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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CWG (Chapter 8)

Chapter 8: Wrestling with Yahweh's Violence Part 1

By now, Boyd has attempted to demonstrate that certain (numerous) depictions of God in the Old Testament appear to be in-congruent with the revelation of God in Christ (and specifically the cross). In this chapter, he critiques one attempted solution to this problem (the dismissal of such OT passages... often on the grounds that these violent events didn't actually take place in history).

Boyd traces the dismissal of the problem texts back to the ancient heretic Marcion. Similar (though not identical) approaches have become commonplace in the past hundred years or so. Boyd applauds both Marcion & these contemporary scholars (Siebert, Enns, Weaver, Flood, etc.) for recognizing the seriousness of the problem, but considers their solution (that we can dismiss these texts as non-revelatory) to be unacceptable.

This 'solution' is unacceptable to Boyd for four main reasons. First, Christ treated the entire Old Testament as divinely inspired. Second, there's so much of this material (see chapter 7) that dismissing it would be dismissing much of the Old Testament (even texts the NT authors utilized as Scripture). Third, these troublesome texts actually show God entering into the fallen world, so their removal would seemingly leave us with less hope that God is at work amidst human violence. Fourth, the dismissal solution jettisons the concept of biblical infallibility (which Boyd considers a core belief for Christians).

In emphasizing the essential nature of the doctrine of infallibility, it should be noted that Boyd isn't necessarily claiming that all these violent events did, in fact, happen in history (at least not in the way depicted in Scripture). But, for Boyd, the historicity of most of these stories isn't the issue. Whether they really happened (as written) or not is beside the point that they are 'God-breathed' Scripture. Boyd's view of Scripture is not that it is without error (in regards to historicity), but that it infallibly points us to (especially the cross of) Christ.

In essence, I am in agreement with Boyd's point here. I do not think it is appropriate to 'dismiss' whatever Old Testament texts we don't like (even if we have good reasons for not liking them!). We should wrestle with them. We should consider how they might point to Christ.

I'm not so sure that some of the authors Boyd engages with, here, are actually guilty of the 'dismissal' solution. I've read Enns, Flood and Weaver on this subject. I'm not sure any of them could rightfully be said to be dismissive of the text (in my estimation).

Enns believes the texts in question are terrible. He also believes the terrible stuff didn't really happen. So why did God allow Himself to be mis-represented in the Old Testament? If Enns were God, he wouldn't have made that choice (bottom of page 62 in The Bible Tells Me So)... but he realizes that he is not God. God, in His wisdom, decided to let His children tell their story their way. For Christians, living in the light of Christ, we simply must recognize that their (Old Testament authors) words were not the last word. We are obligated not to follow those words. "The story of God's people has moved on, and so must we." This does come across as somewhat dismissive of the Old Testament (though, knowing Enns' work, he certainly does wrestle with it).

Flood specifically says (page 105 of Disarming Scripture): "What do we do with these 'texts of terror'? Should we simply toss them out as Marcion proposed? Unfortunately, this has become the de facto strategy most of us have adopted... we simply avoid reading these deeply troubling parts of Scripture at all- effectively creating our own personal 'canon within the canon' of texts we focus on, and texts we prefer to ignore... But ignoring a problem does not make it go away. We need to shine light on it, not cover it up." Flood seems to speak more about wrestling with them and realizing they are wrong whereas Boyd wants us to wrestle with them and see how they point to Christ. That seems, to me anyways, like a fairly technical difference. In any case, I don't think Flood's view (wrestling) can fairly be labeled dismissive of the texts.

Weaver addresses the issue, too, by pointing out that there's a wrestling match, of sorts, going on in Scripture. There are different (contradictory) depictions of God. Weaver thinks we should wrestle with them. But, ultimately (like Boyd), he believes we should choose the way of Christ and non-violence. I would not call his view dismissive of the texts he doesn't choose insofar as he says (page 137 of The Non-Violent God): "To identify the side of the conversation that most truly represents God is not a 'picking and choosing' of preferred texts, nor is it discarding a part of the Bible. Nothing is being read out of the canon. Reading from the perspective of Jesus' life requires seeing the entire text of Scripture. Only with the complete text in view does the conversation in the text about divine violence become visible." That just seems, to me, like something Boyd would wholly endorse.

