Greg Boyd’s Discussion on O.T. Violence and the Teachings of Jesus

You may or may not be aware of my friend David’s blog. A week or so ago his blog alerted me to a very fascinating discussion about the difficulty of reconciling the violence that the God of the OT seems to advocate with the teachings on love and peace from Jesus over in the NT. For me this issue also speaks to the Christian-Muslim dialogue, in that the OT and Qur’an can sound similar re. the topic of religious violence, yet the NT is very different.

Boyd is a former atheist who became a Christian and now pastors a church in St. Paul Minnesota. He’s posted 3 reflections on this discussion of OT violence vs. NT peace and love. I’m still working through the posts – there is a lot to think about in each one. I expect to post some sort of response as a comment on this post here sometime next week – but if someone else beats me to leaving any thoughts or comments here that would be great!

Here’s an excerpt from his first post:

A number of years ago I read a Christian apologist who argued that one proof of the Bible’s inspiration is the fact that it is “the most beautiful book ever written.” Now, I believe the Bible is divinely inspired. But this statement made me wonder how many books this guy had actually read. In fact, it made me wonder if he’d read the Bible!

Here’s an inspired verse I don’t find particularly beautiful.

Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction…
Happy are those who seize your infants
and dash them against the rocks (Psalms 137:8-9)

When an army conquered a city in the ancient world the victors would sometimes celebrate by smashing the heads of the infants against rocks. (Possibly inspired by this verse, this practice was resurrected by Christian Crusaders conquering Muslim cities). In this dark passage, the Psalmist is eagerly looking forward to this being done to Babylonian infants. He thinks the warriors who get to do this are lucky!

Most beautiful book in the world? Sorry. I’m not feel’n it.

If you’re like me and you’ve struggled with reconciling passages like this with Jesus’ commands to love our neighbors and enemies then take the time to check out one or all of Boyd’s posts below.

Divinely Inspired Infanticide and Genocide?

What’s at Stake in Trying to Explain the Violent God of the Old Testament?

The Violent Strand of the Old Testament and Our Picture of God

And here is Greg’s website if you’re at all interested in his ministry. I’m thankful to David for pointing out this resource and will most likely be reading one of Boyd’s books (Myth of a Christian Nation, Lord or Legend: Wrestling with the Jesus Dilemma) soon.

On a side note some of you may recognize Greg Boyd’s name. He is a prominent supporter of what is termed open theism. This makes Boyd somewhat controversial in some evangelical circles. But as you all know, I won’t shy away from a good controversy. I don’t have the time or inclination to adress open theism in this post. If you would like to read something about it, you could start here.

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2 Responses

  1. My friend Mike Woodruff (pastor of Christ Church, Lake Forest) did a sermon on this, and I thought he did a good job of honoring the question and offering some real wisdom. You can hear it at http://www.preachingtoday.com/media/audio/genocideinthebible.html

  2. I’m slowly working my way through Greg’s posts. So far so good.

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