, therefore, influenced less ancient writers to conjure up mythical tales so that the story of Christ could be said to be just one among many. The part not even the demons could imagine, though, was the suffering of the Messiah. But even after this surprise, the demons did not give up in trying to lead the world astray through false teachings (even some masquerading as Christianity—men like Simon, Meander, Marcion— I’ve written against their heresies already).

And here’s what we practice:

We practice baptism. When someone has been made new in Christ (as many have been), we pray and fast with them. They are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. By dying and rising again, Christ has conquered death. Baptism shows the new believer shares in this victory. We proceed to pray for this new believer and salute each other with a kiss.

We share the Eucharist together (our leader saying thanks to God on our behalves before the deacons distribute the bread and wine) as a family of faith. We share our possessions and lives.

We assemble in a special way on Sundays, for it is the first day of creation and the first day of new creation (Jesus’ resurrection!). We hear the Scriptures together. Our leader will challenge us with the truth of its words. We pray together. We have the bread and wine together. We make offerings to be disbursed to those in need via our leader.

I have shown that the accusations made against us are false. I have clearly stated our beliefs. I have made known our practices. What, in all this, is worthy of persecution and death? And yet, if you insist (which only brings about your own judgment), we are willing to die. If Roman soldiers are willing to die for their allegiance to Rome (which can promise them nothing beyond death), is it any wonder that we Christians will die for our allegiance to Christ (who promises everything!)?

Justin's Dialogue with Trypho

JUSTIN MARTYR’S DIALOGUE WITH TRYPHO

Upon seeing my philosophers’ garb, a Jewish man named Trypho introduced himself to me. I was surprised that he was interested in philosophy since the Jews have their own lawgiver and prophets, but he insisted that he was interested in my opinion of matters of theism, providence, and life after death.

First, I told him that philosophy is a noble task and one that leads to God. Unfortunately, in practice, it has led to many different conclusions because some philosophers have been more interested in pursuing affirmation and prestige than the truth itself (such happens in religion too!).

Second, I told him my story… How I had moved from one school to another until I landed among the Platonists and began to think of myself as quite wise and spent my time pondering invisible things… How, one day, as I was off the beaten path (a place of contemplation), I came across an older man. We had a conversation about (my) philosophy, whether it had practical benefits, and how it related to the concept of God (I believed that the term ‘God’ referred to the unchanging source of all things). Slowly and carefully, the old man spoke with me… about how it is that I believe we perceive God and what happens after death. He pointed out some of the holes in my philosophical assumptions. He then shared with me about the revelation of truth that had come through the Jewish prophets of old and encouraged me to pursue Christ (to whom those revelations pointed). From that time on, though I never saw that man again, I did pursue these truths and had since become a Christian-philosopher.

But upon telling him that I was a Christian… I was laughed at (albeit politely). Trypho suggested that it’d be far better to be a ritually observant Jewish-philosopher than a Christian-philosopher. He denied that the Christ had come. Therefore, I told Trypho that he had been wrongly informed about Christ and that I would, presently, make the case for Jesus Christ (which provoked more—less polite—laughter). I was going to leave, but Trypho proved willing to dialogue more about the subject of Jesus.

I began by asking Trypho what it was, in particular, that he found objectionable about Christianity. He said it wasn’t the (false) rumors about Christians (cannibalism, promiscuity, etc.) that he found objectionable (he knew they were false). Nor was it even the moral content of our teaching (which he considered wonderful even if impossible to actually obey). What he truly found objectionable was twofold. First, that we didn’t ritually separate ourselves from the world (keep the Old Testament Law). And, second, that we put our hopes in a crucified man, believing that through Jesus we are accepted by God despite our dismissal of His laws contained in the Jewish Scriptures!

