Dr. Greg Boyd’s New Manifesto - Part Two

Dr. Greg Boyd's New Manifesto - Part Two

Dr. Craig continues his thoughts on controversial theologian Greg Boyd's call to re-think much of Christianity.

Transcript Dr. Greg Boyd’s New Manifesto – Part Two

KEVIN HARRIS: Welcome back to Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. I’m Kevin Harris. We are going to continue looking at the thoughts of Dr. Greg Boyd. I want to mention that I personally have gotten a lot out of Dr. Boyd’s debates, particularly with the atheist Dr. Robert Price. They debated several times on the historicity of Jesus. Dr. Boyd does a great job on that. You can check some of that out at Dr. Boyd’s website as well. Let’s continue. This is part two of a look at some thoughts of Dr. Boyd.[1]

Jumping down to number seven:

7. ReThink Providence

The dominant image of God within Christendom after Augustine (fifth century) has been that of an all-controlling deity. The church has therefore tended to espouse a “blueprint worldview” in which it was assumed that every event that comes to pass conforms to a meticulous “blueprint” God designed before the creation of the world. In this view, God wills (or at least allows) every particular event for a specific good reason—including each and every evil thing that transpires in the world.

In contrast to this, Paul declares that, while “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, to those who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor 1:18, emphasis added). When God displays his omnipotent power, Paul is saying, it looks like him allowing himself to be crucified out of love for the enemies who are crucifying him! This means that the power that God relies on to accomplish his objectives is world history is the power of his self-sacrificial love, not the power of coercion, let alone the power of violence. Self-sacrificial is the greatest power there is, for while coercion may control another’s behavior, only this kind of power can transform hearts.

DR. CRAIG: I think he’s reacting there to Reformed or Calvinistic teaching that doesn’t affirm human freedom. I agree that God does not act unilaterally as an all-controlling deity. He does take countenance of human freedom. I would agree with him that evil is the result of creaturely freedom. I would also agree that the future is partly comprised of possibilities. But what Greg doesn’t understand is that is fully consistent with there being truth values about future statements about what will happen in the future. When it is said, “I will eat lunch tomorrow” (for example) that is a truth about the future. But that doesn’t mean that that is necessary. I could fail to eat lunch tomorrow, but if I were then God would have foreknown that instead. He has this completely wrong view that if God knows truths of future contingents that that somehow removes possibilities from the future. That is simply a philosophical mistake. What he espouses instead will be a view in which God does not have knowledge of future contingent facts. All God knows is “this might happen in the future” or “that might happen in the future.” Of course the further you get from the present the more and more uncertain this becomes. This is very much in contrast to the scriptural view that says even before a word is on my tongue O Lord you know it all together – from the psalms. God has foreknowledge of future contingent facts, and that is in no way incompatible with the future being a realm of possibilities.

KEVIN HARRIS: He goes to the atonement next.

8. ReThink the Atonement

The majority of Evangelicals today believe that the main significance of what Christ accomplished on the cross (the atonement) is that he satisfied the Father’s wrath against sin by being punished in our place, thereby allowing the Father to accept us despite our sin. While the church has always understood that Jesus died in our place, the depiction of the Father venting his wrath on Jesus instead of on us — the “penal substitution” view of the atonement — originated with Luther and Calvin (though it was in some respect anticipated by Anselm in the eleventh century). And while the church has always allowed for a variety of atonement theories, it’s worth noting that for the first 1000 years of church history the dominant view was that “[t]he reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn3:8; Heb.2:14). This is called the “Christus Victor” view of the atonement.

So far what do you think of that?

DR. CRAIG: What he is rejecting is a penal substitution theory of the Protestant Reformers in favor of this Christus Victor model – or ransom theory – which sees Christ’s death on the cross as the means of overcoming Satan, evil, death, hell, and the things that beset our world.[2] What is odd about this is that he does go on to affirm that Jesus died as our substitute and experienced the death consequences of sin in our place. But he doesn’t see this as a substitutionary punishment. So I would ask him what sense then does Jesus dying as our substitute achieve our redemption? How is it, if Christ is not bearing our punishment and if he is not satisfying the justice of God, how does his death accomplish redemption? I can’t see what role it would play at all in achieving redemption if God’s main goal is to defeat Satan. Surely an omnipotent deity could do that without sending his Son to die this tortuous death on the cross. What is it that happens on the cross when Jesus bears these death consequences? Notice he doesn’t say “punishment.” Death consequences of our sins. I am entirely unclear as to how this achieves Christ’s victory. I would disagree with him where he says that “Christ’s victory over Satan and the powers of darkness lie at the base” of the other theories of the atonement. I would say quite the contrary. It is that Christ has discharged the sentence of death that lay over us that gives him the victory and power over Satan and death. So, for example, in Colossians 2:13-15[3] Paul says,

And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands

Here we are talking about legal justice and satisfying the demands of the law.

this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him.

It is precisely by meeting the demands of God’s justice, setting aside the law that condemned us, that we obtain forgiveness and that Christ achieves his victory over the principalities and powers.

KEVIN HARRIS: He continues this theme next.

9. ReThink Salvation

With the rise of the penal substitution view of the atonement, the western church began to think of salvation increasingly in legal categories. God has thus come to be viewed as the judge, humans as the guilty defendants, and Jesus as our defense attorney who allows us to be acquitted by suffering our sentence in our place. As a result, salvation has come to be thought of primarily as an acquittal (escaping hell) that people receive when they simply believe that Jesus did this for them. Among the many unfortunate consequences of this view is the fact that Christianity has become much more focused on how we benefit in the afterlife from what God has done for us than it is focused on the beautiful things God wants to do in our present life—the relationship God wants with us, the character that God wants to cultivate in us, and the things God wants to accomplish through us now.

