Chapter 20: When God's Nonviolent Plans Fail
Finally, in this chapter, Boyd puts his cruciform hermeneutic to work as it is applied to the 'herem' command (specifically, the command to annihilate the Canaanites). Starting from the cross, Greg knows that God is non-violent. Given this fact, certain elements (even inconsistencies) from the Old Testament story of Israel's conquering of Canaan come to light like never before.
For instance, Boyd observes a thread within the story that God's original plan was to bring the Israelites into the land (and take the Canaanites out of the land) non-violently. God planned to use non-violent phenomena to slowly remove the Canaanites. But when the Israelites (Moses & Joshua) received this plan from God, it got distorted by their pre-conceived notions that violence would be necessary to accomplish such a task. Nevertheless, elements of God's original plan were preserved in the text. When we look at the text with 'cross-vision', we find them.
The remnant of the original (non-violent) command actually produces a number of 'inconsistencies and incoherencies' in the text once it is mixed the typical ANE violent worldview. Again, those with 'cross-vision' are able to recognize such things and attribute them to God's accommodating nature. Since the people of Israel rejected God's non-violent plan, God stayed in relation with them in spite of their violent behavior.
God did intend to 'judge' the Canaanites... just not via violence. But because Israel disobeyed God, He instead had to endure their judgment being performed violently by Israel. And God did intend to bring Israel into the land promised to them... just not via violence. But because Israel disobeyed God, He instead had to endure their violence against the Canaanites (and His reputation being attached to violence). God was willing to endure all this to stay in covenant relationship with His people for the good of the entire world.
It was nice to see the various elements of Boyd's approach (so far) brought together in a case study (of sorts). I think Boyd made a good case that the original plan, from God, was for Israel to be given the Promised Land in a non-violent way. I think it is very believable that Moses and Joshua, being men from the ANE, misunderstood and distorted God's plan.
Nevertheless, it is still difficult (for me) to think of Moses and Joshua being so wrong about so much and their stories still being considered holy Scripture. What's more, they seem to be praised as heroes in Scripture (and in Sunday School classes today). It would be difficult, to say the least, to convince a typical person in the pew of this view. That's not to say the view is wrong.
Of course, Boyd does have an answer for how such texts are still inspired Scripture. It's the answer he's been giving throughout the 2 volumes. These violent stories are still Scripture in the sense that they show God stooping to our level to stay in relationship with us, just as He did on the cross through Jesus Christ. They reveal how far God will go to be with us.