We are interrupting my current blog series on the gospel of the kingdom to bring you an exclusive interview with Greg Boyd.
Like with any two mortals, Greg and I have our differences. But when it comes to believing that the supernatural elements in Scripture (i.e., demons, angelic beings, Satan, etc.) are real, the effect of *spiritual* principalities and powers on human governments, the inspiration of Scripture, and the fact that all Scripture points to Jesus Christ — His Person, Life, and Work — we’re joined at the hip.
I connected with Greg recently to have him talk about these two works, asking him questions that no one else has raised.
This is a long interview. So if you read nothing else, read Greg’s answers to questions 3 – 6 and 13 and 14. They are excellent. If you find his answers to some of the rest of the interview problematic, you can see two other scholars answer the same questions in a different way. See my interviews with Paul Copan (Is God a Moral Monster?) and David Lamb (God Behaving Badly?).
Boyd, Copan, and Lamb all hold to the inspiration of Scripture, but they interpret the OT violent portraits of God differently.
(1) Instead of asking, “what is your book about,” I’m going to ask the question that’s behind that question. And that unspoken question is, “how are Christians going to benefit in their practical, spiritual walk from reading your book?”
Greg Boyd: First, the main motivation I had for writing Cross Vision as well as its more academic counterpart, Crucifixion of the Warrior God was to help followers of Jesus acquire a more beautiful, Christ-centered, mental picture of God. I think our mental picture of God is the most important fact about our life. All other things being equal, the beauty of our life won’t outrun the beauty of our vision of God.
Unfortunately, the God that many Christians envision is not completely Christ-like, but is rather influenced, to one degree or another, by the violent depictions of God in the Old Testament, and this brings me to the second way I hope my book will help people. I argue that the New Testament (NT) presents Jesus, and more specifically, Jesus Christ crucified, not as one revelation of God alongside many others, but as the revelation that culminates and supersedes all others. In fact, in a variety of ways, the New Testament teaches that all Scripture, including the Old Testaments violent portraits of God, are intended to point to God’s supreme revelation on the cross. (By the way, whenever I refer to “the cross” or to “the crucified Christ, I am thinking of the cross as the culminating expression of everything Jesus was about, not as an event that is isolated from everything else Jesus was about).
Both Cross Vision and Crucifixion of the Warrior God aim at helping Christians see how the violent divine portraits of God in Scripture do this. If we interpret the portraits of God commanding and engaging in violence through the lens of the cross, as I argue we should, we can actually see that they anticipate, and point us toward, the beautiful revelation of God’s self-sacrificial, sin-bearing, enemy-embracing love on the cross. And this enables us to fully embrace a beautiful mental conception of God that is completely defined by the crucified Christ.
Third, many who are convinced that God is non-violent simply dismiss the OT accounts of God commanding or engaging in violence. I don’t consider this to be a viable option, for Jesus treats the whole Old Testament as the inspired Word of God. My cross-centered interpretation of these violent portraits allows believers to affirm that God is non-violent while also affirming that all Scripture is “God-breathed.”
And finally, the violent portraits of God in Scripture have become one of the biggest obstacles to believers coming to faith. When we can show how these portraits bear witness not to a violent God, but to the non-violent loving God revealed on Calvary, these obstacles to believing in the inspiration of Scripture become one of the most compelling reasons for believing in the inspiration of Scripture. I thus hope that Cross Vision empowers believers to be more effective persuading others to embrace Jesus Christ and the Bible that bears witness to him.
(2) The big thesis of your book is to demonstrates how the Bible’s violent images of God are reframed and their violence subverted when interpreted through the lens of the cross and resurrection. Tell us how the violent depictions of God in the OT bear witness to the same self-sacrificial nature of God that was ultimately revealed on the cross?
Greg Boyd: I first began to see how the OT’s violent portraits of God point to the cross when I asked the question: How does the crucified Christ become the definitive revelation of God to believers? When a person looks at the cross with a “natural” mindset, as Paul once did (2 Cor 5:16), all they see is a guilty-appearing, God-forsaken, crucified criminal. So what do believers see that non-believers don’t see?
It’s not what we see with our natural eyes on the surface of the cross that reveals God. Its rather what we by faith see going on in the depths of the cross that reveals God to us. By faith we look through the surface of the cross to behold God stooping an unsurpassable distance to become this crucified criminal. By faith we see God humbling himself to enter into solidarity with our sin (2 Cor 5:21) and with the God-forsaken curse that is intrinsic to this sin (Gal 3:13), which is why God takes on an ugly appearance on the cross that reflects the ugliness of our sin and our curse.
This is why the cross is for believers simultaneously revoltingly ugly and supremely beautiful. The surface of the cross is revoltingly ugly, for the surface appearance of the crucified Christ mirrors the revolting ugliness of our sin and condemnation. Yet when we by faith look through this ugly sin-mirroring surface, the cross becomes supremely beautiful, for the unsurpassable distance God crossed on our behalf reveals the unsurpassable perfection of his loving character and the love he has for us.
Since the cross reveals what God is truly like, it reveals what God has always been like – including what God was like when he inspired Scripture. And since all Scripture is inspired for the purpose of bearing witness to the cross, doesn’t it make sense to ask the question: Where else in Scripture might we find God revealing his beauty by stooping to enter into solidarity with the sin and curse of humans, thereby taking on a surface appearance that reflects the ugliness of that sin and curse? Where else might we need to exercise the same surface penetrating faith that we use when we see the cross as the definitive revelation of God? Where else might we need look through an ugly sin-mirroring service to behold the beauty of God humbling himself to bear the sin of his people and to thus take on this ugly appearance?
I contend that this is precisely what the violent portraits of God in the OT are. If we fully trust that God is as beautiful as he reveals himself to be on the cross, we must regard the ugly surface appearance of these portraits to reflect the sinful way his people imagined God, not the way God actually is. But when we by faith look through the ugly surface of these portraits, we can see God stooping out of love to meet his people where they are at and to bear their sin, which is why in Scripture he takes on an ugly surface appearance that reflects the ugliness of their sin.
In short, when we interpret the violent portraits of God through the lens of the cross, we can see God doing in history what he did in a supreme way on Calvary. And this is how these violent divine portraits anticipate, and point us toward, the cross.
