Thinking Out Loud

September 16, 2013

Destroying the Idol of Absolute Certainty

…each one of us needs to be developing a personal, systematic theology so that we can respond when asked what we believe. We should know the ways of God; truly know what Jesus would do. But we should write our theology in pencil, not pen; remaining open to the possibility that what we see as through frosted glass will become clearer over time and therefore subject to change…

– me, Thinking Out Loud, 2/24/13

There are going to be those, on seeing this is a review of a Greg Boyd book, who will immediately dismiss everything that follows. While perhaps not as high on the controversy scale as Rob Bell, Boyd’s writings, sermons, and YouTube videos posted on his blog often reference the radical pacifism of his Anabaptist leanings; his belief that the American Church should be apolitical, not seen to be supporting candidates of either major party; and his teaching of ‘open theology,’ which offers the idea that for any given persons or group, the future could contain a range of possible outcomes among which God has not committed himself to knowing the final choice in advance.

Benefit of the Doubt - Greg BoydWith his newest book, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (Baker Books), Gregory Boyd presents the thesis that far too many Christians — at least in North America and western Europe — are committed to a set of spiritual propositions more than they are committed to Christ; and that in fact the thing they worship and place their faith in are these ‘certainties,’ far more than they worship and have their faith secured in “Christ, and Him crucified.”

At this point, I want to step out and say that I while I believe this book has great potential for both seekers and skeptics, this is must-reading for every seasoned or veteran Christ-follower. Furthermore, I want also step out and, to use a cliché, that if the Lord tarries, I think Greg Boyd will be remembered as one of the great thinkers of our generation, even if he is not heretofore accorded such honor.

While the book clearly intends to shatter the idol of theological over-confidence, its equal purpose is to give some peace and comfort to people who, although they are long on the journey with Jesus, still don’t feel they have all the details of the contract worked out. He is writing to those of us who perhaps know people for whom all doctrinal and theological matters are settled once and for all, while we ourselves, as in the above quotation from a previous column here, feel our theological understanding is better jotted down in pencil rather than indelible ink and therefore feel our relationship with God is somewhat lacking.  He writes,

Think about it. If I was confident that God unconditionally loves me because of what he did for me on Calvary, then wouldn’t I be confident that his love for me does not increase or decrease based on how accurate or inaccurate my other beliefs are? So too, if I was confident God ascribes unsurpassable worth to me on the basis of Calvary, then wouldn’t I be confident that my worth can’t be increased because I hold correct beliefs and can’t be decreased because I hold mistaken beliefs? These questions answer themselves.

Unlike other books I review here, the chapters of Benefit of the Doubt must be considered sequentially, not only for the progression of thought the book entails, but also because of the many autobiographical sections that are introduced then later referenced. This book is Greg Boyd at his most personal, most transparent; even as he writes of weightier things.

While Boyd admits in a couple of places that he tends overall to lean to the conservative position on many doctrinal issues; and that he believes in the inspiration of scripture and even a version of inerrency; the book will resonate with people who wrestle with many of the more difficult parts of the Bible, or those who are stuck in a place overshadowed by past unanswered prayers. He gets into this in describing an upcoming conference based on the book:

There are those who might falsely infer that with a title such as this, the pastor of Minneapolis megachurch Woodland Hills is slowly moving away from orthodoxy. Based on my reading, I would say with deep conviction, don’t think that for a minute. This is a book about the value of doubt; a book that espouses the concept that perhaps in an atmosphere of doctrinal fragility, our ultimate faith in Christ is perhaps stronger, more enriched, and more able to withstand the realities of life. As the publisher blurb suggestions, “Let your questions lead you to a stronger faith.”

June 24, 2012

When Our Words and Our Words Contradict

Bruxy Cavey is the teaching pastor at The Meeting House, Canada’s largest multi-site church centered on a location in Oakville, just west of Toronto. The Meeting House has developed an affinity with Woodland Hills Community Church in Minneapolis, where Greg Boyd is the pastor, and there have been a couple of pulpit exchanges recently, including this one, where Bruxy was at Woodland Hills completing a two-part series that Greg started on the Anabaptist tradition that has influenced both churches.

In the Q&A time there was a question about church and state and the homosexual marriage issue. The question is on the video at the WH website, but the answer posted here was from a different service, and I found this audio transcript (there’s no video) more direct. Basically, Bruxy is saying that as Christ-followers, we bring a general response that leaves gay people feeling excluded from the church, but when the cameras are rolling, the sound bite on the evening news is an affirmation of God’s love for all mankind.

