The Reknew Revolution (Boydian Theology)
The tenets of the ReKnew Revolution run right up against traditional Christianity and challenge the beliefs of many, perhaps rightfully so. Some of their beliefs even strongly resemble my own (most notably http://reknew.org/2008/01/jesus-true-myth-and-true-history-2/), so much so that I believe that a response is needed to illuminate distinctions between their beliefs and my own. What follows after is a line by line response to the core tenets of the “ReKnew Manifesto.”
1. Concerning the “Source of Life:” ReKnew promotes the view that “followers of Jesus should get all of their 'life' from the love that God has shown them on Calvary” and that “every other source of 'life'"—including the rightness of our beliefs—“is an idol.”
Response from Cup of Christ (dot) Net: Boydians are correct when they say that our only source of life is Jesus’ work on the cross, but I find their utter rejection of the importance of correct beliefs disturbing. Whether their views are ultimately heretical, the standard pattern of all groups which promote heresies is to embrace a statement that upon its face seems right and in alignment with Truth while quietly and subtly rejecting the other aspects of the Truth as a part of the newly raised standard of “truth.” Any rejection of the Truth in part is a rejection of the Truth in whole. For example, the Boydians have it right that only Jesus’ work on the cross gives life. But at the same time they appear to be denying that we must believe anything specific regarding God otherwise. This cannot be right. The charge leveled by God at the “friends” of Job was that they did not say what was right concerning Him. From this statement alone we can see that it matters deeply to God what we believe and teach regarding Him. We are also told not to allow that which we know to be good to be spoken of as if it were evil.
2. Concerning the “Nature of Faith:” ReKnew promotes the view that “faith is not the absence of doubt, but the willingness to commit to a course of action even though one is not certain,” that “we are free to view faith instead as a process of honest, open-ended inquiry,” and that “God is more concerned with the love with which we debate than the content of what we debate.”
Response from Cup of Christ (dot) Net: Boydians are correct in part when they say these things, but the true things related within their beliefs are very tightly bound with assumptions that may not be entirely correct. In particular, the beliefs I've highlighted here are worded in such a way, though not necessarily specifically and deliberately to this end, as to make any disagreement tricky and place the one who resists carelessly upon a slippery slope. Who can make the claim that God is not most concerned with love? Who can make the claim that we are not free to be honest inquirers? Who can make the claim that genuine faith involves anything but a willingness to commit to a course of action? However, bound up with these things I find other points of view that I am less inclined to embrace quickly, or indeed perhaps at all. “Faith is not the absence of doubt,” but faith is the absence of doubt sufficient to stifle acting upon such faith. Is committing to an action without surety of belief truly acting in faith or only going through the motions? Or worse, is it going along to get along or simply going with the flow without seeking the correct path before the will of our Holy God, Who indeed (I am convinced) has a specific will as well as a general will for your life? Would you really have Him say of you that you did not inquire of Him, that you did not seek His Face or understanding given by Him in any matter, big or small? What about the claim regarding God’s concern for love over correctness of belief? When God chastised Job’s friends, did He chastise them for not really loving their friend Job or did He chastise them for debating with wrong ideas? Clearly, God cares a great deal about whether our beliefs are right concerning Him and whether we teach what is correct regarding Him. As for speaking as an agent of God, we are told clearly in Scripture that we are to say everything as if God Himself were speaking. Would God rather we tiptoe around a topic or speak with understanding and authority regarding Him and what is right before Him? Yes, some things are debatable and therefore unworthy of dissent or division or undermining the faith of our fellow Christians, BUT some things are clearly and plainly set forth in His Word and, therefore, incontrovertable.
3. Concerning “Our Picture of God:” Boydians state that “Jesus is the one and only perfect revelation of God’s true nature” and that “all of our thinking about God, as well as of our reading of Scripture, must be done through the lens of the cross.”
