What’s Wrong With Greg Boyd’s Cruciform Hermeneutic? Part 2


We will now continue with the scriptural case against Boyd’s thesis.

3. Does the Depiction of God in the NT Cohere With That in the OT?
A. Paul’s Letters
Since Boyd uses Paul’s understanding of the cross as a basis for his premise that the cross reveals the cruciform character of God, it is necessary to determine whether Paul’s understanding of the cross actually brought him to the same conclusions about God as Boyd. If not, then Boyd’s use of Paul to validate his own understanding of the cross is not justified. We have already seen in Part 1 some indication that Paul did not hold to a ‘cruciform’ view of God, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Boyd denounces the depiction of God in the OT as one who executes vengeance upon his enemies {see Deut. 7:10; 32:35, 40-42; Ps. 94:20-23; Is. 34:8; 35:4; 59:18; Jer. 51:6, 24, 56}. Vengeance in this sense denotes retributive justice, i.e. a recompense or repayment for wrongs done. Now Boyd does not outright deny that God exercises retributive justice on the wicked, he denies only that He does so directly by His own hand. Boyd views God’s vengeance as simply the withdrawal of His protection and the allowing of the natural consequences of one’s sins to play out. We will discuss this idea later, but for now we need to examine the evidence for Paul’s own view of God in regard to vengeance.

A key passage from Paul is Romans 12:17-21:

17. Do not repay anyone evil for evil . . . 19. Do not take vengeance, beloved, but rather give place to the wrath (of God), for it is written, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20. On the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink. In so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Boyd references this passage about four times but only focuses on vv. 17, 20 -21 and the first part of v. 19. He never really addresses Paul’s quote from Deut. 32:35. Like I said above, he doesn’t deny God’s retributive justice but frames it in such a way as to fit his pacifistic presupposition. The main point Boyd makes about this passage is that in carrying out these directives one is being like God. He bases this on passages like Matt. 5:43-48 and Lk. 6:27-36. In these passages Jesus instructs his disciples to love their enemies and do good to them because this is how the Father acts toward his enemies. So, if we do likewise, we will be “perfect (or merciful) as [our] Father in heaven is perfect (or merciful).” But is this what Paul had in mind? If Boyd’s exegesis were correct Paul would be saying, “Be like God by not repaying evil for evil. Be like God by not taking vengeance on your enemies, for it is written, ‘It is mine to take vengeance, I will repay’, says the Lord.” This, of course, makes absolutely no sense. Instead, it seems quite clear that Paul gives the reason why believers need not take vengeance themselves – because God himself will do it. So are Jesus and Paul in conflict? No, since they both are teaching that we should love our enemies by doing good to them. It is obvious that the imitation of God is not in the not taking vengeance, for God certainly does so, but in the doing good to our enemies. But even this must be understood in a limited sense. Observe how in Matthew’s account Jesus puts the Father’s love for his enemies in the most general terms – “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” In other words, the most basic features of God’s providential care for humanity are experienced by all people, whether good or evil. This fact does not negate the truth that ultimately the wicked will be repaid for the evil they have done, if they do not repent. We know from other things that Jesus taught, that he is not here teaching that when all is said and done the wicked will enjoy the same blessings reserved for the righteous, because God loves them {Matt. 13:40-43; 47-50}. Luke’s account has Jesus saying “the [Most High] . . . is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” This should be understood in the same general sense of God’s providential care of all. Certainly, we know it does not preclude God’s ultimate meting out of vengeance on his enemies and the rewarding of the righteous {see Rom. 2:6-11}.

Let us also note that when Paul speaks of God’s vengeance in Rom. 12:19 he is quoting from Deut. 32:35. Deut. 32 is an inspired song which Moses recited to the Israelites just prior to his death. Within this song are the very kind of depictions of God which Boyd denounces as false {see esp. vv.39-43}. Yet when Paul quoted this passage he did not feel the need, like Boyd does, to qualify it in some way so as to lessen the force of it. Paul did not tell his readers to remember that God is an unreserved pacifist or that they should understand God’s vengeance in light of the cross, or any other such suggestion. It should be plain to any unbiased reader that Paul had no problem with the depiction of God as a God of vengeance.

Further evidence of this, and on a much more personal note, is what Paul said concerning one of his enemies:

2 Tim. 4:14-15 – Alexander the metalsmith did me a great deal of evil. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he has set himself in opposition to our message.

Did Paul not follow his own advice in Rom. 12:17-21? Did he wish to see the vengeance of God fall upon his enemy? It may seem so at first glance, but I don’t think it is necessary to take it that way. Couldn’t Paul just be reiterating what the Hebrew scriptures have stated more than once {Ps. 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 25:14; Hosea 12:2} and what he himself had stated previously {Rom. 2:6}. This shows that Paul just accepted the OT ‘s depiction of God without trying to temper it, and this in spite of the fact that he had a revelation of the cross and of God’s mercy expressed in it. The desire for retributive justice to be meted out upon the enemies of God and his people is never characterized in scripture as a sinful desire. In the Book of Revelation, John, in the vision, sees under the altar in heaven many of those who had been martyred for their testimony and he hears them call out to God:

Rev. 6:10 – How long Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?

Far from these martyred saints being rebuked for their unloving attitude, they are given white robes and told to rest a little while longer. In fact, the vengeance of God on behalf of his mistreated people is a recurring theme in Revelation {6:10; 16:6; 18:20; 19:2}.

We can take Paul as saying that he doesn’t need to engage in repaying Alexander himself simply because he knows that God will do that very thing, according to scripture. As for whether Paul was ignoring his own instructions in Rom. 12:17-21, I don’t think we need to conclude that at all. I can imagine that if Paul would have ever come upon Alexander beaten and bloodied on the side of the road, the victim of bandits, he would have done exactly what the Good Samaritan of Jesus’ parable did {see Lk. 10:30-37}. Paul would have resisted the urge to repay his enemy in that moment and instead would have loved him. But this would not negate the fact that Alexander was still his enemy and still a danger to the those proclaiming the message and that, unless he repented and turned to God, God will one day repay him for the evil he had done.

We saw in Part 1 how Paul’s understanding of the parousia involves the idea that our Lord Jesus is the agent of God who executes God’s vengeance upon the wicked {see 2 Thess. 1:6-10}. The only way I can see for Boyd to escape the clear implications of this is to say that even Paul, in spite of the place that the cross held in his thinking, still had a clouded vision of God, obscured by his own fallen and culturally conditioned mind.

2 Cor. 5:10-11 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. So then, understanding the terror of the Lord we try to persuade men.

This passage raises the obvious question: Why would Paul speak of the terror of the Lord if he believed, based on the cross, in the so-called cruciform character of God? Once again, we see, that despite Paul’s profound revelation of the cross and the centrality of the cross in his thinking, he still held in his mind the picture of God found in the Hebrew scriptures {see Is. 2:10, 19, 21}.

Rom. 11:22 – Observe, therefore, the kindness and the severity of God: severity to those who fell, but to you the kindness of God, provided that you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

This once again shows that Paul held the same view of God that we find in Moses and the Hebrew prophets {Ex. 20:6; Deut. 32:39; Ps. 145:8-9,13b-20; Jer. 9:23-26; Lam. 3:19-33; Hosea 6:1}. This view recognizes in God two counter -balancing aspects – kindness, mercy, grace, etc. and severity, harshness, wrath, etc. While Paul, and the NT as a whole, emphasizes the kindness aspect, they do not deny the severity aspect of God. According to Boyd’s thesis all depictions of God in the OT that show God as severe, wrathful, or employing violent means in judging, are merely the projections of the authors’ own fallenness and cultural conditioning. Boyd describes this as a “clouded vision” of God. On the contrary, he believes all depictions of God in the OT that show God as loving, merciful, good, or kind, are the times in which the true light of revelation was able to break through the clouds and reveal God as he really is. But it is evident that Paul did not hold this view of the OT or of God, for here he exhorts the believers in Jesus to consider (Gr. ide = see, understand, know, recognize, perceive) both aspects of God’s character.

Rom. 2:5-6 – But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”

2Cor. 11:13-15 – For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ . . . It is not surprising, then, if [Satan’s] servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Gal. 6:7-8 – Do not be deceived. God will not be mocked. For a person will reap what he sows. The person who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap destruction and the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

Phil. 3:18-19 – For many live, about whom I have often told you, and now, with tears, I tell you that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, they exult in their shame, and they think about earthly things.

Col. 3:25 – For the one who acts wickedly will be repaid for his wrong, and there are no exceptions.

All of these passages demonstrate that Paul did not believe that the revelation of God which came through Jesus superseded the revelation of God in the OT. What’s more, in at least two of these passages God is seen as personally involved in bringing about retribution. It is not merely as Boyd asserts, that retributive justice is some kind of law built into the universe, like karma, so that “God need not do anything” except let the organic consequences of sin just happen.

