How Central is Christ in Your Understanding of God?

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 5.35.23 PMEssentially, that is Greg Boyd’s question in his new book The Crucifixion of the Warrior God He can be heard asking, If you believe God is incarnate in Christ then how central is that incarnation to your understanding of God? If Jesus is God, is your view of God Jesus-like?

This book is intentionally provocative; it cuts across the grain of many theological platforms; he probably offends the Calvinist as well as the Arminian when it comes to “inspiration” and he offends all but the pacifists when it comes to his view of the cruciformity of God. The issue is not Who got irritated? but How biblical is this?

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” John 14:8-9

Chp 2 is nothing less than an enthusiastic display of the true face of God in Christ, and Boyd develops seven themes from the Bible:

  1. The One Exact Representation

Heb 1:1-3

TF Torrance: “In Christ, what God communicates to man is not something, but his very self. This is distinct from all other acts of God. This is God’s unique act, his reality-in-the-act… in Jesus Christ God acts in such a way that he is himself in his act, and what he acts he is, and what he is he acts Jesus Christ as act of God in humanity is identical with God’s own person” (39).

He is not part of what the Father has to say or even the main thing the Father has to say: as the one and only Word of God (John 1:1), Jesus is the total content of the Father’s revelation to us, wherever and whenever this revelation comes to us. 40

Col 1:15-17

2. The Life and Subject Matter of the Old Testament

For this reason, Jesus claimed that Moses would serve as their “accuser,” exposing their unbelief. For “if you believed Moses,” Jesus added, “you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (5:45-46, italics added). 42

Lk 24:25-27, 44-45

3. Outshining the Old Testament

While we must, of course, interpret the NT as the continuation and fulfillment of the OT, we do not honor the absolute nature of the revelation of God in Christ as it is presented in the NT unless we give it interpretive priority over all preceding revelations. And it is for this reason that we must read the Bible “backwards,” as Hays puts it, from the perspective of Jesus’s death and resurrection. 49

[Transfiguration:] Followers of Jesus are therefore not to consider either the law or the prophets to be permanent independent authorities set alongside Jesus but must be rather understood entirely in light of, and in dependence upon, Jesus. 51

2 Cor 1:20

Whatever value ancient ‘God-breathed” writings have in showing us the way to God, revealing the truth about God, and bringing us the life of God, it is only because they point toward, agree with, and participate in the One who is himself the way, the truth, and the life. 57

Is Boyd asking, “Do you believe in the Bible or in the Christ of the Bible?”

Is this a “canon within the canon”? 

How different is his hermeneutic than theological interpretation of Scripture?

4. The Embodiment of all revelatory treasures

Colossians 2:2-3; 1 Timothy 2:5

Colossians 2:9

Along the same lines, Paul sometimes identifies Jesus—or, more specifically, the crucified Jesus—with the gospel he preached (e.g., 1 Cor 1:22-23, 2:2; 2 Cor 1:19, 2:12; Phil l:15-18). I submit that this remarkable Christocentricity reflects the generally shared conviction of NT authors that the Father and Spirit are known not independently of Jesus but only through Jesus. 65

5. Repudiating Scripture

John 8:28; 12:49-50; 14:31

Matthew 5:33-36

Mark 7:19

Colossians 2:16

Matthew 5:38-39

For Jesus, embodying a love that embraces enemies and refrains from violence was the definitive sign, and the precondition, for being considered a child of God. 73

While it is not covered by the lex talionis, I submit that Jesus’s rejection of all laws requiring capital punishment is confirmed in the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:2-11). 74

In any event, whether or not one accepts this particular way of reconciling Jesus’s claim to fulfill the law with his rejection of certain aspects of this law, the more important point is that however one reconciles these statements, we must accept the fact that Jesus placed his authority over that of the OT. And this further confirms that the revelation of God in Christ is not a revelation to be placed alongside of previous revelations, let alone a revelation whose authority should be allowed to be qualified and compromised by previous revelations. 78

6. Repudiating Old Testament “Holy War” Precedents

The desire of James and John to replicate Elijah’s miraculous destruction of Samaritan foes with fire “from heaven” reflected a “spirit” that was antithetical to that of Jesus and the kingdom he was inaugurating. It failed to reflect unconditional love toward “enemies” and instead manifested an attitude of retaliation that we have just seen was commanded in the OT but that Jesus renounced. 79

7. Rejecting Sacred Nationalism and Violence

Not only did Jesus not play into people’s messianic expectations, though they were rooted in Israel’s covenant with Yahweh, but many of Jesus’s teachings ran counter to this covenant. Indeed, Jesus virtually turned the promises and curses of the OT’s covenant on their head. 86

The fact that the only blood shed on behalf of Jesus’s kingdom was his own proves that this kingdom is in an altogether different category than the violence-prone kingdoms of this world, including the violence-prone kingdom of Israel in the OT. 89

By inaugurating this transnational kingdom, Jesus fulfilled that strand of the OT that taught that Israel was raised up by Yahweh for the purpose of blessing the nations, most profoundly by being used to reconcile these nations to God (e.g., Gen 12:1-3; Isa 2:2-4, 5:26). Yet, by fulfilling Israel’s call to bless all nations while revealing a God who loves indiscriminately, Jesus was setting aside the strand of the OT that depicts Yahweh as a nationalistic deity whose favor toward his people is expressed in his use of violence on their behalf. And this again presumes that Jesus possessed an authority that allowed him to repudiate foundational aspects of the OT when he deemed it necessary. 90-91

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