Tag Archives: presidential election

Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd, Part I

Greg Boyd received his Ph. D. from Princeton Theological Seminary (1988), his M.Div. from Yale Divinity School (1982) and his B.A. from the University of Minnesota (1979). He was a professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University (St. Paul, MN).

In 1992, Greg co-founded Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical fellowship in St. Paul. He is also president of ReKnew.org. Greg is a pastor, theologian, and author of more than a dozen academic and popular books.

Some of his books include, Letters From a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about ChristianityThe Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus TraditionIs God to Blame?: Moving Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Evil, and the best-selling book The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church, which led to a New York Times front-page article and several television interviews.

In 2010, Greg was listed as one of the twenty most influential Christian scholars alive today. He continues to challenge evangelicals with his theological ideas and Kingdom vision. His work is an inspiration to those evangelicals that believe a revolution is needed in the church.

Greg is a pioneering Christian intellectual and church practitioner. He is helping to bridge the gaps between the church & academy, faith & reason, theology & science, as well as confession & mission.

I asked Greg if he would be willing to share his Kingdom vision with my readers. He was gracious enough to answer some of my questions about his ministry at Woodland Hills and talk about his upcoming books.

The Q&A will come in three parts. Enjoy!
___________________________________________________________________

Hey Greg, thank you for taking time out to talk about your ministry at Woodland Hills, and to give us a sneak peak of your two upcoming books.

I must say that I’ve been personally impacted by the work you’re doing in the church today, and I think many evangelicals need to hear and understand your vision for the Kingdom of God.

I recently featured your book The Myth of a Christian Nation in a blog series of five books offering a new Vision for 21st Century Evangelicalism. Your 2004 sermon series The Cross & the Sword was the foundation for this book.

What is the core message you set forth in your sermons and in your book? 

Greg Boyd: Thanks for the invitation to dialogue, David. I appreciate your passion for the Kingdom and your desire to see Evangelicalism freed from its cultural imprisonment.

Well, the core message of my sermon series and book is simply that the Kingdom of God is not merely the best version of the kingdoms of this world. It’s a Kingdom that is “not of this world,” as Jesus said (Jn 18:36).

As the incarnation of God, Jesus perfectly modeled what it looks like for God to reign over a person’s life. So you can always tell where the Kingdom is present, because it always looks like Jesus.

Individuals and groups under the reign of God manifest the kind of humble, self-sacrificial love that Jesus demonstrated in his life, and especially in his death, when he freely offered himself up on behalf of the very people who crucified him, praying for their forgiveness with his last breath.

To the extent that individuals and groups lovingly sacrifice for others the way Jesus did, the Kingdom is present. To the extent that they don’t, it’s not. It’s really that simple.

Obviously, no nation, government and political party has ever looked anything like this. Indeed, given the power-dynamics of our fallen world, I don’t believe any nation, government or political party ever COULD look like this. And this is why we should never identify any nation, government or political party as being the kingdom of God, or even as a means of bringing about the Kingdom of God.

It’s also why we should never think any nation, government or political party is more “Christian” than another.

The Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated is altogether unique, and I believe that everything hangs upon God’s people keeping it unique, set apart, or “holy.”  The minute we start associating the Kingdom with nations, governments or politics, we water it down and compromise its distinctive beauty.

It’s my conviction that the job of Kingdom people is to live a Jesus-looking life that CONTRASTS with the world and thereby offers people who have open hearts an ALTERNATIVE to all the kingdoms of this world.

How has Woodland Hills Church changed as a result of this message? 

Greg Boyd: It seems to me that Woodland Hills turned a corner when I first preached the “Cross and the Sword” series.

While we lost around a thousand people as a result of this series, it helped us acquire a sharper vision of the Jesus-looking Kingdom we are called to be citizens and ambassadors of.

We’ve thus grown increasingly aware of how thoroughly American Christianity has been co-opted by American culture and how radically different the Kingdom is from what most Americans identify as the “Church.” Along the same lines…

we’ve come to a greater realization of how challenging it is to make authentic disciples out of American church attenders. 

This has in turn motivated us to explore strategies to help people wake up to the way they’ve been conditioned by things such as the individualism, consumerism, materialism, hedonism and triumphalism of American culture.

And its motivated us to put in place courses to walk people through this process and eventually get them plugged into missional Kingdom communities in which they worship, minister and share life with others in meaningful ways.

I’d also add that over the last five years Woodland Hills has increasingly come to see itself as a resource center for individuals and groups around the world who are waking up to this distinctive vision of the Kingdom.