1 Cor. 10:21-22 – You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot take part in the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

In this passage Paul is making a direct allusion to Deut. 32:16-21, the relevant parts of which reads:

16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. 17 They sacrificed to demons, which are not gods . . . 21 They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols.

This shows that Paul’s view of God was quite in keeping with the OT depiction of God as a Jealous God {see also Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24}, even if this is the only time Paul mentions this aspect of God in his letters. If Paul had the same mindset as Boyd does, based on the revelation of God in Christ, then he would not have affirmed this false view of God at all; a view which, according to Boyd, would have been derived from the clouded vision of God which Moses possessed.

B. The Book of Hebrews
Boyd makes much use of the book of Hebrews, quoting many passages to prove that the old revelation has been superseded by the revelation of God in Christ. Yet we find something strange – the author of Hebrews seems to have the same view of God from the OT that Boyd thinks is false. It is telling that Boyd neglects to even mention the following passages I will present from Hebrews in his nearly 1500 page book, much less give an explanation of them.

In chapter 11 the author speaks of many of the characters from the OT scriptures and sets them forth as examples of faith. He starts with Abel in v. 4 and takes us all the way to Rahab the prostitute in v. 31, commending all of those mentioned for the things they did out of faith in God. He then says:

32. And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. 33. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, 34. quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, put foreign armies to flight35. and women received back their dead raised to life. 

We note first that the six named men in v. 32 were all men of violence. The first four are known solely for their exploits in war, particularly in taking vengeance on Israel’s enemies. David’s claim to fame was as a psalmist and for his kingship over Israel, but he was known as a mighty warrior and committed much violence against the enemies of Israel. David was even denied the privilege of building the temple of God because of the blood he had shed {see 1 Chron. 22:6-10}. Samuel was not a warrior but a prophet, but he certainly had blood on his hands {see 1 Sam. 15:32-33}. To further show that the author of Hebrews has no qualms about commending these men of violence for their faith, the faith by which they performed acts of violence, he goes on to speak of these men conquering kingdoms, administering justice, becoming mighty in battle and putting the enemy armies to flight.

Now I can see why Boyd avoided this passage in his book, for it seems to me that he would only have two possible ways to escape the obvious implications of this passage. First he could say that the author of Hebrews, like the OT prophets, had a clouded vision of God due to his own fallenness and cultural conditioning, even though this author is on the other side of the cross, which revealed the cruciform character of God. But Boyd has already relied heavily upon the book of Hebrews in establishing his premises, so how could he then deny that the author has a clear revelation. Second, he can simply deny that the author is condoning the violent actions of these men and only intends to highlight the positive things these men did in faith. But this is untenable in light of what the author actually wrote. As noted above four of these men are known for nothing else except executing vengeance on Israel’s enemies. It is clear that part of what the author believes these men should be commended for is that by faith they conquered kingdoms and fought battles valiantly, putting the armies of the enemy nations to flight.

10:26-31 – 26. For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us, 27. but only a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume God’s enemies. 28. Someone who rejected the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29. How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of grace? 30. For we know the one who said, “Vengeance is mineI will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

12:25- 29 – 25. Take care not to refuse the one who is speaking! For if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less shall we, if we reject the one who warns from heaven? 26. Then his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “I will once more shake not only the earth but heaven too.” 27. Now this phrase “once more” indicates the removal of what is shaken, that is, of created things, so that what is unshaken may remain. 28. So since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us give thanks, and through this let us offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and fear. 29. For our God is a consuming fire.

These two passages are drawn right out of the kind of imagery of God in the OT that Boyd denounces as “monstrous” and “horrendous.” Why would the author of Hebrews say such things about God, seeing that he is writing after the true revelation of God has been made known through Jesus. Boyd thinks the death penalty pronounced in the law of Moses for certain crimes was not a true expression of God’s will, yet here the author of Hebrews tells us that there is a worse punishment for those who have contempt for the son of God. It would seem that from this author’s perspective the cross has not revealed a less severe God at all. It is clear that this author, no matter what he understood about the revelation of God in Christ or what insights he had concerning the cross, he did not arrive at the same drastic conclusions that Boyd has. I could never imagine Boyd addressing his congregation on a Sunday morning and warning them that “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God, for our God is a consuming fire.” Yet the author of Hebrews does so without reservation.

C. The Book of Acts
5:1-11 – 1. Now a man named Ananias, together with Sapphira his wife, sold a piece of property. 2. He kept back for himself part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge; he brought only part of it and placed it at the apostles’ feet. 3. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back for yourself part of the proceeds from the sale of the land? 4. Before it was sold, did it not belong to you? And when it was sold, was the money not at your disposal? How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God!” 5. When Ananias heard these words he collapsed and died, and great fear gripped all who heard about it . . .
7. After an interval of about three hours, his wife came in, but she did not know what had happened. 8. Peter said to her, “Tell me, were the two of you paid this amount for the land?” Sapphira said, “Yes, that much.” 9. Peter then told her, “Why have you agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out!” 10. At once she collapsed at his feet and died . . .

I could not find where Boyd addressed this passage in his book but I did find a 2017 podcast where he did so, just prior to the release of CWG. Boyd’s solution to the problem presented by this passage is weak and unimpressive. First, he offers the possibility that Satan killed the couple, since it was Satan who filled their hearts to lie and Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and “if anyone would want them dead it would be Satan.” But this is not his best answer, for he then takes nine minutes on his real solution – Peter killed them. He bases this on what he calls “semiautonomous power” (SAP). In chapter 25 of CWG Boyd explains:

“More specifically, I shall in this chapter argue that when God gives someone power, he genuinely gives it to them. To one degree or another, he places his divine power under the control of their power. I refer to this as semiautonomous power because, while the power itself does not exist independently of God, the way it is used is, to one degree or another, up to the agent it is given to, not God.”

He goes on to give some biblical examples of SAP, the first of which is Moses and his staff. Boyd believes that Moses “had some control over how he would use the supernatural power God had given him by means of this staff.” He bases this on Exodus 4:21:

The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power.”

This need not mean that Moses had the freedom to do whatever he wanted with God’s power, but that when he did the things God had told him to do that God’s power would be there to back him up. Of course, Moses could have chosen not to perform the signs that God instructed him to, and that would have been disobedience.

Boyd goes on to Numbers 20: 2-12 to show Moses’ misuse of the power God had given him. In v. 7-8 God instructs Moses to speak to the rock and it would pour out water for the people to drink. But Moses, in anger, strikes the rock with his staff and the water comes gushing out. But Boyd makes way to much out this; it doesn’t really fit his SAP concept. First, God instructed Moses in exactly what to do, which doesn’t suggest that Moses could just do whatever he wanted to do or perform a miraculous sign at will. In fact, when the people complained that there was no water, Moses didn’t just perform a miracle to solve the problem, but he went to the Tent of Meeting to seek God {vv.2-6}. It was then that he received instruction from God. Next, when Moses disobeys God’s instruction to speak to the rock, by striking it instead, he is rebuked by God and punished by not being allowed to enter the promised land {v. 12]. Yes, God did still bring the water from the rock, but this was in spite of what Moses had done and for the sake of the people. To suggest that God was bound to release his power no matter what Moses did is to read to much into the text. We should also consider that Moses was the first individual recorded in scripture to have such power put at his disposal and therefore his experience should set a precedent for subsequent miracle working prophets. In this Numbers passage we see that when a prophet does not follow the instructions he was given by God, but instead strikes out on his own, he is rebuked and punished by God. This should caution us against blaming biblical notables with wrong doing when scripture itself does not.

Now back to Acts 5. Boyd wants us to believe that Peter was free to wield God’s power to kill people at will and against God’s will, and that without rebuke. Does Boyd actually believe that the cruciform charactered God is just letting his servants run around using his power to indiscriminately kill people? This is an absurd notion and should be rejected by all rationally thinking Christians. We should note, that in the passage it no where states that Peter pronounced a curse upon them or commanded that they fall over dead. The text simply presents Peter as rebuking Ananias, who then fell down dead. It is likely that Peter was more surprised at this than anyone else. Boyd makes a point of the fact that the text no where says that it was God who struck the couple down, but for that matter neither does it say that Peter or Satan struck them down. The implication is clear – God judged this couple for their deception, like it or not.

12:21-23 – On a day determined in advance, Herod put on his royal robes, sat down on the judgment seat, and made a speech to them. But the crowd began to shout, “This is the voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck Herod down because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died.

This is another passage that Boyd failed to address in CWG, but he did deal with it briefly on his podcast back in July of 2017. His solution to this troublesome passage was to suggest that angels are not always necessarily carrying out what is God’s will in what they do. He then points the listeners to Psalm 82 as evidence of this and gives a terse explanation of it. Boyd sees the “gods/sons of the Most High” there as angels, but this is by no means conclusive (for another view of Ps. 82 see this article). So he sees the ‘angels’ in Ps. 82 being rebuked for not carrying out God’s will, as support for his contention. First off, his solution depends upon his interpretation of Ps. 82 being correct, which I deny. But even if it could be shown that Ps. 82 was, without doubt, speaking of angels, it would still be quite a stretch to interpret Acts 12 as angelic disobedience. There is absolutely nothing in the text itself to suggest such a notion, it is only Boyd’s imagination, prompted by his presuppositions, that suggested it to him. The passage reads like similar ones in the OT {see 1 Chron. 21: 14-16; Is. 37:36} and there is no hint that the angel is charged with any wrongdoing. Now, whether one accepts this account as historical or not, it shows that the authors of the NT did not hesitate to see the hand of God at work in such events.

I don’t think Boyd would attempt to explain the passage by saying that what happened to Herod was simply the organic consequences of his sin, but I could see him try to relieve God of any guilt of violence by arguing that God did not kill Herod himself. But this would be like saying that the Godfather of a crime syndicate who orders a hit on his enemy is free from any guilt because he did not pull the trigger himself. The truth of the matter is this – God can judicially will that Herod be put to death and then send an agent to do the job and God is free from any blame of injustice or wrong because “all his ways are just, [he is] a faithful God who does no wrong; upright and just is he” {Deut. 32:4}.

13:8-11 – But the sorcerer Elymas (for that is the way his name is translated) opposed them, trying to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul (also known as Paul), filled with the Holy Spirit, stared straight at him and said, “You who are full of all deceit and all wrongdoing, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness – will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? Now look, the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind, unable to see the sun for a time!Immediately mistiness and darkness came over him, and he went around seeking people to lead him by the hand.

I was unable to find any response to this passage from Boyd, in either his books or his podcast. My assumption would be that he would use the same argument as he did concerning the Acts 5 passage, i.e. that this is a case of the misuse of God’s power by one of his servants. But again, this would amount to suggesting that God is a God who just stands by and does nothing while his servants misuse his power to bring harm to others contrary to his will. But is this image of God any better than that which Boyd denounces?


The author of Acts does not give any hint that what Paul did was contrary to God’s will, but rather, by saying that Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit,” he is showing that what Paul did was under the direction of God and therefore within His will.

D. James, Peter and Jude
James 2:12-13 – Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy boasts over judgment.

James 4:12 – But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge – the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor?

James 5:1-6 – Come now, you rich, weep, wailing over the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted, and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their rust will be for a testimony against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have treasured up in the last days. Behold, the wage of the workmen having harvested your fields, having been kept back by you, cries out, and the cries of those having harvested have entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You lived in luxury and lived in self-indulgence upon the earth. You have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and have put to death the righteous; he does not resist you.

These passages show that James, probably the brother of Jesus, held to the same view of God presented in the Hebrew scriptures – a God of retributive justice, who will both reward the righteous and punish the wicked.

1 Peter 4:17-18 – For it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God? And “if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinners? “

2 Peter 2:1-3 – But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves. And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by; their destruction is not asleep.

2 Peter 2:12-13 – But these men, like irrational animals – creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed – do not understand whom they are insulting, and consequently in their destruction they will be destroyed, suffering harm as the wages for their harmful ways.

The apostle Peter shows the same orientation in his view of God’s justice – the wicked will be repaid for the evil they have done.

E. The Book of Revelation
I will not list passages from the Revelation for they are to numerous. Any cursory reading of the book will confirm that the view of God presented therein is consistent with that of the OT. In the book there are more than one series of judgments from God poured out upon the people of earth because of their wickedness (seven trumpet judgments and seven bowl judgments). Of the seven bowl judgments we read:

15:1 – I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed.

16:1, 8-9 – Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had jurisdiction over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.

Boyd goes into a long and tedious, and often one-sided, explication of the violent imagery of the judgments in Revelation in an attempt to distance God from these violent actions. His main argument is that although these are in some sense judgments from God, God himself is not involved in bringing them about. God is simply removing his hand of protection, thereby granting permission to the real culprits, Satan, whom he refers to as the “all but Almighty bringer of woe”, and his demons. In Appendix IV at the end of volume one of CWG Boyd writes:

 “Even if we bear in mind that these violent images are highly symbolic, this way of interpreting Revelation nevertheless produces a stunningly violent portrait of God. While such a portrait is quite at home with the violent strand of the OT we are addressing in this book, it is completely out of sync with the nonviolent revelation of God in Christ and, more significantly for our present purposes, with the lamb-like character of God revealed on the throne (Rev 5:6) that constitutes the centerpiece of John’s revelation, as we will see below. However, if we bear in mind John’s “all but almighty” understanding of Satan as we interpret his depictions of divine judgment, we get a much more nuanced—and, I believe, much more lamb-like—understanding of God’s involvement in them. To begin, while it is clear that all divine judgments in Revelation are in some sense reflective of God’s will, it is surely significant that God is never depicted as the agent who carries them out.”

There are a number of problems with this statement. First, Boyd is begging the question. He admits, that if taken at face value, with the genre and it’s symbolism taken into account, Revelation presents the same portrait of God as found in the OT. But that portrait of God should be rejected becauseit is completely out of sync with the nonviolent revelation of God in Christ and, more significantly for our present purposes, with the lamb-like character of God revealed on the throne.” But Boyd hasn’t proven that premise, despite his labored efforts. In fact, wouldn’t the book of Revelation itself be part of the revelation of God in Christ? Yet we see this book affirming the OT picture of God. Boyd’s “nonviolent revelation of God in Christ” appears to be a figment of his own imagination. Second, Boyd is mistaken that Rev. 5:6 reveals “the lamb-like character of God revealed on the throne,” for the Lamb is not depicted as on the throne in chapter five, or any other chapter for that matter. “Him who sits on the throne” in the Revelation is never the Lamb, but always someone distinct from the Lamb – the Lord God Almighty {see 4:8-11; 5:1, 6-7, 13; 6:16; 7:15}. As noted in Part 1, because Boyd sees Jesus as God, he thinks that God is altogether like Jesus and has always been. Since Jesus was nonviolent in his earthly life this must be how God is and has always been. Boyd’s presuppositions are simply wrong and so then is his thesis.

He tries to validate his assertion that the judgments in Revelation are merely acts of Satan by pointing to those incidents in the book where demons are indeed involved, such as the 6th bowl judgment in 16:12-14. This is actually the only judgment that specifically mentions demons. Boyd’s other example is less explicit {9:1-11} and so he simply interprets them to be demons. But these couple of examples cannot overturn the clear, unambiguous and ample statements which show that it is God who is controlling the release of these judgments. As we see in the passages cited above these judgments are referred to as God’s wrath, not Satan’s wrath. 16:9 explicitly states that God has jurisdiction over the plagues. The agents who are given the seven trumpets are said to be “the seven angels who stand before God,” and the seven angels who pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath are said to come out of the temple in heaven {8:2; 15:5-6}. None of these agents are depicted as acting autonomously; they are commanded when to act. Even when the text is explicit that the agents God uses are unholy it still depicts God as in control and as using them to accomplish his will {see 9:3-4; 16:14; 17:16-17}. Boyd has also tried to extricate God from the guilt of violence by the fact that it is agents, whether good or bad, who actually do the dirty work. But this argument fails, for as noted earlier, a mafia boss is not free of the guilt of murder by ordering a hit on his enemy rather than doing the job himself. In the same way, the violent acts of judgment in Revelation are God ordained and directed and so the buck stops with him. Boyd’s argument is unconvincing, to say the least. What is obvious is that he simply interprets the Revelation in accord with his pacifist predilections.

4. NT Recountings of OT Historical Events

Another line of reasoning to show the coherence of the view of God between the two testaments, i.e. before the cross and after the cross, is how NT authors relate the stories of events in biblical history, such as the flood, the destruction of Sodom, the wilderness wandering and the Israelite conquest of Canaan. Let’s look at the passages:

Acts 13:18-19 – . . . for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance.

1 Cor. 10:1-10 – 1. For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea . . . 5. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8. We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died9. We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes10. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

Heb. 3:16-19 – Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Heb. 11:29-31 – By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

2 Peter 2:5-9 – . . . if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

2 Peter 3:5-6 – But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.

Jude 5 & 7 – Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord c at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe . . . In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

We observe in these passages that the authors relate these events in a matter of fact way, without any apparent consternation, as if they presented a conflict between the perception of God related in these stories and the revelation of God they received in Christ. None of these authors, upon relating these events, ever feels the need to defend God against wrongdoing. None of them instruct their readers to use a special hermeneutic in order to understand what was really going on in these accounts or warn them to not accept the depiction of God related in these biblical stories. Make no mistake, these are some of the very accounts in the OT which Boyd decries for their depictions of divine violence. But there is not a clue from these authors that the revelation of God they had received from Jesus was in any sense substantially different than what was revealed in these accounts. This is really the nail in the coffin of Boyd’s thesis – no NT author employs the cruciform hermeneutic when recounting OT passages which depict God as using violent means to accomplish his ends.