(3) In Cross Vision you talk a lot about God “accommodating” people’s sin. Some might hear that and think you’re saying God condones sin. Can you explain what you mean by “accommodation”?
Greg Boyd: Yes, accommodation is a central aspect of the cross-centered interpretation of violent portraits of God that I’m advocating. Like everything else in Cross Vision (and its more academic counterpart, Crucifixion of the Warrior God), this concept is anchored in the cross. On the cross, God stoops to meet us, and to enter into solidarity with us, right where we are at, which is in bondage to sin and to Satan. And he does this to free us and to bring us where he wants us to be, which is united with him in Christ. The cross is thus the paradigmatic example of God mercifully stooping to accommodate people in their fallen conditioning.
We find God doing this throughout the Bible. For example, God’s ideal for marriage is to have one man and one woman exclusively bonded together for life. But in the fallen world that ideal is not always attainable, so God stooped to accommodate polygamy. And it’s important we notice that once God decided to accommodate polygamy, he to this degree looked like other Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) deities who approved of polygamy. In 2 Samuel 12 he is even depicted as telling David he blessed him with his many wives and would have given him even more if he had wanted.
Later, God stooped to accommodate divorce and remarriage, even though this technically involves people committing adultery, as Jesus reminds people (Mt 5:32). And then God stooped even further to accommodate the ANE practice of owning concubines, which were women who bore children for a man they weren’t married to. This is how God has operated with people throughout history. When his ideal plan A isn’t attainable, he has a plan B. And when people aren’t capable of B, God offers them a plan C, and then a plan D, and so on.
In Cross Vision I am simply arguing that this is what God did with his people’s fallen and culturally conditioned perspectives of his character and will. They were often inclined to think Yahweh was like the other violent warrior deities that their ANE neighbors worshipped. God always worked to reveal as much of his true character and will as possible, and there were many times in the OT when the Spirit managed to break through the culturally conditioned hearts and minds of God’s people to reveal this. All the Christ-like portraits of God we find in the OT reflect this, and not coincidentally, these portraits strongly contrast with the portraits of the gods among Israel’s ANE neighbors.
There are other times, however, when the culturally conditioned hearts and minds of God’s people suppressed the Spirit. Since the cross reflects the kind of power God relies on (I Cor 1:18, 24) – which is the power of self-sacrificial love – God refuses to lobotomize his people into having correct views of him. He rather respects the personhood of his people and therefore stoops to accommodate their fallen understandings of him. All the depictions of Yahweh as a violent warrior deity reflect this accommodation. And, again not coincidentally, these violent portraits look very similar to the warrior portraits of the gods among Israel’s ANE neighbors. In fact, many passages that exalt Yahweh as a warrior contain phrases from songs that Israel’s neighbors sang to their own warrior deities. The biblical author just switched out the name of the pagan god and replaced it with Yahweh.
A couple sent me a testimony several weeks ago that beautifully illustrates the concept of divine accommodation. This couple works with a team of people in a Christian Foster home that takes in abused children. Several years ago they welcomed in a 10-year-old girl I’ll call Sarah. On the morning after Sarah’s first night in this home, a worker entered her bedroom only to discover that the walls were covered with Sarah’s smeared feces.
Had this happened in many other Foster Homes, I suspect workers would have interpreted this behavior as a sign of rebellion and would have scolded Sarah. Not this team. They believed that Sarah only would have engaged in this poop-smearing if she felt the need to do so. So they told Sarah that if she felt the need to smear her poop, they would designate part of her bedroom wall for that purpose, and they would then come in each morning and clean it up for her.
After weeks of loving Sarah in the midst of her poop-smearing they became safe enough for Sarah to share why she smears her poop each night. Beginning around the age of 4 Sarah’s father would sneak into her bedroom late at night, always drunk, and sexually abuse her. At one point during the abuse Sarah accidentally defecated, and it so disgusted her father that he left the room. This gave Sarah the idea of how to keep from being abused. So regardless of what her parents did to try to stop her, Sarah smeared poop on her walls to keep her father away.
To ordinary folks, the smell of poop is disgusting, but for Sarah, this was the smell of safety! She told the workers that she couldn’t fall asleep without it.
These Christian foster care providers told Sarah that as long as she needed to do this to feel safe, they would not only allow her to do this, they would help her! Each night a worker would come in, put on latex gloves, and get down on their knees to help Sarah smear her poop. In time, this loving behavior won over Sarah’s trust, thereby freeing her from her need to smear poop.
Out of love for Sarah, these foster care providers were accommodating Sarah’s disturbing behavior. Out of love, they were willing to sacrificially stoop to embrace Sarah where she was at in order to gradually love her into a better, healthier place. And this is precisely what God does for us on the cross. God isn’t a prissy pharisaical deity who is too holy to get his hands dirty with the likes of us. Quite the opposite! God reveals his true holiness by being willing to dive into our sin, to the point of becoming our sin (2 Cor 5:21) and becoming our God-forsaken curse (Gal 3:13).
This is what I believe is going on when God humbly allows his people to believe he is a rather typical ANE warrior deity. This is the best they could do at the time, and since God was committed to remaining in covenantal solidarity with his people, God stooped to accommodate their disturbing views, as poopy as they were!
But note this: we’ll only be able to see the beauty of God stooping to accommodate the Israelites poop-smearing if we trust that God is the kind of God who does this—that is, if we trust that the cross fully reveals what God is like. Imagine if you entered Sarah’s Foster Home without knowing the loving character of the workers and discovered one of them helping Sarah smear poop on a wall. You’d think these workers were sick, disgusting and abusive and would probably get right on the phone to call Child Protective Services! Only when you know and trust the loving motives and strategy of the workers can you see the beauty behind the disgusting poop-smearing. Only now can this poop-smearing be seen as revolting beautiful.
The same holds true for the revolting beauty of the cross, and, I submit, for the revolting beauty of all ugly portraits of God in the OT.
(4) Over the years, I’ve met some Christians who deny the reality of the demonic/satanic world. They believe that the cosmology of Jesus and Paul was archaic. Mental illnesses were ascribed to “demons.” And “Satan” and “principalities and powers” were metaphors for personal and structural evil, etc. A good bit of your cruciform interpretation of the violent depictions of God in the OT presupposes that Satan and the powers are real. So what would you say to such people in order to convince them that the spiritual worldview of Jesus and Paul does in fact reflect reality, even in the 21st century?
