GREGORY BOYD’S “CROSS VISION:” GOD IN A MASK, A CRITIQUE

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[Note: Page numbers refer to Boyd’s Cross Vision: How the Crucifixion of Jesus Makes Sense of Old Testament Violence (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN 2017, 2018). Cross Vision is a shorter version of Boyd’s two volume work, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament’s Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross (Fortress Press, 2017).

 

The main theme of Boyd’s book is that God allowed the Old Testament authors and Israel to view and depict him as a pagan war god since they were not able to understand who God was due to their cultural and religious ancient near east (ANE) limitations. Boyd offers biblical texts and ideas in support of this thesis, such as stating that any violent act attributed to Yahweh is against the non-violent Jesus on the cross and has to be interpreted in that light. Boyd writes that he came to this understanding after he stopped trying “to justify the violence that some Old Testament authors ascribe to God” (51).

 

This article is divided into three sections: the first section on the first two chapters, the second section on chapters 3 to 6, and the third section on the rest of the book.

 

 

God’s and Israel’s Horrors

These first chapters set the tone of the book, offering Boyd’s view of the Old Testament. I discuss examples given by Boyd and give responses.

 

Example 1, The Canaanites

Boyd depicts a Canaanite couple with a baby getting slaughtered by the Hebrews and has the Hebrews shouting “Praise Yahweh! Yahweh is great!” Boyd makes this as grisly and uncharitable as he can, stirring up the reader’s emotions.

 

Of course, this is not in the biblical text. Boyd clearly is bringing to the reader’s mind a scene that sounds like Muslims shouting “Allah is great” as they do something horrific, like blowing something up.

 

Issues

What Boyd rejects is God’s judgment being carried out through Israel.

 

Boyd also ignores or is ignorant of how steeped in sin the Canaanites were.

 

Response

Apologist and theologian Clay Jones has an excellent response to the critics of the war on Canaan. He points out that we ourselves do not hate sin and so we do not understand the depth of the wickedness of the pagan cultures in Canaan, and how this was so offensive to God that he brought judgment on them (Deut. 9:5).

 

Jones writes:

 

The Bible is unambiguous concerning what sins they committed, including idolatry, incest, adultery, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and bestiality.” From Jones’ paper, “We Don’t Hate Sin So We Don’t Understand What Happened to the Canaanites.” See the video of this talk “Killing the Canaanites Was Justified Capital Punishment”

 

Sexual sins and perversions abounded, as well as child sacrifice. This is why God forbids things like bestiality and offering children to false gods. These cultures were steeped in such sins. As Jones points out, the idolatry was conducive to these sins, and there was a mindset that accepted them.

 

The pagan gods themselves practiced many sexual perversions, such as bestiality (see Jones’ paper).

 

Another article explains:

 

In Canaanite religion, the god Ba’al raped his sister Anath ~80 times while she took the form of a female cow. This is the unholy trinity: incest, rape, and bestiality all rolled into one. Consequently, if the gods raped one another, then so should the worshippers. The Canaanites would commit sacred prostitution to stimulate their fertility gods to bless their crops. Sacred prostitution was “widespread among the fertility cults of the ancient Near Eastern world that saw in its employment a means of achieving productivity of plant, animal, and even human life.” From “What About the Canaanite Genocide” on the Evidence Unseen site (this article gives good archeological and historical sources of the atrocities and perversions committed by Canaanites).

 

It is ironic that Boyd talks about a young couple with a baby when it is just as likely that they would have offered this baby to a pagan god (under compulsion or not). Viewing these people as a modern loving couple enjoying the day with their child as we might in ignorance think of it and as the way Boyd depicts them does not match the Bible, history, or the primary source documents from the Canaanites themselves (see Clay Jones’ paper and Evidence Unseen article).

 

I agree with Dr. Jones that we probably have not even the faintest hint of what such a culture was like and how horrific it was. Why not depict this couple preparing a child for sacrifice to a god? Or committing bestiality? These are unpleasant things to think of but they are in the biblical text, apparently dismissed by Boyd. This is not to dismiss or downgrade the tragedy of anyone’s death, but only to give perspective as opposed to Boyd’s rose-colored glasses views.

 

Example 2, After the Golden Calf

After the Hebrews had worshipped the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, Moses received a command from God for the Levites to execute those who had worshipped the calf (Ex. 32:26-28). Boyd words it this way: “Yahweh is depicted as telling Moses” to do this. He also writes that Moses saw this “bloodbath as an act of worship.”

 

Response

Boyd writes it as though God is merely “depicted” as having told Moses to give this order to the Levites, when the text has Moses saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel,” before giving the order. We discover later that Boyd thinks Moses expected God to have the rebels killed, so that is what he heard.

 

Nothing in the text indicates that Moses thought the Levites’ actions were an act of worship. Moses calls on the Levites to dedicate themselves to the Lord, perhaps because they were part of this action. The text does not indicate a reason but it is not depicted as an act of worship.

 

Example 3, Numbers Chapter 31

Numbers 31 is a difficult chapter attracting many critics and there are many commentaries and articles on it, so some sources will be quoted or given rather than offering another explanation. God tells Moses to have the men attack the Midianites. After this, the Hebrews take the women and young children as well as animals and goods back to Moses. Moses rebukes them:

 

And Moses said to them, “Have you spared all the women? Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.” Vv. 15-18

 

Boyd writes that the Hebrew men take the virgins as “spoils of war” and implies they were raped. He states this is what happened in these cultures at the time and that is true, except for Israel for whom rape was forbidden. Boyd also refers to the “violent mindset of God’s people.” There is no indication of such a mindset; Boyd is reading his bias into the text. The battles were not from violent mindsets but waged at the command of God as his judgment.

 

Responses

There are many articles responding to the critics. Got Questions writes that the virgins “were made servants or taken as wives. Deuteronomy 21:10-4  delineated the process by which an Israelite man could marry a female prisoner of war.”

 

The Got Question article continues:

 

• Sparing the virgins was just, as they were innocent in the sin that prompted the battle.

Keeping the virgins was merciful, as they had nothing to go home to—the Midianite towns and encampments were destroyed. The conflict left the girls with no protection or provision. As per Moses’ instructions, the girls lived and were absorbed into Israelite families.

• The virgins were not raped. Numbers 31 does not mention rape, and the Bible never condones rape. In any passage dealing with the conquest of Canaan (which fulfilled the curse on Canaan in Genesis 9:25), there is never a command to rape or torture, and there is never an account of it occurring. If rape did take place, it was a crime in violation of the law of God. Deuteronomy 21:10–14 strongly implies that a POW could not be treated as a sex object.