Response from Cup of Christ (dot) Net: Boydians are correct in these two statements. I can find no flaw in either. However, having no more than this to go on, I find that I must proceed with caution rather than wholeheartedly endorse any statements they make at this point. For instance, the Boydians link to this point of belief a rejection of violent images from the Old Testament as if those things were not linked to God or somehow might be disassociated from Him. My question on that point then is this: did God send the Flood upon the Earth to eradicate all life apart from that contained in the saving work of the Ark, which is a foreshadowing of Christ’s work on the cross, or not? Has there been any act more violent than this committed by anyone in the entire history of the world? Yet I would argue that the act itself was ultimately motivated by genuine love, though Man might not be fully capable of comprehending such a thing. Many reject these things, but they are recorded in His Word and True. God remains just and merciful, though we have comprehended very little indeed.
4. Concerning “the Kingdom of God:” Boydians state that “Jesus-followers are individually and corporately called and empowered by the Spirit to look like Jesus and reflect God’s humble, self-sacrificial love toward all people,” that “it’s vital that Jesus-followers today strive to keep the kingdom ‘holy’—which means separate and distinct from the kingdom of the world,” and that “We are to do it the way Jesus did it—by sacrificing our time, energy, and resources on behalf of others.”
Response from Cup of Christ (dot) Net: Boydians are correct in saying these things, but they add to it this: “To the extent that an individual or group doesn’t look like Jesus, the kingdom of God is not present—regardless of what the individual or group professes to believe” and “But the way followers of Jesus are to do this [assume responsibility for poverty, side with the oppressed, and fight injustice as well as all other social ills] is not by telling governments what they should do.”
First, I find it difficult to disagree with former, and still I know that appearances can be deceiving. Can we determine now how near we are to the Kingdom of God by how one appears? If they had said “To the extent that an individual or group doesn’t act like Jesus” I would have less difficulty accepting this statement, but perhaps then the statement would be promoting a salvation by works and the Boydians may have wanted specifically to avoid this. Still, how does one then judge a wealthy man? Must all men give up everything they possess including hearth and home to serve Christ? If so, have the Boydians followed the first century church in selling their homes and communing together? How much do they truly look like Christ? Does anyone at all look like Him? Rather, is it not that the nearness of the Kingdom of God may be revealed by the sanctifying works of the Spirit, by the Fruit of the Spirit which bring eternal life as we are clearly told in Scripture?
Second, I find politics personally distasteful, and I reject all efforts at politicizing Christianity. The increasingly apparent strategy of governing by crisis smacks of terrorism sponsored and defended by the state, and like terrorism, it reminds one of small petulant children throwing rocks at those who do not bow to their whims. I also find the Republicans and Democrats to be equally good at falling short of God. Having said that, we see examples in the Bible where the chosen instrument of God works in an advisory capacity to a ruler. To that end, I think it is wrong to reject all forms of political action, but I also think it’s irresponsible to promote participation in elections where there is no clearly righteous choice; if I elect a man who opposes abortion but sends men and women to kill and be killed for the sake of a few barrels of oil, what good have I achieved? Will I not answer for his sins as well before God? Rejecting the notion of telling governments what to do and refusing to bind Christ to politics are not the same thing.
5. Concerning “Providence:” Boydians state that “the cross reveals the kind of power on which God relies: not power over others, but power under others,” that “God is a God of persuasion, not coercion,” that “God has given humans and angels free will,” that “all evil is the result of the misuse of created free wills, whether human or angelic,” that “the future is partly comprised of possibilities and that the all-knowing God therefore knows them as such,” and that “everything happens with a good purpose [as opposed to the idea of happening for a good purpose]—namely, the eternally prepared good purpose God had in place in case any given event came to pass.”
