My engagement with Boyd’s next chapter — “From Resident Aliens to Conquering Warlords” — rests on the criticisms offered thus far, and consists of two basic points.
In this chapter, Boyd’s commitment to “Christianity” in Leithart’s sense becomes highly visible. His criticism of the compromise the Church has fallen into consists of his rejection of the glorious advance the Church enjoyed as a result of the conversion of Constantine. The real question before us is whether that conversion was a blessing, a disaster, or an irrelevance. And if you take a biblical view of the flow of history, it seems to me that the fall of pagan Rome was one of the milestones in the advancement of the kingdom of God. Boyd can’t see this because of his perfectionism, which I hope to address later in this series.
My two basic criticisms of this chapter are these. First, Boyd can’t complain about the shenanighans of Christians when they get political power when he has spent the first part of the book stating that what goes on in the kingdom of man is six of one and half dozen of the other. It would be fair game for him to distinguish the Kingdom of God from what Christians do in the public square when they have the sword available to them, but he can’t really critique what they are doing in the public sphere because he has spent a lot of energy already showing us that the political sphere operates by a different set of rules entirely. So his argument ought to be “don’t confuse this with that,” and not “that is reprehensible.” For as soon as he says that a certain behavior in the public square is reprehensible, that implies a standard that those in that square ought to conform to, and so what does repentance look like?
My second criticism is that Boyd spends a lot of energy attacking a form of public Christianity that nobody is advocating anymore. He can score plenty of goals, because we are not playing on that field, and we don’t have a goalee there. Nobody wants to torture heretics to death. Nobody wants to disembowel criminals before executing them. He makes easy points — “imprisoning, enslaving, and killing others in the name of your religious views is not bearing their burdens, believing the best about them, or hoping the best for them. It’s that simple” (p. 83).
Great. I agree with that, and we are still no closer to resolving the question that love demands that we resolve. Boyd wants to act as though the question of the magistrate bearing the sword in the name of God and flogging Baptists for their convictions is precisely the same question. But you can affirm the former as I do, and reject the latter, as I do. They are not the same question at all. But Boyd acts like resolving the second question makes it unnecessary to deal with the genuinely hard cases that are related to the first.
So let us not talk about whether or not love would torture people for wanting triune immersion. Boyd is quite right on that irrelevant point. Let’s talk rather about what biblical love does when a maniac rapes a three-year-old girl and then tortures her to death, and he is the kind of man who will undoubtedly do it again if given the opportunity. What does biblical love do then? Public Christians recognize their duty to love the victims and potential victims, and not just the perpetrators. When Boyd talks about love, he only talks about the perpetrators. Confronted with a real opportuntity to love, Boyd just wrings his hands and walks away. He talks a good love game, but he won’t take any difficult shots.
Abuses of political authority in the past don’t make Boyd’s point. Those abuses were many times directed at people of Boyd’s anabaptist convictions, and so he does have the right to talk about them. But those abuses were removed from our public arsenal by people of my convictions, and so I have a right to talk about that.
One quick add-on. Boyd begins this chapter by quoting Jerry Falwell: “You’ve got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I’m for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes ten years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.” Boyd quotes this again later in the chapter with the words in the name of the Lord italicized. But of course my problem is that we are not doing it in the name of the Lord. If you are going to do something as momentous as smiting the Saracen, you have no business doing it unless it is in the name of the Lord. Why go trotting around the world to kill people in the name of secularism and democracy? Why kill people of the false god for the sake of our false gods? Why have a war just so that Muslim women can start wearing tank tops?