According to the custom of the day, girls were married around the age of 13, so the virgins older than that were probably taken as wives. The younger girls were taken into families, provided for, trained, and most likely worked for the families as servants. They would eventually be assimilated into Israelite culture and trained in the ways of the Lord. Later, in Joshua 9, something similar happens with the Gibeonites. From Got Questions

 

Other responses to Numbers 31 include:

Apologetics Press

 

Evidence Unseen

 

Boyd’s View of God

Boyd gives many more examples of what he considers to be violent and cruel acts done at the command of God. In a video about violence in the Old Testament with John Mark Comer and Tim Mackie, Mackie refers to Boyd’s book (this one from what I could gather). The discussion yielded the idea that God was allowing the Israelites to think of God as a tribal war god.

 

Boyd’s tactic is to say that since Jesus is so loving and compassionate, we must see everything in the Old Testament from a Christ perspective. In other words, what we see in the Old Testament is not the true God because, according to Boyd, it does not match the character of Jesus.

 

While I agree that we see Christ in the Old Testament, it is not true that the God of the Old Testament does not harmonize with Jesus. Jesus is also depicted in warlike ways in Revelation. (In a Comer-Mackie discussion of Revelation, Mackie asserts that the warlike imagery is a metaphor for Christ’s victory over evil and Satan.)

 

Favoring Parts of Scripture Over Others

Although Boyd writes several times that the Bible is God’s inspired word, his hermeneutic does not seem to honor that. In Chapter 2, Boyd writes about Jesus Christ as the supreme revelation of God, that he is the image of God and superior to the Old Testament laws. This is all true (the book of Hebrews is mostly about this).

 

Boyd seems to twist this into the idea that we are to view God only through what we know of Jesus and that “nothing in Scripture should ever be interpreted in a way that qualifies or competes with his [Jesus} revelation of God” (p. 20).

 

Boyd believes that the God of the Old Testament is “vengeful and jealous and capable of doing horrible things like commanding genocide.” Since Christ is not like this, according to Boyd, he implies that then we can’t view the Old Testament God as God. He writes,

 

“So we should not treat the Bible as an independent source of information about God. It rather should be considered to be a source of information about God only insofar as it points to Jesus Christ.”

 

Whether one agrees with this or not, Boyd is putting qualifications on Scripture based on his own misunderstandings of and disagreements with events in the Old Testament. In a more extreme way, Boyd states that Christians who “treat all portraits of God in the Bible as equally true” are “inadvertently” treating Jesus as just the “best” manifestation of God rather than the supreme depiction of God (and it seems also rather than as a superior depiction of God over the Old Testament Yahweh) (24).

 

This is quite an accusation because it is pitting Jesus against Yahweh of the Hebrew Scriptures. Boyd believes that the biblical picture of Yahweh is wrong. This view also means that the revelation of Scripture cannot be trusted in all cases, since we are not to treat depictions of God in the Bible as “equally true.”

 

Boyd writes that the gospel of John contrasts the “grace and truth” of Jesus with the law of Moses in John 1:17. So although we “find glimpses of the true God” in what Moses wrote,

 

“John’s contrast requires us to that these writings lacked an element of truth as well as grace that was given only in the Son” (28).

 

So Yahweh in the Old Testament gave revelation to Moses that “lacked an element of truth as well as grace?” How else to take what Boyd is claiming?

 

The law is contrasted in the Old Testament with grace but the New Testament also tells us that no one was ever saved by the law and it was not given for salvation (see the books of Hebrews and Galatians). It was given to show the righteous character of God and how sinful man was so that man could realize only God could save him. The contrast of law vs. grace is irrelevant to the authority of God’s word being superior in one part over another.

 

The Yahweh that Boyd decries is also the Redeemer and Savior in the Old Testament who did save people by faith through his grace. So Boyd is wrong to say that grace was given only in the Son. Yes, Christ’s death on the cross atoned for all who believe, but God did not withhold grace in the Old Testament although the revelation of Jesus was not explicit.

 

Boyd sets up a false dichotomy between the God of the Old Testament scriptures and Jesus Christ that is misleading, confusing, and false.

 

Jesus vs. the Old Testament

Boyd continues in this vein of Old vs. New Testament and writes that Jesus ignored or rebelled against some Old Testament laws. He gives several examples, a few of which are addressed here.

 

Example 1, Defiling

He gives the example of Jesus teaching in Mark 7 that nothing that goes into a man defiles him, but rather it is what comes from his heart. Boyd claims that this goes against the dietary laws from Moses. However, in context, Jesus’ statement was a rebuke to the Pharisees whose ceremonial handwashing was a “tradition from men” (Mark 7:8), not a law from God. Jesus was not denigrating the dietary laws. Boyd claims that the statement in Mark 7:19 that Jesus’ statement made “all foods clean” was against the dietary laws.

 

Since many believe that the Gospel of Mark was Mark writing the words of Peter (see “Why Four Gospels” by Alan Black), many commentators have noted that this statement is a side note from Peter based on his experience with the sheet coming down in his vision on the roof (Acts 10: 9-16).

 

Others believe it refers to Jesus’s statement that the nourishing part of food goes to the stomach while the unneeded parts are eliminated, thus the food is purged. No one believes Jesus was rejecting the dietary laws.

 

Example 2, The woman with the hemorrhage

Boyd points out that while Jesus heals a woman with a hemorrhage who touches the hem of his robe, this violated the law that women who were bleeding (menses) was not to “touch anyone until they had purified themselves.” Boyd writes that Jesus praised her faith rather than “rebuking her as a lawbreaker.”

 

However, the relevant text speaks of whoever touches the woman, and of objects touched by the woman becoming unclean (Lev. 15:19-28). The words forbidding the woman to touch anyone are not in Leviticus. The woman touches the robe of Jesus; Jesus cannot be unclean because it is impossible for God the Son to become unclean, especially from a ceremonial law. Perhaps the robe would be considered unclean, but this is a moot point since she did not technically violate any law that I can see. Also, we do not know what caused her bleeding.

 

Example 3, The woman caught in adultery

Boyd claims that Jesus “subverted” the law when the woman accused of adultery was brought to him in John chapter eight.

 

The Jews were under Roman rule and were not supposed to carry out executions on their own. Secondly, according to Deuteronomy 19:15, two or three witnesses are needed. The men who brought this woman to Jesus did not seem to have offered witnesses, they only said she had been caught in the act. Thirdly, they did not bring the man involved with her. Both parties of adultery were to face judgment.

 

By not bringing witnesses or the guilty man, the woman’s accusers were not observing the law. Even if one of the men was a witness, they failed to accuse the man who was involved. Ironically, Jesus judged the men who brought the woman to him rather than judging the woman, although he told her to sin no more.

