A Glimpse of Cross Vision

I would be very interested to read your comments on this article, Frank Viola’s interview with Greg Boyd:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/gregboydnew/

It’s a lengthy interview, in which Greg discusses some of the ideas in his latest books, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God and its shorter version Cross Vision.

The principal argument of Boyd’s work is that when you read the whole Bible – specifically the Old Testament – through the lens of the cross, all kinds of problems we have with the picture of an angry, violent OT God can disappear. In Boyd’s words

On the cross, God stoops to meet us, and to enter into solidarity with us, right where we are at, which is in bondage to sin and to Satan. And he does this to free us and to bring us where he wants us to be, which is united with him in Christ.  The cross is thus the paradigmatic example of God mercifully stooping to accommodate people in their fallen conditioning.

In a similar way, every time we prove ourselves incapable of living up to God’s ideal behaviour, God will Himself “stoop to accommodate” us. This even extends to allowing Himself to be portrayed in the Bible as something other than His “true” self, because culturally His people have been conditioned to believe that this is what a god is “supposed” to look like.

In fact, many passages that exalt Yahweh as a warrior contain phrases from songs that Israel’s neighbors sang to their own warrior deities. The biblical author just switched out the name of the pagan god and replaced it with Yahweh.

After reading the whole interview a few times I’m left with several thoughts. The first is that I want to read Cross Vision, and understand the reasoning – scriptural, cultural and logical – that lies behind Boyd’s claim. Because I very much want this to be true. To finally have a solution to one of the most troubling issues of Christian (and Jewish and Muslim) faith would be beyond exciting.

And that leads me to my next thought, which is that when something seems to be too good to be true, it usually is. This lens of the cross, while on the surface it seems totally Biblical, is surely just too simple. I find myself returning to Isaiah 55.

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.
‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’

Isaiah 55:8-9

And the most troubling thought of all is this: if I can use God’s “stooping to accommodate” as an explanation for the particular “atrocities” mentioned in the book, why can’t I use it to explain anything at all that I don’t like? And how can we tell the difference between the times that God is pleased with an action and the times that he is accommodating us? And how does this then apply outside of scripture, in our daily lives? What can we trust to be God’s genuine will? Do we just follow the 10 commandments and for everything else do our own thing, confident that God will accommodate us?

There are answers to these questions, the simplest one being that if the Holy Spirit dwells within us we can have confidence in what He says to us. But nevertheless I think Greg Boyd’s ideas are just as likely to unsettle as to comfort us, and if I can be sure of one thing, it’s that his books will not end the debate about the “Old Testament God”.

But I’m very much looking forward to reading more.

Advertisements

A Word of Encouragement

Last week I attended my seventh Big Church Day Out festival, and it was a wonderful event, as always.

Although the core focus of Big Church Day Out is Christian music, there is a wide variety of activities and entertainments, as well as opportunities to learn about, and contribute to, many great causes too. I highly recommend it.

In 2015 I took some time away from the music to watch the wonderful “An Evening With CS Lewis,” a charming, humorous and moving one-man show written and performed by David Payne.

I was so impressed with the play that when I saw that it was being staged again this year I marked it down as one of my ‘must see’ performances. I arrived at the venue in good time, found a seat close to the stage, and enjoyed another life-affirming evening.

My purpose here is not to write a review of the show, although I can once again thoroughly recommend that you go and see it if you get a chance. No, I wanted to tell you about the minutes after the actor left the stage.

It’s not my habit to seek out performers at the end of the evening, either for merchandise or selfies, but I felt compelled to walk up to Mr Payne and shake his hand. As I did so, I told him how moved I was by the show, and the fact that I had seen it last year and how keen I had been to see it again.

And that’s when I was surprised, because he was absolutely delighted to hear those words. He thanked me profusely, and I could see that his appreciation of my appreciation was totally genuine.

I was surprised because he had just received a lengthy standing ovation, and my compliment seemed trivial by comparison.

Later I understood the difference. To some extent the response of an audience is a matter of routine. I can’t call it perfunctory, but unless you’ve really blown it, the people who came to see you perform and got what they were expecting will, in return, give you what is expected of them, with a greater or lesser level of enthusiasm.

But when somebody takes the time to meet you and speak a word of encouragement to you individually from the heart, that’s an entirely different situation. A special connection is created between the two of you for those brief moments, and the result of that connection is powerful.

This reminds me of one of the most beautiful aspects of my Christian faith, and that is the personal relationship I have with Jesus. I don’t always feel as close to Him as I’d like to, but I can recall moments when He has walked up to me to share a word of encouragement, and those moments have created a powerful connection that continues to lift me when life gets tough.

And I’m also reminded that I don’t offer words of encouragement to others anywhere near as often as I should. I need to show my appreciation for the good things people do, and for who they are, not because it’s expected, but because it’s the right thing to do, and because it will lift them. Maybe I won’t see the same delight I saw in David Payne’s eyes, but I’ll know my words may be the encouragement they need either now or in the future.

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:10-11