God-Breathed

The apostle Paul wrote that “all scripture is God breathed” and Greg Boyd affirms that statement. Yet in order to fit his paradigm, Boyd has had to reframe the way in which the scriptures are God-breathed. Let’s hear Boyd for himself:

“As morally revolting as these portraits of God are, if we confess Jesus to be Lord, I believe we are obliged to confess all of them, together with the entire canon, are God-breathed. But at the same time, if we confess Jesus to be Lord, we should also be obliged to insist that something else is going on when God’s breathing results in biblical authors ascribing such atrocities to God, for these depictions of God contradict what we learn about God in Jesus’ cross-centered life and ministry.”

“This is why God allowed the sin of humanity to act upon him and to condition the way he appeared when he breathed his supreme revelation on the cross. And this is why God has always been willing to allow the sin of his people – including their sinful conceptions of him – to condition how he appears whenever he breathes revelations of himself. His breathing always reflects the reciprocal give-and-take of a non-coercive, authentic relationship . . . And for this reason, the loving relational God has always acted toward his people to reveal his true self as much as possible. But he also has always been willing to humbly allow his people to act upon him as he bears their sin as much as necessary . . . To the degree that any portrait reflects the cruciform character of God, we can consider it a reflection of God acting toward his people . . . I label these direct revelations, for they directly reflect the cruciform character of God that is supremely revealed on the cross. Conversely, to the degree that the surface appearance of a biblical portrait fails to reflect the cruciform character of God, we can consider it to be a literary testament to God’s willingness to humbly stoop to allow the sin and cultural conditioning of his people to act upon him as he bears the sin of his people. I label these indirect revelations, for to see how these portraits reflect the cruciform character of God we must exercise our cross-informed faith to see through their sin-mirroring surface to discern ‘what else is going on’ behind the scenes.”

“But we can be thankful that this twisted and culturally conditioned portrait of God is retained in the written record of our heavenly missionary’s activities, for it testifies to just how low God had to be willing to stoop to continue to further his purposes for history through this people. This is how God’s stiff-necked and spiritually twisted people were inclined to view him! And since God refuses to lobotomize people into possessing accurate mental images of him, he had to be willing to leave these twisted images in place when he stooped to breath the biblical narrative through them . . . God had to be willing to bear the sin of these twisted conceptions of him and to therefore take on a twisted appearance in the inspired written witness to his missionary activity.”

So Boyd believes that much of what is recorded in the OT is a twisted conception of God, which God allowed to be ‘breathed’ into his written record, because by doing so he was bearing the sin of his people. God humbly allowed his people to act upon him while he was acting upon them to breath his word through them. Although the apostle Peter said that scripture came about as “men spoke from God, being carried along (or led) by the Holy Spirit,” Boyd wants us to accept his theory that the men who wrote scripture, at least much of the time, were the ones carrying the Spirit along. He knows this to be fact because what they wrote, he says, doesn’t line up with what we learn about God in the cross. Note the circular argument Boyd makes. Based on the faulty premise that the cross unveils the revelation of the cruciform character of God, he judges any OT depiction of God that does not match up, to be a product of fallen human imagination.

Boyd also talks about the authors of scripture having a clouded vision of God, so that much of what they wrote about God was simply the projection of their own fallen and culturally conditioned minds. But this is in direct contradiction to what Peter wrote:

2 Peter 1:20- 21 – Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever came about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. NET

Boyd gives only a brief mention of this verse in a footnote, in which he attempts to lessen the force of it by implying that the meaning is limited only to prophecy in the sense of predictions of future events. But this is unlikely since the word prophecy would have been applied to any utterance of a prophet in the name of the Lord {see 2 Chron. 9:29; 15:8}. Hence, biblically speaking, prophecy can refer to a prophets denunciation of idolatry or other sins, warnings of impending judgment, declarations of God’s actions and ways, etc. Peter is saying that no utterance of a prophet, recorded in scripture, came about by the prophets own interpretation of things. It is clear that Peter believed that nothing that the prophets spoke, came from their own fallen and culturally conditioned minds but from the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

In light of the biblical data which I presented – the ministry, teachings, parables and eschatological forecast of Jesus; the attitude and mindset of the NT authors toward the OT and their continuance of the same depictions of God as wrathful, vengeful, austere, etc. – Boyd’s proposal is simply unconvincing. Boyd’s pacifistic predilections have led him to a dangerous denial of the truthfulness of much of God’s word, all the while affirming the full inspiration of what he rejects. So, in answer to the question, “What’s wrong with Greg Boyd’s cruciform hermeneutic?” I would say “Everything!” His conclusion is reached by weak, circular arguments built upon unsubstantiated premises. His case is built on cherry picking passages from the NT while ignoring those that are detrimental to his thesis. I have also shown that if Boyd’s thesis were true it would lead to some rather obvious absurdities. The worst of what’s wrong with it though, is that it is dangerous. I listened to a sermon of Boyd’s on the Cross Vision and was stunned to actually hear him tell the congregation that they should not listen to or trust what Moses said (and I have to assume this goes for much of what the prophets wrote). Though it was unstated, the clear implication in this was that we should trust in what Greg Boyd says. Does Boyd think that this attitude honors our Lord Jesus – whom Boyd believes is the greatest revelation of what God is like – who unreservedly held to the truthfulness of the writings of Moses and the prophets, referring to them as the word of God. In fact, Boyd’s thesis dishonors our Lord and the God who sent him. In the final analysis, every believer in Jesus must decide for themselves who they will listen to and thus who they will honor.

On A Personal Note

That Boyd’s thesis has been even modestly well received shows that there is a perturbation in the minds of many in Christianity today. It is not just Boyd’s book, but the plethora of apologetic works and online resources, over the past decade, attempting to respond to the angst of many Christians concerning the depiction of God in the OT. It appears that much of this was initiated by online atheists who were all too happy to point out what they deem to be an horrendous picture of God found in the Hebrew scriptures, which apparently most Christians, until then, were unaware of. This has led to a profusion of attempts by Christian scholars, pastors and apologists to find a way to reconcile the God of the OT with the God of the NT. I am, by no means, discounting all of these efforts, but I do find it disturbing that Christians are now taking their cues from unbelievers, even from the atheists.

This does show that many Christians have been, for the most part, unfamiliar with the OT. I myself fell into this category for many years of my life as a Christian, when I had focused most of my study efforts on the NT. Sure, I had some idea of how God seemed to be somewhat different in the OT than in the NT, but I was unaware of the extent of it. But when I began to do serious study of the OT, about ten years ago, and saw to a greater extent the depiction of God as using violent means to accomplish his purposes or as condoning the use of violence by his servants, I have to honestly say that I was not greatly bothered by it. I would probably attribute this to the fact that I had already come to see and appreciate this aspect of God even from the NT. I was never one to overemphasize one aspect of God over another, or to favor one aspect at the expense of another, but readily accepted whatever descriptions of God the scriptures revealed. So this phenomenon of God executing and condoning violent means just never disturbed me. I have come to a settled conviction of both the kindness of God and the severity of God.

Personally, I do not feel the need to explain away these hard passages in the OT, or to try to make excuses for God’s actions. God is who and what he is, and it is not for me to change him into something that I can feel unashamed to love and worship. Instead, I acknowledge God as he has revealed himself to be, and love and worship him accordingly. If anyone, whether believer or unbeliever, has an honest difficulty with how all of scripture presents God, and you are seeking some way to do away with the so-called ugly aspects of God, I am sorry, but I cannot help you. I can only encourage you to accept God in the fullness of his being, as he has revealed himself to be, and bow before his majesty. Hear the words of King Nebuchadnezzar, after God humbled him with a bout of insanity and then restored him to his right mind and to the throne:

Dan. 4:37 – “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. Those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”



What’s Wrong With Greg Boyd’s Cruciform Hermeneutic? Part 1

Greg Boyd is the senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul Minnesota. He is a degreed theologian and former Professor of Theology at Bethel University. Boyd is also a prolific author with some twenty-two books to his credit. One of these books, which has caused quite a stir, is The Crucifixion of the Warrior God, a two volume work totaling around 1500 pages. This is a scholarly work written for academics, so, for the non-scholar, he has put out a shorter version (292 pp.) titled Cross Vision: How the Crucifixion Of Jesus Makes Sense of Old Testament Violence. This work came out of Boyd’s many years of struggling with the depictions of God in the Hebrew Bible, which he regards as extremely violent.

Boyd is a pacifist, and of course he believes that Jesus was and still is a pacifist, and despite the abundant scriptural attestations to the contrary, he thinks that God himself is a pacifist. I am not sure which came first; whether his personal pacifism led him to view God this way or if after coming to see God in this way he became a pacifist himself. As a pacifist he believes that violence is never, under any circumstances, an appropriate form of action. This article is not an assessment of the pros and cons of pacifism but is rather a critique of Boyd’s solution to the problem of the OT’s depictions of God engaging in acts of violence, as well as commanding or condoning acts of violence committed by his people. While I have read only portions of Boyd’s 1500 page academic work, I have read much of Cross Vision and have listened to many episodes of his podcast Apologies and Explanations.

