Friday, December 28, 2007

The Myth of a Christian Nation, Part 1

I am starting a series of posts that will run for several weeks, discussing one of the best books I have ever read, The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd. The book has generated no small amount of controversy since it was released back in 2005. Boyd preached a series of sermons in April of 2004 as things begin to heat up for the elections that took place that fall. It is interesting, that as I read this book and start this series that we are in a similar place, with the tensions escalating for the elections that will take place in less than a year.

As Boyd says in his introduction, he had never experienced as much positive feedback or as much negative feedback as he did in the midst of this six week sermon series. In the process, about 1000 people left the church (about 20%). He was called a whole host of names, like "a liberal, a compromiser, wishy-washy, unpatriotic, afraid to take a stand, or simply on the side of Satan" (pg 10).

He goes on to say that he is sympathetic to the dearly held beliefs of those who are particularly aligned politically, either liberal or conservative. To those who are reading the book (or this blog) and already nervous about what he is going to say, and thinking on the outset that some of the names above are true, Boyd humbly says "let me assure you that, for all my shortcomings, I don't believe any of those labels accurately describes me." He then asserts that wrestling with different beliefs is both extremely healthy and extremely rewarding. Above all, he is humbly asking that the reader do one thing:

"I only ask that you hear me out." (pg 11)

And that is what we will do. I encourage you to walk with me as I read through this book again and do my best to summarize the chapters, evaluate them, and offer some of my own thoughts. I will seek to honor the promise made by Scot McKnight about book reviews: That I will be fair to what the author says; I will focus on what he focuses on; I will tell you what I like and what I don;t like; I will not try to find random theological pecadillos and then excoriate him for his theology. "To be fair to a book is to focus on what it focuses on and to see if it is sustained by the argument and evidence and to see if its conclusions are sound and the most probable."

Some rules (challenges) before we start:

1. Try and leave your political allegiances and biases behind. May we use scripture as our guide and seek truth.

2. Let's hang in there until the end. Some may feel the temptation to abandon ship early on. I think it is important to wrestle with this all the way through. May we do as Greg asks and hear him out.

3. Let's not jump to conclusions (as many may have already). Stereotypes assume they know what the outcome is beforehand. May we not assume we know the end from the beginning. This is basically another way of saying, may we hear Greg out.

4. Fourthly, and related to those previously, let's resist the urge to try and categorize Greg. I know that I do it too, that when you see a talking head or hear a soundbite or read a quote, we immediately think "Where is this person coming from? What camp are they in?" Set this kind of thinking aside at the outset, because like jumping to conclusions, it will hinder us hearing what he is really trying to say.

5. Lastly, may we allow this to challenge us. I agree with Greg that there are few things more productive or more rewarding than wrestling with other ideas. May we take this challenge together.

Okay, we will look at the rest of the intro and what exactly the central issues are that Greg is dealing with next time. Until then, here are some resources you may be interested in.

This is the link where you can find the sermons from 2004, that lead to him writing this book.

This is the series that Vanguard Church did on the book a while back. I may be referring to it from time to time.

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