Trypho was very eager to hear my responses to these objections. My response was as follows:

The ancient Jewish law itself predicted the coming of a new covenant. That covenant was initiated by Christ (replacing the previous covenant) and made available to all without regard for ethnicity and/or ritual observance. Christians (both Jewish and Gentile believers in Christ) are the new spiritual Israel… the people of God. Those who insist on living under the old covenant are, in essence, living in the shadows unnecessarily (for the light has come!). Forgiveness is available through Christ alone… not religious ritual observance. Those things were merely symbols of what was to come and, in and of themselves, had no power to change the heart or save the soul.

I reminded Trypho that there were plenty of God-pleasing people before the law came. The old laws were given specifically to the Jews because of the hardness of their hearts (this much was made clear in the very words of his own prophets). God never has needed such things that the Jewish religion offers Him. The purpose of those laws was not to save you, but to point to Christ (who can save us all). He alone is pure and offers to us a purity of heart (a much more excellent purity). It’s time to come to Christ, not live in the law of the past. The very fact that the Jews no longer had a King or Temple or Prophets (the prophetic gift had been transferred to the Church) demonstrated that the Jewish dispensation had ended and something new had begun with Jesus.

Trypho reiterated his objection that Jesus had suffered and inglorious death (unbecoming of a would-be Messiah), but I replied that this, too, was predicted in the Scriptures and that Jesus was going to come again in glory to fulfill other prophecies. Christ, I argued, was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament Scriptures (I wasn’t just cherry-picking). For He is King, and Priest, and God, and Lord, and angel, and man, and captain, and stone, and a Son. I knew that much of what I was saying (especially about the suffering Messiah) was hard to hear and paradoxical to Trypho, but I also knew he needed to hear it to be saved. This is why I was so willing to share (thankfully, since he had been instructed by his teachers not to dialogue with Christians).

Trypho kept stumbling over the apparent foolishness of the incarnation/cross. How could anyone be born of a virgin? How could the Messiah suffer on a cross (and be cursed)? How could the Messiah also be God? But I showed from the Scriptures (otherwise, he would not have stayed) that even in the Old Testament there are hints of a plurality within God (‘Let us make’, the 3 men who visited Abraham, the burning bush experience, etc.). Trypho found my arguments for a plurality within the godhead persuasive, but needed more evidence in order to believe that one member of this plurality became flesh in Jesus Christ. I questioned him on this (having already provided such evidence… like the virgin birth passage in Isaiah)… was he genuinely open to being persuaded?

At this point Trypho stopped me and asked if I felt the Jews were going to miss out entirely on their assumed inheritance from God. I replied that not all Jews will miss out… only those who continue to persecute Christ and fail to repent of their ways. Only those who believe in Jesus and live for Him will inherit God’s promises (also, those who genuinely pursued God in former times are saved by Christ retroactively). Trypho also wondered if someone who did believe and follow Christ could be saved if they simultaneously kept the Jewish Law (where possible). I replied that they could indeed be saved, but that they must not insist that others do likewise.

After more lengthy conversations about the virgin birth passage and suffering servant passage in Isaiah, the Messianic prophecies in Psalm 22, and a host of other texts that foreshadowed the reality that is Christ (there was a lot of necessary repetition), we ended our dialogue (it had taken nearly 2 days)! Trypho was pleasantly surprised that I had been so prepared to discuss the nuances of ‘his’ Scriptures.

I had presented Trypho with an entirely new way to read the Old Testament (through the lens of Jesus Christ). We left on good terms (both thankful for the dialogue and saddened that it could not continue). Whether he ever learned to read Scripture in this way or, even more importantly, began himself to follow Christ… I do not know. But I pray that it is so.

Epistle to Diognetus

Epistle to Diognetus

Since I see, most excellent Diognetus, that you are extremely interested in learning about Christianity and are asking very clear and careful questions about Christians -- specifically: 1) What God do they believe in? 2) How do they worship him? 3) Why did this new race of men begin now and not before? -- I am glad to respond by the empowerment of God. I ask, though, that you will clear your mind of all its prejudices and read what I have to say with an open mind.

