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.

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.

No comments: