Is Greg Boyd doing Theological Interpretation of Scripture?

The answer is Yes. There are a number of theologians doing “theological interpretation of Scripture” (TIS) today. While it is unfair to the nuances of each theologian to mix them all into one batch, the fundamental strategy is generically alike. That is, they know where they stand theologically, they believe where they stand is solid footing (they think it’s truth), and they then are liberated to see either reflections or intimations of that theology in the Old Testament.

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 5.35.23 PMWhat, after all, is the difference between Tim Keller finding “grace vs. religion” (grace, performance, etc) in Genesis, or so many in The Gospel Coalition finding Christ in the Old Testament (e.g., Graeme Goldsworthy’s tune), Protestant liberals/progressives finding social justice as the Bible’s central theme, African American or Latin American or feminist or womanist liberation theologians viewing the Bible through the lens of liberation, and Greg Boyd re-interpreting OT violence passages in light of cruciformity (understood as pacifistic)?

Much, but only in one way: the theology where they stand is different.

At the heart this becomes “How do we determine where we stand?” Do we stand with our own interpretations? With the historical critical method? With a creedalism or confessionalism or denominationalism? Or… with … someone like…

Greg Boyd, in his The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, finds an early example of his cruciform hermeneutic in Origen, who not only was at one time off limits but who has these days found reception among a wide spectrum of orthodox thinkers, including some evangelicals. If he got off base on his form of universalism does not mean everything he taught was wrong. Hence, there is a resurgence of Origen in our world today. This, it must be admitted, is a separate discussion, and one not for me, though I’d be glad to host a good post or a series of posts on Origenist theology.

An opener from Origen:

Origen: “The Holy Spirit supervised… cases [in Scripture] where that which appeared at the first glance could neither be true nor useful in order that… we should be led on to search for a meaning worthy of God” (417).

If the Dismissal and Synthesis views don’t answer the questions, what’s left?

If, as I have argued, all Scripture must bear witness to the crucified Christ, and if we can neither dismiss nor simply embrace the OT’s violent divine portraits, our only remaining option is to look for a way of interpreting these portraits that discloses how they reflect the self-sacrificial love of God revealed on Calvary. 418

At issue — always and forever — is hermeneutics. Which hermeneutics? Whose hermeneutics? What method? One method was allegory, a method now fallen out of favor but it wasn’t out of favor in the NT or patristic periods:

Though doctrines such as the incarnation, the Trinity, and baptism certainly appeared to be recently conceived, early Christian thinkers argued these doctrines were actually very ancient, for they are present in an allegorical form in the OT, which even many non-Christians assumed was older than Homer. Thus, allegorical exegesis, together with several other theologically driven interpretive techniques (e.g., typology), allowed early Christians to present their faith as a viable, intellectually attractive, and very ancient option. 424

Three Origenist principles:

First, as Maurice Wiles has noted, Origen held that “if the Holy Spirit is the author of all scripture … every part must be in full agreement with the meaning of every other part, since God never contradicts himself.’ 425

A second important and closely related aspect of Origen’s view of Scripture concerns his use of the incarnational analogy for understanding biblical inspiration…. the Bible is almost a first incarnation. 426

Origen’s incarnational model of inspiration led him to believe that there could be nothing superfluous in Scripture. 427

One, two, three. Sounds like the method I was introduced to in American fundamentalism though the name Origen wasn’t on the lips of those teaching it.

But this leads Origen then to the moral and hermeneutical problem:

Origen “refuses to believe in the literal truth of accounts of massacres carried out under God’s orders” (434). [these passages are “unworthy of God” Origen believed]

Origen simply could not see how the Christ-centered harmony that he believed permeated the canon could be preserved if the violence ascribed to God and his people in the OT was taken at face value. 442

Is this Marcionite? No, but he walks with Marcion a bit, and then radically parts paths:

Origen is, in effect, conceding to Marcion and others that the god of the OT is an evil deity, but only if one insists on interpreting the reports of his violent commands and actions literally. To Origen’s way of thinking, however, this simply proves that this sort of material is not to be interpreted this way. Instead, the “impossibility of the literal sense” of such material should force us to dig deeper to uncover ‘the inner meaning,” which, as we noted above, is precisely why the Spirit “breathed” these “impossibilities” into the inspired written witness to God’s faithful covenantal activity. 444

In the end, Origen knew where he stood. Is this how we all read the Bible?

… the primary reason Origen found the OT’s violent depictions of God to be problematic, if taken at face value, was that he was unwavering in his confidence that the crucified Christ fully revealed the true character of God and that this character was altogether nonviolent. 458

"I think you are right. Thanks! I'll change it above to see the difference."

Both Can’t Be True
"Marshall--and Tom: good thoughts...and yet Paul doesn't appear to be speaking in vague generalities--as in: ..."

Both Can’t Be True
"The one part of Peppiatt's analysis of 1 Cor 14 I would challenge is including ..."

Both Can’t Be True
"Paul seems to use the "as in all the churches" language for general principles: "lead ..."

Both Can’t Be True

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment