Greg Boyd’s Demons

Someone has said that in politics a gaffe should be defined as accidentally speaking the truth. Another possibility that is not limited to the truth — or to politics, for that matter — is the option of someone saying what he actually thinks before anybody is quite ready for it yet. That is what Greg Boyd recently did — while walking through the meadows of peace and justice, he managed to step into a cow pie of certain inevitable consequences. I mean, that is what has to happen, right? If the cows of peace and justice eat all that grass, you are eventually going to get some cow pies.

With the concern that this particular metaphor is gotten away from me, let me come back around to the point. Boyd recently said this:

“As shocking as it is, this episode clearly suggests that Jesus regarded Elijah’s enemy-destroying supernatural feat to be ungodly, if not demonic.”

In response to this hootworthy sentiment, I have thus far said this and this.

Let us be frank. Greg Boyd is one of the cool kids. He is well-known pastor and writer, and his books sally forth from places like Baker and Zondervan. He is well placed in the evangelical firmament. He is adept at that unique talent that so many of his ilk — isn’t ilk a great word? — have, which is windsurfing the zeitgeist in such a way as to look like you don’t care about the wind at all. He is a hep cat of smooth jazz theology, lip-syncing the role of a wilderness prophet. This is admittedly an odd juxtaposition to pull off — lyrics about locusts and wild honey for dinner accompanied by finger snapping, gliding trombones, a high gloss floor, and a crisp snare drum — but it can be done. Think Mack the Knife.

But speaking of prophets, let us consider an actual one. John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, and people thought he had a demon too (Matt. 11:18). Men in the grip of a priori religiosity like Boyd have never liked prophets. Prophets are angular, and don’t play well with others. They say things that are disruptive, like the ax being at the root of the tree (Matt. 3:10), which was kind of hurtful. Demonic even. I hate that guy, Ahab said. He never prophesies nice (1 Kings 22:8).

Now someone might try to clean up Boyd’s comment by saying that all this is really about maturation, and had Boyd spoken that way, he might have had a point. The process from Genesis to Revelation is a history of ethical, social, and cultural maturation, and examples are certainly not hard to come by. We should consider things like polygamy in this category. The New Testament speaks this same way, in multiple places, which is a good reason for accepting it. Revelation really is progressive, and the progression includes ethics.

But change from demonism to godliness is not maturation — it is conversion. And we should also keep in mind that God is not one of the characters who needs to mature.

Beneath all this lurks the real culprit, which is the hermeneutic being employed by Boyd, and the view of Scripture which this hermeneutic reveals. It is not enough to say “that’s in the Old Testament.” God’s enemies do awful things in the Old Testament, God’s friends do heroic things in the Old Testament, God’s friends do shabby things in the Old Testament, and then God Himself comes into the picture to command things to be done, a number of which things offend Greg Boyd’s white bread sensibilities.

And it is this last category which brings us to the showdown of the ages — the view of righteousness held by the Ancient of Days, compared to the view of righteousness held by upscale pastors in St. Paul, Minnesota.

God says this: “And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them” (Deut. 7:2).

Greg Boyd offers a contrary view: “One could go further, as does C. S. Cowles, and argue that Jesus’ teaching on enemy-loving non-violence ‘represents a total repudiation of Moses’ genocidal commands and stands in judgment on Joshua’s campaign of ethnic cleansing.'”

And all I can think of to say in response to this is “you go, girl.”

On the most charitable reading, Boyd was saying that Elijah’s fire-from-heaven work was possibly demonic. And he was certainly saying that it was ungodly. Bad, bad prophet!

But we are now stuck with the cherry pickers’ hermeneutic. We not only can recognize that Bible characters were capable of sinning, which virtually every Bible teacher in the history of the world has known, but we now have a hermeneutic that shows us that one of the central characters who had a lot of growing up to do was God Himself. I mean, Moses didn’t come up with the genocide idea himself; he was told to do it. By somebody. And when Elijah was busy consuming companies of soldiers by fifties with fire from heaven, somebody up in heaven — note this carefully — was helping him. Somebody had to supply the fire.

But once we have begun cherry picking, we find that we need a standard for evaluating cherries. How do we know, for example, that the jubilee laws were Good and the genocide laws were Bad? We need a standard. Fortunately, we have the standard right here — what all us white liberals thought already. We listen to NPR and know what’s what.

We cannot slip off the point by saying that the sovereign God of the Bible used Satan to accomplish His ends. This is true, but also well beside the point. God used Satan to cause David to take a census of Israel (1 Chron. 21; 2 Sam. 24:1). God used Satan to accomplish His holy purposes in the life of Job (Job 1:12, 21). God in His sovereignty controls evil, which is not the same thing as blurring the line between good and evil. God uses false prophets every bit as much as He uses true prophets (1 Kings 22:22-23), but this does not mean that the true prophets are false prophets. Most of us are good Calvinists; we don’t find such passages appalling because the Bible teaches that the sovereign God uses evil creatures to accomplish His holy ends. But this is quite different than saying a holy man is an unholy man. It is entirely different than saying a man in the grip of the Holy Spirit of God is actually trafficking with demons.

So when a good man does precisely what God has required him to do, however much this grates with Boyd’s cool vibe, the good man who obeys is right where he ought to be. To obey is better than to parse and slice.

Neither can we find Boyd a way out by saying that he was simply “raising questions.” No, he was making assertions. I take him as meaning “clearly suggests” when he says “clearly suggests.”

My response to this has been to warn Boyd about the blasphemy of attributing the work of God to the devil. That’s a scary business, right there. But we cannot object to this response of mine as an unwarranted reading of Boyd out of the faith. No, actually, Boyd is the one who is reading people out of the faith on this issue. “For Jesus, embodying enemy-loving non-violence was the precondition for being considered a child of God.”

And I actually agree with him about this one. Boyd is at least right about one thing — whether the Holy Spirit is really holy or not should be a watershed issue.

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JEFFREY D LARSONFake Herzogsdg1689Rob S.Eric Stampher Recent comment authors

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Juan
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Juan

“And all I can think of to say in response to this is “you go, girl.””
I believe my grin reached the opposite ends of the equator after reading that.

Mark B. Hanson
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Mark B. Hanson

Doug – it’s Mack the Knife, unless you were riffing on John MacArthur.

rcjr
Guest

We didn’t start the fire.

Andrew Lohr
Member

God’s fire burned 50+50 of Elijah’s enemies. Yay! God’s fire led to language miracles (tongues) at Pentecost, Corinth, and even these days (Bruchko, Megashift). Boo hiss! Do you want to tell people to go to Hell? “Prophets are angular, and don’t play well with others.” Just guessing, but maybe for this reason, along with discouraging ‘tongues,’ Bro Doug has been dead silent about the Law of God which says “Covet to prophesy”? Watch out for those demons, bro–yours as well as others–eh?

Andrew Lohr
Member

Less joshingly, whenever the establishment (e.g. RINOs) claims to be good enough, and will those who want more please pipe down, the establishment comes across as proud and wrong, arrogant and deaf, to those of us who see faults, who see space (however small) between the preacher and God (or the RINOs and common sense). God’s glory is infinite, so there will always be more to find, and some of us at least sort of want it. And Doug is pursuing and sharing God’s glory in many excellent ways. But in discouraging or cutting off legitimate ways, he’s doing the… Read more »

David Trounce
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David Trounce

Andrew, not all sure what you are saying. Could you explain the point you are making?

Matthew Hoover
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Matthew Hoover

I think he’s saying that our cessationist churches are lacking from the Biblical model, in that God doesn’t regularly kill people in our midst with fire from heaven.

Eric Stampher
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Eric Stampher

progression includes ethics

Are you saying we’ve since learned that slavery & polygamy ain’t good — but Abraham was a bit in the dark?

mikebull1
Member

Wish people would stop throwing the G word around. There’s no genocide in the Bible but there are Covenant Sanctions. When Lord said Adam would surely die, that was not genocide, despite appearances. Abraham proclaimed (not “called on”) the name of the Lord. He evangelised Canaan, and the Canaanites were held accountable. When Israel sinned, God judged them in similar ways, although Israel would be brought back from the dead. Claiming God was ever genocidal (or ever will be) is stupid and ignorant. The Sanctions often dealt with an entire family, tribe or nation, but the reason was always ethical… Read more »

cduncster
Member

Hello, Doug Wilson. In the initial Scissors and Library Paste post, you wrote: “Stare at those words, and wonder mildly to yourself why fire from Heaven has not come down upon Woodland Hills — no, no, you mistake me. I am not falling into the trap the disciples fell into when they did not know what spirit they were of (Luke 9:55). I want fire to fall upon Woodland Hills the same way it happened at Pentecost. You know, to turn them into Christians.” What needs to happen to Woodland Hills (which necessarily includes the particular and peculiar Greg Boyd)?… Read more »

Fake Herzog
Guest

Pastor Doug, I’m in your corner until Deut. 7:2. There is indeed no problem with God raining down fire on anyone — He is sovereign and can punish the wicked and/or take innocent life back to heaven with Him if he chooses (i.e. you can’t tell me that Canaanite babies were guilty of any crime other than being born to the wrong parents). So having said all of that, we now have a problem — the Bible seems to have God commanding murder, in the infamous Canaanite genocide passages, which we know God has already forbidden via the Ten Commandments.… Read more »

B Josiah Alldredge
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B Josiah Alldredge

Mike, do you have a blog post fleshing out your idea that all of these sanctions were covenantal? Are you positing covenants beyond the Adamic for these sanctions? I’ve just been introduced via Dr. Jordan’s book on the patriarchs in Genesis to the idea that Abraham was proclaiming Yahweh in Canaan and that the Egyptians were likely converted and then apostatized. In teaching through the prophets I have seen the Ninevites as another example of this. Would be interested to hear more examples if you’ve done more study on that issue.

Katecho
Member

Mike Bull wrote: “Claiming God was ever genocidal (or ever will be) is stupid and ignorant. The Sanctions often dealt with an entire family, tribe or nation, but the reason was always ethical and never racial.” I’m impressed that Mike Bull managed an entire post without referring negatively to paedobaptism. I simply wanted to say that I completely agree with Mike’s observation here. He hit the nail square on the head. God does deal with mankind generationally, organically, and representatively, but the issue is moral, not racial. Mike is right that the genocide card is just a lame guilt tactic… Read more »

Eric Stampher
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Eric Stampher

Hi Fake —

So if God had really ordered genocide, that would’ve been evil of Him?

Fake Herzog
Guest

Eric, Real quick because I don’t want to derail this post — the answer to your question is it would be impossible for God to order genocide because God is good, indeed perfect goodness and a perfectly good being who loves His creation doesn’t do that. It is like asking could God create a stone too heavy to lift or make 2+2 = 5 — God cannot violate the laws of logic because those laws are embedded within him to begin with! This is a classical theist position and is the position of Aristotle/Aquinas. It solves the so-called “Euthyphro dilemma”… Read more »

Eric Stampher
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Eric Stampher

a member of our congregation

Doug — but you’d hold yourself powerless & guiltless before God for not getting Boyd into any process of discipline, if he were attending for years at your congregation, considering himself a member, acknowledging your authority — but not repenting of this sin?

Eric Stampher
Guest
Eric Stampher

embedded within him

Fake — is that “good” = Him, or is it rather a quality to which He lives up?
Can He extract it, if He wants — and go with the dark side of the force?

I read your earlier comments to mean that God lives up to the good, but is not the definition of good.
So murder is a “bad”, independent of who God is — correct?

Rob S.
Guest
Rob S.

Hey Andrew, I’m a Charismatic situated in Saint Paul MN and I agree with Doug that our local Boyd is off-kilter here. Doug’s blunt defense of the Canaanite campaign against Hitchens was the most edifying part of their debate in my opinion. You could tell it frustrated Hitchens that Doug had a strong presuppositional awareness. I wouldn’t go so far to regard Boyd as a non-believer, however. I’m careful to distinguish between correlation and causation when it comes to spiritual death and bad doctrine–it typically isn’t a 1:1 equation–and in this case, I think it has more to do with… Read more »

Zachary Skrip
Member

Just wondering what Fake does with Noah and his ark. Do we call the flood bad or evil?

Fake Herzog
Guest

Eric and sdg1689, Again, I don’t know if any folks around here really want to dive in deep into the weeds of classical theological concepts of God, but if they do then to answer your questions: 1) God = good. Sorry if I wasn’t clear about that before, so no, I don’t agree with this: “I read your earlier comments to mean that God lives up to the good, but is not the definition of good.” God is the definition of good. Here is a good post that summarizes the classical position: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html 2) The flood — of course it… Read more »

JEFFREY D LARSON
Guest

I just came across your post here. For year’s I was a big fan of Greg Boyd.. but am concerned he has a narrative that he must fit God into rather than the other way around. Meaning his is a pacifist so he must contort scriptures to explain the violence in the Old Testament. The premise in the Myth of a Christian Nation finds contempt in patriotism to USA even if we as believers have God first and foremost. I find this more than a little concerning. I hope this makes sense, but then again I am almost 3 years… Read more »