I haven’t written about this book since December 1! When I went back to see what I had written, I was struck by how so many of the same things are on my mind.
Who is God? What is God like?
Is God like Jesus? If we believe Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, God in the flesh, than shouldn’t we filter all our other understandings of God through this? In other words, Jesus is the clearest revelation of God and our lens through which we seek to understand anything else in the Bible.
Or, is Jesus just one picture of God to line up next to other pictures of God? In other words, the revelation of Jesus is no more unique than God’s revelations to David, Moses or anyone else. When it comes to interpretation though, how do we do this without then just picking which view of God most suits us in the moment? Its easy to like the nonviolent picture in Jesus when things are good, but when we’re attacked, maybe we’ll roll with the violent pictures? Many Christians through the ages have.
Boyd sets out in chapters four and five to show that the cross is the center of our understanding of God. He engages with Augustine, who affirmed that God was love but defined love as an abstract, inner disposition. Such love, Boyd argues, is nearly meaningless since it is possible to have an inner disposition of this love while being violent to someone. Boyd argues that love is defined in the act of Jesus.
It is important for us to realize that the NT goes beyond providing an abstract conceptual definition of ‘love.’: it points us to love’s supreme illustration. ‘This is how we know what love is,’ John says, ‘Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.’ From this he concludes, ‘we ought to lay down our lives for one another’ (1 John 3:16)…He is saying nothing less than that God is the kind of love that motivated God to set aside his blessed state, to humble himself by becoming a human being, to offer himself up to be humiliated, tortured, and crucified, to fully identify with our sin and our curse, and to therefore fully take upon himself the abandonment of God that we deserve – all for our sake while we were yet sinners and enemies of God (Rom 5:8-10). (153)
We do not define love and then try to press God into that definition – we stare at God on the cross and allow that to define what love is.
What is God like?
Boyd goes on later: “We cannot think of the cross as an inglorious temporary interruption to the way God is otherwise sovereign. The cross is rather the quintessential manifestation of the glorious way God is always sovereign” (169).
Is God violent, like most other conceptions of God and gods throughout history, just easing up this violence for a time in Jesus, before getting back to it later?
Or, does Jesus reveal God as love?
PS: I don’t buy into the whole idea that God exhibits a balance of justice and mercy; I understand Jesus as revealing a God whose mercy and grace totally outweighs anything else.