The disconnect between the sound bite and everything else we say is something Bruxy believes we have, at the very least, got backwards.

Sermons: Bruxy Cavey, The Meeting House, Oakville, Canada
Sermons: Greg Boyd, Woodland Hills

September 7, 2009

Was God In Charge of the Storm?

Filed under: issues — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:23 am

The disciples are on the sea of Galilee.   A storm comes up out of nowhere.   Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat.     You know the story.

Jesus rebukes the weather.   That’s what it says.    But you thought God was in charge of the weather, right?

Let me do this topic justice by sending you to the source of my thoughts today.

  1. Go to the sidebar for this blog and click on “Sermons – Greg Boyd, Woodland Hills”
  2. Click on ‘recent sermons’
  3. Select the one for August 22; it was a Saturday night Q & A they had when Rob Bell could only make the two Sunday services.  (Some of you might also like to hear Bell from August 23rd…)
  4. Listen to the first 15 minutes.    Let me know what you think.   (To save it, right click and choose ‘save link as’ or ‘save target as;’ but you should also be able to just listen live.

It really helps put some things into perspective.   Boyd would argue that we attribute far too much to God’s direct involvement that is really the product of natural forces.    Like the tornado that whipped through his hometown while the Lutherans were voting on ordination of gay clergy, for example.   But let him tell it…



And now for something completely un-stormlike:

This picture is by a friend of mine, Vancouver artist Timothy Clayton from a collection titled, In God’s Country: Vancouver Landscapes.    See, and you thought you lived in God’s country!

Timothy Clayton

For you Canadian left-coasters, Timothy has a show October 25th to November 7th at the Havana Gallery.   Of note:  Timothy is married to actress and film producer Gina Chiarelli.

March 23, 2009

Greg Boyd and Spiritual Maturity

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:45 pm

Increasingly over the last couple of years, we’ve been endeavoring to download the weekly sermon by Greg Boyd at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN.   You might not agree with Greg’s take on a variety of issues, including things like open theology or rapture theology, but I guarantee that Greg will make you think (and re-think) about things differently.   I am a huge fan.

For the last couple of weeks, Greg has preceded the sermon audio with a request to visit the website and take part in a survey.   They want to know a little bit about the people like me who are part of their podcast audience, or what Greg calls “podrishioners.”   (Why is spell-check not freaking out over that one?)   (Okay, now it is.)

So I took the survey — 28 or so questions — and one of the questions really blew me away:   On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest, what is your level of spiritual maturity?

scale-of-1-to-5

I think that in the Christian pilgrimage, the more we learn, the more we know how much we need to learn.    And of course, there is the verse that says, “each one of you ought not to think more highly of himself…”   (Or herself.)  So a “5” is out of the question.   Waaaaaay too arrogant.    Humility is the order of the day.

But I’m not a “1” either.   Hey, I’m a blogger.   When I get to them Pearly Gates and Saint Peter asks me why he should let me in, I’ll say, “Back on earth, I had a Christian blog.”    [Note 1:  The “why should he let me in” question is part of Evangelism Explosion, started by the late James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church; whose position as senior pastor, as of a vote just held, will be taken over by Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of Billy Graham; but you can read about that here.]  [Note 2:  Greg Boyd would hate the whole Saint Peter / Pearly Gates story, yet on another level, I can just hear him saying those exact words.]

So that leaves rating myself as a “2,” a “3,” or a “4.”    Because the question is self-evaluative, it gets past the other question, “How would your friends, family and acquaintances rate you?”   That’s a whole other issue though, because I know all those people who would give me low marks and they’re just a no good bunch of  “negative 1″s.   (Do you see my maturity coming through so clearly in that last remark?)

But in a way, it raises a question that is fundamental to the whole exercise.   The fact is, I know there are people who don’t think that highly of me in a spiritual sense, and in fact, they are indeed people whose own spiritual wisdom and maturity I have come to greatly question.    So much depends not only on who is doing the grading, but what benchmarks are used as the key indicators.

(If you want to do your own spiritual report card, II Peter 3:18 is a simple place to start:  Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.    Grace and knowledge.   But Colossians 1: 9-12 gives you a much more detailed performance standard.)

Anyway, without room for fractions, I chose “4.”  I am a “4” so you had better listen to what I have to say here.    I am wise.   But humble enough to not say I’m a “5.”    Okay, why is everybody laughing…




If you’re interested in downloading a sermon of a different kind altogether, you might enjoy this one from Andy Stanley, entitled “Asking Big.”   It encourages us to look for the giant-sized, macro-sized things that seem impossible, and boldly bring those requests before God.   Only $1 US to download.

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