Friday, July 07, 2017

Crucifixion of the Warrior God

In the official trailer to Boyd's new book:

he does a nice job of summarizing the dilemma for his position. On the one hand, OT theism appears to be diametrically opposed to his "cruciform", Anabaptist Christology. On the other hand, the OT, which Jesus endorses as the word of God, attributes violent actions and commands to Yahweh.  

In his review of Boyd's book, Olson says: 

…and, in some other cases, God’s people’s committing the violence and attributing it to God due to their cultural captivity to ancient Near Eastern ideas about God. However, even though he does not believe God, the Father of Jesus Christ, the Trinity, ever commits violence, Boyd does believe God inspired the narratives that wrongly attribute such acts to his instigation. This, he argues, is an example of God’s accommodation to people’s inability to understand him rightly and of progressive revelation. For Boyd, the Bible must be read backwards, all of it in the light of Jesus Christ who is the crucified God and whose suffering love reveals finally and fully the true character of God.

Boyd argues that the Old Testament portraits of God commanding and committing extreme violence against even children cannot be taken at face value even as they must be interpreted seriously as “masks” God allows his fallen people to put on him. Just as God allowed people to crucify him, so God allowed even his own people to blame him for their (or invisible, spiritual cosmic powers’) wicked deeds.

Assuming that's an accurate summary of Boyd's position, and Olson is a sympathetic reviewer, Boyd's solution fails to resolve the dilemma he posed at the outset. He conceded that Jesus endorses the OT as the word of God. Yet he says the OT sometimes grossly distorts God's true character. How is that misrepresentation consistent with Christ's endorsement of OT theism? 

Boyd has an a priori theory of what God is really like, based on his interpretation of NT Christology. He labors to square that with OT theism, but his effort fails. That should cause him to scrap his "cruciform", Anabaptist Christology. Despite his Herculean efforts, his theory is falsified by the facts. 

Boyd has two other hypothetical options: he can say the NT misrepresents Jesus. Jesus didn't endorse the OT as the word of God. Gospel writers project their own views of OT authority onto Jesus. 

But on that hypothesis, we don't know what Jesus really believed. He disappears behind the Gospel writers. We can't go through them or around them to get to the real Jesus.

Or he can adopt a Kenotic Christology. Jesus said the things which Gospel writers attribute to him, yet he was a culturally-conditioned child of his times. But, of course, that destroys Boyd's standard of comparison. He can't then use Jesus as a point of contrast to correct the OT portraiture of Yahweh. 

So there's no way out for Boyd except to ditch his "cruciform" hermeneutic. 

Finally, it's equivocal to say Jesus "supersedes" OT revelation. Jesus surpassed OT revelation. Jesus represents the culmination of OT revelation. But Boyd means it in the sense that Jesus corrects and abrogates OT revelation. That, however, is a suicidal hermeneutic. The messianic claims of Jesus must be validated by OT messianic descriptors. It must complete OT messianic trajectories. If NT messianism is fundamentally at odds with OT messianism, then that falsifies NT messianism. They must converge, not diverge. If they split off in opposing directions, then Jews are right to reject the messianic claims of Jesus. 

1 comment:

  1. The messianic claims of Jesus must be validated by OT messianic descriptors.

    And the descriptors aren't just one of peaceful ruler, but a conquering warrior King. As an example, the first Messianic psalm is Psalm 2 and the Messiah is described as having the authority to "...break [His enemies] with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel."

    Isn't this the same Greg Boyd who wrote the book God At War where he argues that most Christians don't take seriously enough the reality of spiritual warfare, and how the casualties and stakes are real? My major disagreement of the book is his denial of God's sovereignty in the war. Apparently, Boyd sees descriptions of YHVH as a "man of war" (Exo. 15:3) and Messiah as a shatterer of kings (Ps. 110:5-6) only in the spiritual sense. Not also in the physical, earthly mundane sense.