 

The text tells us that the men were testing Jesus so “that they might have grounds for accusing him” (John 8:6). The men were more concerned with testing Jesus than seeing justice. The text then states that Jesus stooped and wrote on the ground with his finger. My Old Testament professor, Dr. Thomas H. Howe, said he thinks Jesus was writing the ten commandments, or maybe the commandment about adultery, because this is reminiscent of the law given to Moses – “tablets of stone written by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). In other words, Jesus wrote the law, he knew it better than the men who came to test him.

 

Rather than subverting the law, Jesus followed it and went beyond that in passing righteous judgment on the men, thus turning the tables on them.

 

Example 4, An eye for an eye

Boyd writes that Jesus “audaciously” told his hearers in Matthew 5:38-39 to set aside the Old Testament law of an “eye for an eye” found in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:19-20; and Deuteronomy19:21 (Exodus and Leviticus have to do with injury while the Deuteronomy passage has to do with a false accusation and reads differently). Boyd states this again in the next chapter, that Jesus “called to set aside the Old Testament’s laws of just retaliation (42).

 

But Jesus was not telling anyone to set aside the law. The law had been given to judges to prevent unjust punishments and restrain the desire for vengeance, but apparently the people had been misusing these commands for retaliation. Several commentators on Bible Hub note this:

 

“Though this statute was only intended as a direction to judges, with regard to the penalties to be inflicted in case of violent and barbarous assaults; yet it was interpreted among the Jews as encouraging a rigorous and severe revenge of every injury a man might receive.”

 

“Christ finds no fault with the rule as applied to magistrates, and does not take upon himself to repeal it. But instead of confining it to magistrates, the Jews had extended it to private conduct, and made it the rule by which to take revenge. They considered themselves justified by this rule to inflict the same injury on others that they had received. Our Saviour remonstrates against this. He declares that the law had no reference to private revenge, that it was given only to regulate the magistrate, and that their private conduct was to be governed by different principles.”

 

Nothing in the text indicates that Jesus was intending for judges to allow violators of the law to go free and unpunished. Jesus was not addressing the judges. Instead, Jesus gives four examples of where to apply this: when someone slaps (insults) you; when someone sues you for your clothes; and when someone forces you to march (this was done by Roman soldiers); and to give to those who ask.

 

What Jesus was getting at was to not be vengeful and to not seek retaliation. The Jews could not appeal to these laws as a basis for taking revenge.

 

Boyd’s Error

Boyd refers to the Old Testament being a “shadow” of things to come, and reiterates this later by writing that the “Old Testament is a shadow of the reality” of Christ (45). However, Hebrews 10:1 (also Hebrews 8:4-5) is speaking of the law as a shadow, not the whole content of the Old Testament! Although the Old Testament points to and prophecies the Messiah, this does not mean that we can set aside the actions of God in the Old Testament, which is what Boyd is strongly implying.

 

Boyd believes he is making the point in these examples that Jesus’ words have superior authority “that trumps any prophets leading up to him.” While it is true that God said to listen to his son (Luke 9:35; Heb. 1:1-2) and Jesus is certainly superior in nature to the prophets and is the very image of God, God’s authority is not less in any part of his word than any other part. Jesus is the revelation of who God is, and is God. But this in no way diminishes the authority of Scripture prior to Christ.

 

Interpretation of the Old Testament is enhanced and understood in the New Testament, especially prophetic passages; and application of Old versus New Testament passages differs, but the authority is equal in both Old and New Testaments.

 

Chapters 3 to 6: God as Tribal War Deity

Missteps

In chapter three, Boyd discusses the centrality of the cross, using the term “cruciform” repeatedly. Much of this chapter is biblical and focused on the sacrifice of Jesus. However, he does this to make his point that everything in the Bible must be seen through the cross, and in a way that Boyd thinks it should be done, which involves convoluted ideas about God and the biblical authors in the Old Testament.

 

There are missteps, such as when he repeats his incorrect view that Jesus set aside some Old Testament laws (addressed above).

 

At the end of the chapter, Boyd refers to the “genocide” that God ordered his people to engage in and asks how can that point to the “non-violent, self-sacrificial, enemy-embracing love of God that is supremely revealed on the cross?”

 

Boyd asserts that these actions in the Old Testament cannot be defended, and to attempt to do so means we have not fully trusted in the fact that the crucified Christ is the “full revelation of God’s character.” He then repeats an idea from the previous chapter that the Old Testament is only a “shadow” pointing to the reality but that it’s a “mere shadow.”

 

Response

First of all, there was no genocide. Genocide means the attempt to stamp out or kill a race. The Canaanites were the same race as the Israelites. This was not done because of race hatred or prejudice.

 

Secondly, as stated earlier the Old Testament was not a shadow; it was the laws that were a shadow (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 8:4-5, 10:1). Boyd continues to refer to the Old Testament as a “mere shadow” and how there you are “trapped in darkness.”

 

This is very disparaging of the Old Testament, which, after all, contains the creation account; the story of God’s people and how he guided and protected them; the poetic and wisdom books; the miracles done by God and some of the prophets; the many Messianic prophecies and other prophecies; and a record of God’s revelation of himself. But Boyd would disagree with the part that the Old Testament reveals who God is.

 

God Bearing Sin By Pretending to Be Someone Else

Chapter four brings us fully into Boyd’s thesis. The New Testament, particularly the cross, “reframes” the Old Testament’s “disturbing portrait of God” and “Jesus tends to turn out common assumptions about God on its head.”

 

So the assertion is that Jesus allegedly helps us see that we are wrong about God’s revelation of who he is in the Old Testament.

 

Boyd refers to chapter 13 of Jeremiah as an example. In this chapter, God gives a message to Judah through Jeremiah that due to their unfaithfulness and worship of other gods, invaders will come and they will be taken into captivity by peoples “from the North” and God will not “show pity or compassion” (verse 14). It is a grim warning and prophecy.

 

Boyd’s comment on this is that:

 

“We must assess this ugly surface appearance of God to be a reflection of Jeremiah’s own fallen, culturally conditioned, ugly conception of God.”

 

Boyd thinks God did not really say this, only that Jeremiah thought it or thought God said it due to Jeremiah’s sinful nature, but God allowed it because God “is stooping to bear Jeremiah’s sinful conception of him.” This picture of God is a “literary crucifixion” explains Boyd, that reflects the historical crucifixion.

 

This is a convoluted and erroneous way of looking at Scripture but Boyd uses this hermeneutic to explain all the scenarios he considers to be violent or ugly in the Old Testament. He calls Jeremiah’s depiction of God “mercilessly violent.”

