Tag Archives: Power

Boyd on judgment and “divine withdrawal” [chapters 17 and 18]

Ted Grimsrud—December 7, 2017

[This is the 19th 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 18th post may be found here—and an index of the series here.]

In Chapter 17, “Doing and Allowing: The Crucicentric Significance of Scripture’s Dual Speech Pattern” (pages 851-890) and Chapter 18, “A Question of Divine Culpability: Responding to Objections to the Principle of Redemptive Withdrawal” (pages 891-916), Boyd develops further his arguments about how God exercises punitive judgment in ways that are compatible with how the nonviolent God is revealed in the cross of Jesus.

What does the Bible mean when it speaks of God’s actions?

Boyd makes a good point in his discussion of what he calls “Scripture’s ‘dual speech’ pattern.” He suggests we recognize that the Bible’s authors acknowledge “that God merely allowed the actions they elsewhere directly ascribe to God.” The language of God directly acting to bring about judgment thus should not be read overly literally. It is God’s universe and everything that happens in some sense happens under God’s directing providence. But that does not mean that God directly acts every time God is mentioned.

Boyd links this “dual speech pattern” with his belief that “God merely withdraws protection when he brings about judgment” (852). I would rather say that to note this “dual speech pattern” is simply to note that we have in the text a rhetorical projection of God’s agency onto the events. Boyd takes an additional step that I cannot accept, that the biblical writers implicitly recognize “that their violent depictions of God are divine accommodations to their own fallen and culturally conditioned hearts and minds” (852). I would rather say that this “dual speech pattern” is simply a reflection of the human nature of the Bible’s books.

Boyd seems to claim that the Bible is still “inspired” and even “infallible” when it reflects such “divine accommodation.” It is not that the Bible is a human book that cannot help but reflect its human sources and in fact could not be otherwise. Rather, for Boyd it is that the Bible is still a divine book where God chooses to allow the human limitations to be evident even though God could fashion the Bible otherwise if God wanted to.

It strikes me that Boyd wants to retain a view of a profoundly powerful God who could control things and chooses not to. In face of the evidence that the Bible indeed does reflect human limitations, Boyd argues for this “divine accommodation” without any clear evidence to support such a move beyond the need to hold on to his understanding of the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible. Continue reading

The Lamb’s Way of Victory #4

Revelation five is the most important chapter in the book. Here we face the big question of human life–how do we understand God to be working out God’s purposes? The vision of the scroll in the right hand of the “one on the throne” addresses this issue. How will the scroll (which contains the message of the resolution of history) be opened and its contents made manifest? First John fears no one can open the scroll. Then, he is told someone has been found–a great king, intimating a great warrior. But what he sees is the true reality: a lamb that was slain and now stands is the one with true power. This vision at the heart of Revelation, according to my sermon, “How Does God Win?,” makes clear that persevering love, not coercive firepower, reflects the deepest element of God’s power–and serves as our model.

Pacifism With Justice (10)

The Book of Revelation is not a common resource for Christian pacifists. However, it should be. This essay, “Revealing a New World: Power According to Biblical Apocalyptic.”, from my book-in-progress, Pacifism with Justice: The Biblical and Theological Case, argues that the view of authentic power portrayed in Revelation has to do with persevering love, not coercive force. The “revelation” conveyed in the Bible’s final book provides an angle for understanding power throughout the Bible.