Overview Of Boyd’s Thesis

In Christianity there is the belief that God himself became man in Jesus of Nazareth. Since Jesus is God in human flesh then he is the greatest and clearest revelation of what God is like. God looks like Jesus. Boyd approvingly quotes Michael Ramsey from his book God, Christ and the World: “God is Christ-like, and in him is no un-Christlikeness at all.” So then when we look at Jesus we see what God is truly like, and according to Boyd this means God is non-violent, enemy loving, gentle and meek, non-coercive, non-vengeful, would never harm a fly much less put a human being to death. Now for anyone who knows the OT you can see the problem, for God is often depicted in the OT as being quite inconsistent with this picture. To add to this dilemma, Jesus himself seems to confirm the validity of all OT scripture, so one cannot just throw out the passages that are inconsistent with the revelation of God in Jesus, if one holds to the divine inspiration of the OT, as Jesus himself did. Boyd proposes a novel way of reading the OT, which he calls the Cruciform Hermeneutic.

Boyd sees the crucifixion of Jesus as the greatest display of God’s character. On the cross, Jesus, God in the flesh, condescended to allow men to view him as a sinner and a criminal. He could have called down twelve legions of angels to defend him and thus show them all who he really was, but instead he let them think of him as if he were altogether just like they are. This is what it means, in Boyd’s mind, that he bore our sin. This is what Boyd calls God’s cruciform character. But God did not acquire this cruciform character for the first time when Jesus was crucified; he has always had the cruciform character, from the very beginning. Hence, when we read the OT, especially those awful depictions of God acting out in ways contrary to what Christ displayed, we must do so through the “looking-glass cross.” Every ugly depiction of God in the OT reveals God’s cruciform character because in these passages we see a God who condescends to allow his people to view him and present him in ways that are contrary to his true character. In this way God was bearing the sin of his people. He could have used force and coercion to make his people see the truth about himself, but instead he chose to bear the indignity of being misunderstood and even maligned. Therefore, every OT depiction of God acting out in violence, vengefulness, anger, etc., actually reveals his supreme love, the same love he displayed on the cross. This is the Cruciform Hermeneutic.

Boyd’s Premises

Boyd approaches the problem of God’s violence in the OT with a number of presuppositions in mind, which he asserts are grounded in scripture. But his exegesis seems questionable at best. Let’s examine some of these premises and their supposed scriptural basis.

Premise 1
The revelation of God given in and through Jesus Christ is superior to all prior revelation of God and therefore supersedes all prior revelation. Therefore, all OT scriptures are to be understood only through the lens of the NT revelation of God through Jesus. Boyd reasons:

 If all Scripture is divinely inspired, they think, it must all carry the same level of divine authority. In this view, which some refer to as “the flat view of the Bible,” Jesus’ revelation of God is placed on the same level as all other biblical depictions of God, creating a montage mental conception of God. That is, part of the God these Christians envision is Christlike but other parts are vengeful and jealous and capable of doing horrible things like commanding genocide and causing parents to cannibalize their children.

But I’m now convinced that this approach is fundamentally and tragically misguided. While I continue to affirm that the whole Bible is inspired by God, I’m now persuaded that the Bible itself instructs us to base our mental representation of God solely on Jesus Christ. Other biblical portraits of God may nuance our Christ-centered picture, but only to the degree that they cohere with what we learn about God in Christ. As Jesus himself taught, everything else in Scripture is to be interpreted in a way that points to him. Thus nothing in Scripture should ever be interpreted  in a way that qualifies or competes with his revelation of God. And as we’ll now see this all-important conviction permeates the NT.

Cross Vision ch. 2

Now Boyd does believe that the revelation of God which we see in Jesus is on the same level as the former revelation of God through the Hebrew prophets in the sense that they are both inspired by God, but not in the sense that they are both true depictions of God. According to Boyd, the only true revelation of God (i.e. of his actions and ways) is found in Jesus, and, of course, anything in the OT that corresponds to the revelation of God in Jesus. Everything else is an inspired misrepresentation of God.

Jesus 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. For this  reason, Jesus must be our sole criterion to assess the degree to which previous prophets were catching genuine glimpses of truth and the degree to which they were seeing clouds. Please note: I’m not suggesting that Jesus is the criterion for assessing the degree to which previous prophets were and were not divinely inspired, for their writings are completely inspired. But as we’ll explain later on,  to say  that a passage is divinely inspired is not to say that it necessarily reflects an unclouded vision of God. . . [Christ] is rather the revelation that culminates and surpasses all previous revelations.

ibid.

Boyd’s assessment of the revelatory role of Jesus is based on a faulty interpretation of certain NT passages, in particular Hebrews 1:1:

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers in the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us in a son . . .”

Here is what Boyd said concerning this verse:

 . . . the author says that previous revelations came in “various ways.” The Greek word for this is polymeros, which can be translated as “diverse portions” (ASV) or as “glimpses of truth” (J. B. Phillips).

Not only this, but while people in the past got “glimpses of truth,” the Son is the truth itself. Jesus claimed to be “the way and the truth and the life” . . .  So, in contrast to the “glimpses of truth” that people in the OT were given, in the Son we have the full unveiling of the true God. Jesus is what God looks like when there are no clouds in the way.

. . .we are misguided to think we need to supplement what we find in Christ with what we find in the OT or in any other source. Everything we need to know and can know about God is found in Christ.

ibid.

There are some real problems with Boyd’s reasoning here. First, he is just wrong about the phrase “various ways” translating the Greek polymeros. In fact that phrase translates the Greek word polutropos, while the phrase “many times” (or many portions) translates the word polumeros. Next, he wants his readers to think that “glimpses of truth” is an accurate translation of polumeros. This is meant to confirm his assertion that the Hebrew prophets did not always get it right in their revelation of God; they only got glimpses of truth. But this meaning of the word polumeros is questionable at best and quite misleading at worst. I could find nothing to confirm this meaning, notwithstanding J. B. Phillips rendering. The word seems to mean consisting of many parts or portions and can even refer to portions of time, hence the rendering “at many times” or the like, found in numerous versions. Most likely, it refers to the diverse forms in which God communicated his word, e.g. legal code for religious and civil matters, historical narrative, prophetic utterance, psalms and wisdom literature.

But even if Boyd’s dubious claim that polymeros means glimpses of truth could be verified, this does not help his case. In Boyd’s view only those portraits of God in the OT that look like Jesus (i.e. meek, gentle, non-violent, loving, compassionate, etc.) would be considered ‘glimpses of truth’, anything else is the result of the prophets own fallen and culturally conditioned worldview. But it is clear that what the author of Hebrews is referring to is all of the OT and it is simply eisegesis to read into his words that he is referring only to those OT depictions of God that look like Jesus. Now if the author meant that all of the revelation of God in the OT was only a glimpse of the truth and that the full revelation is found in Jesus, then okay, but that is different than what Boyd is saying. Boyd wants us to believe that the revelation of God in Jesus supplants all OT revelations of God, that, in his mind, don’t look like Jesus. But Hebrews 1:1 is not saying that what God spoke in the prophets was inadequate or only clouded glimpses of truth, but that the revelation of God in the son is the culmination and consummation of God’s revelation to his people.

The proof that the author of Hebrews does not hold Boyd’s view is seen in the way that he affirmingly quotes passages from the OT which depict God in ways that Boyd thinks is inconsistent with the picture of God we get through Jesus. For example, in Hebrews 10:30-31 the author cites Deut. 32:35-36 and adds his own comment:

For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

If you look at this OT passage in it’s context, especially vv. 21-27 and 39-43, you see a depiction of God that, while consistent throughout scripture (we will see later that this view of God carries over into the NT), Boyd decries. Clearly, the author of Hebrews did not behold the revelation of God in Christ and come to the same conclusions as Boyd. Another example is Heb. 12: 29- “for our God is a consuming fire,” which is taken from Deut. 4:24- “For Yahweh your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” But this is the very kind of depiction of God that Boyd thinks came from Moses’ own fallen and culturally conditioned mind. Yet this does not stop Boyd from asserting that the author of Hebrews, at 1:1, is affirming his own view of OT scripture. Now if Boyd or anyone else would attempt to recast the ‘consuming fire’ of God as something positive, such that to be consumed by God’s fire is to be filled with passion or some other such nonsense, then let these verses put that to rest – Ps. 18:7-15; 50:3; 97:3; Is. 30:27-33; Zeph.1:18; 3:8; Mal. 4:1.

Boyd marshals other passages in his attempt to ground his premise in scripture, citing John 5:39-40, 46-47 and Luke 24:25-27, 44-45. But once again we find him claiming more for these verses than what they actually say.