 

Of course, we know that Judah was taken into captivity, and if we read the whole of Jeremiah 13, we can see why. They had fallen into depravity, undoubtedly from the worship of other gods, at least in part. God had pleaded with them to repent through his prophets but they had not done so. Boyd ignores this.

 

We also know that God eventually engineers the release of his people after 70 years and most return to Jerusalem. God continued to be their God and returned them to their land and provided leaders to rebuild the Temple, the walls, and the city.

 

Indirect Revelations

The Bible is infallible, Boyd writes, but that does not mean that the Bible will “conform” to standards of historical, scientific, literary, or logical perfection” (56). I disagree, but others have already responded to those issues. God inspired the Bible, states Boyd, to point us to Jesus, especially to the cross.

 

Boyd writes a rather confusing statement about “God’s breathing” (inspiring) Scripture:

 

“…so what results from God’s breathing reflects not only God acting toward us, but also God allowing us to act toward him.”

 

This is where Boyd’s Open Theism peeks through (it may have been there earlier and I missed it but it jumps out in this chapter). He explains that God allowed humanity’s sin to “act on him” and “to condition the way he appeared.” God responded to man’s sin by allowing biblical writers like Jeremiah to portray God wrongly because God would not coerce anyone into seeing him correctly and thought the people were too limited to see who he really is.

 

In any way that the depiction of God deviates from the “cruciform character of God” (Jesus on the cross) is an “indirect revelation” in which God is stooping to man’s sinful and culturally conditioned view of him and allowing it. This makes God complicit in this deception.

 

Boyd later quotes a third century theologian who said that the Israelites viewed God “not as God was, but as the people were able to understand him” (72), and Boyd reasons that

 

“In his love, God was willing to allow his people to think of him along the lines of an ANE warrior deity…<snip>…in order to progressively influence them to the point where they eventually would be capable of receiving the truth that he is actually radically unlike these violent ANE deities.” (73-74)
[Note: ANE means Ancient Near East]

 

So God allowed people to see him wrongly, including his prophets, for several thousand years just so that eventually they would realize that he was really not who they thought he was. Boyd uses the term a “violent ANE warrior deity” later to describe how God let himself be depicted (97).

 

What Boyd is stating is that God basically tricked the Old Testament audience by allowing a wrong revelation of who he is according to their own cultural and sinful bias. This, according to Boyd, is an example of who God’s love, that he allows man to act on him and “stoops” to meet their low expectations. This is Boyd’s “cornerstone” for how to interpret the “violent portrayals” of God “so that they bear witness to the cross” (59).

 

More Open Theism

In the next chapter, Boyd defends his view that God changes, moves through time, experiences surprise, changes his mind, becomes disappointed, and reacts to man because Jesus did these things. Yes, Jesus did these things (although I don’t think Jesus was ever surprised) because Jesus was also fully man. So in his humanity, Jesus experienced those things as a man. But his deity was not altered; Jesus remained fully God.

 

Boyd refers to the works of other Open Theists in the footnotes and later repeats the statement about God allowing the “fallen and culturally conditioned state of the people to act on him.”

 

Boyd offers more arguments for his view, which I find weak, but time and space prevent going into those.

 

The Heavenly Missionary

In chapter 6, Boyd writes about God as a “heavenly missionary” who accommodates himself to man by allowing polygamy, the monarchy (both of these so that he can appear as an ANE deity), divorce, the OT law, and prescribing animal sacrifices. I will address only the sacrifices because the other areas have already been addressed by many people.

 

Animal Sacrifices

Boyd is disturbed by the animal sacrifices and writes that he finds a description of how the priest had to wring the head off of a pigeon to be sacrificed and the actions that followed in Leviticus 1 to be bizarre. (I think that it was to give the pigeon a quick death).

 

Boyd does not understand how the aroma of an offering could be “pleasing” to the Lord and finally concludes that it is because the ANE people thought their pagan gods could smell the sacrifices made to them, which the people believed the gods ate. The smell indicated there was food for them and excited them.

 

Here and prior to this, we see that Boyd is deep into using the ANE filter to interpret the Old Testament. Boyd claims that Yahweh accommodated himself to the pagan view that the aroma of sacrifices pleased him because he was allowing himself to be viewed as a pagan god. This is, in my view, a blasphemous view of God.

 

In fact, Boyd claims that the Israelites adopted animal sacrifice from their pagan neighbors and then God merely accommodated himself to this “ancient barbaric ritual as a means of increasing the Israelites’ loyalty and to teach them some important truths” (91). Boyd admits that the sacrifices came to represent the need for repentance and the consequences of breaking the covenant, but he also asserts that the sacrifices originated with the Israelites copying the pagans.

 

The fact that Yahweh actually “despised” these sacrifices, claims Boyd, proves that he was merely accommodating himself to the Israelites. Boyd quotes Hosea 6:6 and Hebrews 10:8 as evidence. However, the sacrifices that displeased God were the ones done in hypocrisy, when the people were not obeying God and even worshiping other gods, but were still sacrificing animals. This was a charade and God rebuked them for it. Hosea 6 is about how Israel had “transgressed the covenant” (as is Isaiah 1, which Boyd also refers to). God wanted his people to listen to him and to obey and to repent over the sacrifices.

 

The animal sacrifices were only a representation of sins being taken away and God forgave out of mercy and grace. They also pointed toward the real and final sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

 

Yes, the animal sacrifices are disturbing. My Old Testament professor Dr. Howe remarked how the people must have hated to see all the blood from the animals and how it impressed on them the high cost of sin being death (Rom. 6:23). This was vividly illustrated in the animal sacrifices.

 

Whenever a person sins, the law has the power to take that person’s life. It has such power over us that, for our debt to be paid, a life is required. Nothing less is suitable to expiate sin. In the symbolism of the sin and trespass offerings, the life of an animal is given, covering the indebtedness and breaking the power the law has over us.
In actual practice, the ritual proceeded like this: The offerer brought his animal before the priest and then laid his hand upon the head of his offering. Symbolically, a transfer took place so that the animal is understood as portraying the sinner making the offering. The animal then died, and the penalty was considered paid…<snip>…The sin and trespass offerings picture a convicted sinner coming before God to receive the judgment of death. However, the animal’s death portrays Christ’s vicarious death in our stead, for in reality, since He is the offering, our sins have been transferred to Him. In this way, we are atoned for and redeemed
.”  (Source)

 

But Boyd writes that God had to

 

“be willing to suffer and let his people and let his people go on believing that he demanded and enjoyed the butchery of animals, just as the other ANE gods did.”

 

Boyd perceives God as bloodthirsty and sadistic, ignoring the wider contexts of the sacrifices and God’s willingness to pardon the people through these sacrifices. The first animal sacrifice (and I believe therefore the first animal death) was in the Garden when God slayed an animal for its skin to clothe Adam and Eve, thus foreshadowing how man’s sins are covered by the blood of Christ.