In any case, while it is possible Boyd hasn't fairly evaluated some of the scholars he engaged with in this chapter, I still think his central point is correct. We shouldn't just dismiss troubling texts. We must wrestle with them in the light of the cruciform hermeneutic. It seems that Boyd intepreted a lack of emphasis on seeing Christ in those troubling texts as evidence of dismissal.

Monday, May 22, 2017

CWG (Chapter 7)

Chapter 7: The Dark Side of the Bible

In part 1 of the book, he focused on just how beautiful God in light of the revelation of Jesus. Boyd has deliberately delayed taking us on a tour of the 'dark side' of the Bible until that task was done in order for his readers to clearly see the astounding contrast. And in light of his cruciform conclusions, the task of Christian readers of Scripture must be to interpret (not dismiss) the 'dark side' by the light of Christ (not put a good spin on them).

Before beginning this dark tour, Boyd makes sure to note that these passages do not represent the primary way God is depicted in the Old Testament (covenant love and peace). He believes the normative conception of God in the OT is perfectly consistent with the God who is decisively revealed in the crucified Christ. But the 'dark side' must be dealt with and (at least initially) dealt with at face value.

Boyd continues by cataloging numerous places where God comes across as ugly in the Old Testament. It depicts God has commanding genocide, calling for and accepting child sacrifice, utilizing and sanctioning violence, destroying the world and, later, particular cities, sending destructive agents, acting capriciously, and using nations as weapons. The Old Testament contains the Psalms which include many notes of hatred (not love) toward enemies and numerous stories of God's people committing incredibly brutal and violent acts.

Boyd believes that we can't dismiss these texts (as not God-breathed). Nor will putting a good spin on them be enough to redeem these texts. They must be re-interpreted, somehow, in light of the cross of Christ.

I'll admit, I struggled with this chapter in two different ways. First, I struggled with the Old Testament material Boyd covered in the way he intended his readers to struggle with it. The ugliness and violence of certain Old Testament passages in impossible to ignore and extremely troubling. Second, however, I sometimes struggled with Boyd's presentation of the material. It seemed, to me, that while he specifically stated that he had no interest in exaggerating the revolting nature of the material, he actually did that to some degree.

In other words, while I agree we shouldn't do the impossible task of trying to put the 'best possible spin' on all these passages (I think his project is worth attempting), it seemed to me that sometimes in attempting to create a no-spin-zone, Boyd was actually just not dealing with the texts in context.

Interestingly, in footnote 28 (page 288), Boyd admits that some of the conservative Christian resources that put a positive spin on the 'dark side' of the Bible succeed to some degree. He admits these resources are helpful. But at other times in the chapter, he views this attempt as not 'respectful' to the Bible (in that it does not deal honestly) and concludes that such attempts actually hinder our ability to read these texts well.

To some degree, my evaluation of chapter 7, then, will have to wait until I read chapter 9 (to see how fairly Boyd reads the positive spin interpreters).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

CWG (Chapter 6)

Chapter 6: Is the Centrality of the Cross Thesis Defensible?

Boyd wants to preemptively respond to two possible objections what he has so far argued.

Some argue that the cross couldn't have been central to the early Christians because it doesn't show up in the surviving early Christian art. Greg doesn't think much of this objection on a number of grounds. First, it doesn't account for the findings of the previous chapter (that the NT does focus on the cross). Second, we have documentation that the early Christians utilized the sign of the cross. Third, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper centerd on Jesus' death on the cross. Fourth, some significant evidence for early Christian 'cross' art does exist. Fifth, it is understandable why early Christians may have avoided depicting Jesus' death on the cross (emotional, theological, strategic, etc.).