Not only does Jesus ascribe more authority to himself than the OT, but he had the audacity to present himself as the one whom all previous revelations are about and the one who gives life to them!  In a debate with some Pharisees, Jesus said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  And a moment later  he added: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (5:39–40, 45–46).

ibid.

Is Jesus really saying that all previous revelations are about him? Apparently Boyd thinks so. To say that the Scriptures, meaning the OT, testifies about Jesus and that Moses wrote about him does not mean that everything Moses wrote was about Jesus or that everything in the OT testifies about him. It need not mean anything more than that some of the things Moses wrote and that some of the things written in the OT are about the Messiah. The same can be said of Boyd’s other proof texts, Luke 24:25-27, 44-45:

[Jesus] said to them, “O foolish ones and slow in heart in believing all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and from all the prophets he explained to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: All things must be fulfilled which have been written about me in the law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Boyd interprets these passages as saying that “the whole Old Testament speaks of Christ” and “all of it is about Jesus,” but again, this is saying more than the text demands. All it need mean is that in all of the OT scriptures i.e., in Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms there are things written about the coming Messiah. There is no necessity in the language to take it as declaring that every single thing written in the OT is about Jesus. In fact, this kind of thinking has led to some rather fanciful and even ridiculous exposition of OT scriptures through the centuries, as people have tried to find Jesus in passages where he is no where to be found. The irony of Boyd’s use of Luke 24:25 is glaring. Jesus rebukes his disciples for being “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” But this is exactly Boyd’s attitude towards the OT. In his view, we should only accept as true those words spoken by the prophets that align with the revelation of God in Jesus; all else, though inspired, is false.

Premise 2

The crucifixion of Jesus (i.e. the cross) is the “definitive revelation  of  God’s  cross-like, or cruciform, character.” Boyd further elaborates:

So, if Jesus is the center to which all Scripture points, then the cruciform character of God that was supremely revealed on the cross must be regarded as the epicenter of this center.  And if all  Scripture is about  Christ, then all Scripture is more specifically about  Christ crucified.

Cross Vision ch. 3

Boyd attempts to establish this premise by appeals to various NT passages which focus on the cross as being central to Jesus’ incarnation, life and ministry. Now I certainly have no problem with the idea that the cross was the supreme event in the life of Jesus and with the fact that he lived a life of sacrificial love toward others and enjoined his followers to do the same. What I do have a problem with is how Boyd thinks that this means that God could not possibly be as he is depicted in much of the OT. Based on the centrality of the cross in the NT, Boyd extrapolates backwards onto God a ‘cruciform character’.

Time will not permit me to address every argument that Boyd employs to prove his case, but a couple of examples will show how Boyd’s tendency is to overstate what the sources he is drawing from state. For example, he states that the apostle Paul “equates the ‘gospel’ with ‘the message of the cross,’ using the two phrases interchangeably.” He gives a number of verses in a footnote which indeed show Paul speaking of “Christ crucified” as intrinsic to the gospel. But what Boyd cannot produce are verses where Paul draws the same conclusions from the cross as Boyd himself does. Can anyone read Paul and seriously come to the conclusion that Paul believed that because of the cross “there is no aspect of God that is not characterized by the non-violent, self-sacrificial, enemy embracing love.” Where are the verses in which Paul repudiates the misguided and even defamatory depictions of God given by Moses and the Hebrew prophets? Boyd doesn’t produce any. Whatever Paul thought about the cross of Christ as being central to the gospel, it is clear that this did not, in his mind, preclude that God could have ever or would ever inflict vengeance on someone or put someone to death {see Rom. 1:32; 2:5-11; 11:22; 12:19; 16:20; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 10:5-10; 11:30-32; 1 Thess. 2:15-16; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2:10-12; 2 Tim. 4:14}. Nowhere in his letters does Paul ever instruct believers to read the Hebrew scriptures with suspicion and caution lest they come to believe that God is really like the way he is depicted there.

Another case is drawn from Christian history, in which Boyd praises the German reformer Martin Luther for his cross-centered theology. He gives several quotes from Luther showing that he held the cross to be central to all true theology. He even goes so far as to claim that “Luther’s method of interpreting the Bible—his hermeneutics . . .  most closely anticipates my proposal.” But what is clear is that Luther’s cross-centered approach to scripture did not lead him to the same conclusions that Boyd has come to, as even Boyd admits. Luther had no problem with God exacting vengeance on his enemies and even thought that the state was God’s agent for doing so, even as Paul taught in Rom. 13:1-5. This led Luther to call for the state to violently crush the peasant uprising in Germany in 1525, leading to the slaughter of as many as 100,000 peasants and farmers. Luther is also known for his vitriol toward the Jews, whom he considered the enemies of God and Christ, calling for the destruction of their synagogues and their homes, the confiscation of their writings, the confiscation of their silver and gold, and corporeal punishment for rabbis who persisted in teaching publicly. Boyd never mentions these facts about Luther but does admit that:

Luther was far from consistent in the way he applied his cross- centered hermeneutic. For example, despite his claim to see nothing in Scripture except Christ crucified, Luther held that everything any evil agent does, including everything that Satan does, was directly caused by God. He even refers to Satan and  other evil agents as “masks” of God!  How this belief  is related  to Luther’s claim to derive his whole theology from the cross is not clear to me.
Related to this, Luther never demonstrated how he saw “nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified” in portraits of Yahweh commanding Israelites to mercilessly slaughter women, children and infants.

Cross Vision ch. 5

Boyd chalks it up to an inconsistency in Luther, but I think it is better explained by simply recognizing that Luther did not take the meaning of the ‘cross’ to the extremes that Boyd does. I mean could someone possibly be that inconsistent between his theology and his practice? I find it hard to believe. Luther simply did not take his view of the cross to the radical conclusions that Boyd has.

Premise 3

Now here is where I may lose some of my trinitarian and oneness readers. One of Boyd’s overarching presuppositions is the belief that Jesus is God incarnate. The reason I point this out is because it plays a big role in his thesis. Listen to Boyd’s reasoning:

. . . that in Christ, God was stooping to bear the sin of the world to reconcile the world to himself (1 Cor 1:18).

. . . God who, out of love, was willing to stoop an infinite distance to bear our sin, suffer our curse, and thereby take on this revoltingly ugly, sin-mirroring, surface appearance.

Along the same lines, we should expect that the something else that is  going on behind the scenes of these sin-mirroring portraits is precisely what is going on behind the sin-mirroring cross: God, out of his love, is humbly stooping to bear the sin of his people, thereby taking on an ugly appearance that reflects this sin. This is how I propose we interpret all portraits of God in the Bible that on the surface reflect a character that is inconsistent with the cruciform character of God revealed on the  cross, including  especially  the OT’s violent depictions of God.

Cross Vision ch.4

So Boyd’s belief that Jesus is God leads him to conclude that God has a cruciform character. In other words, because Jesus was willing to be abused and rejected and maligned on the cross, while keeping his true nature veiled out of respect for the free will of those who were doing these things to him, then the same is true of God, because Jesus is God. Now Boyd can just cast this image of the cruciform-character incarnate God back into biblical history. If God was willing to stoop to bear our sin on the cross then it isn’t hard to believe that he has always been stooping to bear the sin of his people. The only problem with this is that the NT never once says that God sacrificed himself on the cross, or that God bore our sin on the cross, or that God suffered on our behalf. The NT authors are careful to always ascribe these actions to Jesus the Messiah and to differentiate between Jesus and God. Therefore, it is possible for the man Jesus to have manifested God’s love and mercy to the world by giving up his life as a sacrifice to God and yet God still be a God of vengeance (i.e. retributive justice), who must at times put certain people to death. Jesus himself recognized the validity of vengeance both against and on behalf of his chosen people Israel {see Lk. 18:6-7; 21:20-24}. And as we will see later, Jesus even has a role to play in the execution of God’s vengeance. Boyd is simply wrong; this is where his commitment to pacifism is dictating how he understands scripture, or even how he understands God.

Of course, when Jesus came the first time it was not to be the executioner of God’s vengeance but rather to be the means by which God would reconcile the world to himself. Jesus was the demonstration of God’s love and mercy in desiring and providing redemption for all. But when he returns to bring to full salvation those who have acknowledged him as Lord, he will then be the agent through whom God metes out his vengeance upon those who have rejected the truth, the enemies of both God and His people {2 Thess. 1:5-10; Rev. 11:15-18; 19:11-16}.

The belief that Jesus just is God also feeds into Boyd’s presupposition (Premise 1) that the revelation of God through Jesus is superior to all previous revelation, for if Jesus is God how could the revelation that came through him not be superior to that which came through fallen and culturally conditioned human beings. As God, Jesus would not have had a clouded vision of God like the Hebrew prophets of old. To a Biblical Unitarian like myself, this is untenable. There is no reason, biblically, unless one holds the same assumptions as Boyd, to think that Jesus, in the performance of his prophetic ministry, would have had some advantage over the former prophets, except that he had greater insight into God’s plan of redemption and the restoration of the kingdom.