 

CHAPTERS 7-15: Further Distortions of Yahweh

The Rorschach God

One of Boyd’s theses is that the authors of the Old Testament saw what they wanted and expected to see, based on their understanding of the ANE pagan gods. God allowed this, according to Boyd, because Israel and the Old Testament authors could only understand God as a pagan tribal warrior god.

 

Boyd pictures this as God “stooping” down to take on man’s sin-laden views and mirroring the sin back to man (this statement is found throughout the book), and Boyd sees it as a humble act analogous to Christ’s humility in dying on the cross.

 

Boyd uses Psalm 18:25-26 to support his idea of God allowing Israel to view him as a pagan god:

 

With the kind You show Yourself kind;
With the blameless You show Yourself blameless;
With the pure You show Yourself pure,
And with the crooked You show Yourself astute.

 

Boyd’s version has the words in the last line as “but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.” Boyd goes on to say that the Hebrew for “shrewd” can be translated as “devious” or “deceptive,” and that it showing that God appears “twisted” to those who are devious. Supposedly, the expectations of the OT authors caused them to see God this twisted way.

 

One example Boyd give is Moses; when God told Moses he had land for his people, Boyd explains that actually Moses heard God saying “I want you to slaughter the Canaanites.” In other words, God never told Moses to fight, it was only what Moses expected God to say (117). Boyd claims we should not believe what Moses wrote about conquering the Canaanites because this command to exterminate the Canaanites was “under a curse” that conflicts with the cross (he misuses the Galatians 1:8 warning on another gospel for this ).

 

However, the OT authors and prophets were not “devious,” and they were receiving words via the Holy Spirit. The ANE view of pagan gods was not how the biblical writers saw God since he was giving them direct revelation. God is never twisted or deceptive nor reveals himself that way to anyone.

 

As one Bible Hub commenter on the Psalm 18 passage, Gill, writes:

 

It cannot mean here that God would assume such a character, or that he would be crooked, crafty, perverse in his dealings with men, for no one can suppose that the psalmist meant to ascribe such a character to God; but the meaning plainly is, that God would deal with the man referred to according to his real character: instead of finding that God would deal with them as if they were pure, and righteous, and merciful, such men would find that he deals with them as they are – as perverse, crooked, wicked.

 

What this means is that God will deal with people based on their actions; there is a consequence to their behavior. This has nothing to do with God being a “Rorschach God,” as Boyd calls him (this is the chapter’s title).

 

Denial of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Boyd writes that what Jesus suffered on the cross was “divine abandonment” when God allowed Jesus to be handed over to the authorities to be crucified. This “divine abandonment” was the “cup of wrath” referred to by Jesus. But this is contrary to many scriptures that teach Jesus bore the penalty of sins vicariously for sinners and suffered according to God’s will (and the will of Jesus). It takes away from God’s righteous wrath on sin.

 

Boyd explains that God tries to warn people and holds back from allowing them to suffer the consequences of their sin until they are firm in rejecting God, then he allows the consequences. Nobody suffers God’s wrath in Boyd’s scenario, only the consequences of their sin. Boyd maintains that these consequences are identified as God’s wrath. Boyd diminishes God’s wrath on sin even further later in the book.

 

Distorting Meaning of Punishment from God

Organic Consequences of Sin

In chapter 10 Boyd expands on this idea of punishment, continuing his case for claiming that the Hebrew words translated as “judgment” (he claims there is no distinct Hebrew word for “punishment”) refer to the organic consequences of sin. Because the Israelites thought God was like a pagan deity, they believed that he judged and punished sin.

 

Boyd cites numerous passages such as Hosea 10:13 which support the view that people suffer consequences of sin, and he cites Romans 1:21-24 about God “giving over” people to their sins. I agree with this; however, this does not mean God is not judging nor that there are not consequences beyond the “organic” consequences of sin.

 

God speaks of taking vengeance in many passages, which is beyond mere consequences (Lev. 26:25; Deut. 32:43; 2 Kings 9:7-10; Is. 1:24; Jer. 5:9 – repeated in 5:29 and 9:9; 46:10, 50:15, 51:36; and Nahum 1:2). The word in the foregoing passages is “naqam” which means “to avenge, to take vengeance, to avenge oneself, from a root word meaning “avenge” or “punish.” Of course, Boyd sees this stemming from the authors’ misconception of God as a pagan war deity. Since God allowed them to have this view without correcting them, then the text is inspired, according to Boyd.

 

Example from Exodus 12

Boyd uses an example from Exodus 12. He points out that first God states he will strike down the firstborn of man and beast (except those who have marked their doorways with blood), but in verse 23, it states the when the Lord sees the blood on the lintels, he will not allow “the destroyer” to enter those homes. Boyd is cheered by this because it means God did not kill anyone, the destroyer did. Boyd concludes:

 

“The very fact that this author’s own narrative indicates that Yahweh engaged in the violence….<snip>…confirms that his violent portrait of God reflects his fallen and culturally conditioned assumptions about God” (164).

 

There is no clear indication in the text on who the destroyer was. In other passages, there is a seeming angel of death who strikes people down or brings pestilence as in Second Samuel 24, where the angel is referred to as “the angel of the Lord,” thought by many (including myself) to refer to the preincarnate Christ. Second Kings 19 refers to “the angel of the Lord” as the one who “went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians” (verse 35; this is repeated in Is. 37:36). In Numbers 22:22-24, it is “the angel of the Lord” with a drawn sword in his hand. This is ironic in light of the major thesis that Boyd’s book rests on: that Jesus is non-violent and everything in the Bible must be interpreted in that light, including actions of Yahweh in the Old Testament. Well, here we have what are references to the pre-incarnate Christ striking people down (see also 2 Kings 19:35).

 

Boyd’s theory is very convoluted and means that we cannot trust the words of the text. Yet Boyd confidently asserts that he believes the Bible is God-breathed because God allowed the authors to depict him wrongfully as a pagan war god because that was what they understood. This is a faulty and tortuous way to understand the Bible’s words as God-breathed.

 

God Withdraws Protection

Another way God punishes, states Boyd, is by withdrawing his protection, as in Lamentations 2:3. Boyd offers Jeremiah 12:12 in which God states that his sword “will devour from one end of the land to another” but the situation ends up with God not doing anything overtly, but rather with God giving Israel into the “hands of her enemies” (v. 7).

 

This seems to be splitting hairs. God may not be directly waging the war, but he is allowing Israel’s enemies to do so, and it is done according to his plan and supervision. When disasters came as God predicted, it was God’s doing, even if he used people for it, as he usually did in many Bible accounts. Yet Boyd tries to ascribe such events only to the Assyrians and Babylonians.