Response from Cup of Christ (dot) Net: Boydians are correct in saying that “God has given humans and angels free will” and that “all evil is the result of the misuse of created free wills, whether human or angelic.” That cannot be denied. However, I find the total rejection of God’s Sovereign Will over others at the same time unsettling. Did God harden Pharaoh's heart or not? Did God not place Jonah in the belly of a sea creature until he relented of his rebellious spirit? Did God not bind Israel to the Law with blessings and curses both? Blessings if they obeyed, and curses if they did not? Concerning Irenaeus, who would argue that God is a God of coercion but the most hardened or ignorant rebels? That statement is loaded with a subtext that says, “Go on, I dare you to disagree.” They also argue that God knows the future as possibilities, in which they are only partially correct. In addition to these things, this point of faith includes a statement to the effect that they substitute a “warfare worldview” in place of a “blueprint worldview,” by which they enter into the error of saying it must be this rather than that in this instance, which is not so. The Boydians here have based a tenet upon a thing for which they possess only a partial glimpse of Truth, and in doing so, they’ve set out erringly from the outset. This is not the proper place to give a full rebuttal of their claims in this matter, but I stand by what I’ve said here.
6. Concerning “the Atonement:” Boydians state that “Christ’s victory over Satan and the powers of darkness lies at the base of them all [the things accomplished by Christ by His life, death, and resurrection]. We [the Boydians] thus consider the ‘Christus Victor’ view of the atonement to be the foundation to all other views.”
Response from Cup of Christ (dot) Net: The Boydians are correct in focusing upon Christ’s victory, but they mince words regarding the weight of sin upon Christ on the cross. They acknowledge the satisfaction of the Father’s Wrath against sin by Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice, but turn about and toy with wording to allow them a position that gives them an advantage with respect to God’s view of Man and His attitude toward Man. They distinguish between the Father punishing Christ in our place, thus allowing the Father to accept us, and the view that the Father vented His wrath on Jesus instead of us as a “penal substitution,” which they lay at the feet of Calvin and Luther. To my way of thinking, this is perhaps only splitting hairs, but they’ve chosen to make it part of a cornerstone for their view of their Faith. To my mind, the difference is a tiny one of emphasis, but they would only make it a point of contention if they were intending to persist in the rejection of any view of the Father as having wrath toward anyone, as that clearly is the only difference between the view they concede and the one they portray as Johnny-come-lately in theology.
Clearly, God has wrath. Clearly, it is stored up for some. Clearly, the Blood is a covering that causes the Destroyer to Passover. Clearly, it pleased God to crush Him. Clearly, the stripes of our punishment were upon Him instead. Clearly, the Boydians must have concluded that the Scriptures are not inerrant, and this leads to a slippery slope of anything goes before the world. I’ve seen enough to convince me that even if some Scriptures appear to disagree, contradict, or contain error, that there must be something we do not know that has allowed this to come to be and yet does nothing to reduce the inerrancy of Scriptures.
If the Scriptures are in error, what then do we base belief upon? Pagan myth, superstitious theory, and mystical rumor? Perish the thought. How shall we be as the Bereans if we have no written message from God that is trustworthy in confirmation of Truth? How shall we believe God is all-knowing and all-powerful if He is incapable of presenting His Word to us just as He intends it to be and keeping it safe over the millennia? I used to reject belief in the inerrancy of Scripture before God opened my eyes, but now I cannot in good conscience and good faith tolerate the opposing view of God as being somehow too weak to carry out His Will for His Children or give them a trustworthy Guide. I can love those who hold it, but the view itself is heresy. By the way, this does not make me an idolater. Respecting the things of God out of fear and reverence for Him is not the same as the idolatrous worship of created things.
7. Concerning “Salvation:” Boydians state that “salvation is about becoming part of ‘the bride of Christ’ and participating in—and being transformed by—the fullness of God’s life that he opens up for us in the present” and that “It’s about living and praying in a way that actualizes the fullness of the Lord’s prayer that the Father’s will would be done ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’”
Response from Cup of Christ (dot) Net: The Boydians are correct when they claim that “salvation is about becoming part of ‘the bride of Christ’” rather than being treated as some sort of Get Out of Jail Free card. They are correct in promoting a lifestyle and prayer life that is in alignment with the “fullness of the Lord ’s Prayer.” However, I am concerned about this view of God as being limited to the past and present. I think that God the Father is above and beyond Time, and sees the Whole of Creation from past, present, and future perspectives all at once, though we ourselves are certainly not capable of doing so. Indeed, Scriptures tell us that the Lord has already rested on the Sabbath, but we are also told that we have a Sabbath Rest to look forward to entering. The two cannot be fully correct if God is bound by linear time. Also, we clearly hear the Bride and the Spirit invite us to come and drink fully from the far distant time of the New Jerusalem. This is not merely a glimpse into the future, nor a portrayal of what might be, but a reality for the Father in that moment of time and also in this at once. I would also argue that while Jesus exists as One Who experiences the fullness of linear time due to His being the Son of Man, fully human (while yet being also fully divine), I reject the notion that the Father experiences Time in the same fashion as the Son, Who is fully God and fully man.