First, you wonder why Christians don’t worship all the gods that you worship. Stop and think about your gods! Is not one of them stone, like that which we walk upon, and another bronze, no better than the utensils that have been forged for our use, and another wood, already rotted away, and another silver, which needs a watchmen to guard it lest it be stolen, and another iron, corroded by rust, and another pottery, not a bit more attractive than that made for the most unmentionable use? Couldn’t we, right now, make some more? Do they have souls? Do they have feelings? Do they move on their own? I think, deep down, you know the foolishness of worshipping such gods! And if you don’t, there’s no point in reading any further!

Second, you wonder why Christians don’t worship like the Jews. Well, Jews rightly claim to worship the one God, but insomuch as they offer this worship in the same way as described above, they are altogether mistaken! Do they really think that God is pleased with the blood and fat of animals? Is God really concerned with kinds of food, specific days of the week, physical circumcision, and holidays? They fell in love with the shadow instead of the light. No wonder that Christians keep their distance from such a darkness as a man-made religion. Instead, Christians rely on a God who speaks for Himself and needs nothing.

Third, let’s take a closer look at Christianity. Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. They live where they are born, but only as aliens. They are ‘in the flesh,’ but don’t live ‘according to the flesh.’ They love everyone even though they are persecuted by all. When some are killed, the others seem to become livelier. And those that hate them are unable to give reason for their hostility.

What the soul is to the body, Christians are to the world. The soul is dispersed through all the parts of the body, and Christians are dispersed throughout the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body without being part of the body, and Christians dwell in the world without being part of the world. The flesh hates the soul because it hinders its indulgences, and the world hates the church since it serves as a conscience. The soul loves the flesh even though the flesh hates the soul, and Christians love the world even though the world hates the church. The soul is a prisoner to the body, yet holds the body together. In the same way, Christians are prisoners in the world, yet hold the world together.

Christians, as I said, get ‘Christianity’ from God Himself, not from man. For God revealed Himself to men in Jesus Christ. God sent him in gentleness and meekness. He sent him as God. He sent him as man to men. He sent him as one who saves by persuasion, not compulsion, for compulsion is no attribute of God. He sent him as one loving, not judging, for the Day of Judgment is yet future. No one has either seen or recognized him, but he has revealed himself. And he revealed himself through faith, which is the only means by which it is permitted to see God.

With great patience, God permitted us in the former time to be carried away by undisciplined impulses, as we desired. Once we clearly demonstrated our inability to enter the Kingdom on our own, God enabled us to do so by His power. When our unrighteousness was fulfilled, and its wages made known, then the season arrived during which God had decided to reveal at last his goodness and power. For what else but his righteousness could have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us, the lawless and ungodly, to be justified, except in the Son of God alone? Oh, the sweet exchange, Oh, the incomprehensible work of God, Oh, the unexpected blessings, that the sinfulness of many should be hidden in one righteous man, while the righteousness of one should justify many sinners.

If this faith is what you long for, then first of all you must acquire this knowledge of the Father: God so loved men that He made the world, made them rulers, gave them reason, permitted them alone to yearn for perfection, sent to them alone His one and only Son, and promised them the Kingdom which He will give to those who love Him.

Once you have accepted this truth, you will be so overwhelmed with joy that you will respond by imitating His goodness. You will no longer fear the transitory death, but the true death, which is reserved for the wicked.

Apology of Aristides

Apology of Aristides

For Hadrian (Caesar),

I am Aristides, an Athenian Philosopher. When I considered the existence of the world and considered its beauty, I concluded that there must be a Creator behind creation (one worthy of our worship). This Creator must be eternal, perfect, incomprehensible, formless, indivisible, unequaled, all-good, all-knowing, all-wise, and all-powerful. He (though He is neither male nor female) requires nothing, but all else depends on Him. Such is God.

