Hopelessly two-storied

C9BF6uFW0AAG1PnGreg Boyd had a Q&A at Woodland Hills this past Sunday evening (with Dennis Edwards and Bruxy Cavey) about his new (2 vol) work The Crucifixion of the Warrior God (CWG). I couldn’t make it, but Dwayne did. We’ll get around to specifics in a future review, but I wanted to share some thoughts on the Q&A since the opening portion of it is available on Youtube. Quite interesting. Greg has Bruxy and Dennis provide their own summary of what they think CWG is about, then Greg responds. Questions follow. I want to be clear up front that in spite of deep disagreements, Greg says many things that we agree with and the work he put into CWG reflects a deep passion to address the violent portrayals of God deeply entrenched in western Christianity. So I hope CWG gets reviewed widely.

Canadian pastor/author Bruxy Cavey begins with his own summary (or criticism?) of CWG. He appears to read (or criticize?) Greg in Girardian terms: God hands himself over to the false, violent views of others to expose that entire scapegoating economy as false and impotent and in doing so frees us from its violent assumptions. Thus the Cross is a demonstration of love in that God submits himself to our fallen structures to disarm them and free us. Bruxy gives several examples from Acts (beginning in ch 2) that make the point explicit. “You killed him,” Peter says to his fellow Jews, “but God (note the adversative) raised him from the dead.” (Cf. minute 8:30 to 9:00). “Where,” Bruxy asks, “does God enter the crucifixion narrative? At the resurrection.” “You” crucified him. “God” raised him. I like that. All the agony/torture, Bruxy says (minutes 10:00 to 10:30) is “our” doing. That’s how Bruxy reads things. I love what Bruxy says and sense he’s moving from and toward a position we can get with.

Were this what CWG is about, that would be very good news indeed. But it’s not what CWG is about. It’s contrary to Greg’s entire project. How so? Because Greg makes it clear that there is an agony that Christ suffers on the Cross – the only agony that does the real saving work – which is not due to anything people do to Jesus. On the contrary, it’s the one thing that only the Father can do, and that is to abandon/forsake his Son. For Greg, the Father is intimately involved in the crucifixion narrative (not just the resurrection) in a highly specific and saving way, namely, forsaking his Son, and it’s the suffering of this abandonment, Greg believes, that saves us, not suffering crucifixion per se. Lots of people were crucified.

In addition, there’s something Greg says re: God’s glory being “the distance God is willing to go” to “become his antithesis on our behalf.” He talks about God’s “going the distance” a lot. This strikes me as very two-storied. God’s over there. We’re down here. God’s got to get up and cross the distance that separates us and that means vacating his present location and occupying ours.

This seems hopelessly two-storied.

Maybe that’s where we differ. I think an essential aspect of a proper understanding of the Incarnation and the Cross is it being the case that “there is no distance,” and any perception of distance or separation is an illusion. It is what God is in himself, fully and actually triune, antecedent to the world (i.e., not defined by the world but defining the world’s very ground and being) but always already fully present in it, that dispels the illusions of separation that empower scapegoating and which fullness becomes the “beauty that glorifies” (Rom 8.18). God doesn’t have to “leave what he is” and “turn into something he’s not” (his “antithesis”) to travel the distance between God and a fallen creation. In the end, salvation doesn’t rest in God’s conforming to our fallen reality anyhow (God’s being defined essentially by alienation, separation, abandonment). It rests in our conforming to his reality. Incarnation is the ‘how’ of bringing creation into himself, yes, but there’s no “departure across a distance” for God in this (which is why Chalcedon is so important, but never mind that for now).

I get the feeling that Greg simply reduces how God saves to God’s being defined by the content of our fallen structures (which is precisely what Girard suggested isn’t the case). What Dwayne and I (and Orthodoxy as we understand it – could be wrong) take to be “illusions” (of distance, separation, abandonment, etc.), Greg sees as having independent reality. “Sin” is taken to be substantial and the triune relations must be defined by it (hence, the Father has to reject/forsake his own Logos who “becomes sin”) to secure our salvation. All this – i.e., Greg’s view – as opposed to God’s stepping into the circumstances (the victimization and abandonment of scapegoating) which we interpret as distance/separation from God in order to reveal that these interpretations are false and to demonstrate from within those same circumstances that God doesn’t abandon us, that there isn’t any ‘distance’ between us and God, and that nobody (not even God) needs to be ‘punished’ with God’s abandonment to secure our salvation. Penal substitution (even qualified the way Greg affirms it) is just Scapegoating 101 because it assumes God must ‘punish’ to save. So in the end, the ‘violence’ Greg wants to expose as unlike God and unnecessary to creation becomes necessary to God and creation in the worst kind of way.