Greg Boyd: Well, I’d first point out that Jesus clearly believed in the reality of Satan and other principalities and powers. Now, I have very compelling historical, philosophical, and existential reasons for concluding that Jesus is Lord, and if I confess him to be Lord, I don’t see how I can consider myself in a position to ever correct his theology, especially about such a foundational theological matter!
Second, if you disbelieve in the reality of good and evil spirit agents, you fundamentally change the narrative of Scripture. As I show in my book, God at War (IVP, 1997), the motif of spiritual warfare is a through-line of both the Old and New Testaments. And in the NT, the meaning of what Jesus was doing in his life, ministry, death and resurrection is fundamentally tied up with the belief in spiritual warfare. In fact, John says “the reason Christ appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (I Jn 3:8), while the author of Hebrews says he came to free humanity from Satan, who holds “the power of death” (Heb 2:14). Take away Satan, and you take away one of the most fundamental reasons Jesus came to earth!
Third, if you disbelieve in Satan and the powers, you have no way of showing how portraits of God acting violently point to the cross. If we accept their reality, however, we can see how in every portrait that depicts God acting violently to bring about a judgment, it was actually demonic cosmic agents that were acting violently, not God, as I demonstrate many times in Cross Vision. With a grieving heart, God sometimes had no choice but to turn recalcitrant rebels over to violent cosmic agents to experience the destructive consequences that were inherent in their sin. But because ascribing violence to God/gods was the primary way you exalted God/gods in the ANE, the biblical authors “credit” God with the violence these agents brought about. If you doesn’t accept the reality of such agents, however, you have to either accept that God actually engaged in this violence, which conflicts with Jesus’ revelation of God, or you have to dismiss these portrait as having no revelatory value, which conflicts with Jesus’ view of the OT.
Fourth, there is a mounting wealth of eye-witness testimonies of supernatural events that attest the reality of the spirit agents. We find such witnesses throughout history and in a wide variety of cultural settings. To focus just on the phenomenon of demon possession, we find numerous testimonies to objects flying on their own, bodies contorting in impossible ways, bodies levitating, people displaying supernatural strength, etc.. when being delivered—and, interesting enough, these sorts of phenomena are described not only in Christian circles, but in Jewish, Buddhist, and shamanistic contexts, to name just a few.
What’s really interesting, however, is that more and more anthropologists and ethnographers (viz. scholars who study different ethnic groups) are realizing that the naturalistic secular western worldview, which permeates western academic circles, is just as much a “social construct” as any other worldview. They are thus arguing that its illegitimate to impose this worldview on the non-western cultures they study. Instead, they argue that one must “go native” and embrace the worldview of whatever tribe or culture they’re studying, as much as possible. And guess what? When they do this, many experience and report supernatural phenomena, some of which is making its way into academic anthropological and ethnographical journals!
Finally, to all who would deny the reality of spirit agents, I would testify that I have myself witnessed supernatural phenomena related to demon possession. For example, a number of years ago I and a number of others were praying deliverance prayers over a young lady. Her body was twitching at a remarkable speed and in highly unusual ways, and she was growling in a low raspy voice. I felt like I was watching a Steven Spielberg movie stuck on “fast forward.” At one point this young lady grabbed me by my collar and pulled me to within two inches of her face. I was in my twenties when this event occurred, and I had been lifting weights, so I was quit buff, if I do say so myself. Yet, this young lady “man handled me.”
Still growling in her low raspy voice, she held me to her face for several terrifying seconds. Her eyes were staring into mind, when suddenly her left eye quickly rotated counterclockwise three times while her right eye continued to stare straight at me! She then let out this sickening laughter – which sounded almost like a howl –and through me away from her.
Like Scott Peck and many others, I have found that, after going through an experience like that, the confident claims of western academics that spirit agents aren’t are heard as hollow expressions of arrogant ignorance.
(5) What are your views on “God’s wrath” and the biblical term “eternal punishment.”
First, if we take all our cues about what God is like from the cross, including what the “wrath” of God is like, it becomes clear that people experience God’s “wrath” when God withdraws protection and allows people to experience the destructive consequences that are intrinsic to their own sin. This is all the Father did with Jesus when he stood in our place as a condemned sinner.
While experiencing the natural consequences of our sin can be horrific, it is not so because God is acting horrifically against us. Indeed, Jesus wept as he announced the judgment that was going to come upon Jerusalem (Lk 19:41-44) and since Jesus is the exact representation of God’s essence (Heb 1:3), we should envision a weeping God behind all portraits of him being “wrathful.” In this light, the NT passages that speak of God’s “wrath,” some of which you cite, are not at all problematic.
Second, the several references to “eternal punishment” that you sight can be understood either as referring to a punishment that is endured forever or to a punishment that is eternal in effect. The second use is parallel to the “eternal redemption” spoken of in Hebrews 9:12. It’s not that we’ll be experiencing redemption throughout eternity, for this would imply that we’ll eternally sinning. The author is rather saying that once we are redeemed, it lasts forever. So too, for a multitude of reasons I can’t get into now, I believe that the references to “eternal punishment” in the NT are teaching that once a person has received this punishment, its forever. The wicked simply perish. “They shall be as though they had never been” (Obed 16).
This view is sometimes called “Annihilationism,” though I strongly dislike the label because it makes it sound like God is going to actively annihilate the wicked. However, since God is the one who holds all things in existence (Heb 1:3), God need only stop doing this for the wicked to return to nothing. In this light, the final judgment can be understood as the ultimate example of the withdrawal form of judgment that we learn from the cross. And while this judgment is just, it can also be considered to be a merciful form of euthanasia. For were God to continue to hold these agents in existence, they opposition to God’s love would cause them to be eternally tormented by it.
(6) How does your view fit in with Ezekiel 28:14, which some believe is a reference to the devil before he fell. However, assuming that interpretation is correct, he is called “an anointed cherub.” How does that fit into the idea that the devil was once a member of the Divine Council, which some believe?