Of men, there are 4 types: Barbarians, Greeks, Jews, and Christians. Each has a set of stories and beliefs. Let us compare them objectively…

The Barbarians worship the elements. They have to guard their gods, lest they be stolen! If their gods are too feeble to save themselves, how can they save the Barbarians? They worship the earth (where we bury the dead!), the waters (where we pee!), fire (which we humans quench!), the wind (which strengthens and weakens!), and the sun (which is moved by a greater power!). How foolish they are. Some of them worship ancient men, who are made of these elements (and soul/spirit) and can thus be divided (and, thus, cannot be god) and, in any case, suffer from various defects. It is rather obvious that the Barbarians are in error in what and who they worship.

The Greeks are more subtle, but their beliefs are actually even more ridiculous! They have simply made up their gods! Some of them are male and some are female. Most, if not all, of them are quite immoral (and the Greek people, of course, mimic their gods in these ways). Some of their gods even die! The story of every one of their gods is a sad one! You’d think if you were going to invent gods, you’d make them more impressive!

(As a brief aside, we should mention the Egyptians. They are even more stupid than the Greeks! In addition to having their own fleet of helpless gods, they worship animals and plants too! Praise to garlic and onions!?!? Never worship a god that regularly gets eaten!).

Back to the Greeks, it is curious that cultures that were able to accomplish so much in terms of advancement are not able to perceive the ridiculousness of their religious thoughts. Even their philosophers cannot rescue this foolish network of gods by claiming that it all represents 1 true God (for God cannot be well represented by competing, back-stabbing deities). In the end, the laws of the Greeks judge their gods as guilty. Reality judges them as fake.

Now Jews do believe in 1 God. They believe that God is the all-powerful Creator. They are much closer to the truth and their behavior is commendable (they are kind to the needy). In the end, though, they too have erred from true knowledge. They focus too much on their rules, which is a never-winning-battle (because even they don’t keep all of them).

But the Christians have sought the truth and found it (or at least come nearer than any others). They know and trust God the Creator. They received commandments from the Messiah and keep them. The love even their enemies. They invite all into their family. The care for their widows, orphans, strangers, the poor, the imprisoned, and even the dead. They share their possessions so that none of them goes without basic necessities. They give thanks to God for all things. They pray to God and receive great blessings (to my mind there is no doubt but that the earth abides through the supplication of the Christians). They’re a new kind of people. You can learn all about them from their writings. Read and see for yourself!

People may say bad things about Christians, but this is just a form of persecution. Christians are good. For the most part, they truly are people of great compassion. They pray that those who are against them will repent and come into their faith. The persecution of this people should cease. The light of their truth must continue to spread around the world!

Tatian's Address to the Greeks

TATIAN'S ADDRESS TO THE GREEKS.

Greeks… you owe to the many people whom you label ‘Barbarians’ most of what you are. You’ve not invented, but collected your qualities. And the qualities you’ve gathered, you’ve corrupted. You brag about and fight over dogmatic philosophies and arrogant philosophers, but both are a joke. Why reject Christians for rejecting this ridiculousness?

All that we are guilty of is worshiping the one true God who was before all things. I will unapologetically worship the Creator over creation. God is one, but as one torch may light another without being diminished itself, so the Logos (Word) was begotten by the Father. And this Word became flesh in Jesus Christ. Because of Him, we believe in resurrection. History is not an endless cycle of repetition. I once was not. Now I am. I will someday die. But my flesh, visible to God alone, will be restored by Him.

Resurrection is where we are headed, but what has happened between creation and consummation is that God endowed men and angels with free will and they have used it to sin against God. The Cunning One convinced the Image-Bearers to rebel. He and his minions substituted false-gods (corrupt and contradictory) and fate (as if the stars seal our futures) for our Heavenly Father. Our rebellion leads to death unless we die to our rebellion. We’ve become slaves to our own freedom. Fate is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let me teach, to you, the truth in contrast to the errors you have believed. Souls are not immortal. A soul is dependent on God’s Spirit for eternal life. Without the Spirit, it descends to death when the body dies. With the Spirit, it ascends to God. So we must align ourselves with the Spirit of God if we desire to live forever. Our situation is grave, but death itself has been conquered.

