Faith Meets World

Reflections on faith in a messed-up but beautiful world

Category: Theology (Page 1 of 23)

The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: responding to Greg Boyd’s responses

I recently posted a three-part review of Greg Boyd’s colossal new book The Crucifixion of the Warrior God (hereafter CWG). (Links here to part 1, part 2 and part 3.) My twin aims in writing this review were (i) to provide a concise and accurate overview of the structure and content of CWG and (ii) to briefly set out the top three things I liked about CWG and my top three concerns with it.

I’ve been thrilled with the amount of comment and conversation my review has generated; if nothing else, Greg is to be heartily applauded for throwing open the debate on a number of crucial theological issues.

This past week, Greg began a series of posts at his ReKnew website titled Reviewing the Reviews. Imagine my surprise when the first review of CWG he chose to respond to was mine! Given that the ideas put forward in CWG will doubtless be discussed by the great and the good of the theological world, I’m over the moon that Greg chose to seriously engage with a review written by an amateur and a relative nobody like little old me. What’s more, he had some really nice things to say about my review, describing it as “excellent”, “detailed and probing” and “an accurate, clear and insightful overview”.

Thanks, Greg!

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Book review: The Crucifixion of the Warrior God by Greg Boyd (part 3 of 3)

Today I’m delighted to share with you the final part of my three-part review of pastor-teacher-academic Greg Boyd’s long-awaited new book The Crucifixion of the Warrior God (hereinafter referred to as CWG).

In part 1 and part 2, I attempted to set out a high-level overview of the structure and content of CWG. While, given the length and depth of the book, this was necessarily a skim over the surface rather than a deep dive, I hope I have done enough that those who have read CWG will recognise my sketch as a reasonably faithful synopsis, and that those who have not will gain at least a bare-bones understanding of what Boyd is trying to do and how he is trying to do it.

In this third and final part, I will briefly set out what I consider to be the main strengths of Boyd’s work in CWG, as well as my main concerns with it. There are many positive things that could be said about this book, and more than a few concerns that one might validly raise about it; for the sake of space and time, I shall limit myself to three positive points and three primary concerns.

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Book review: The Crucifixion of the Warrior God by Greg Boyd (part 2 of 3)

Today I continue with my review of Greg Boyd’s much-anticipated new book The Crucifixion of the Warrior God (which I will henceforth refer to as CWG).

In part 1, I sketched out an overview of Volume I of CWG, in which Boyd underlines the centrality of the crucified Christ as the paramount interpretive guide to scripture, explores instances of Old Testament divine violence and lays out his “Cruciform Hermeneutic”, according to which the cross must serve as the criterion for determining the degree to which any biblical text explicitly reflects the true revelatory “voice” of God. In this second part, I will briefly overview Volume II, in which Boyd sets out and applies four principles that together form his “Cruciform Thesis”.

Introduction: Boyd kicks off Volume II by asking readers to consider an imaginary scenario in which he witnesses his wife engaging in what appears to be atypical and disturbing behaviour. Based on his several decades of marriage, Boyd knows his wife well enough to be certain that, despite appearances to the contrary, the behaviour he sees is not congruent with his wife’s character. He must therefore conclude that, even though what he sees appears disturbing on its surface, there must be something else going on – some explanatory set of facts that is hidden from Boyd and which, if he were made aware of it, would explain his wife’s apparently disturbing behaviour in ways congruent with what he knows to be her good character.

This introduction deserves particular mention because its fundamental point – the idea that “there must be something else going on” – becomes a kind of leitmotif that frequently recurs throughout the rest of the volume. Whenever the Old Testament appears to depict God in ways that we know are not congruent with the supreme revelation of God seen in Christ on the cross, we should conclude – so argues Boyd – that there must be something else going on. And, as conscientious readers of scripture, we should diligently search for what that “something else” might be.

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Book review: The Crucifixion of the Warrior God by Greg Boyd (part 1 of 3)

Today I have the privilege of beginning to review the long-awaited new book by Greg Boyd, titled The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, officially released on 1 April 2017.