So what would you say to those who are worried about the outcome of the presidential election?

Greg Boyd: I’d simply encourage them to place their trust where their trust ought to be: in JESUS. He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all Lords, and his Kingdom will last forever and ever!

Presidents, political parties, governments and nations come and go, but Jesus “is the same, yesterday, today and forever.”

While we should expect pagans to think that the future of the world is in their hands — this is why they seize whatever power they can to try to control how things unfold — children of God are called to place their trust completely in him and to aspire to be faithful to his call.

We are called to crucify ourselves, which means we are to die to living out of our own self-interest, and instead seek only to love, serve, and bless all people, including our enemies.

So long as we think it is UP TO US to fix the world, we can never love and bless those who oppose us.

Only when we realize that we are called to be faithful in living a Jesus-looking life while leaving all outcomes to God can love our enemies and refrain from violence the way Jesus commanded us to (Lk 6:27-35).

Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd, Part II

D.D. Flowers, 2012.

Advertisements

Jesus: Change We Have A Hard Time Believing In

jesuspres08If you follow my blog, you know I believe there is something terribly wrong with the Christianity that we have embraced in America. And I wanted to share some quick thoughts particularly on our misplaced confidence in government and our so-called “duty” to vote. Just some thoughts really. Take it or leave it.

Please be forewarned that his one has a bit of a “tone.” You know, a “tone” that is interpreted as “angry” or “anti-American” or something like that. So please read knowing that I am in-fact a bit… hmm… how do you say… fed up. But, I assure you my sorrow far outweighs any sort of anger.

I am working on it. I still haven’t managed to dress up all of my actions in the garb of the hippy Jesus who wears the façade that says, “I am holy because I do not get angry.” I prefer the stance that says, “I am angry because I am holy.”

In other words, I believe any frustration and concern that I express ought to be shared among all who call themselves “disciples of Jesus.” Hopefully, this momentary expression of anger and sorrow will mature into a renewed Christology that will give us all more reason to trust in Jesus instead of ourselves.

And so I give you my thoughts.

Jesus: Change We Have a Hard Time Believing In

I am convinced that our political “freedoms” are instead a bondage that leads us to reject Christ’s methods of change… only to turn and accept the world’s methods of exhorting power over people. I can see that this marriage of the church to the state by acceptance of its methods only produces a nominal Christian “religion” where we can all live comfortable while we overcome evil with a vote.

We can walk away feeling like we have done someone a favor with our vote. Like we have made a difference by playing in to the system of suppressing evil through law and violence. As if we have been called to confront evil in this manner.

Mark my words:

The intermarriage of church and state is the greatest tragedy in the history of Christianity. It violates the heart of the Gospel of Christ.

The church has been sidetracked. Duped is more like it. We have been misled to believe that we have been called to save the culture and remind the sinners that God is watching them like a drunk abusive Santa Claus figure.

Somehow the mentioning of God on monuments, money, and in our many assemblies means that God is pleased. I just don’t get it. You took prayer out of schools? Well, God is ticked now. Watch out! The culture will go to hell in a hand basket because you have quit stamping the god of deism on worldly institutions for political reasons.

Clearly, we have been deceived into thinking our God “blesses” nations when they talk about him and he “curses” when they don’t. I’m not buying this anymore. It is no longer consistent with the Jesus I know. Shouldn’t we have learned this lesson with Israel in the Old Testament through the prophets like Amos and Jeremiah?

You don’t get points for looking religious and embracing sin in your hearts. You don’t escape the judgment of Christ and receive his blessings just because a worldly empire decides to speak Christianese and mix its agenda with God’s plan through the church. How have we missed this?

Is a worldly kingdom “blessed” because it has material abundance? Does it cease to be “blessed” because it stops using the generic name “God” around town? What sort of God in Christ do we have? It’s time we see things rightly about how God deals with worldly kingdoms and how he deals separately with his church. We need to apply his Word appropriately.

God has always used worldly kingdoms to suppress evil and judge other nations who have become corrupt. They are agents of wrath (Rom. 13:4). God then turns around and judges that nation for its own sin and corruption. Assyria, in the 8th century BC, is a perfect example of God using worldly empires as a “rod” of his wrath. He then punished Assyria and held her responsible for her actions and all of the iniquities found in her.

The story of Israel in the Old Testament, and the church in the New Testament today, is to be set apart and to operate under a different set of rules—to count yourself as a citizen of another other-worldly kingdom with a King who is jealous for our allegiance. All along he has wanted his people to recognize that there is no other King beside him. Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.