Your gladiator games are grotesque. Your philosophers are just out for money. You play around with the characters of the alphabet, but have no character yourselves! Your laws differ from state to state as if truth is relative. Why should Christians be persecuted merely for being Christians when you all get away with such dreadful behavior? You act like the gods you worship.

Seeing all this first hand, I grew frustrated and sought the truth until I found the more ancient (for Moses came before Homer) truth. In it, I found integrity, truth, prophecy, and freedom from my enslavement to sin through the one true God. And this good news is offered to all (men and women, young and old, rich and poor, weak or strong) who will listen. Ask away…

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Introduction (Volume 2)

Introduction: Something Else is Going On

In this brief introduction to volume 2, Boyd creates a fictitious analogy and outlines the 4 principles of his cruciform thesis.

The analogy, which will be referred to throughout the book, involves Boyd seeing his good wife behaving badly. Rather than dismissing that it's her (clearly it is) or believing that she's changed (how could that be?), he believes his only viable option would be to hold fast to the faith he has in his wife and try to find some reinterpretation (what else is going on?) of what he has seen. Boyd acknowledges that analogies all break down, but he believes this one may prove helpful throughout volume 2.

The 4 principles Boyd will put forward are 1) The Principle of Cruciform Accmmodation (if God stooped and appeared ugly on the cross, then perhaps God stooped and became ugly in the Old Testament literature too). 2) The Principle of Redemptive Withdrawal (The Father didn't act violently toward Jesus, but simply withdrew His protective presence, so maybe in the OT we're not seeing actual divine violence but withdrawal). 3) The Principle of Cosmic Conflict (the violence carried out against Jesus was more than just human-- it was demonic-- so maybe there was demonic activity in the violent texts of the OT as well). 4) The Principle of Semi-autonomous Power (If, when God entrusts agents with authority, He doesn't meticulously control their use of that authority, this might explain some of the supernatural violence found in the OT text).

Reaction
I look forward to volume 2!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

CWG (Chapter 12)

Chapter 12: Interpreting Scripture as God's Word

Boyd is arguing against the exclusive use of the historical-critical method of interpretation (which considers the 'right' interpretation to be the derived from the original/surface-level meaning of the text). Not only does he point out that this method is relatively new, he considers it an affront to the way the church has read and interpreted Scripture throughout history. In contrast, Greg endorses the theological interpretation of Scripture (the TIS movement).

TIS recognizes the uniqueness of the Bible as the God-breathed book and posits that this should affect the way we read and interpret it (taking our cues from the early church). While the original meaning of a text is worth knowing, we should always interpret a text through the lens of the cross. This will involve finding deeper meanings (beyond the surface-level reading) with texts that seem to conflict with the revelation of Christ. It also involves recognizing that God (as the ultimate author) is free to say something through Scripture which is other-than what the original human authors intended. The primary meaning of Scripture must always be cruciform. Greg's version of TIS also believes in the unity of Scripture (not in the sense that Scripture contains no contradictions or differing perspectives, but in the sense that every passage of Scripture bears witness to the cross of Christ). Jesus completes the narrative of the Old Testament and causes us to read it in a revolutionary way.

The cruciform hermeneutic has allowed Boyd to no longer be embarrassed by troubling Old Testament texts. Instead, seen in the light of Christ, these texts have become inspiring to him as God-breathed, cross-shaped texts. As a practical benefit, the cruciform hermeneutic also equips us to reach a world which is turned off by religious violence. The world doesn't like the idea of a warrior God... and this work aims to show that, in Jesus, such portraits of god have been crucified once and for all.