As the unique son of God what Jesus brought to the people that was new was the understanding of personal sonship, the ability to perceive God as Father on a personal level. Jews of Jesus’ day would have understood the Fatherhood of God on a national level {see Ex. 4:22; Is. 63:16; 64:8; Jer. 31:9; Hosea 11:1; Mal. 2:10}, but not many would have been so bold as to speak of God on personal terms as ‘my Father’. Jesus brought the revelation of God as Father on a personal level for those who, like him, seek to live out a faithful, obedient relationship to God from the heart. But this revelation would in no way negate the former revelation of God as a God of retributive justice and as one who will ultimately destroy the enemies of God and of his people. Certainly no NT author thought so.

The Biblical Case Against Boyd’s Thesis
  1. Jesus and Violence
    A. Violence In His Ministry

Because Jesus’ first coming, i.e. his humiliation and rejection, was about the kindness and mercy of God providing redemption for his people, we should not expect to find Jesus engaging in acts of violence during the days of his ministry in Galilee and Judea. Yet we do find some examples of actions of Jesus which may seem inconsistent with what we typically see of him in the gospels. The most obvious of these is the incident where he drove out of the temple area those who were buying and selling. This is recorded in all the gospels {Matt. 21:12-13; Mk. 11:15-17; Lk. 19:45; Jn. 2:13-17} and may have even occurred twice, since John’s account has it happening before Jesus even began his Galilean ministry, while the synoptic accounts have it occurring just six days before the crucifixion. There are also some striking differences in John’s account from the synoptic accounts, which lends credence to the idea that these are two separate incidences. In The Crucifixion of the Warrior God (CWG) Boyd makes a rather weak and circular argument against those who claim that this incident shows Jesus acting in at least a mild form of violence. First he states: ” . . . it is important that we understand that this episode was not an expression of unpremeditated anger on Jesus’s part . . .” Well that may be true, but how does that mitigate the fact that this doesn’t look like the meek and gentle Jesus. In John’s account Jesus makes a whip of cords and drives out from the temple area the sheep and oxen. This could have presented a danger to people, especially children, who could have been knocked to the ground and trampled by the animals. Boyd even proposes that “Jesus created an animal stampede.” Also, it is hard to imagine Jesus commanding the merchants to get the animals out of the temple with a polite and gentle demeanor. We are told that he turned over the tables of the money changers, but Boyd doesn’t explain how this is not an act of violence, even if just a mild one. In Marks account we read that, “[Jesus] would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.” Did he accomplish this by politely asking them to not do so? I don’t think so; he had to have used some kind of force or at least threats. Boyd boils the incident down to “street theater” done “out of love for his ‘Father’s house’ as well as for the poor who were being oppressed by the corrupt leaders who  ran the temple’s  ‘buying and selling’  system.” I’m confused! Is Boyd advocating that it is acceptable to act in an unloving way to one group of people on behalf of loving another group? But isn’t this exactly what much of God’s retributive justice is all about? Boyd’s argument amounts to this: This event cannot be an example of Jesus acting in a non-loving way because Jesus never acts in a non-loving way.

B. Violence in His Parables

The only parable I was able to find a response to in Boyd’s CWG is the parable in Matt. 18:23-35. In this parable a king forgives an astronomical debt of one of his servants, who then goes out and demands from another servant the payment of a small debt. The second servant is unable to pay and begs for mercy, which the first servant refuses to give. Instead he has the man thrown in prison until he could pay the debt. When the king finds out how the first servant, who was shown mercy, treated his fellow servant, he is enraged and reinstates the formerly forgiven debt and hands him over to the jailer to be tortured. Now Boyd is correct that the import of this parable is “to function as an illustration of the need for disciples not to forgive merely ‘seven times,’ but ‘seventy times seven’ .”  He then goes on to note three observations about the nature of parables which in his mind mitigates the severity of this parable. First, parables have an “is” and “is not” quality, e.g. the king in the parable represents God, but not really. Second, parables are built on familiarities, e.g. sin is presented as a debt. And third, parables often incorporate “absurd elements intended to shock  the audience,” e.g. the punishment inflicted upon the first servant at the end is an almost comical over exaggeration. He then says:

To be sure, part of the lesson of this parable is that there are dire consequences for those who refuse to extend to others the forgiveness they themselves have received, but we are misreading this parable if we think it is intended to provide clues as to how  people  will  actually experience these dire consequences.

CWG ch. 5

The only problem with this is that Jesus’ punch line to the parable doesn’t seem like a joke: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart.” Boyd mentions the difficulty of this statement but never addresses it or offers an interpretation of it that is consistent with his view. However one wants to take this statement, it at least shows that Jesus held the belief that the Father is a God who repays men according to their deeds, just like the OT prophets declared.

Now let’s look at some parables that Boyd didn’t mention. Three parables in Luke illustrate how Jesus used violent portraits of characters in parables, who are representative of God or himself. Luke 12:42-48 contains the parable of the wise and faithful steward whose master puts him in charge until he returns. Jesus tells what will happen to this steward should he begin mistreating the servants in his charge and to get drunk:

“The master of the house will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he is not aware. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”

In Luke 19:12-27 we find the parable of the nobleman who went to a distant country to be appointed king and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave each of them the same sum of money and charged them to put the money to use till he returns. But the subjects of this nobleman hated him and sent a delegation to complain, “We don’t want this man to reign over us.” The man returns, having been made king, and calls the ten servants to him to give an account. The ones who earned more money for the king were rewarded. One servant returns the original amount to the king, having gained nothing with it. He is harshly rebuked and humiliated. But the final line of the parable is revealing, for the king says:

“But those enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.”

Now it is clear that the king in the parable is meant to represent Jesus himself. So why would Jesus, if he were a complete pacifist and enemy-lover, portray himself in such a way as this? In light of this parable how can Boyd maintain the belief that Jesus’ command to his disciples to love their enemies is an absolute to which even Jesus and God himself are bound?

Luke 20:9-19 records the parable of the vineyard owner who rented his vineyard to some farmers. When the harvest time came he sent servants to collect some of the fruit, but the tenants beat each of them and threw them out of the vineyard. Finally the vineyard owner sends his son, expecting that they will respect him, but instead they plot to kill him and take his inheritance, which they do. Jesus then asks the question:

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

The implication is clear – the vineyard owner represents God, the tenants are the Jewish leaders and the son is the Messiah, Jesus himself. Jesus, in this parable, unambiguously portrays God, his Father, as slaying his enemies in vengeance. But how can this be so from Boyd’s perspective? If Jesus is the clearest and fullest revelation of God why is he depicting God in the same ‘clouded’ way that the Hebrew prophets of old did?

This third parable was played out in the first century when the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus as the Messiah and had him killed. Within 40 yrs. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans and the inhabitants were either killed or sent into exile. The first two parables, which portray Jesus himself as acting violently toward his enemies, are probably to be regarded as eschatological. While it is true that in his first coming Jesus was, for the most part, meek and mild, when he returns to reign as king over God’s kingdom, he will be the agent of God’s vengeance.

Let’s look at one final parable which illustrates that Jesus had a view of God consistent with the OT depiction of God as one who avenges, i.e. pays back retribution on behalf of, those who are his people. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells the parable of the widow who persistently sought retribution against one who wronged her from an unjust judge. The judge finally gave her what she wanted not because he was just but because the woman persisted. Then Jesus taught his disciples this:

Lk. 18:6-8 – Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God execute vengeance for his own elect who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will execute vengeance for them speedily.

Many English versions translate this as “give them justice” but the Greek word ekdikesis means to avenge one of wrongs or to bring vengeance upon one. It is the same word used in Rom. 12:19 and Heb. 10:30 where it translates the Hebrew naqam which means vengeance.

C. Violence At His Return

Boyd would have us believe that it is only the OT which depicts God as vengeful and full of wrath. But how anyone who reads the NT scriptures could ever come to that conclusion is beyond me. But not only does the NT convey the same picture of God that is found in the OT, albeit in fewer instances, but even Jesus himself, in his eschatological return, is depicted as the agent of God’s wrath:

2 Thess. 1:6-10 – If it be so, it is a righteous thing for God to repay with affliction those who are oppressing you and to give relief to you, the oppressed ones, along with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels, in a fiery blaze, rendering vengeance on those who have not known God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus, who will pay the just penalty of everlasting destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power, whenever he shall come to be glorified in his holy ones and to be marveled at by all those who have believed . . .

2 Thess. 2:8 – And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus kill with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the manifestation of his presence.

Rev. 6:16-17 – They call to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” For the great day of their wrath has come and who is able to stand.

