Monday, April 07, 2008

Boyd on OT Violence, Continued.

Greg Boyd is moving right along in his series on violence in the Old Testament. He is to the point where he is offering theories, and then critiquing them. Here is an overview of what he has done so far.

Introduction- Linked Previously

What's at Stake?

[L]et's do our best to explain the depictions of God as violent in the Old Testament and to thereby reconcile them with the revelation of God in Christ. But for God’s sake (literally), don’t leverage your faith in Christ on the outcome of this investigation!

The Violent Strand of the Old Testament and Our Picture of God

[W]hatever else is at stake in the issue of explaining the violent strand of the Old Testament, our picture of God should not be. Fix your spiritual eyes on Jesus (2 Cor. 3:17-4:6; Col 3:5; Heb 12:2), not on the warrior God of the Old Testament.

OT Violence and Christian Behavior

Jesus himself seems quite aware that the attitude towards enemies he commands his followers to embrace is very different from some aspects of the Old Testament. For example, in the Old Testament God twice reigned down fire from heaven in judgment on various individuals and groups. Yet, when John and James wanted to do this same thing in the New Testament, Jesus rebuked them (Lk 9:52-55). It violated the spirit of the Kingdom Jesus came to establish to want God to act the way he did in the Old Testament!...Clearly, the way of the Kingdom Jesus was establishing was very different from the way of Yahweh in the violent strands of the Old Testament.

Could Old Testament Warriors Have Been Mistaken?- View #1

This is how God handles all violence, according to Eller. All war is the result of human estrangement from God, and so in this sense all war is a punishment for rebellion against God. “God doesn’t approve of war,” he says, “but this isn’t to say war is completely outside his plan.” Rather, “war is the punishment brought upon themselves by those who foster and create the kind of situations that lead to war. " Moreover, Eller argues, "it is not that the losing nation is the punished one and the winner merely the punisher. War is always punishment both ways”(79). So, as a regrettable concession, God worked with Israel’s Nimrodian mindset, as he worked with the Nimrodian mindset of others, to accomplish his purposes, as much as possible, in the world. And part of this purpose was to punish the sinful violent-mindedness of both the Israelites and their pagan enemies.

And all the while Yahweh was laying the groundwork for a future revelation of who he really is, what his character is really like and what kind of warfare he has really called us to.

A Defense of Eller's Thesis- Support for View #1

The basic point is that the Bible does not give us the unmediated voice of God. It gives us God’s voice mediated through culturally conditioned human witnesses. In this light, it doesn't seem too outlandish to suppose that certain Old Testament warriors and authors were right when they heard God telling them to fight his battles, but reflected their cultural conditioning when they interpreted this to mean they were to slaughter men, women and children. They expressed a God-inspired truth when they affirmed that God wanted to fight for them and give them the victory. But the way they expressed and applied this truth was culturally conditioned.

A Critique of Eller's Thesis- A Critique of View #1

These episodes of God causing carnage seem no more consistent with the God revealed on Calvary – the God who chooses to be killed rather than to kill – than the episodes of slaughtering that involve human agents. Hence, while Eller's thesis nicely removes the inconsistency between the Old and New Testaments regarding how God wants his people to treat enemies, it doesn't at all help remove the inconsistency regarding their portraits of God.

What do you guys think of Eller's view (view #1)?

1 comment:

Cody said...

I think that in an effort to follow Jesus' clear pacifistic teaching, many scholars have abandoned Scripture and turned against God.

When God sanctions a war, it must be done. God owns the rights to human lives and when he says it's time for them to go, we have no moral authority to judge Him on it.

Christ has given His earthly Kingdom a peaceful mission of love. However, He will still act in judgment on the last day. It is not inconsistent for God to choose an earthly kingdom for earthly pursuits (Israel) and a spiritual kingdom for spiritual pursuits (the church). God is both merciful/loving as well as holy/punishing.