While legal metaphors are sometimes used to express salvation in the New Testament, the dominant way of expressing salvation is as a marriage covenant. Salvation is not primarily about being acquitted by God. Nor is it primarily about the afterlife. Rather, salvation is primarily about becoming part of “the bride of Christ” and participating in . . . the present.

DR. CRAIG: Legal categories are certainly one of the essential and important aspects in which the atonement is construed. The Reformers were right in seeing it that way. Certainly there are elements of Christ’s victory over the powers, over death and hell. There are also elements of covenant – as Christ institutes a new covenant and thinks of himself as a sacrificial offering. But legal categories also play a role. You see this come out, for example, in the book of Romans where Paul talks about the demands of God’s law, how no human being will be justified before God through the law.[4] Instead the law condemns every person before God’s tribunal. But then in Romans 3:21-26 he says,

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

Here Paul is saying that in failing to punish the sins that people had committed in the past – in forebearing with them, in passing over them – God is not unjust because now sin has been punished through Christ’s expiatory death. He says this shows that God is just and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus. These are certainly legal categories in which Paul speaks of the atonement. So covenant is not the only way, or the dominant way, of thinking about atonement or reconciliation with God. Legal categories also play a very essential role.

KEVIN HARRIS: So we want a full-orbed view.

DR. CRAIG: Right.

KEVIN HARRIS: Bottom line on number eleven: “rethink hell” is annihilationism. That’s the bottom line.

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, that’s right.

KEVIN HARRIS: And what is that? That a person will be, rather than suffering forever consciously in hell or being conscious in hell, they will be winked out of existence and will be absolutely snuffed out.

DR. CRAIG: What is sad about this is – do you notice how Greg specifies who gets annihilated and who gets purified and restored? He says, “the fire of God’s love will salvage and purify everything in a person that is consistent with God’s loving character , but this same fire will burn up (metaphorically speaking) everything that is not.” So it is the righteousness that is already in a person that gets salvaged and purified. His unrighteousness gets burned up. “If it unfortunately turns out that people can sink to the point where there is nothing salvageable about them, it’s our conviction God will justly, yet mercifully, withdraw his sustaining hand, thereby allowing them to return to nothingness.” So what is it that saves a person? It is his own inner intrinsic righteousness. How else can you read this? Those who have no intrinsic righteousness (nothing salvageable about them), they are the ones that get annihilated – those who are hopelessly unrighteous. But the ones that don’t get annihilated are the ones who’ve got some intrinsic righteousness, some intrinsic salvageable likeness to God, that gets purified and finally saved. This is horrible doctrine that is so contrary to the biblical view that God loves and saves sinners who have nothing intrinsically good about them to commend them to God. It is not that he manages to find in people some shred of goodness that then makes them worthy of preservation and purification and going to heaven. I think this is just a really sub-Christian and unbiblical view that we have here.


12. ReThink End Times

For a good portion of contemporary Evangelicals, the ultimate hope for the future is to be “raptured” out of this world before Christ wipes out the remaining population in an eschatological bloodbath. We at ReKnew think this “escapist” theology is rooted in a fundamentally misguided and irresponsible way of interpreting Scripture. It is also an extremely damaging theology inasmuch as it demotivates multitudes to take responsibility for the welfare of earth and the animal kingdom.

I heard a guy say that one time. We were trying to save a beautiful old building in my home town. I was about 19 years old. He said, “That building is just going to burn up when Jesus comes, why should we even try to save it?” I said to him, “Dude, what if everyone had your attitude?” Greg has kind of got a bee in his bonnet on this.[5]

DR. CRAIG: Yeah, he does, but I am very skeptical in the absence of a sociological survey carried out by responsible people that people who believe in the rapture theory don’t care about the welfare of the Earth and the animal kingdom. I’ve like to see some evidence for that rather than an assertion. But in any case, I agree with him that I think the rapture doctrine is not taught in Scripture and that is why I reject it. I think it is unbiblical. But I am very concerned with the emphasis throughout that Greg has on privileging this present life over the afterlife. It seems to me that that is not a biblical emphasis. What was Paul’s attitude? He says in 2 Corinthians 4,

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Paul’s eyes were not fixed on this present evil age that is wasting away. His eyes were fixed on eternity and that gave him the courage to go through the suffering in this veil of tears to go to be with Christ. In Romans 8, Paul says, the whole creation groans in travail for the redemption of sons, for Christ’s return, and the new heavens and the new Earth that will be created. So much as I appreciate and understand this emphasis to be involved in environmental concerns and the welfare of this present age, to pretend that this is the biblical focus I think is just to fundamentally misread the Bible. Our focus needs to be on eternity. As we prepare for that, of course then we will be involved in loving our neighbor, doing works of charity and good will, as we look forward to the eternal life that Christ has prepared for us.[6]

[1] See http://reknew.org/about/ (accessed October 7, 2016).

[2] 5:15

[3] Dr. Craig misspeaks and says this passage is found in chapter 1 when it really is in chapter 2.

[4] 10:03

[5] 15:02

[6] Total Running Time: 17:48 (Copyright © 2016 William Lane Craig)