Greg Boyd’s Crucifixion of the Warrior God brings to the table a discussion on the radical love of God AND dealing with the Old Testament texts dealing with the violence portrayed in God’s actions and orders. He doesn’t set aside the OT stories as simple myth. He wants to wrestle with the inspired text.
I have a long way to go in his monstrosity of a work, but want to reflect on how he deals with Augustine’s view of the love of God and violence. Augustine believed in the radical love of God but would embrace God’s violent actions in the OT as another form of love. (I guess it’s kind of warped view of “tough love” or something…)
Boyd has some sympathy for understanding Augustine’s context, though.
“It is not hard to empathize with Augustine and other ecclesial leaders from the fourth and early fifth centuries as they faced the unenviable challenge of trying to reconcile the NT’s teaching on love and nonviolence with the practical realities the church faced once it accepted the political power Constantine bestowed on it.”
The early church struggled with how to reconcile the radical love of Christ along with a violent culture because Constantine approved of Christianity. He allowed it to flourish. With that flourishing came at least a tacit approval of things Rome did, including the violence.
It is almost the same today. American Christianity doubles down on policies that promote violence and maybe the reason is we’re so tied into the thirst for political power we don’t have a choice. Well… we have a choice, but who wants to a miss a photo op at the White House? Honestly.
In the same way, I am watching some friends on the conservative side of American Christianity do contortions over “illegal immigration.”
During the campaign I had several get into a discussion with me that they liked Trump not because they were against immigration, but illegal immigration. They are weirdly silent about that now because “illegal immigration” has come to mean students they know that were protected under DACA and now that has been ripped away. Then, they also knew Hispanic pastors that were here illegally and all of a sudden they have a problem. They were against illegal immigration, but now they know someone who is illegal.
When we buy into power and feel some obligation to support some political party because of our past ties, it leads to trouble. We get so caught up in a political game, that we sometimes end up “doubling down” on “our candidate” even when it looks ridiculous. Or… worse… we don’t speak up in opposition at all. Our voices are rendered mute because, well, we voted for that party that is now ready to do what they said all along they would do.
Our thirst for political recognition (and being spoiled for 300 years as Christians) has put us in places where we often have to try to defend the indefensible. For Augustine and the early church, that was all new territory.
For us in our day, we should know better.