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).

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