As the Alpha and Omega, Jesus is claiming to be God, but He is also revealing to us something about the concurrent existence of God at both the beginning, which extends to before Time, and at the end, which must extend beyond Time to allow for Christ to be somehow “last,” beyond the existence of followers in any possible far-flung future state. I will concede, however, that this argument is not the most pressing issue regarding Truth found in this point of Faith for the Boydians. They also claim therein that salvation is, in part, “about manifesting God’s fullness of life by cultivating a counter-cultural lifestyle that revolts against every aspect of society that is inconsistent with the character of God and his will for the world.” We, who are called to live in peace with all humanity, who are charged by the Boydians with far too often being militant for God, are hereby called to foster a rebellious spirit with all this revolutionary language of manifestos and counter-cultural movements. If we come to Christ as Jews, we are called to remain Jews. If we come to Christ as Greeks, we are called to remain Greeks. If we come to Christ as Americans, we are, therefore, called to remain Americans. Are the Boydians about going wholeheartedly after the things of God or are they about overturning the existing order for the purpose of substituting their own?
8. Concerning “Hell:” The Boydians state that “if there is any way that God could save all, he most certainly would save all” and that “the fire of God’s love will salvage and purify everything in a person that is consistent with God’s loving character and will burn up (metaphorically speaking) everything that is not.”
Response from Cup of Christ (dot) Net: While I agree that it is not God’s desire that any should perish, I must disagree with their contention that God cannot do something—though I concede again that He cannot lie, cannot miss the mark, and cannot fail to accomplish His sovereign Will. Their Faith and faith fall short of allowing God sovereignty over His Creation. I do agree that it is right to hope that all would be saved, and I agree again that this does not appear to be what happens in reality given all we know from Scripture. What if God created some vessels for the purpose of storing up wrath? This verse might refer to other things, and it might not. I agree also about things burning up, but I would argue that they will burn up in very real ways, rather than limiting the power of this language only to the realm of metaphor. I do concede, however, that some burning will be of the metaphorical kind or sense. I do agree also that we ought to remain somewhat open and flexible on the ultimate disposition of all beings as that is the right of God alone to decide. Let me post a thought experiment for you that is not based upon anything but reason—not the Spirit, nor strictly Scripture/Scriptural Truth: what if God burned the lost for 50 billion years, but then decided that they had suffered enough and released them from their fiery prison? Would God not have the right to make such a choice? And if He did, how would any of us be lessened one degree by His so doing? Would 50 billion years be sufficient for you to forgive them of all their wrongdoings? Would you even care in 50 billion years what God did with them? We must not limit the Mercy of God with our own desire for revenge and justice. We ought to remain content to live before God in a fitting manner that seeks to please Him. And what if God chose, rather than to burn them for all Time and Eternity, simply to burn them completely away to nothingness instead? Would He somehow be any less just? The point is that we don’t fully know, since we see through a glass darkly, but we ought to allow God to be sovereign in these matters and know simply that there is a divine judgment to come and that His Wrath is indeed a thing to fear.
9. Regarding “Humanity:” Boydians state that they encourage “husbands and wives to assume an egalitarian mindset,” that they are “urging local Church communities to empower women to serve in any leadership capacity,” and that “Jesus died to create ‘one new humanity.’”
