Part 1 – Problems in the Preface
So today, I am restarting, in earnest, my reading of Greggory A. Boyd’s magnum opus, “Crucifixion of the Warrior God,” Volumes 1 and 2, which is more than 1300 pages in length. I started a couple of weeks ago, and got into it about 100 pages, but had to take a break.
While I appreciate Boyd’s transparency in stating clearly the lens through which he reads the Bible, I have to deal with the fact that the lens he uses is not the lens I employ. This has resulted in several statements, even in the Preface, which give me pause. Here are a few of them:
“Because Jesus affirmed the inspiration of the OT, I cannot agree with the many today who argue that we must simply reject such violent portraits of God, even though I cannot disagree with their claim that some of these portraits “strike us as sinister and evil.” (xxviii)
There is no scripture reference provided. Where exactly did Jesus affirm the inspiration of the OT? While many of the texts that later were included in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (Protestant), were perceived as authoritative by Jews in the 1st century CE, there was no “OT” per se. It didn’t yet exist in Jesus’ day, so how could he affirm the inspiration of the OT?
“This humanistic approach [i.e., the historical-critical method] to Scripture unfortunately came to be widely shared by Christian pastors and scholars alike, and as we will see, it has had a strongly erosive effect on the faith of the church.” (xxxvi)
So, is Boyd totally discrediting the historical-critical method as being “humanistic” and having “a strongly erosive effect on the faith of the church”? Does he see no value whatsoever in using this interpretive approach as at least one of the tools in our exegetical toolbox? If so, I heartedly disagree. While we cannot know, for certain, the author’s intent or the reception of any text his intended readers, we can usually make some decent and coherent observations. While these should not limit our search to apply these ancient texts to our lives surely they should provide some boundaries.
“…I am attempting to apply the traditional Christo-centric—and therefore crucicentric—hermeneutic of the church more consistently than has been done in the past……no one since the fifth century has attempted to apply this hermeneutic to the OT’s violent portraits of God.” (xxxvii)
I always get suspicious when someone comes up with a way of reading and interpreting Scripture that has been either undiscovered, ignored or simply gone unused for 15 centuries! I don’t doubt that Boyd is a gifted, intelligent, spiritual, and sincere person. But, really, can it be that only he has found the way to “apply the traditional Christocentric hermeneutic of the church more consistently than has been done in the past”?
My initial reaction, just to the Preface, brought to mind a couple of my favourite quotations:
Billy Joel, in the lyrics of Shades of Grey, writes, “And the only people I fear are those who never have doubts. Save us all from arrogant men, and all the causes they’re for. I won’t be righteous again. I’m not that sure anymore.”
“From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth; From the laziness that is content with half-truths; From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, O God of truth, deliver us.” [Mishkan T’filah: A Reform Siddur: Complete: Shabbat, Weekdays, and Festivals (Transliterated) (Page 43). CCAR Press. Kindle Edition.]
As you can tell, given how vastly different my assumptions are, as compared to Greg Boyd’s, it is going to take a lot of focused (and humble) effort on my part to do my best to evaluate his argument as objectively as possible. As we often say at the beginning of a difficult task, “Well, here goes nothing…”