 

In discussing the incident in Lamentations, Boyd is relieved that “the atrocious portraits of God” in that passage “reflect Jeremiah’s own ANE interpretation of how God was involved in this judgment, not the way God was actually involved” (168).

 

Reading Scripture with Boyd’s hermeneutic would mean believing that any text about violent activity predicted by God is not really what God was saying, it was only the author’s ANE view distorting what God said. Boyd is so compulsive about preserving his image of a non-violent God that he has come up with a backwards way of interpreting Scripture and seeing God. Moreover, this method means God is allowing and concurring with deception, a deception that causes the biblical authors to deliberately see God as he is not, as a pagan tribal deity.

 

The No Knowledge Explanation

Another point Boyd often brings up are the passages referring to people not knowing God (such as Hosea 4:1 and Jer. 4:22) to support his claim that God allowed his people to have a distorted view of him as a pagan god, so they did not know who God really was. However, this phrase is used of people who are choosing to ignore and disobey God to worship other gods:

 

“Your sons have forsaken Me
And (sworn by those who are not gods.
When I had fed them to the full,
They committed adultery
And trooped to the harlot’s house.”
 Jer. 5:7

 

For My people are foolish,
They know Me not;
They are stupid children
And have no understanding.
They are shrewd to do evil,
But to do good they do not know.
” Jer. 4:22

 

The context is that the people chose not to acknowledge God as he revealed himself. They rejected the knowledge of God in order to serve other gods. It is not that God was pretending to be a pagan god in order to “stoop” to their level, as Boyd claims, that caused the people to not know God. Rather, it is that the people were willfully giving desiring other gods, thus turning away from Yahweh and darkening their minds with idolatry. Romans 1:18-19 tells us:

 

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”

 

God holds people accountable for knowing there is a Creator God but they can choose to suppress or ignore that and put another god or anything in God’s place. God reveals his character in the Old Testament as he truly is, but in ignoring or rejecting that revelation, the people chose other gods. Therefore, it is stated that there was no knowledge of God, not because God was holding back who he really is.

 

A Satan With Too Much Power

In the last section, Boyd discusses how disasters are wielded and directed by Satan and rebel powers. He sets the stage for this by appealing to passages that supposedly show Satan has authority, such as 1 John 5:9, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2, and Revelation 11:15.

 

Boyd states that although

 

“Jesus and his followers believed God was the ultimate ruler over creation, these passages state that currently Satan is the functional ruler of this world” (180).

 

I have an issue with Boyd’s words that Jesus “believed” that God was the ruler. Jesus did not believe anything because he knew/knows things. He does not have to believe anything. And is Boyd saying that Jesus (and his followers) were wrong that God is actually the ruler? Is Boyd making a distinction between an “ultimate” and a “functional” ruler (the two words are in italics in Boyd’s text)?

 

Boyd also writes that the Jews believed that evil “cosmic agents had originally been given authority over aspects of human nature and human society” and that this is the “perspective of the New Testament” (181). The Jews may have believed that, but there is no biblical support that fallen angels or “cosmic agents” had authority to rule (unless one redefines “rule.” The only authority they could have had would have been given by God and no text supports that idea (God allows Satan to do things, as with Job, but this is not giving authority to Satan).

 

Here are the three passages Boyd cites:

 

“in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

“in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.”

 

“We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

 

In context, the idea is that those who do not want or reject truth or God/Jesus are choosing to be under the influence of Satan, whether believing in Satan or not. Satan has influence, not authority. The reason the world lies in the power of Satan is because the world is fallen, and fallen humanity cooperates with Satan’s influence because they do not want God.

 

In fact, the story of God’s people in the Old Testament is a story of people vowing to obey God and then choosing to turn away and worship idols. There are too many passages to list but anyone who has read and knows the Old Testament knows this is true. When idols are chosen, then the people forget God and their hearts become dull:

 

“They made Him jealous with strange gods;
With abominations they provoked Him to anger.
They sacrificed to demons who were not God,
To gods whom they have not known,
New gods who came lately,
Whom your fathers did not dread.
You neglected the Rock who begot you,
And forgot the God who gave you birth.”
Deut. 32:16-18

 

Jesus refers to the hardening of God’s people to his voice in Matthew 13:14-16, and that statement yields cross-references to many verses. A few that make the point in particular are:

 

 “But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing.”  Zech. 7:11

 

And one for the future:

 

 “and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”  2 Tim. 4:4

 

Satan does not have authority, he has influence, as do the fallen angels. But that influence only goes as far as people are willing to stop listening to God and yield to temptation or to their own desires.

 

Boyd uses second temple views to interpret the biblical text, as when he points out how violent acts of Yahweh were replaced in the book of Jubilee with an evil figure named Matesma. Boyd’s claim is that Paul was doing the same thing when he wrote about the “destroyer” in First Corinthians 10:10:

 

“Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”

 

By using the word “destroyer,” Paul was allegedly recognizing that violent acts attributed to Yahweh in the Old Testament were committed by evil agents, not by God (184-185). Boyd asserts that Paul was re-interpreting the violent acts attributed to Yahweh just as Boyd is doing in this book (185).

 

However, as discussed earlier, many believe the angel who brought death in 2 Samuel 24 was the pre-incarnate Christ (in that passage, the term is “the angel of God” which, along with “the angel of the Lord,” may refer to the pre-incarnate Christ, and this is especially clear in passages like Gen. 21:16-18; Ex. 3:2; Numbers 22:32; Judges 13:20; and Ps. 34:7).

 

The other passages referring to a destroyer or angel that brings death (I could not find the phrase “angel of death” in the Bible) do not make the identity clear, but many commentators believe it was not a fallen angel. The angel in these cases seem willing to serve God as his holy angels do, although we do not know with certainty (my own view is that these are holy angels).

 

Instead of accepting the fact that the text does not tell us who the destroyer is, Boyd concludes it is an evil angel because his view is that Yahweh never committed any violence. Boyd has a particular viewpoint not based on the text and imposes it on the text.

 

Korah’s Rebellion

Another example Boyd discusses is Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16. After Korah and his cohorts challenged Moses and Aaron, God told Moses and Aaron to have those who did not rebel to separate themselves from Korah and his allies, and Moses tells everyone that if the men are guilty of defying the Lord, the ground will swallow them. This happened immediately, and they and their households fell in.

 

“But if the LORD brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will understand that these men have spurned the LORD.” (v. 30)

 

Boyd states that this account has parallels with Mot, a Canaanite god of death who resided under the earth and could consume people, living and dead. Boyd claims other passages also resemble the beliefs about Mot. For Boyd, this is evidence that Moses was thinking of Mot when he wrote about this event, and God did not do anything directly but simply allowed evil agents to take over.