Greg Boyd: In God at War, I defend the traditional view that Ezekiel 28 (as well as Isaiah 14) speak not only of earthly kings who overstepped their bounds and “fell,” but also of a high ranking and very powerful cosmic agent that overstepped its bounds and “fell.” We are told next to nothing about the pre-fallen state of Satan (or “Lucifer,” as Satan has traditionally been referred to prior to his fall), and I think it’s important to avoid getting too speculative. Nevertheless, I think we have enough in Scripture to affirm that Satan and all other angels/gods were created good, but like humans, they were also given a free will, for without free will neither spirit agents nor human agents would have a capacity for authentic love. But with free will comes the potential to rebel, which, unfortunately, is what Satan and some other spirit agents did, with humans unfortunately following suite some time later.
So was Satan a member of the Divine Council? I suspect so, especially since Psalms 82 gives a depiction of the “council of the gods” in which Yahweh warns various “gods” to start doing their God-given duties or they will “die like mere mortals.” This passage thus indicates that it’s not only perfected spirit-agents that occupy the Divine Council, but also agents who yet have the potential for good or evil. Their character, in other words, is not yet solidified one way or another. I thus have no reason to think that Lucifer was not part of the Divine Council prior to his fall.
(7) Talk some about the foundational concept in Cross Vision.
Greg Boyd: In Cross Vision, I make the case that all of our thinking about God should be anchored from start to finish in God’s revelation on the cross. In this light, I’d like to point out that your question pits the view that Scripture is “written by a man” against the view that “God wrote this.” But I submit that if we anchor our understanding of the “God-breathed” nature of Scripture in the cross we can see that this is a false dichotomy.
Was the revelation of God on the cross brought about by God, or by humans? The answer, of course, is both. God “breathed” his ultimate revelation both by acting toward humans, and by allowing humans to act toward him, thereby conditioning how he appeared in this revelation. God acted toward humans by (for example) taking the initiative of devising this plan of salvation, by becoming a human, and by intentionally putting himself in circumstances that would result in his crucifixion. But God allowed humans to act toward him inasmuch as all the violence done to Jesus was carried out by wicked men. In fact, God allowed all of humanity to act toward him when Jesus bore all of our sin.
And notice this: insofar as the cross reveals God acting toward us, it is supremely beautiful. But insofar as the cross reflects God allowing humans to act toward him, the cross is horrifically ugly.
From this we learn that God’s “breathing” isn’t a unilateral activity, as many people seem to assume. It’s a relational activity. And since the God who “breathed” his self-revelation on the cross is the same God who “breathed” all of Scripture for the purpose of pointing us to the cross, shouldn’t we read the Bible with the awareness that it will reflect both the beauty of God acting toward us and the ugliness that sometimes results from God humbly allowing the fallen state and human limitations of biblical authors to act toward him, thereby conditioning how he appears in Scripture?
This may sound like a radically new concept of inspiration, but it’s actually not. Christians have always acknowledged that God left the individual personalities, cultural perspectives, unique styles, and even the limitations of the human authors he “breathed” through. For example, in I Corinthians 1, Paul initially thanks God that he didn’t baptize anyone at Corinth other than “Crispus and Gaius” so that no one could say they were baptized in the name of Paul (vs.14-15). But then Paul remembered that he also “baptized the household of Stephanas,” and this is followed by him confessing that he can’t remember if he baptized anyone else (vss.16-17). God of course has a perfect memory, but Paul does not, and since God is “breathing” his word through Paul, these verses reflect his deficient memory.
There is only one thing that is distinctive about the cross-based relational understanding of inspiration that I’m proposing. Since on the cross God “breathed” his fullest revelation by bearing the sin of the world, I submit that we should accept that, among the things God left intact when he “breathed” through various authors was their fallen and culturally condition views of him. The cross reveals a God who works by motivational love rather than coercion. So rather than depersonalizing the authors who “breathes” through by lobotomizing them so they’d have completely true conceptions of him, God lovingly influenced them as far as he could in the direction of truth, but insofar as their hearts and minds resisted further influence, God humbly stooped to bear their fallen and culturally conditioned images of him. In my view, the cross warrants the assumption that God always acts toward people, influencing them in the direction of truth as much as possible, and humbly stoops to allow his people to act toward him insofar are as this is necessary.
For this reason, Scriptures contains some portraits of God that, to one degree or another, reflect the fallen and culturally conditioned views of his people at that time. I believe all Old Testament’s portraits of God commanding or engaging in violence belong in this category. Yet, as I said earlier, these ugly portraits become beautiful revelations if we are willing to exercise the same faith we use to look through the ugly sin-mirroring surface of the cross to behold the supremely beautiful God. And this, I submit, is how these ugly portraits anticipate, and point towards, the cross.
(8) With my next set of questions, I’m going to play Robert Ingersoll/Bill Maher/Richard Dawkins-esque “devil’s advocate.” So here goes:
Consider the following passage in the Law of Moses:
If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity (Deuteronomy 25:11-12)
Ingersoll, Maher, Dawkins would ask, “Doesn’t this make clear that the Old Testament was written by a man? Come on now. How is this consistent with a good, loving, reasonable God? If God wrote this, I wouldn’t want anything to do with a God like that. So what did God have in His mind when He authored this Law? And how does it reflect His nature?”
What say you?
Given this cross-based understanding of inspiration I laid out, how would I respond to critics who say that Deuteronomy 25:11-12 is inconsistent with “a good, loving, reasonable God”? To put it bluntly, I would completely agree, for the portrait of God giving this law isn’t consistent with the God whom Jesus reveals. For example, note how strongly this law contrasts with the way Jesus responded to the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11). And notice how strongly the “show no pity” dimension of this law contrasts with Jesus, who taught us to forgive without limit (Matthew 18:21-22) and who prayed for the forgiveness of the very people who were crucifying him (Lk 23:34). Finally, notice that this law makes no provision for the motives that led the woman to grab the man’s genitals. In keeping with other ANE laws, the motive behind the offending behavior is considered irrelevant. Even if her husband was innocent and his wife needed to do this to save his life, it made no difference. Her hand still had to be cut off.
If we trust that God’s true character and will is fully revealed in Jesus’ cross-centered life and ministry, we can’t accept that this law is an accurate reflection of God’s true character and will. It rather reflects the fallen and culturally conditioned views of God’s people at this time. The fact that this law has an almost exact parallel in the Code of Hammurabi, which predates it by more than a thousand years, confirms this point. Yet, since the God who is revealed on the cross is a non-coercive God who stoops to meet people where they are at, God humbly allowed this author’s culturally conditioned understanding of his character and will to act upon him. And this is why God is portrayed as the author of this inhumane and unjust law.
