Book Review: Cross Vision by Greg Boyd

@Daniel_Fisher, @Mervin_Bitikofer, @Marshall and others have interacted with great interest on the thread “Inerrancy and Mass Slaughter” Inerrancy and mass slaughter. I appreciate their insights.

I wonder who else has read Greg Boyd’s “Cross Vision” (or his lengthier work, “Crucifixion of the Warrior God”, of which “Cross Vision” is a summary. I would appreciate your thoughts on it.

To quote from his website, https://reknew.org/book/cross-vision-crucifixion-jesus-makes-sense-old-testament-violence/

“[Greg Boyd] shows how the death and resurrection of Jesus reframes the troubling violence of the Old Testament, how all of Scripture reveals God’s self-sacrificial love, and, most importantly, how we can follow Jesus’ example of peace.”

In background, Pastor Boyd set out a few years ago to write a book defending God’s violence in the OT. He came to the conclusion that it was impossible. As a result, he wrote the above.

Another helpful review is at http://mennoworld.org/2018/01/29/columns/book-review-cross-vision/

Onscript and Pete Enns also made podcasts with Greg Boyd:

Thanks.

My wife and I read Cross Vision aloud together about half a year ago. Overall it helped, even though I’m not fully convinced of Boyd’s approach.

Due to devotional habits and a fixation on “hard texts,” both of us in our own way had allowed the Old Testament to dominate our reading of Scripture. Spending day after day with devotions in Jeremiah can be wearying and distancing from God. Same with grappling with Moses’ treatment of the Midianites. Boyd’s book encouraged us to recenter on Jesus and allow the Bible’s direct words about Jesus a greater place in our daily thinking.

I disagreed with two parts of his approach. First, he tries to approach the text with a pre-modern mindset as if historical questions don’t matter. I think they do. It matters whether a story in the gospels tells us what Jesus did or is told by Jesus about what fictional characters did (or, as came up in another thread, if it’s a story told by Jesus that is modelled on what a nasty ruler did). Knowing that changes how we read and what we expect, and it would have made a difference for early readers and hearers as well (even pre-moderns!).

With Joshua, it matters whether the book is an eyewitness account told shortly after events unfolded, or a reshaping of stories passed down for centuries in order to explain how Israel should face exile. It matters whether the book arose when Israel was still surrounded by Canaanites or after Canaanites were no more real than Orcs. Those details change expectations by allowing us to see different motivations and purposes in the writing. To ignore all that makes no more sense than saying, “I know this looks like a parable about a man named Lazarus, but I’m going to assume it’s real and try to figure out why Abraham is in charge of the afterlife.”

Second, his approach seems too neat. When a portrait of God conflicts with what Jesus reveals on the cross, it’s another case of God bearing the people’s sins. People are allowed to make God look bad, whether like a criminal on a cross or a genocidal madman. I do think there’s something to this, but I don’t think this approach can be applied as universally as Boyd does. The problem isn’t that he picks and chooses – it’s that he uses the same technique everywhere. As a result, the Old Testament can’t really tell us anything about God we don’t already know from Jesus. Even if Boyd himself doesn’t fall into this trap (his readings often seem careful and nuanced), I wonder if his approach could lead others to dismiss tough texts too quickly.

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Thanks; good thoughts above. It seems he fleshes things out better in his Reknew online comments, though I agree that I felt similarly about some of the concerns you had.

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