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.

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