 

Similarly, the fire referred to in verse 35 that consumes men who offered incense means that Moses was thinking of a fire-throwing Canaanite deity (Boyd also thinks this scenario explains the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah).

 

Boyd is claiming that the judgment from God was being carried out by Satan and/or evil agents (Boyd uses terms like “cosmic agents” or “cosmic forces” more than he uses the word “angels” leaving the reader to wonder what exactly he means) contrary to the text explicitly stating that it is Yahweh bringing these punishments about. Boyd cites several examples from the Old Testament in these chapters, applying the same principle to each.

 

Response
It is true that the Bible makes references to God in many passages that have parallels to known imagery about pagan gods found in ancient texts. Bible scholars have known this and many, like John Currid, have written how this is a polemical tactic. God takes what was said about pagan gods and has it said about him, such as Psalm 18:10b speaking of God gliding “on the wings of the wind,” and similar as in Psalm 104. This is to show that it is God who has authority and power over creation in contrast to the claims made about the false gods.

 

In Numbers 16, the text is showing us that it is not Mot or any pagan god that opens up the ground to swallow men, but that only Yahweh can open up the ground in such a way. This article cannot delve into this topic, but one good book I recommend on polemics, which is quite short, is John Currid’s, Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament.

 

The Flood, The Red Sea, Prophets, and Abraham

In the last chapters, Boyd discusses the flood in Genesis, the Red Sea drowning of Pharaoh’s army, alleged misuse of power by God’s prophets, and Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac. All are discussed here except the account of Abraham since Boyd uses a different approach on that, and due to time and space considerations.

 

In the cases of the Flood, the Red Sea, and Abraham, Boyd applies his usual principle that God did not bring about any destruction, but rather allowed “cosmic adversaries” to wreak destruction.

 

The Flood

Boyd’s view of the flood is that God created the world “out of primordial chaos” and had been keeping the chaos at bay. All God needed to do to bring about the flood was to “remove his restraint” and allow “the forces of chaos to again envelop the earth” returning it to its original state of chaos (200).

 

The Bible does not state that God created the world out “primordial chaos” and such an idea goes against Scripture (despite reading meanings that are not there into Gen. 1:1) and against the character of God. God is a God of order and created an orderly, harmonious universe out of nothing. Boyd argues in a footnote that verse 1 is chaos from “destructive forces” and verse 2 is a re-creation (this view is often used to argue for an old earth). However, it is the pagan myths that present chaos prior to creation and theologians besotted with the ANE view seem seduced by this idea. I find this way of reading the first two verses of Genesis to be a case of eisegesis.

 

Boyd concludes the Flood was “not a result of something that God did, but of something God stopped doing.” However, whether God did something directly or indirectly, he is the agent that brought it about. And Scripture clearly depicts God as causing the Flood directly:

 

“For after seven more days, I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made.” Gen. 7:4 (see also Gen. 6:13b, 17).

 

The Red Sea and Important Insights on Boyd

Boyd’s arguments about the Exodus and the drowning of Pharoah’s soldiers in the waters is similar to his previous stances. Any violence was “carried out by agents other than God” and “it was a cosmic agent bent on destruction” that destroyed Pharaoh’s army” (211).

 

Boyd discusses the ANE views of mythical sea monsters and how these are alluded to in the Exodus account. This means that God only removed his protective hand and allowed “a cosmic force of destruction” to take over. Boyd even calls this account a “mythic narrative” (211). Boyd has already written a few times that the inspiration of the text is the narrative “apart…from its relationship with actual history” (211).

 

This means that Boyd does not necessarily view events in the Bible as historical; what matters for him is the meaning or message of the narrative. That assertion making a distinction between a narrative and historical fact, which Boyd repeats several times, gives an understanding of Boyd as one who does not accept biblical accounts as historical even when presented that way. That is one crucial insight to have about Boyd.

 

The other crucial insight is what Boyd states at the end of the section on the Red Sea. He writes of God’s love for all the Egyptians who were slain or drowned in the plagues and the Red Sea, and concludes:

 

“…we should remain confident that the Good Shepherd will continue to search for every lost sheep, so long as there being hope of their being found by him, whether in this life or the next.”

 

This is a view called Christian Universal Reconciliation (see CANA article on universalism) which teaches that God will still reach out to people after death who have not believed in Christ (a view held by Rob Bell and Wm. P Young). Boyd tries to support this idea with First Corinthians chapter 5. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth to remove a sinning man by giving him over to Satan “for the destruction of the flesh;” this was for him to hopefully repent and “be saved on the day of the Lord Jesus” (verse 5).

 

This is similar, according to Boyd, to God allowing “evil cosmic agents” to kill the Egyptians, in the hopes that one day they will repent, which would be after death. However, no biblical text supports the idea of repenting and being saved after death. If anything, both the Old and New Testaments urge people to choose God and Christ so that they can be saved prior to death; judgment follows death (Heb. 9:27).

 

The ”destruction of the flesh” does not mean death. As Barnes writes, “Paul meant only the destruction of his fleshly appetites or carnal affections.” The word “flesh” used by Paul usually referred to the fallen nature. But even if the man had died, then the hope is that his chastisement would have brought about repentance before death, so that “on the day of the Lord” he would be a saint, whether he lived or died.

 

That Boyd appears not to view many biblical accounts as factual, and that he embraces Universal Reconciliation, are revealing insights that explain Boyd’s rejection of the many accounts of Yahweh in the Old Testament.

 

Misuse of Power

Boyd alleges that Elisha, Elijah, and Samson misused power from God.

 

Elijah (the example of Elijah was also earlier in the book but I left it out since Boyd discusses it here)

Boyd argues that Elijah misused his power by bringing fire on the king’s soldiers in Second Kings 1:1-12, and that Jesus confirms this misuse when he reproves the disciples in Luke 9:54-55 for wanting to call fire down from heaven like Elijah. Boyd interprets this as Jesus condemning Elijah’s action.

 

However, the text in Second Kings states that “fire came down from heaven” and consumed the soldiers. Certainly this would not have happened had God not allowed it. But Boyd writes that the author of the narrative “assumed” that the fire came from heaven.

