Hi folks, it’s been a while since I posted anything of significance. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs though – all the links in this post will take you to some that I have been reading regularly.
Today I stumbled across Rachel Held Evans’ interview with Greg Boyd, particularly covering his new book, The Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty. You can also read a post from Roger E. Olson about it here, and Frank Viola did an interview too.
What especially grabbed my attention in the interview, though, was Greg’s comments on his developing view of “violent portraits of God in the Old Testament”, which will be set up and extensively argued in a forthcoming tome called The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.
I’ve heard him talk of this before, and I have to say I’m intrigued. Greg is a well-known pacifist and is often outspoken of his views that God is not the kind of God that would wish to issue commands to slaughter whole people groups – despite a few infamous Old Testament passages. It’s of course a view based on solid New Testament, Christological hermeneutics with a particular emphasis on “calvary-like love” that fully affirms that God’s love and nature are revealed in Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of the whole world.
I’ll be curious to see how it fares, because Greg’s approach looks to be quite novel. But I can’t say I’m well-read, only that I’ve heard a few of the standard approaches that have been knocked around in the past, and Greg’s seems somewhat different. I’ll be especially interested to see if he can make any reference to the view of the Early Church Fathers, and secondarily to other scholarly work that lines up with his view. (You’ll have to read the interview to get a flavour of what his approach is!)
It seems Greg is aware of the traps that are noted when dealing with difficult Old Testament passages – avoiding, for example, a ‘progressive revelation’ approach which might assume too much theological ignorance on the part of the Old Testament writers. (There are other approaches with attendant pitfalls too.) It’s whether, in avoiding these pitfalls, Greg’s resulting thesis is able yet to rest on a stable historical grounds in terms of its scholarship. Because the final pitfall, arguably, is that of novelty. Not that, as Tom Wright has often had to argue with some of his groundbreaking theological work, the novelty of an idea should automatically rule against it. And it can be difficult to assess whether an idea is ever really truly novel, according to the writer of Ecclesiastes.
Greg certainly has a lot going for him. His quest is unapologetically theological, and then it is roundly based on a desire to interpret Scripture Christologically. But others have sought to do this too, and haven’t come up with the same approach. Ultimately of course, every attempt to reconcile the Christ-like nature of God with seemingly contradictory Old Testament portraits might make up the pieces of a tapestry which only history can weave together. But we already have 2000 years (almost) of thinking on the Scripture – hence my interest in how Greg’s argument will match with scholarship of the past, right back to the Fathers.
And let’s not forget that in the New Testament itself, it does not seem that any question is raised of this sort – per se. Certainly we can note that the writers are unafraid to make unequivocal statements concerning God’s goodness and love, while all the time firmly grounding their understanding of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. For them there were no incompatibility issues – but one does wonder what Paul himself might have said in response to that oft-asked question: “So what about the slaughter of the Canaanites then?” That is the work of theology – and I look forward to reading Greg’s book.