If Caesar wants your taxes and you are required to carry a drivers license and obey the laws of the land, fine! But give to God what is God’s. Your spirit, soul, and body belong to him. Your efforts and energies are to be spent investing in a Kingdom that is eternal. Kingdoms of the world are temporary systems that are on their way out. Their methods of changing the world are coming to an end.

The church should not be a part of this endless cycle of worldly kingdom violence and her partisan politics of corruption.

The church’s work should engage the injustices of the world in ways that do not violate the principles of the Kingdom of God. This is what we should be discussing in the forums. This is what ought to be on our minds. Forget the glory of Rome and his Caesar. Sure, honor him, but fear God only (1 Pet. 2:13-17).

Of course, pray for these worldly leaders, but do not concern yourself with putting your hand to the political plow of power. It will take your heart captive and sow evil where pride, arrogance, and all forms of hatred hide (Titus 3:1-7; 2 Pet. 2:11-12). We must give ourselves fully to Christ’s manner of engaging the injustices of this cruel world. This means we recognize that Christ is the only candidate worthy of our campaigning.

Therefore, how ridiculous is it to talk about “our country” and use language only reserved for the church as if it applies to nations that have been instituted by God for the sole purpose of executing wrath. God “bless” America? I’m sorry, I have a hard time hearing the apostle Paul say, “God bless Rome.” And apparently, many Christians can’t understand the absurdity in a statement that takes such pride in the kingdoms of this world.

Are we really prepared to say that the answer to the failing economy and the culture wars is to vote the all-inclusive “God” back in to the world’s vernacular? Sorry, don’t buy that at all. The Christianizing of a pagan culture by worldly methods will only produce a pagan “Christian” culture that knows how to talk religious and make a profit off of religious products.

Which is what we have done in the past. We have a luxury Jesus didn’t have? Times are different? I have a duty to vote and play a role in this mess? I think it is time to question these clichés and begin a revolution back to the Gospel of the New Testament.

I am convinced it is time for Christians to lose these “rights” they are told to “exercise” and be left with nothing but the wealth and security of Christ.

It doesn’t seem to bother many of us that Christianity has found favor among the God-haters. As long as we can rest easy at night knowing we still have our “rights” and that gays won’t be able to marry, who cares about the status of their hearts and reaching out to them as Christ would. I guess it doesn’t really matter that the pregnant teenager really needs someone to take her in, not a picket sign in her face telling her she is going to hell or a meaningless vote in a private booth that you were told makes you a “good” citizen.

It’s much easier to believe in a version of the Kingdom of God that is able to advance through politics; that way we don’t have to get our hands dirty—at least not in the sense of touching people who are in spiritual and physical need. Besides, if we take Jesus seriously, we may actually have to talk to some of those folks. We might be asked to love them to change and stop relying on the methods of the world to stir up their flesh to sin more.

It really is a matter of overcoming evil instead of suppressing it. Laws don’t save people. They only provoke the sinful nature of man. Those without Christ need them, but it is the purpose of those institutions of man to use those methods. You think we would have learned that by now.

It is the world that looks for change through politics.

It is the world that believes that peace will come by legislation and the wisdom of generals and political orators. Who are we to mingle with that rabble? What business is it of ours to hop in the very vehicle that will rise against Christ and make its final stand on that last day.

You know the last time I checked, politicians make great anti-christs. Keep that in mind when you are tempted to join in the partisan politics and play this silly game leading up to November 4th 2008. Where is Christ in it all? How did he engage the worldly systems of his day? I’m willing to bet the answer is much clearer than we would like it to be.

Why then? Why so blurry? Because we have grown accustomed to our life here in Corinth. And as Paul said to the original Corinthians, he would say to us, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

Will we trust the way of the cross? The kind of winning that happens by dying? The battle plan that calls for everyone to lay down their arms and fight with love? Will we reconcile ourselves to a Gospel that demands we operate in an upside-down Kingdom or will we call it foolishness and forfeit our inheritance? How will the church respond in my generation?

I believe she will have that opportunity in this country real soon. Many will be unprepared, I fear. They will be shocked when the veil falls from their eyes and they actually are given no choice but to stare into the blinding light of Christ’s Gospel in the midst of suffering.

I am nervous at the thought of it. Yet, I am confident that our faith will undergo a great transformation. We will tap into a power we have not been acquainted with in these worldly chains we have prematurely dubbed “freedom.” I long for that day. Come Lord Jesus, come!

“And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country– a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16


%d bloggers like this: