Greg Boyd’s “Heavenly Missionary” (=God)

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 5.35.23 PMAt the core of Greg Boyd’s cruciform hermeneutic in the Bible is a theory of divine accommodation to the sinful realities of God’s own people, Israel. We find this discussed at length in chp 14 of The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.

His opening salvo in this chp concerns divine accommodations, and here are some of his major ideas:

If the missionary ever hopes to have the tribe eventually embrace the gospel and abandon their inhumane customs [he is speaking of female genital mutilation], they must rather initially accept the culture of the tribe as it is and gradually earn the right to be heard by patiently demonstrating God’s love as they sow seeds of the gospel that they hope will bear fruit in the years to come. We might say that the missionary must, for a while, bear the sin of the tribe and take on the appearance of condoning a sinful custom if they ever hope to free the tribe from their bondage to their inhumane tradition. 702

And it is also why we find in Scripture the heavenly missionary accommodating false beliefs and inhumane practices that we now know he actually deplores. 702

For instance, one comprehends divine revelation in accordance with one’s spiritual condition:

It is evident that discerning the glory of God in the face of Jesus, finding Christ in “all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27), and being transformed into the image of Christ all require an open heart and the work of the Spirit. 705

It is worth noting that the insight that people’s conception of God
is affected by the spiritual condition of their heart was prevalent in the early church. Early Christian thinkers uniformly assumed that a person could only know God’s true character to the degree that their own character conformed to it. 709

This leads him to a theory that divine accommodation entailed holding back revelation until humans could comprehend the truth in greater fullness, which entails the notion of progressivism in the Bible. Take for instance marriage: the Bible accommodates polygamy, concubines, and divorce as well as kingship (1 Sam 8). Not as God’s teaching but as permissions, which entails progressivism in the Bible. Only with Jesus do we see that divorce was a permission and was less than the divine will. But notice this:

This temporary acquiescence thus reflects the heart of a merciful God who places the welfare of people above compliance with his ideals, and as such, it is a harbinger of the cross, where God, out of concern for our eternal welfare, mercifully bent his ideals to the point of personally becoming our sin and our curse. 715

Scripture has God “approving” such behaviors by way of accommodation:

To illustrate, in the course of chastising King David for his affair with Bathsheba and for murdering her husband, Uriah, the Lord is depicted as saying through the prophet Nathan: I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more (2 Sam 12:8). 718

This opening salvo, then, prepares him for looking at three divine accommodations: law, sacred nationalism, and the use of violence.

In light of the coming of Christ, in short, the law was to be set aside as “a good thing whose purpose had now been accomplished.” 723

Now the core to Boyd’s hermeneutical logic:

Violence was not only intrinsic to the law, it was intrinsic to the entire first covenant inasmuch as this covenant was premised on the threat of violent curses that would be carried out by other violent nations if God’s covenant people proved unfaithful. … In light of the fact that Jesus repudiated all violence and inaugurated a kingdom that transcends all nationalistic boundaries, it should be apparent that the law was not the only negative object lesson contained in the first covenant. Rather, God’s very decision to further his purposes through a particular nation that would be established in a particular land, that would be governed by violently enforced laws and defended with violence, was itself a huge accommodation on God’s part. And inasmuch as this violent nationalism does not reflect God’s true character and will, it is apparent that this accommodation was from the start destined to come to an end once God’s true character and will were revealed in the crucified Christ. 727

In our next post, God’s war on the Warrior God!

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