Reaction
Like chapter 11, these pages laid some necessary (even if repetitive) groundwork for what will be fleshed-out in volume 2. Greg is going out of his way, here, to be open and up-front about the nature of his hermeneutic. It seems to me he has expressed his position well. Though much of it goes against the grain of how I've been taught to read Scripture, I find myself open (and even agreeable) to reading Scripture with this hermeneutical method. I look forward to chapter 2.

CWG (Chapter 11)

Chapter 11: Through the Lens of the Cross

In this chapter, Boyd lays some important groundwork for volume 2 of the project.

He discusses six scholars who have influenced his cruciform hermeneutic, but also points out some distinctive features of his work. Since God's clearest Word is seen in the incarnation (and especially the cross), we should learn (from the cross) that God's speaking will contain both beauty (sacrificial love... how God acts towards humans) and ugliness (violent crucifixion... how humans act toward God). If the Word (Jesus) of God was made ugly by man, the word (Scripture) of God will also sometimes appear ugly.

Because God is non-coercive, Scripture will always include whatever elements of the human subject were resistant to God's influence. Our task, then, as Christian readers of ugly-looking passages in the Old Testament, is to look beyond the surface level ugliness. This is, in fact, how Boyd interprets the 'veil' in 2 Corinthians 3. The cruciform hermeneutic removes the veil so that we may see beyond the surface level meaning of the text when necessary (whenever it doesn't conform to the revelation of the cross).

There are literary crosses found throughout the Old Testament. They are ugly, but when we deeper (with eyes of faith), we may see God's self-sacrificial, other-oriented love.

Reaction
Personally, I didn't find Boyd's mention of the six scholars who have influenced him added much to the discussion that hadn't already been there (though it is good to note influential resources).

Overall, it seems Boyd wrote this chapter to press further and dig a little deeper into the rationale for his hermeneutic. The cross has a light side (God's acts toward us) and a dark side (our acts toward God). If this is true, then other revelations may also have light and dark sides.

In some ways, this is rather obvious (though the obvious insight hasn't always been applied to Scripture). People accommodate other people all the time in ways that may appear to be endorsements. But it would actually be a mistake to assume endorsement simply because accommodation has taken place. We ultimately know what someone endorses by their direct revelation, not necessarily what seems to be endorsed due to their partnerships and participation with others. For Boyd, the sacrificial love of Christ on the cross is the direct revelation. We must always look beyond the ugly to see the crucified Christ.


Friday, May 26, 2017

CWG (Chapter 10)

Chapter 10: A Meaning Worthy of God

Part 3 of Boyd's 2-volume work begins considers Origen's 'reinterpretation' of violence in the Old Testament as a historical example of the type of solution that Boyd is pursuing going forward (though Boyd's proposal will differ significantly). If we can't dismiss these texts (because they are God-breathed) and we can't accept them at face value (because they don't conform to the revelation of Christ on the cross) then our only remaining option is to re-interpret them. And that's what Origen did by using an allegorical method of interpretation for such texts.

Origen believed that troublesome texts existed to challenge readers and motivate them to dig for deeper meanings. God buried meanings below embarrassing dirt not just to challenge truth-seekers, but also to accommodate the dirty conceptions people of those times had about Him. So while the surface level meaning (like command to conquer Canaan) were not congruent with Christ, the deeper meaning (like the importance of spiritual warfare) were revelatory.

Boyd does not think that Origen believed most of the violence in Scripture actually happened in history. What was true about a passage was in the mystery (the deeper meaning) moreso than the history (whether it really happened). Boyd disagrees on this point. He accepts the literal events recounted in the biblical narrative and denies that the authors of these texts had allegorical intentions when they wrote. They were writing from their own fallen and culturally conditioned understandings of God.

Reaction
This was an interesting chapter. Truth be told, I've always been fascinated by Origen and the early Christian writers. Their hermeneutical approach to the Old Testament is very different from modern approaches. I enjoyed learning about the rise of the allegorical method and the motivations behind it. And it makes sense to me that God would accommodate His people (ie. recognizing that they got 'used' to animal sacrifices in Egypt and, therefore, accommodating that practice but directing the sacrifices to Himself rather than to many gods).