Response from Cup of Christ (dot) Net: The Boydians are right to assert the rejection of dividing believers based upon racial lines, but that does not mean that all worshippers must be exactly like all other worshippers, nor do I believe that every church community must be perfectly blended. I also do not recall reading anywhere that the Jews and Greeks were commanded to build communities together, even though we are all clearly one in Christ. We can, however, do a much better job of eradicating the old trappings of racism among our communities of believers and coming together as one body in the Lord. As for men and women being equal in the Lord, I completely agree. As for how this plays out, I’m not so sure. I think that men and women are given some gender roles prescriptively, while acknowledging that other gender roles should only be descriptive in nature and certainly not fixed in any way. I do have concerns about placing women in authority over men in the church, but not for chauvinistic reasons. I am more concerned about the fact that all stories reflect the same patterns over and over, and that the injunction against women in authority was intended to prevent the repetition of certain story patterns involving Eve, Jezebel, and others. But that’s a topic I’ll deal with elsewhere and elsewhen.
I do think that an awakening of the Church to new understandings is necessary. I do believe that the Holy Spirit is moving believers into a verge, a marginal zone of time and place, where Christians who are in a liminal state of flux will be moved in a new direction away from traditional mainstream evangelical Christianity as it is currently defined and often misused for the personal gain of many wicked men. I just do not think that Boydian spirituality is necessarily any better than any of the other broken religious movements of Man. I am concerned by their insistence that followers get on board though they might not agree with every point of Faith, for surely if we endorse those who promote that which is wrong regarding the things of God we will be just as guilty as the ones among us who first explicitly promote those same beliefs in opposition to the Truth. We ought to be as the Bereans in all matters Scriptural. We ought to try the spirits. Also, Scripture clearly warns us not to partake like those who lack understanding, but to watch our step and listen when we go to the House of God.
I am concerned at the things I see in their movement that appear highly hypocritical, like rejecting the violence depicted in the Old Testament and the sometimes militant nature of traditional Christianity with revolutionary language fomenting a rebellious spirit among believers and using a language of violence in an attempt to shame the opposition into silence (e.g., “using beliefs as dogmatic bully clubs with which to beat heretics—as is too often done”). Consider the hypocrisy of this statement: “it’s our conviction that the healthy and loving way to hold beliefs is to remain open-minded about them, and to discuss them in love.” In one sentence they’ve stated that they hold convictions, but that it is unhealthy and unloving for anyone to be firmly convinced in their beliefs. They appear to be claiming that if you do in fact hold a conviction, you are not a loving and healthy Christian unless, apparently, you are Boyd or an approved representative of his movement. And in the subtext of this statement is a suggestion or implication that discussing beliefs in love involves being anti-zealous for the House of God. In other words, Boyd almost appears to be promoting a dangerous form of lukewarmness, an apathy for the Truth that allows one to accept anything because in order to never be upset by the things anyone says about God you really have to simply not care very much what the actual Truth is.
I am bothered by their tendency to downplay the importance of right understanding regarding God, Salvation, and the Truth. I am discouraged by their concept of God as seemingly bound by Time as we are. I find it also regrettable that they seem to have found a way to make emphatic disagreement with them somehow likely a sin of idolatry. We are clearly told in Scripture that in some cases it is better for those we claim to love to ostracize them than, at times, to embrace them, and Boyd seems to take issue with behaviors intended to encourage correction of wrong thinking and wrong behaviors on the part of fellow believers. I just cannot accept their views in light of Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit unless they’ve somehow just failed to properly communicate their actual beliefs in some fundamental capacity that excuses the errors I see. More than anything else I reject their notion of salvation which appears to say to followers of Christ that it doesn’t matter what they believe so long as they love, but how do they define love? It appears that to them love is defined as a namby-pamby wishy-washy acceptance of anything and everything that others say, think, or feel about God, which does not line up with a biblical understanding of the type of love Christians are actually called to: service to one another in alignment with the Will of God. Certainly we are called to hold our tongues in matters that may be disputable, which do not ultimately affect one's salvation, but I fear that the Boydian approach to theology wants to limit all followers' understanding of God to a set of parameters that, if my concerns are not mistaken, may not be derived ultimately from Scripture.