A more serious objection to Greg's cruciform hermeneutic and theology is the suggestion that it lacks precedent in church tradition. In other words, why hasn't a cruciform hermeneutic been applied to violent Old Testament passages before now? Greg begins by reiterating that a cruciform hermeneutic has been employed at key points throughout church history (though not consistently). But since Augustine (Determinism) & Constantine (Church/State Blend), the church has largely attempted to justify (its own) violence. The motivation to re-interpret these OT texts disappeared. The Anabaptists recovered the early church's motivation, but persecution meant that they didn't get very far in this endeavor. Tragically, it is only in the last decades that efforts to apply the cruciform hermeneutic to these passages have restarted.

Personally, I felt the section on early Christian art would have been better as an appendix (though I did enjoy learning some things). Boyd had some strong responses to the question of why what he's attempting seems (and, to some degree, is) novel. It seemed plausible to me (I am, after all, Anabaptist in theological orientation).

I liked how Greg pointed out the cross actually plays a MORE central role in Anabaptist theology for the very reason that they allow it to apply to all areas (not just a narrow view application to atonement theology). I also enjoyed his thoughts on divine wisdom and divine determinism.

Friday, May 19, 2017

CWG (Chapter 5)

Chapter 5: The Cruciform Center Part 2

In this chapter, Boyd aims to show that the New Testament is thoroughly cross-shaped. The 4 Gospel accounts all culminate in the cross. The 4th Gospel, perhaps especially, shows that the most glorious hour of revelation was the cross. Jesus' teaching and actions prior to the cross were also emphasizes the sacrifice which is best demonstrated at the cross. Paul's writing are thoroughly cruciform as well (he resolved to know nothing except Christ crucified). It isn't that the cross is an alternative to power, it is that the cross is a new kind of power (a non-violent kind... the power of love). Even the book of Revelation can (and should) be read in a cruciform way (it is the lamb who is victorious). The two ordinances of the church (Lord's Supper & Baptism) are also centered on Jesus' death.

Thus, self-sacrifice, other-oriented love should be at the center of our theology. This love is non-violent. Attempts to de-centralize or provide counter-examples of Jesus non-violence fall short. Jesus life was consistently cross-shaped. And given God's vindication of Jesus, we have no reason to believe God will ever resort to violence in the future (or, by implication, that God has done so in the past).

As I stated in my review of chapter 4, I was persuaded by Boyd's theological argument for the centralization of the cross. This chapter, then, just added to the case for its centrality. He shared a number of insightful readings of specific New Testament texts showing this theme and ably responded to passages that are sometimes used to speak against his position. Boyd seems to have purposefully gone to great lengths (unnecessarily in my case) to justify his cruciform hermeneutic.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

CWG (Chapter 4)

Chapter 4: The Cruciform Center Part 1

Boyd believes the Christological lens through which we read Scripture needs to be more focused. That focus must be Cruciform (cross centered). If Jesus is the key to reading Scripture, then the cross is the key to understanding Jesus.

Augustine had a famous hermeneutical 'rule of love', but a poor definition of what love entails (an inner disposition with no necessary connection to outward actions). God IS love (1 John 4:8+16), but love is defined by sacrifice (1 John 3:16). If love is defined by sacrifice, it receives its greatest possible definition in the cross (the greatest possible sacrifice insofar that God, in Christ, actually experienced our God-forsaken curse). This is why the cross is the center of the revelation that God is love.

This is not to say that the cross is the only important aspect of Jesus' ministry. It is simply the interpretive center. Even the resurrection is best understood as the victorious declaration of the power of the cross (not some sort of triumphant alternative).

I went into this chapter with some reluctance to accept a thoroughly cruciform (not simply christocentric) hermeneutic. Boyd, however, tipped the scales with his argument. I found it persuasive. He addressed my concerns. In the few moments where I thought he might be going off the edge a bit... the footnotes clarified (it's important to read footnotes!).

Monday, May 15, 2017

CWG (Chapter 3)

Chapter 3: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament

Boyd believes that the church has always used (albeit inconsistently) a christocentric hermeneutic. In other words, Christians read the Old Testament through the lens of Christ. Specifically, Jesus is our key we use to best understanding the Old Testament Scriptures. The 'in-light-of-Christ' meaning should be even more central to the Christian understanding of Old Testament passages as the 'original' meaning would have been.