As intriguing as Origen is, I think Boyd did a good job of pointing out some of his weaknesses as well. Like Greg, I don't think Origen was right to so quickly dismiss a historical basis behind the text. And some of the allegories come off as hermeneutic gymnastics. Greg's proposal to offer another 'species' of Origen's re-interpretation solution is attractive.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

CWG (Chapter 9)

Chapter 9: Wrestling with Yahweh's Violence Part 2

Having dismissed the 'dismissal solution', Boyd moves on to the 'synthesis solution' which takes the violent portraits of God in the Old Testament at face value (as does the dismissal solution), but accepts them as accurate revelations of God (rather than repudiating them, like the dismissal solution does). In other words, those in this camp try to synthesize how these portraits are true pictures of God alongside the clearest picture (Jesus Christ). In this chapter, Boyd addresses the four most common defenses of God's violent behavior in the Old Testament.

Some synthesizers argue that we, as humans, have no right to question the 'goodness' of God in these divine portraits. The Bible says God did these things so, by definition, they must be good (even if in ways that are mysterious to us). Our moral compass is a fallen tool for evaluating God's actions. Not surprisingly, Boyd finds a host of serious issues with this perspective (eight to be exact).

Another attempt to justify God's OT violence (Boyd calls it the most common attempt) is to suggest that it reveals the 'justice' side of God. But Boyd wants to point out that some of the violence in the OT don't even seem just.

A third attempt is the 'greater good defense'. The idea here is that the ends justify the means. God had to (for instance) remove the Canaanites in order for Israel to survive in order for the Messiah to come through Israel. But why? Archaeologists suggest the Canaanites were no worse than anyone else. The Israelites turned wicked anyways. And why kill the women and children?

Finally, Boyd addresses the 'Progressive Revelation' explanation. In this view, God acquiesced to violence because there was no other choice (given the limitations and fallen nature of humanity) while slowly steering them toward non-violence. The problem, here, is that sometimes it seems that God is the one maximizing violence in these passages. Boyd thinks it has not been clearly enough pointed out that the very concept of progressive revelation suggests that earlier revelation was mixed with that which is false. He prefers an understanding of progressive revelation that sees progress not in the way God acted, but in the way ancient people conceived of God acting.

Overall, Boyd appreciates the efforts of the synthesizers and hopes to use a number of their points (though with some variation) in his approach.

Reaction
It's hard to complain about brevity in a 1400 page, 2-volume work, but I did feel like this chapter could have been longer. Boyd, in my opinion, addressed some of the poorer arguments of people like Paul Copan, but didn't touch on his best arguments (which I consider to have been discussions of the ancient military literary genre). In the end, though, Boyd is correct that this approach is trying to justify (to one degree or another) violence.

I felt Boyd gave a bit too much attention to the 'beyond-our-categories' defense (10 pages plus) and not enough to the 'divine punishment' and 'greater-good' defenses (about 3 pages each).

I really enjoyed the section on progressive revelation and divine accommodation. He made a good point that while many think of the latter in regards to God's 'transcendent' attributes, revelation is more typically about God's moral character. And on the former (progressive revelation), I think Boyd had a real insight in claiming that we haven't considered (enough) the fact that progress suggests falsity in the past. What I read Boyd saying here, then (when we combine the two) is that Old Testament 'revelations' of God are sometimes warped by the immature views of the covenant people that God is accommodating. In other words, the Old Testament contains true revelation, but it is 'packaged' (inevitably?) with that which is false.

But this doesn't mean our task is to pick and choose which parts are true and which parts are false. The whole 'package' is God-breathed in the sense that all of it points to the revelation of Jesus and the cross. With Boyd's cruciform hermeneutic, we'll be able to see how.