Weighing in at some 1,400 pages, with no less than ten appendices, an extensive bibliography and copious footnotes throughout, this truly gargantuan work took Boyd around ten years to write: no surprise when you consider that, as well as being a prolific author (with over fifteen books to his name), Boyd pastors a large church in St Paul, Minnesota (USA) and is also an adjunct professor of theology.

To make my review as accessible as possible, I had originally planned to write it in a single post. However, given the size and scope of the book, I’ve decided to break my review down into three parts. In the first two parts, I will attempt to provide a concise overview of the structure and content of the book; in the third part, I will share  some thoughts on the book’s strengths and weaknesses as I see them. (I hope to post parts 2 and 3 over the next few days.)

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Looking for love

“Looking for love in all the wrong places.” It may be a well-worn cliché, but like all clichés, it contains more than a modicum of truth.

I think we can truthfully say that at some level, each of us just wants to be loved. And yet there is something about the world, and about our particular situation within it, that conspires to keep this much-sought-after feeling of being loved just beyond our grasp.

In some cases, it’s easy to see where a deep-seated sense of unloveliness might stem from; I’m thinking in particular of all forms of child abuse, whether physical, sexual or emotional. When we suffer such abuse at our most tender and formative age, it makes a profound imprint on our soul that can be very hard to erase or reshape. However, even those of us, like myself, who have experienced no major childhood abuse can be all too familiar with an abiding sense of lack that sends us searching for all manner of substances, experiences and/or relationships to fill the emptiness in our souls. Even those blessed with the happiest of circumstances somehow sustain wounds on their journey through childhood and adolescence – wounds whose pain they later seek to ease with money, success, sex, alcohol, fame, and so on.

To be alive in this world, it would seem, is to suffer trauma.

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Strength in weakness, weakness in strength

Among the Apostle Paul’s most famous sayings is “When I am weak, then I am strong”, found in 2 Corinthians 12:10. The context is a discussion of power being made perfect in weakness, and of Christ’s power dwelling in the Apostle.

This saying has widely been interpreted to mean that when we lay aside our own human “strength” – which could figuratively be taken to mean our skill, ability, confidence… more generally, our ability to take things into our own hands and get things done – we open ourselves up for the power of God to work through us. Conversely, when we rely on our own strength, skills and abilities, we fail to make room for God’s power to work through us. While this seems a reasonable enough interpretation on the face of it, I’d like to suggest that it has some serious weaknesses.

The main problem I see with this understanding is that it tends to assume that the divine power that is made room for by human weakness is a kind of controllable substance or flow, perhaps a bit like an electrical current. If the switch is in the “on” position, the power will flow; with the switch in the “off” position, there will be no divine power. To turn the switch on, all we have to do is make sure we are not operating out of our human strength and abilities, and God will provide the power. (If I had a penny for every time I’ve heard someone say “Let go and let God”, I’d have a lot of pennies). This is a totally transactional view in which if we do X, God is duty-bound to do Y. Because God cannot be controlled in this way, and because, in any event, God simply does not engage with us at a transactional level, this view is bunk.

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Metaphysical Jesus

The farther I proceed on my theological and experiential journey, the more convinced I am that one of the most fundamental mistakes many churches and believers have made is to turn the Jesus of the Gospels into a kind of abstract spiritual persona.

Let me explain.

For many evangelicals in particular, the important thing is to have a “relationship with Jesus”. That might sound very earthy and real, but in practice what it usually amounts to is believing that Jesus somehow lives inside you, having conversations with him, either out loud or in your head, singing to and/or about him with other believers at church and, most importantly of all, believing that he is the Son of God who died to free you from the curse of sin, death and hell. Do all this and you can be assured of your ticket to heaven.

I realise that one might easily conclude from the above paragraph that I am deriding huge and important aspects of Christian practice, namely faith, prayer and worship. However, that’s not my purpose. I’d simply like to ask one question about this approach to Christianity: just who or what is this Jesus with whom one has a relationship?

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