(Part 2 of the Q&A)

6 comments on “Hopelessly two-storied

  1. Tom says:

    This might clarify Bruxy’s differences with Greg:


    “Currently, I see some Christians conflating Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) with the gospel. According to some Christians today, you’re just not preaching the gospel until you specifically describe God pouring out his wrath upon Jesus on the cross. After all, if Christ’s death does remove God’s wrath (an atonement FACT), we might as well come up with a theory about where that wrath went. And it would make sense that, since Jesus took our sin (a biblical FACT), like a sacrifice lamb (a biblical IMAGE), then God’s wrath for us must have been transferred to Jesus, like a heat seeking missile, and been vented upon Jesus instead of us (an extra-biblical THEORY). And while this theory might be the case, this imagery of God needing to vent his wrath upon Jesus so he can forgive us has two strikes against it: a) It goes beyond what the Bible clearly and plainly says, and b) it seems to contradict, or at least not align with, how the early church presented the gospel to non-Christians.”

    “So let me end on a personal note. It’s true, I’m not a fan of PSA, and even less of a fan of people preaching PSA like it is the gospel. Of course my fellow Christian brothers and sisters may agree or disagree with me about this and we can continue to debate which atonement theories are best or worst for years to come. But regardless of our disagreements, we should be united in this basic Bible truth: through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, God is reconciling the world to himself, and us to one another.”

    “Here’s the thing: God discharging his wrath upon Jesus is simply never stated in Scripture. And if it is not stated in Scripture, and never preached publicly as the gospel, there is likely a very good reason why God has decided not to offer us that mental image – an image of our loving Father pouring out pure undiluted angry punishment upon his beloved son. When God wants us to think about his role in the crucifixion of Jesus, he tells us it was his plan and purpose to see Christ suffer for us, even to crush Christ as a “guilt offering” (Isaiah 53:6, 10; Acts 2:23). But he stops short of saying he vented his own wrath upon his Son. Why? Perhaps when we think about the crucifixion of Christ, when we meditate on his sacrifice for our sin, when we stare at a painting or a crucifix, God the Father doesn’t want people to think of him hovering above Jesus while pouring out his angry punishment. When we think about the suffering of Christ, we do see wrath, but it is our wrath we see raging against Christ. And God? He is in Christ, suffering along with Christ, loving us through Christ, and reaching out to us with reconciling love. This much is clearly stated in Scripture….”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought Bruxy’s takes were the best. Greg was wise to call him a ‘walking fortune cookie’ cause all of those little tidbits were what stuck with me more so than Greg repeating the same phrases I’ve been hearing in all his interviews/sermons, etc in all his ADHD glory (I love the guy!). I’m looking forward to seeing how Bruxy processes all the new information over the next couple of months. He has a great mind and is good at succinctly translating complex ideas and thoughts (ie: Greg’s tome).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeremy Myers says:

    Yes! You nailed the primary problem with Greg’s approach. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You rightly say that God doesn’t have to cross a distance to come to earth, for there never was a separation to start with. Got it. But would you say the same about God becoming our sin and our curse (2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tom says:

      I feel bad to say so little for now, but I’m still unpacking from moving west.

      I don’t think Paul can mean (2Cor) that Jesus literally becomes “sin” in an ontological sense, or that his human, created nature even is transformed literally into “sin.” Paul credits this transformation to the Father (God) here, right? God “make him”… So God would be the one turning himself, literally, into sin. I’m guessing that’s what you mean by God becoming his antithesis.

      I think if we read Paul here in terms of the broader narrative of the gospel, Christ’s being made sin has to be read as God’s turning Jesus over to the violent, scapegoating mechanisms in which WE identify the innocent victim with our sin. So what God does is step into our scapegoating machine (as opposed to having Jesus step into his [God’s] scapegoating machine). So God’s “making Jesus to become sin” is equivalent to God’s having Jesus become what WE consider to be the (divinely appointed) mechanism by which our sin and violence are addressed – i.e., the scapegoat.

      Same with Gal. 3. God didn’t curse Jesus, and God isn’t of the opinion that whoever hangs on a tree is cursed of God. That’s ISRAEL’S belief, HER own scapegoating, skewed perspective – not God’s. But God does give himself to it – i.e., to be treated by it, allowing it to exhaust its resources on him. It’s not true, however, that whoever hangs on a tree is cursed by God. But how can God demonstrate this to be a false belief? He demonstrates it by hanging on a tree WITHOUT BEING CURSED. But this falsehood is perpetuated on your reading.

      So Christ’s “becoming a curse” for us is equivalent to Christ’s being treated BY US in all the ways WE identify with having been cursed by God, not because we’re RIGHT in believing God to curse the innocent victims we hang on trees, but precisely because we’re wrong, and so that we can be proved WRONG, to have ever thought so (or to have ever associated God with such scapegoating). But to prove this – to show that the whole scapegoating economy is what we are saved FROM and not something that saves us (because employed by God this time) – it has to be the case that God does not actually curse Jesus, or actually turn Jesus into sin. I think the resurrection shows us this. The resurrection is God telling us what HIS opinion of Jesus on the Cross WAS (all the time) and not (as I’m reading you) God changing his mind about what he thinks of Jesus (going from having an opinion of Jesus on the Cross that required him to abandon Jesus to having an opinion of him that raises him from the dead).



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