The sin-mirroring surface ugliness of this passage anticipates and points toward the sin-mirroring surface ugliness of the cross. But the beauty of the God who humbly stooped to bear this ugliness anticipates and points toward the beauty of the cross.
(9) There are a number of instances in the Old Testament where God commands Israel to slay other nations, not sparing the women, children, or livestock. Is this not a heinous, horrific thing to command, let alone carry out? And doesn’t it contradict the teachings of Jesus regarding loving your enemy, forgiveness, etc. Here are two examples:
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (1 Samuel 15:1-3)
However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 20:16-18)
Your book addresses this thorny topic. Can you give us a peek summary into what you have to say about it?
Greg Boyd: The command to slaughter every man, woman, child, infant and even every animal in certain regions of Canaan is known as the herem command. Herem actually means, “to devote to destruction,” so the Israelites believed they were engaging in wholescale genocide as an act of devotion to Yahweh! We find this command being given or carried out thirty-seven times in the OT.
Compare this ghoulish command with Jesus, who taught us we were to never resort to violence but were to instead love, bless, pray for, and do good to all people, even our worst enemies (Matt 5:39-45; Lk 6:27-36). And Jesus taught we are to love this way because this is how the Father loves, which is why Jesus set up the capacity to love like this as the benchmark for being considered “a child of your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:45; Lk 6:35). If we trust that Jesus’ cross-based life and ministry fully reveals the character and will of the Father, I don’t see how we can possibly suspect the Father could have ever told Moses or Saul to have the Israelites slaughter entire populations as an act of worship to him.
Yet, we can’t simply dismiss these ugly portraits, for all Scripture is divinely inspired for the ultimate purpose of pointing to the cross. So we must ask: How does a portrait of God commanding genocide point to the cross? And the answer I propose should by now be clear. When we exercise faith to look through the surface of these horrific portraits of God, we can see God doing the same thing he did in a definitive way on Calvary. He’s stooping to bear the sin of his people who believe he was capable of uttering such a command.
God certainly wanted to have his children located in the Promised Land, but the assumption that this meant exterminating the indigenous population came from Moses, not God. Throughout the Ancient Near East, it was assumed that if your god was going to give you someone else’s land, this god wanted you to exterminate, or at least enslave, the population. So, when God said, “Go into the Promised land,” Moses heard, “Go slaughter the Canaanites to enter into the Promised Land.”
One might legitimately wonder why God didn’t clarify himself to Moses, but the matter isn’t nearly that simple. As we find throughout Scripture, what people see and hear reflects the spiritual condition of their heart and mind. For example, consider how often Jesus told his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Yet, when this actually happened, his disciples were absolutely shocked! It wasn’t until after the resurrection that they remembered Jesus had said these things. This was because, like most other Jews at this time, Jesus’ disciples assumed that the Messiah was going to overthrow Rome and liberate Israel. Consequently, Jesus’ repeated teachings that he came to suffer and die for people, not to make others suffer and die, “fell on deaf ears.” The same thing happened with God’s instruction for the Israelites to go into the Promised land.
What confirms this interpretation is that we find in the OT several passages in which God announced his non-violent plans to get the Israelites into the land. In Exodus 23:28-30, Yahweh says he planned on sending “the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites out of your way.” But he added that he would “not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animal too numerous for you.” Rather, he said he would “drive them out…little by little.”
In another passage (Leviticus 18:24-25) Yahweh says that, since the Canaanites defiled the land, he would cause the land to “vomit out” them out. Throughout the Bible the welfare of land is directly connected to the spiritual state of the people who occupy it.
So, it seems the Lord at this point planned on allowing the defilement of the Canaanites to render their land temporarily unfruitful so they would naturally migrate elsewhere. On top of this, there are a number of other passages in which Yahweh says he would drive out (not annihilate) the Canaanites without specifying the means by which he would do this.
Removing a population group by making the land unpleasantly pesky or unfruitful sounds like a much more Jesus-like way of replacing a population than slaughtering every man, woman, child, infant and animal. What, we must wonder, happened to these non-violent plans? What explains why we suddenly find Moses announcing that Yahweh wanted the Israelites to slaughter everything that breathes?
I don’t believe God suddenly, and for no apparent reason, decided to scrap the non-violent plans in favor of the genocidal plan. Rather, since the portrait of God commanding genocide contradicts the portrait of the non-violent, enemy-loving, self-sacrificial God whom Jesus reveals, I can only conclude that the non-violent plans “fell on deaf ears.”
Yet, though it surely grieved God to watch his people repeatedly engage in the wholescale slaughter of entire populations — and to do so in his name and as an act of worship to him—God remained committed to achieving his historical purposes through this hard-hearted people. So, God stooped to bear their fallen and culturally conditioned views of him, thereby taken on a semblance in Scripture that reflects the ugliness of these views.
(10) In like manner, how do you help God’s people make sense of the OT stories where commanded His people to commit genocide (or as some say, “ethnic cleansing”) but also to take the women and children as slaves for themselves?
For example, in Deut 20:10-20, terms of peace are offered, which would enslave the population. If they refuse the offer, the Israelites are to kill the men, but keep the women and children as slaves. They are “booty” and “spoil” that the victors are to “enjoy” (vv. 10-14). Similarly, in Numbers 31, the Israelites go to war against the Midianites. The Israelites kill every male (v. 7), but take the women of Midian and their little ones captive along with livestock and property as “booty” (v. 9). The only ones who are spared are the young virgin girls, whom the Israelites are to divide evenly between the soldiers and the other Israelites (v. 18). Like the animals and property, the virgins are considered property to be divvied up.
How do you reframe these stories through the cross of Christ?
Greg Boyd: A common assumption throughout the Ancient Near East (and sadly, many other cultures throughout history) was that keeping conquered women and children as slaves was part of their reward for winning. A number of passages in the OT, including Deut 20:10-20, reflect this tragic practice.