Rev. 19:11-16 – Then I saw heaven opened and here came a white horse! The one riding it was called “Faithful” and “True,” and with justice he judges and goes to war. His eyes are like a fiery flame and there are many diadem crowns on his head. He has a name written that no one knows except himself. He is dressed in clothing dipped in blood, and he is called the Word of God. The armies that are in heaven, dressed in white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he stomps the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful. He has a name written on his clothing and on his thigh: “King of kings and Lord of lords.”

Regarding the first two passages in 2 Thess., it is regrettable that Boyd failed to adequately address them in CWG. In Appendix III: Violence in the Pauline Epistles, at the end of Part 3, Boyd references the 2 Thess. 1:6-10 passage but never explains what it could possibly mean from his perspective. All he says is this, regarding verse 6:

. . . I wonder what the point was of Paul reminding the Thessalonians that God “will pay back trouble to those who trouble you” by punishing them “with everlasting destruction” (2 Thess 1:6, 9). Paul is not in this context issuing a loving warning to the Thessalonians or to the people that are troubling them. He rather seems to be satisfying the Thessalonians’ and/or his own fallen thirst for vengeance to come upon their enemies, and nothing about his socio-religious context seems to alter this impression.

CWG Part 3 Appendix III

What rubbish! This is merely the biased opinion of Greg Boyd, a pacifist who views God and Jesus as pacifists. He goes on to tell us what Paul should have said in order to have been loving and Christ-like. But what he never does is explain how Paul, a hand picked apostle of the risen Jesus, who, in Boyd’s own mind, had a true revelation of what the cross was all about and for whom the cross was central, could write such a thing about God and Jesus. I suppose Boyd would just chalk it up to an inconsistency in Paul. But the real reason is obvious – whatever revelation Paul had of the cross, and whatever profound effect the cross had upon his life, it is clear that this did not lead Paul to the same extreme conclusions about God that it has led Boyd to. Paul had no cruciform hermeneutic. He still viewed God just as he did before he came to know Christ crucified, just as he is portrayed in the Hebrew prophets – a God of vengeance, as well as a God of love and mercy {see Rom. 11:22; 12:19; 13:1-5}.

Now regarding the Revelation passages, especially 19:11-16, Boyd has plenty to say, so much so that I cannot here respond to every detail of his long and twisted exegesis. I do encourage everyone who is interested to try to find an online source where you can read this part of his book The Crucifixion Of the Warrior God. It is found in Appendix IV at the end of Part 3. If you have a Scribd account you can read it there.

In this section Boyd goes through an elaborate, yet absurd, attempt to turn all of the violent images in the vision of John into a revelation of the cruciform character of God. Indeed, Boyd makes a valiant though unsuccessful effort to make the book of Revelation, and 19:11-16 in particular, fit into his paradigm. As an example here is a quote from his conclusion:

 Revelation 19:15 provides yet another stunning example of how John turns violent imagery on its head by radically reinterpreting it through the lens of the self-sacrificial Lamb. It constitutes yet another illustration of the remarkable way in which John makes “lavish use of militaristic language”  while infusing  it with “a non-militaristic sense.” It again demonstrates how “apocalyptic terror is transformed through John’s Christology,” for we once  again see that  “Christ conquers by being a lamb , not by being  a  lion.” It provides yet one more confirmation of a theme we have seen is woven throughout this inspired and inspiring work: followers of the Lamb are called to participate in the war and the victory of the Lamb, and we are called to do it the way the Lamb himself did it—namely, by choosing to love our enemies and suffer at their hands rather  than to take up arms against them.

CWG Appendix IV

I’m sorry, but this is a nonsensical and forced interpretation that seems to have eluded the vast majority of Bible readers for centuries. It would be better for Boyd to do what many scholars in our day have done – simply deny that the scriptures are inspired by God and hence deny the validity of such depictions of God and Christ contained therein. I am surprised that Boyd was not embarrassed to put such farcical exegesis in print.

The four passages I cited above unambiguously depict Jesus as the executor of God’s vengeance in the day of God’s wrath at the end of this age.

D. Violence In His Teachings and Public Utterances

Though the public ministry of Jesus was focused primarily on God’s mercy toward his people, there are occasions in his teaching and public utterances where we see that he still held to the concept of God as one who punishes the wicked and unbelieving, and where even he himself is seen in this same light.

Luke 19:41-44 – Now when Jesus approached and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you had only known on this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and surround you and close in on you from every side. They will demolish you – you and your children within your walls – and they will not leave within you one stone on top of another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

Here Jesus foretells the impending judgment to come upon Israel, which he directly relates to the fact that they did not recognize the time of their visitation. Now Boyd does acknowledge this as warning of divine judgment, but Boyd sees divine judgment merely as God’s abandonment, i.e. God is never actively or directly involved in bringing destruction, suffering, sickness, death, or anything else that would be hurtful to people, but simply withdraws his hand which is restraining these things from coming. I will deal with this wrong-headed idea in Part 2.

Luke 21 :20-24 – But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Those who are inside the city must depart. Those who are out in the country must not enter it, because these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! For there will be great calamity against the land and wrath toward this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away as captives among all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Matt. 7:19-23 – Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you shall know them. Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by your name, and by your name cast out devils, and by your name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.

John 15:1-2, 5-6 – I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that does not bear fruit. He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit . . . I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me – and I in him – bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up.

Even in his resurrected and glorified state we see Jesus giving a warning of violent judgment which he will be directly involved in bringing about.

Rev. 2:21-23 – I have given her time to repent, but she is not willing to repent of her sexual immorality. Look! I am throwing her onto a bed of violent illness, and those who commit adultery with her into terrible suffering, unless they repent of her deeds. Furthermore, I will strike her followers with a deadly disease, and then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts. I will repay each one of you what your deeds deserve.

I could not find a response to this passage by Boyd in either CWG or Cross Vision, and I can see why he avoided it. Here we have the words of the “son of God”, the risen Jesus himself, who declares that he personally will execute a horrible judgment upon the false prophetess Jezebel and her followers. We also note that Jesus executes vengeance, which is the import of the last phrase.

2. Messianic Psalms and Violence

There are a number of Messianic Psalms that are quoted in the NT in application to Jesus. Among these are Ps. 2, 45, 69 and 110. Various verses from these psalms are quoted throughout the NT writings. But what may not be known by many is that the parts of these psalms that are not quoted contain portraits of violence and vengefulness on the part of the subject of these psalms, whom the NT authors think is Jesus.

Psalm 2 – Verses 1-2 are quoted in Acts 4:25-26; v. 7 is quoted in Acts 13:33 and Heb. 1:5; v. 9 is quoted in Rev. 2:27. But let’s look at other verses in the psalm not quoted in the NT:

vv.4-6 – The One enthroned in heaven laughs; Yahweh scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill.”
vv. 10-12 – Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve Yahweh with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment.

The son in v. 12 is the son in v.7, which is applied to Jesus in the NT quotes. So why would the NT authors attribute this psalm to Jesus, with this depiction of him becoming wrathful and destroying those who refuse to honor him, if they believed that Jesus was an unreserved pacifist?

Psalm 45 – Verses 6-7 are quoted in Heb. 1:8-9. Here are some other verses of the psalm:

vv. 3-5 – Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds. Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king’s enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet.

If this psalm is about Jesus, then it depicts him as a warrior, the very image which Boyd repudiates. Of course, one could simply allegorize the language to make it refer to spiritual warfare or take Boyd’s approach that the author’s vision was clouded by his own fallen and culturally conditioned mind. But the more passages of this type add up, one upon the other, the less reasonable or plausible such objections appear.

Psalm 69 – Verse 4 is quoted in Jn. 15:25; v. 9 is quoted in Jn. 2:17 and Rom. 15:3; v. 21 is alluded to in Jn. 19:28-30; v. 23 is quoted in Rom.11:9-10. Let’s see what else the psalm says:

vv.24, 27-28 – Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them . . . Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation. May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.

Is this what Boyd’s cruciform character looks like? Does this sound like one who is a committed, unconditional pacifist?

Psalm 110 – Verse 1 is quoted in Matt. 22:24; Mk.12:36; Lk. 20:42; Acts 2:34; Heb. 1:13; v. 4 is quoted in Heb. 5:6 and 7:21. Now let’s look at vv. 5-6:

vv.5-6 – The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

So again, the question must be asked: Why would the NT authors associate Jesus with such violent depictions of Messianic prophecy if their view of him was as an absolute pacifist?

Conclusion to Part 1

So far we have seen that Boyd’s premises are based on faulty interpretations of certain passages of scripture in the NT, and therefore his premises are fallacious. Because his premises are fallacious so is the thesis which is built upon them.

We have seen enough from the gospels regarding Jesus acting out in at least a mildly violent way and teaching things about God that coincide with the depiction of God in the OT which Boyd repudiates, to see that Boyd’s thesis is false. We have seen that the depictions from the NT of Jesus in his eschatological return depict a violent carrying out of God’s vengeance. We have also seen how Messianic psalms from the OT which are applied to Jesus by NT authors depict violence in the messianic figure.

Part 2.