Ted Grimsrud—November 13, 2017
[This is the 17th in a long series of posts that will work through Greg Boyd’s important book, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament’s Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross (Fortress, 2017). The 16h post may be found here—and an index of the series here.]
Chapter fifteen, “Divine Aikido: The Cross as the Revelation of God’s ‘Wrath’” (pages 767-804) expands on the second key point in Boyd’s Cruciform Hermeneutic, which is “the Principle of Redemptive Withdrawal.”
Depoliticizing Jesus’s execution
Boyd begins the chapter with a brief statement about “the Principle of Redemptive Withdrawal”: It “is anchored in the fact that God the Father did not act violently toward the Son when the Son bore the judgment of our sin that we deserved. Rather, with a grieving heart, the Father simply withdrew his protective hand, thereby delivering his Son over to wicked humans and fallen powers that were already ‘bend on destruction’ (Isa 51:13). Yet by abandoning his Son to suffer the destructive consequences of sin that we deserved, the Father wisely turned the violent aggression of these evildoers back on themselves, causing evil to self-implode and thereby liberating creation” (768).
This statement raises a number of concerns for me. The idea that “the Son bore the judgment of our sin that we deserved” seems to me to depoliticize Jesus’s execution. Here is an idea that the key element of Jesus’s execution is that in it he was judged for our sin. The only judgment I see in the story is the false judgment by the Empire and the religious leaders that Jesus deserved to die. I guess there is a sense that in making this judgment, these powers actually judged themselves as false claimants to be acting on behalf of God.
However, the idea that in some sense “we” deserved the “judgment” Jesus received because we are the sinful ones seems to reflect a purity, collective guilt notion of sin. It’s as if the presence of sin in this story is not the injustice of the powers that be but the inherent sinfulness of all human beings. That is, the dynamic in the picture is not idolatrous politics that continue to turn people from Jesus’s way even now but rather something much more vague and pervasive—a dynamic that blinds us to the on-going political relevance of this story.
Another concern I have with Boyd’s statement comes when he writes that “the Father simply withdrew his protective hand” and let Jesus be executed. This point seems to imply that God actively “protected” Jesus until God chose not to, with an assumption that God can and does intervene directly to shape what happens—except when God chooses to step back. I find it difficult to differentiate morally between an interventionist God who directly causes an evil act such as Jesus’s execution to happen and an interventionist God who definitely could have stopped the execution and chose not to. Continue reading