An even more grizzly common assumption throughout the Ancient Near East was that part of a soldier’s reward for winning was that he got to rape the women and to keep desirable captured women as sex slaves. Sadly, Numbers 31 reflects this remarkably barbaric practice. The belief system of ancient Israelite soldiers made virgins particularly attractive. So, after Moses tells the soldiers to slaughter all the boys and all the women who have ever had sex, he told the soldiers, “but the virgin girls keep alive for yourselves” (vs. 18). Notice that Moses doesn’t say the soldiers had to first marry them. These young women were simply the soldiers sex slaves. Notice also that there was no minimum age limit put on the virgins that these men were allowed to keep. Tragically, this was how things were done throughout the ANE.
Knowing that God abhors such practices, we may safely assume that God’s Spirit pushed back on this practice as much as possible. But since God will not coercive people into believing the truth or into living right, there comes a point where the Spirit must allow himself to be suppressed (1 Thess 5:19; Eph 4:30). Since God was committed to remaining in covenantal solidarity with the Israelites, God at this point had to stoop to meet his people as they were, at least until such a time when the Spirit’s on-going influence had made the Israelites ready to receive more truth about God’s true will and character.
In light of what we learn about God from the crucified Christ, we can hardly imagine the grief God suffered as he had to allow daughters whom he loved to be subjected to this treatment. Yet, if we interpret passages such as these through the lens of the cross, we can see that the pain God suffered as he stooped to bear the sinful assumptions of his people at this time anticipates, and points toward, the pain God suffered when he bore the sin of the world on the cross.
I’ll add one more thing about these sorts of passages. With the cross as our criterion, we can see the Spirit succeeding at influencing God’s people in a right direction in some passages that involve them taking “spoils of war.” For example, in Deuteronomy21:10-14, Yahweh is depicted as telling Israelites soldiers that if one of them finds a captive woman to be attractive, he may take her home and marry her after she has had time to mourn her lost loved ones. However, Yahweh is depicted as adding that if this solider ends up not being pleased with his newly married captive, he may turn her out onto the streets, though he is not allowed to sell her off as a slave.
The fact that the man had to marry the woman and not just keep her as a sex slave, together with the fact that the woman was allowed to have a period of mourning before the solider could have sex with her, marks an improvement over the Ancient Near Eastern norms of the time, and we should credit this improvement to the on-going influence of the Holy Spirit. The fact that the soldier wasn’t allowed to sell this woman as a slave to other Israelites if he ended up not being pleased with her as a wife also reflects the Spirit successfully influencing Israelites in a more humane direction.
On the other hand, the very fact that the woman could be forced to marry a foreign man who had just slaughtered her kin, together with the fact that this man could terminate this marriage and suddenly turn this poor woman out onto the streets, among a foreign people and without any provisions, clearly reflect fallen Israelite perspectives that the Spirit at this point could not remove without resorting to coercion. These perspectives thus became part of the sin that Yahweh had to stoop to bear.
(11) A similar question. Deuteronomy 23:1 says, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” Whhhhaaaa? What’s the point of this? How does this reflect God’s nature?
Greg Boyd: We find a significant number of similarly bizarre “holiness code” specifications like this throughout the OT. I won’t go into the sociological and theological convictions of the ancient Israelites that lie behind these sorts of rules, because for our purposes they are irrelevant. The only thing that is relevant is the fact that all the holiness code rules that exclude people on the basis of the perfection of their body parts or on the basis of gender conflict with what we learn about God’s true character and will in Jesus Christ. With his teachings and his life, but especially with his sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus made it clear that God welcomes all and considers all equal in the kingdom Jesus was inaugurating.
It’s also interesting to note that Jesus displayed a remarkably relaxed attitude toward parts of the OT holiness codes, and he even went so far as to explicitly contradict some of them. For example, in the OT people weren’t allowed to do any work on the Sabbath, including gathering food. In fact, a person could be stoned to death just for picking up sticks or lighting a candle in their home on the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36; cf. Ex 35:2-3)! But Jesus defended his disciples when they harvested some food on the Sabbath (Mk 2:23-28). So too, while the law commanded that adulterers be stoned to death, Jesus subverted this law by teaching that only a perfectly innocent person would ever be justified carrying out laws that required capital punishment (Jn 8:1-11).
Examples like this confirm what our cross-centered reading of these laws lead us to believe. Namely, OT rules like these don’t reflect the actual will of God for his people, but rather reflect God humbly stooping to accommodate the fallen beliefs and practices of his ancient people.
(12) The Old Testament is full of laws about cleanliness. Certain foods are unclean. A woman who is menstruating is unclean. Touching a dead body makes a person unclean. You treat this thoroughly in your book. But really: How can someone make sense of this except to think that a human being wrote these laws? How in the cat hair do they reflect God’s nature?
Greg Boyd: I’m not sure how anything “in a cat hair” could reflect God’s nature, especially because everyone knows that, while dogs are of God, cats are of Satan!
Be that as it may, I think my answer is by now predicable. In light of the cross, I would submit that fallen and culturally conditioned humans did write these laws. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t also “God-breathed,” for the same reason that the ugly sin and condemnation that Jesus bore on the cross doesn’t mean the cross wasn’t also the definitive, beautiful, “God-breathed” revelation of God.
Here again we can see our cross-centered interpretation of these laws confirmed in the life and ministry of Jesus. For example, while the law taught that people would be defiled if they ate “unclean” animals (Leviticus 11), Jesus taught that “nothing going into a man from the outside can defile him,” thereby making “all food clean” (Mk 7:19). That is about as explicit a repudiation of the OT law as you can get.
Along the same lines, the law stipulated that any woman who bled was “unclean” and that anyone she touched became “unclean,” which meant they were not to touch anyone else until they had purified themselves (Lev 15:25-27). Yet, when a woman with a chronic bleeding disorder touched Jesus, hoping to be healed, Jesus praised her faith instead of rebuking her as a lawbreaker (Lk 8:43-48). And Jesus didn’t then withdraw from the crowd to purify himself or to avoid contaminating others.
In light of the cross (which again, is the culminating expression of everything Jesus was about), the revelatory content of all such laws must be discerned not on their sin-bearing surface, but in what faith alone can see going on in their depth: God is doing for his people of old what he did for all of humanity on the cross. He is humbly stooping to bear their sin, thereby taking on an appearance that mirrors the ugliness of that sin.
(13) What does it mean, exactly, that Satan once had (or has) “the power of death” — Hebrews 2:14.