This is how the New Testament authors read and interpreted the Old Testament. They felt free to find Jesus there in creative and flexible ways (some that aren't convincing to most modern people). The early church continued this way of reading the Old Testament through 'typological' and 'allegorical' readings. In fact, the Old Testament was considered 'Christian' Scripture only insofar as it was read christologically. Though set aside at the time of Constantine, the christological hermeneutic came back at the time of the Reformation (Luther, Calvin), but especially with the radical reformers (Anabaptist). More recently, the work of Barth has reignited the christological reading of Scripture.

But while this (Christian) way of reading the Old Testament has experienced a resurgence, Boyd isn't impressed withe the results. Though he whole-heartedly agrees that this is the right way for Christians to read Scripture, he believes the lens hasn't been used consistently. To remedy this, Boyd believes we need a more focused lens. The cross of Christ, specifically, needs to be at the center of our Old Testament reading. Making that point will round out part 1 of Boyd's work over the span of 3 chapters.

I agree that a christological reading of Scripture is the Christian way to read Scripture (seems like a no-brainer). Boyd did a good job of dealing with the (sometimes uncomfortable, from our perspective) way the NT authors found Christ in the Old Testament. I also agreed with Boyd that the radical reformers were on the right path in their views of Scripture and how to read it.

I may be less inclined, than Boyd, to dismiss the NT authors' specific readings as lacking modern day plausibility (I'd be more inclined to say our plausibility structures are broken). And, I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical that the cross, specifically, should be made the epicenter of our hermeneutic. It seems to me our task is to read Christ well (and in a well-rounded way) rather than to focus on 1 aspect or event in his life. I'd suggest that the solution to misreading Jesus is not a more narrow reading, but a better reading. But I'm willing to hear Boyd's argument over the next 3 chapters.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

CWG (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2: The True Face of God
In this chapter, Boyd spends over 50 pages to drive home the point that Jesus isn't just a revelation of God, He is THE revelation of God. In the cross (the thematic center of everything Jesus was about), we find the full revelation of God's character. He painstakingly goes through passage after passage highlighting this fact.

Since Jesus is the revelation of God, Christians must read the Old Testament through the lens of Christ. All of Scripture is about Jesus and its interpretation must be subjected to the revelation that is Christ. Jesus was not afraid to set aside Old Testament teachings. He had the authority to do so and His followers must follow suit. Consistently, Christ used this authority to set aside laws that called for violence and replaced them with the law of love.

In some ways, he was the anti-Moses, the anti-Joshua, the anti-David, the anti-Elijah, etc. He was the Messiah no one expected because they were prepared (largely by the Old Testament) for a military Messiah. It is the challenge of Boyd's book to discover how the violent texts of the Old Testament actually testify to the revelation of God through Christ.

This chapter was fairly repetitious. Boyd wanted to make the point boldly and strongly. There were some good interpretive insights throughout. He argued his position well. I agree with his approach and am thankful for the new light cast on some familiar texts.

I did appreciate footnote 4 in which Boyd clarifies that when he refers to the revelation of God through the cross of Christ, it should not be thought that he's distinguishing the cross from other aspects of Jesus' life and ministry, but locating the thematic center of such in the event of the cross. This removes an early concern I had about this project.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

CWG (Chapter 1)

Boyd's book is written in 7 parts. Part 1 (The Centrality of the Crucified Christ) includes 6 chapters.

Chapter 1: The Faith of Jacob
In this chapter, Boyd addresses 3 foundational issues: His understanding of the doctrine of inspiration, our willingness to 'wrestle' with Scripture, and the practical impacts of our portraits of God. What binds this chapter together (as its title makes clear) is that Boyd is attempting to do something within orthodoxy, in the name of 'Israel' (wresler), and that will be useful in defending the Christian faith.

First, Boyd believes his view of the God-breathed nature of Scripture is in agreement with the historic-orthodox Christian faith (God is the ultimate author of these books). He does not feel free to dismiss any part of Scripture (hence the previously mentioned conundrum).