 

King Ahaziah, the son of the dead King Ahab (married to the notorious Jezebel), had sent people to ask a pagan god for healing, thus rejecting the God of Israel. The previous passage in First Kings 22 tells us that Ahaziah

 

“did evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. So he served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger, according to all that his father had done.” (vv. 52-53)

 

Reading from that point through the passage in chapter 2 about Elijah makes sense of Elijah’s action. As Matthew Poole writes about this in relation to Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples (and other commentators offer the same idea):

 

“Elijah’s desire did not proceed from a carnal and malicious passion; but from a pure zeal to vindicate God’s name and honour, which was so horribly abused; and from the motion of God’s Spirit, as is evident from God’s miraculous answer to his desire. And therefore Christ doth not condemn this fact of Elias, but only reproves his disciples for their perverse imitation of it from another spirit and principle, and in a more unseasonable time.”

 

Jesus reprimanded the disciples for an anger that came from the flesh, as opposed to Elijah’s God-inspired judgment on King Ahaziah. It was a different time and different circumstances from Elijah, and Jesus’ mission at that time was not to bring God’s judgment in immediate ways as Yahweh did in the Old Testament. The explanation for the differences is simple and obvious.

 

Boyd offers three other reasons in support of his view that what Elijah did was wrong, but I find them groundless (one argument is based on an extra-biblical book). Although “the angel of the Lord” kept Elijah from calling fire down a third time (this is one of Boyd’s points against Elijah), this does not mean God was against Elijah doing it the first two times. It only means that now that God had demonstrated his power and judgment to the king, it was time for Elijah to go to the king to let him know he would die for consulting a pagan god (v. 16).

 

Boyd asserts that Elijah called on a “demonic agent” to incinerate the king’s soldiers since there are so many “fire-throwing” ANE deities.

 

Elisha

Boyd maintains that the account of the young men who mocked Elisha and were killed by bears after Elisha cursed them (2 Kings 2:23-25) is another misuse of power. Boyd admits that the mockers were probably young adults (not children) and that being bald was viewed as a sign of mental derangement or being cursed, so it was not just a matter of having no hair.

 

Boyd thinks that the bears represent demonic forces, and that Elisha unleashed them with his curse. But the text indicates that the bears were sent by God’s will and power when we are told the curse (which is a pronouncement of judgment) was “in the name of the Lord.” Elisha had quite recently succeeded Elijah as prophet, and had demonstrated powers given to him by God in the previous passage.

 

Nothing in this passage or elsewhere implies that Elisah did anything wrong or that the bears attacked outside of God’s will. In fact, this unusual attack was God’s stamp of approval on Elisha, for to be against God’s prophet in the OT was to be against God himself.

 

Samson

Boyd lists several things Samson did with his unusual strength, including some that appear immoral, as though this is an example like those of Elijah and Elisha. The text tells us that God planned for Samson to deliver Israel from the Philistines and this was told to his mother by none other than “the angel of the Lord” (the pre-incarnate Christ; Judges 13:8-14).

 

The text does not indicate that Samson’s immoral acts (such as Judges 16:1) were sanctioned by God. When the text indicates that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson, as it does in Judges 14:19 and 15:14-15, we know what Samson did is by the will of God. This includes things that Boyd lists as wrong since they were violent.

 

God used Delilah’s seduction of Samson to get Samson where he wanted him, without his strength and a prisoner of the Philistines. So when the Philistines took him to the temple of their god Dagon, Samson prayed to God for his strength to return, which God grants, and Samson destroyed the temple by pulling the pillars down. This death of 3,000 Philistines and destruction of Dagon’s temple was a judgment of God on the Philistines who had just offered a sacrifice to Dagon for capturing Samson (Judges 16:23-30). Moreover, Samson is listed with Gideon, David, Samuel, and others in a positive way in Hebrews 11:

 

“For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.” (vv. 32b-34)

 

So the Spirit of the Lord coming on Samson at certain times, Samson receiving strength from God to destroy Dagon’s temple and those in it, and being listed in Hebrews 11 is not enough for Boyd who only sees what Samson did as violent and opposed to his view of God.

 

Why Boyd’s Book Matters

Boyd has influenced many people, including Tim Mackie of the Bible Project. Mackie expressed many ideas in this book in his discussion of the Old Testament with Comer, and he referred to Boyd’s book.).

 

Boyd’s depiction of God in the Old Testament is a trickster god who allows a false view of who he is to be presented to Israel in order to “accommodate” them. God is not able to reveal who he is due to the people’s ANE cultural biases and expectations. If this were true, then God is also accommodating himself to the pagan gods (who are demons). What kind of God is this? This is definitely not the God of Scripture.

 

Boyd’s god is weak, unable to give a true revelation of who he is, allows man’s sin to act on him so that he adjusts to it, and allows false views of himself as a pagan god until the cross when people can finally see who he is. This is not love, which is what Boyd states it is. This is deception and that is never love.

 

There is also the matter of Boyd’s re-definition of the inspiration of Scripture, and his rejection of the historicity of biblical accounts.

 

These ideas and misuses of the biblical text are also an insult to the Creator and Redeemer God who so carefully gives truth in his word so that the recipients could know who he is. God does not play tricks, he does not deceive, and what Boyd proposes is a god who deceives. I hope and pray that those who are influenced by Boyd’s book will come to see and know the true mighty God in all his majesty as he reveals himself — without any subterfuge or tricks.

 

Boyd’s views should be critiqued based on his corrupted view of Yahweh and rejection of the truth of accounts presented in Scripture as factual.

 

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.

Rev. 19:11

 

RELATED

CANA Articles

Tim Mackie Discussion of Old Testament: The God Who Is Not Who He Is,  On CANA site

 

Tim Mackie Discussion of Old Testament: The God Who Is Not Who He Is, On MCO site

 

Overview of Religious Universalism

 

OTHER SOURCES

Excellent video of Mike Winger responding to attacks on penal substitutionary atonement showing the illogical fallacies such as straw man and false dichotomy arguments used by many, including Gregory Boyd. This video is part of a series of six videos on the atonement of Christ which present a robust, biblical, and detailed doctrine of the atonement, as well as defending the biblical view against attacks to undermine the atonement.

 

Got Questions, “Who Is the Destroying Angel?

 

Reviews of John Currid’s “Against the Gods”
By Ernst Wendland

 

By Sarah Teichler

 

Open Theism
Got Questions

 

Theopedia

 

Encyclopedia of Philosophy

 

A Refutation of Open Theism

 

Classical Theism
Articles
From Norman Geisler

 

Search the blog of Dr. Brian Huffling of Southern Evangelical Seminary

 

By Edward Feser

 

Books
The Doctrine of God by Norman Geisler (short but meaty and only about $5)

 

The Battle for God by Norman Geisler (excellent book responding to Neothism, views such as open theism and others)

 

All that Is in God by James E. Dolezal

 

God Without Parts by James E. Dolezal (more philosophical)

(I have read all 4 books above)

 

Also search for videos by Dolezal on Divine Simplicity and God’s Immutability