Greg Boyd: Well, for starters, the passage doesn’t actually say that Satan had the power of death. It uses ekonta, which is the present active participle of eko (“to have”). Now, I grant that the passage would seem to make better sense if it used the past tense, since the author says that Jesus came “to destroy the one who has the power of death,” and we naturally think Jesus must have accomplished this. This is why some versions translate ekonta as “had,” despite the fact that it’s a present active particle. For my two sense, however, I’d rather stick with the original text and wrestle with it.
We find a strange paradox running throughout the NT. On the one hand, there are a number of passages that describe the kingdom of darkness as already vanquished, because of what God accomplished on the cross (e.g. Col 2:14-15). Yet, we also find a number of passages that describe Satan as still very much active in the world. When Paul refers to Satan as “the principle power of the air” (Eph 2:2) or when John says the devil “controls the entire world” (I Jn 5:19), these statements are made after the resurrection.
This is part of what is known as the paradoxical “already-not yet” eschatology of the NT. In one sense, Satan and his kingdom are already defeated, but in another sense, the truth of this defeat is not yet manifested. In fact, this paradox is powerfully expressed just prior to Hebrews 2:14. The author notes that God has already subjected everything to humans, but “we do not yet see everything subjected [to humans].” We do, however, “see Jesus… now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb 2:8-9). So there is an interval between what Jesus accomplished on the cross, one the one hand, and what we continue to see and experience, on the other. And in this light, I think it makes sense to say that, while Jesus in principle destroyed the one who has the power of death, what we experience is that Satan still has this power. (After all, last I checked, people still die!)
There are many different analogies that are used to try to make this paradoxical reality clear, but here is one I thought of that works best for me. If you were a sub-atomic particle that lasted only for a nanosecond– a muon particle, for example – you would experience things quite differently than humans do. For example, when we humans turn on a light in a dark room, the room is immediately full of life. But if you were a muon particle, it would take a lifetime to fill that room with light.
So too, by analogy (this is only an analogy), for a God who has always existed, any finite duration of time would be experienced as infinitely small. The billions of years separating the creation of the world and the final full arrival of the kingdom of God would be like the snap of a finger. And the gap between Jesus’ victory on the cross and the ultimate defeat of Satan even less. It would be virtually instantaneous. But for us muon-like humans who only exist for a cosmic nanosecond, the gap between the victory on the cross and its manifestation in our world feels like it’s taking forever.
In this light, I think we can think of the “already” material in the New Testament as expressing God’s perspective, and the “not yet” material as expressing our human perspective.
(14) Throughout Ephesians, the phrase “heavenly places” is used in a positive sense. God’s people are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 2). All spiritual blessings reside in Christ in heavenly places (Eph. 1). However, also in Ephesians, we are told that evil principalities and powers operate in heavenly places (Eph. 6). In your view, what are the “heavenly places” in Ephesians and how can both evil spirits and Christians occupy them at the same time?
Greg Boyd: Just to make the matter even more confusing, Paul also says that as we are seated at God’s “right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named,” (Eph 1:20-21), though as you point out, these rulers and authorities and powers and dominions also exist “in heavenly places.”
The apparent confusion derives from the fact that, while we today think of heaven as a single place, the apocalyptic worldview that is presupposed in the NT’s language of “principalities and powers” reflects a more complex conception. In the apocalyptic worldview, the “heavenly places” contain several – and in some apocalyptic accounts, quite a number – of levels. This is reflected, for example, when Paul says he was “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2).
Now, Paul refers to Satan as “the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient” (Eph 2:2). Paul isn’t saying that Satan rules oxygen! Rather, In the apocalyptic worldview, the realm of “the air” was the lowest level of “the heavenly realms,” inasmuch as this was the realm of authority directly over the earth. So, Satan and other principalities of powers are in “the heavenly realms,” yet they are still “far below” where Christ and we are seated, for we are in the highest level of the spiritual realm. This, by the way, is how Jesus and New Testament authors can refer to Satan as the “prince of this world” (e.g. Jn 12:31; 14:11) without threatening the ultimate Lordship of God over everything.
Incidentally, if any readers are wondering how it is that we can already be seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, far above all other authorities, while we nevertheless live in a world that is under the strong destructive influence of the devil (I Jn 5:19), I’ll refer them to the previous discussion of the “already-not-yet” paradox.
(15) Talk a bit about your big 2-volume work, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God. Begin with explaining the title.
Greg Boyd: On the cross Jesus fully revealed God’s true, loving, self-sacrificial, non-violent, enemy-embracing character. And he did this by humbly bearing all the ugly sin of the world. This revelation and this sin-bearing frees us from Satan’s captivity, reconciles us to God, and empowers us to now live free from sin and in right relationship with himself.
The sin that Jesus bore, and that we are now empowered to live free from, includes all the sinful warrior deity images humans throughout history have projected onto God. In this way, the cross is at one and the same time the definitive revelation of the true loving God and the “crucifixion of the warrior god”. And just as we should forever revolt against the sin and that was permanently put to death on the cross, so too followers of Jesus should forever revolt against the sinful warrior image of God that was permanently put to death on the cross.
You can think of Crucifixion of the Warrior God as Cross Vision for academics. This book is close to 1500 pages, comprising two volumes, because it contains all the research that I discovered over the last decade that supports various aspects of my cross-centered interpretation of the OT’s violent portraits. It also contains my responses to all the various scholarly debates that I needed to weigh in on in the course of establishing my thesis. I am aware that whenever you propose a new idea in Christian academic circles, you’d better cross every “t” and dot every “i”!
Ordinary people don’t generally have the time or the need to get into all of this. They just want to know the “big picture” concepts and will evaluate the thesis on this basis. But academic types like myself generally like to, and need to, get into the knitty-gritty scholarly material to evaluate a thesis, especially about a topic as potentially paradigm shifting as this one.
So, I wrote Crucifixion of the Warrior God for academics and Cross Vision for everyone else.
(16) Here’s a remark by a critic of Crucifixion of the Warrior God.