Second, Boyd knows his approach may be unsettling for many of his Christian readers... therefore he reminds us that struggling with Scripture is at the heart of the Christian faith. The term "Israel" means to wrestle with God. Job spoke in a raw and honest manner about God and was commended. Scripture even argues with itself at times. Jesus' teaching changed some Old Covenant teachings. It's okay (healthy even) to have our interpretations shaken up. Boyd is really just continuing the Christo-centric reading started by the early church fathers (but cut off around the time of Constantine). Besides, the Spirit is still in the process of guiding us to greater understandings of Scripture. New is not necessarily bad. Nevertheless, Boyd accepts that the burden of proof is on him to persuade the reader against the grain of centuries of church tradition. He offers his proposal to the church for consideration.

Third, Boyd reminds us that our mental picture of God is extremely important. Our views impact our actions. The actions of the church throughout much of history reveal our flawed pictures of God. Too often (maybe especially in American history) we've allowed the Old Testament pictures of God to lead us (and shape our understanding of Jesus) instead of the reverse. Rather than trying to defend 'Christian' history, we should side with our critics (and outdo them). "We should be in the front lines declaring insofar as people engaged in violence in the name of Jesus, they were engaging in the most diabolical form of violence there is." Nevertheless, Boyd believes there is a way forward. Just as the beauty of God can be seen through the ugliness of the cross, the beauty of God can be seen through the ugliness of the violent depictions of God contained in the Old Testament.

Both the cross and the Old Testament were God breathed. We should wrestle with how this is so. In fact, we must.

On inspiration, I can certainly see the appeal of just abandoning belief in the inspiration of either the Old Testament or, at least, its most problematic texts. But this does seem like the easy way out (and, worse yet, inconsistent with Jesus' approach), so I appreciate Boyd's purposes here to focus on Christ AND retain a high view of all Christian Scripture.

I have read Boyd's book "Benefit of the Doubt" and thought it was excellent, so I was very much on board with his emphasis on wrestling with Scripture. And I am concerned, with him, about the use of violent texts in Scripture to justify violent attitudes and actions in our modern world.

As an aside, in discussing the inspiration of Scripture, Boyd says the following: "It is the God-breathed nature of the text that renders it authoritative, not the relation a text may or may not have with actual history." I would be interested to know what Boyd's view is in regards to the historicity of the conquest (for instance). I assume this will be addressed later in the book to some degree.

The Crucifixion of the Warrior God (Introduction)

Summary of Introduction
Greg Boyd believes that Jesus (and especially the cross) is at the center of the Christian faith and the greatest revelation of God's character. He also believes in the divine inspiration of Scripture. But this creates a conundrum. How do we reconcile what we know of Jesus (self-sacrificing, enemy-loving, other-oriented, etc.) and the violent depictions of God that we often find (especially) in the Old Testament? We can't just reject the Old Testament (it's divinely inspired), but we also can't embrace it's violence.

Originally, Greg thought putting the 'best-spin' on these Old Testament texts might redeem them, but he determined that this approach was strained and inadequate. He came to the conviction (helped by Origen), instead, that it would be a better project to consistently apply a cruciform hermeneutic (a way of reading Scripture through the lens of Christ and the cross) to these passages. The way forward wasn't to soften the rough edges of the Old Testament depictions of God, but to see them in a new way (similar to looking at a 'Magic Eye' picture).

Greg came to the conclusion that looking backward from the height of the cross is the best vantage point (following, in this hermeneutic, Luther & Moltmann especially) for understanding the violent portraits of God given in the Old Testament. He hopes that his 2-volume work will help readers see the 'self-sacrificial, indiscriminately loving, nonviolent God revealed on the cross in the depths of the OT's sometimes horrifically violent depictions of God'. In short, he hopes to show that the very idea of a violent warrior God has been crucified in Christ.

I've been waiting for this book for a long while and have heard Greg Boyd preach on the subject multiple times... so I knew what the book was going to be about. This introduction does an excellent job of describing the path which brought Greg to the point (a decade, really) of writing the book and describing, for the reader, the ground that will be covered.