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).
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?).