“I read a section of Boyd’s new book where the incoherence of his spiritual dualism rears its head. He interprets the sons of God who fill the earth with violence with evil spiritual beings and he also credits evil spiritual forces as those responsible for unleashing chaos upon the earth in the flood. God simply stopped protecting the earth from them. The end result is that evil spiritual beings wipe out the other evil spiritual beings that were beginning to take over the earth (1133-34). It seems as if the former would have had little vested interest in wiping out the latter. The analogy of God using wicked nations to wipe out other wicked nations doesn’t resolve this issue. Babylon serves its own interests in defeating Assyria. What do the evil cosmic forces gain in wiping out the race of evil spiritual hybrids? This is a self-defeating Battle Royal of cosmic proportions. Jesus faults the Pharisees for applying this sort of silly logic to his demon-exorcising ministry (Matt 12:24-48).”
What is your response to this objection?
Greg Boyd: Before I respond, let me just say that the trouble with using adjectives like “silly” (as in “silly logic:) is that, once thrown down, these adjectives either stick to the position being criticized or they stick to the one doing the criticizing. I’ll let readers be the judge of who is worthy of this adjective.
On to the response. First, this objector alleges that my view is guilty of “spiritual dualism.” In Crucifixion of the Warrior God as well as in Cross Vision, I say nothing about the kingdom of darkness that is not right out of the NT. It is the NT, not me, that refers to Satan as “the ruler of the world” (Jn 12:32; 14:30; 16:11), the “god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4), and the “principal ruler of the air” (Eph 2:2) who holds “the power of death” (Heb 2:14) and “controls the entire world” (I Jn 5:19).
Also, before you slap a label on someone, it’s helpful to know what it means. “Dualism” is the view that there is an evil god who is co-eternal with the good god and has a power that is equal to the good god. In my humble opinion, it is “silly” to allege that my view, or the view of the NT, is guilty of anything remotely warranting this label.
As to how there could be conflict internal to the kingdom of darkness, I would first appeal to all the biblical evidence I produce in Crucifixion of the Warrior God (and to a lesser degree, in Cross Vision) that indicate that God sometimes manages to get demonic cosmic agents to work at cross purposes with one another. Even if I couldn’t explain how God does this, I would stand by this on biblical grounds (why should we expect to understand this?).
But, as a matter of fact, I don’t think it is all that hard to imagine how it is so. In fact, I spend three pages addressing this topic in Crucifixion of the Warrior God (vol II, 1273-75). One might have thought this objector would have engaged with this material before slapping the label “silly” on my view. (Free word of advice: don’t ever publicly critique a book until you’ve read all of it). In the section I’m referring to, I offer three responses to any who might object to my view on the grounds of Jesus’ teaching that a kingdom divided against itself can’t stand (Mt 12:25-27).
First, we might envision God causing the kingdom of darkness to inadvertently turn its proclivity toward violence inward, similar to the way God sometimes managed to throw armies into confusion as a means of bringing about their own defeat (e.g. Judg7:12-19; I Sam 14:14-20). While soldiers in any army don’t generally turn on each other, there are apparently circumstances in which God is able somehow to make this happen. It thus doesn’t seem “silly” to suppose that God was sometimes able to turn warriors within the kingdom of darkness against each other.
Second, and more importantly, Jesus’ teaching was meant only to refute the Pharisee’s suggestion that he was casting out demons by the power of Satan. His response exposes the impossibility of Satan, the ruler of the kingdom of darkness, working at cross-purpose with himself by routing his own demonic troops. It does not rule out the possibility that various factions within Satan’s empire could come into conflict with each other.
In fact, if we consider for a moment the nature of evil, it seems to me that internal conflicts within the kingdom of darkness should be expected. Since this kingdom is comprised of agents who have solidified their character in opposition to God’s other-oriented agape love, these agents would lack any of the esprit de corps that holds together social groups. Lacking this, the only thing that could keep this kingdom from degenerating into chaos would be the fearful rule of its chief ruler. Yet, since Satan is neither omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent, I hardly think it would be surprising if it turned out he was not always up to the task of perfectly enforcing his imposed unity.
There is, however, an altogether different way of understanding how God might have used one group of spirit-agents to overthrow another, and this is my third response. While it seems that most spirit-agents have characters that are solidified either toward God or in opposition to God, Psalm 82 suggests there is class of “gods” that could still go either way, as I mentioned earlier. The “god” referred to in this Psalm are members of the heavenly council (vs.1), yet they are showing partiality to the wicked (vs.2). Yahweh tells them to do their job, which is to “give justice to the weak and the orphan,” “maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute,” “rescue the weak and the needy,” and “deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (vss.3-4). If they don’t perform these duties, Yahweh says, they will “die like mortals” (vs.7).
In this light, we might envision God using this class of yet-imperfect “gods” similar to the way God uses sword-wielding governments to punish wrong-doers as a means of keeping sin in check (Rom 13:1-7).
We don’t know enough about the spirit realm to know to what extent any of these three options is true. But the very fact that we can easily imagine how the kingdom of darkness has internal conflict in any of these three ways, combined with all the biblical evidence that such conflict exists, suggests that this concept is not a good candidate to have the “silly” label stuck on it.
(17) What else would you like readers to know about Cross Vision and Crucifixion of the Warrior God?
Greg Boyd: Well, for starters, they’re both divinely inspired.
Okay, that was a lie. But they are proving pretty powerful in the lives of some people.
In the five months since Crucifixion of the Warrior God has been released, and the two months since Cross Vision has been released, I have received literally hundreds of beautiful testimonies on how these works have set people free to fully embrace the self-sacrificial, non-violent, enemy-embrace God of love that is most fully revealed on Calvary. So many have told me how their mental portrait of God was polluted by the belief that God was capable of commanding babies to be slaughtered along with all the other atrocious things that are ascribed to God in the OT. To finally be able to see how the OT’s violent portraits of God point not to a horrendous violent God, but to the God who gave his life for enemies on the cross, is so freeing! These books also provide people with a way of rejecting the violence of the OT, but without having to abandon their conviction that all Scripture is “God-breathed.”
So, if you’ve ever been bothered by the violent portraits of God in the OT, or ever wondered how these portraits are compatible with the God revealed in the crucified Christ, let alone how these ugly portraits bear witness to crucified Christ, I humbly recommend you give Cross Vision or Crucifixion of the Warrior God a read through! And if you too find a depth of love for God and freedom in your life as a result, please send us your testimony (at reknew.org).