Thinking Out Loud

February 14, 2013

Greg Boyd, Woodland Hills: Weighing Denominational Options

Greg Boyd 2013Typically, the Anabaptist movement doesn’t grow megachurches. But as evidenced by their growing relationship with The Meeting House in the greater Toronto, Canada area, Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Woodland Hills Community Church, led by pastor Greg Boyd, is looking at making an existing affinity a formal affiliation with either the Mennonite or Brethren in Christ denomination.

The Mennonite News carries the story in depth, while Christianity Today noted that, “According to data from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, there is only one other Mennonite megachurch in America: Northwoods Community in Peoria, Illinois.”

The Anabaptist movement is closely identified with pacifism, something that is at odds with the military mindset prevalent in the United States. But Boyd is also at odds with many over his teaching of open theology, a teaching that grates on those who believe that God has already factored in the predetermined outcome for every choice people will make and therefore knows every aspect of every detail of the future.  The Wikipedia article linked above notes that the teaching embodies the idea that

  • God knows everything that has been determined as well as what has not yet been determined but remains open.
  • Open theists do not believe that God does not know the future; rather, that the future does not exist to be known by anyone. For the open theist, the future simply has not happened yet, not for anyone, and thus, is unknowable in the common sense.

Some people render the essence of open theology as a question: What does God know and when does he know it?” Millard Erickson authored a book with this title, which was subtitled, “The Current Controversy over Divine Foreknowledge.” The Wikipedia article goes on to list four variants on the concept, and does note in passing that many of the arguments on this subject come from atheist philosophers as well as Biblical scholars.

Boyd’s education includes a Masters from Yale Divinity School and a Doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary. While these aren’t the Evangelical movement’s schools of choice, it’s important to note that his sermons, in fact the whole tenor of his ministry, reflect a somewhat Pentecostal vibe, Anabaptist influences notwithstanding.

So Boyd is no doubt an enigma to many, and certainly a hybrid when it comes to core beliefs.

The aforementioned Hartford Institute’s list of the largest churches in the United States shows clearly that many of the American megachurches are interdenominational or nondenominational, or unknown. (After many years, a Canadian list is now being developed by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.) The Mennonite World article cited above was titled, in part, “Seeking a Tribe;” which describes the process which gives independent churches identification, pooled resources and accountability.  Woodland Hills has an average weekend attendance of 5,000.

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