Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Religion or Revolution? 3

posted by Scot McKnight

Boyd.jpgGreg Boyd, in his newest book, The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution
is about “sword-power vs. cross-power” (22). 

What makes Boyd singular is that he thinks cross-power must shape everything, and this lands him in the anabaptist camp. The difference is power over vs. power under.  The latter is about humility and self-sacrifice. It may look weak but it is the power of God.
How useful is his “power under” and “power over” theory? Do you think this is practical? Is it utopian? Why do we need this theory? How does it relate to “servant leadership” ideas?
The temptation of sword-power starts with Jesus, and he refuses to go along with Satan (Matt 4:1-11). The Church did fine until Constantine where sword took over the cross. The movement that suffered under nationalism became nationalistic.

The word “holy” is important: it means singular and in contrast to the kingdoms of this world. When Christians align themselves with the State, cross-power becomes sword-power. Instead of the Giant Jesus wev’e got the Giant Caesar.
But Jesus grew up in such times and he chose cross-power and his cross-power was subversive of sword-power in that day and in our day. Our responsibility is to live as Jesus lived — not to run government, not to advise government, and not to play with government. At times, though, followers of Jesus will agree on protesting what the government is doing. But retaining distinction — the holiness — is critical for followers of Jesus. We are to fight evil and not other humans, and we fight with cross-power.
The follower of Jesus is to live the kingdom by cross-power and let that life be the changing instrument of power.


Advertisement
Comments read comments(33)
post a comment
Joe James

posted November 6, 2009 at 11:41 am


I don’t think it is Utopian or unpractical. Actually, quite the opposite. What Jesus calls us to in Cruciform Discipleship is not some liberal, naive claim that says “If we all just love, and be nice, and kind and caring, then that is how people will treat us.” Actually Jesus guarantees another fate for those that serve the world in this way. “The servant is not greater than the Master. If the world hated me, it will also hate you.”
I rather think it is Utopian to assume that violence can rid the world of violence. Furthermore, it is statistically (not to mention theologically) weak to assume that violence is in some way practical. The fact that we think violence is so practical and effective only illumines the ways in which we have been formed by a violent world. Take for example the classic question I get as a pacifist – the “What would you do if someone broke into your house and threatened your family?” The assumption driving this question is that violence is the only effective response to such extreme situations. Of course, this ignores two things: 1> That statistics show that responding to the threat of violence with violence exponentially increases the potential of danger or tragedy. 2> That Christians ought to be concerned with effectiveness over faithfulness in extreme situations.
It’s funny to me that we hold the martyrs in such high-esteem, yet we build for ourselves a theology and worldview that cannot fathom that we would allow ourselves to suffer or die for our convictions.



report abuse
 

Jeremy Berg

posted November 6, 2009 at 12:06 pm


Some anabaptists thoughts:
?The triumph of the right is assured not by the might that comes to the aid of the right, which is of course the justification of the use of violence and other kinds of power in every human conflict. The triumph of the right, although it is assured, is sure because of the power of the resurrection and not because of any calculation of causes and effects, nor because of the inherently greater strength of the good guys. The relationship between the obedience of God?s people and the triumph of God?s cause is not a relationship of cause and effect but one of cross and resurrection? (John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 232).
?This vision of ultimate good being determined by faithfulness and not by results is the point where we moderns get off. We confuse the kind of ?triumph of the good,? whose sole guarantee is the resurrection and the promise of the eternal glory of the Lamb, with an immediately accessible triumph which can be manipulated, just past the next social action campaign, by getting hold of society as a whole at the top? (Yoder, Politics of Jesus, 238).
?the first social ethical task of the church is to be the church?the servant community. Such a claim may well sound self-serving until we remember that what makes the church the church is its faithful manifestation of the peaceable kingdom in the world. As such the church does not have a social ethic; the church is a social ethic? (Hauerwas, Peaceable Kingdom, 99).



report abuse
 

BrianH

posted November 6, 2009 at 12:08 pm


I have read “Myth of a Christian Nation” and found it to be very inspiring.
However, one of the areas I struggle with – is the difference (if there is such a thing) in using force to restrain those who would harm others. In other words, yes, I can choose to give up my ‘right’ to not be harmed by another, but do I have the right not to intervene when a person threatens to harm others? Boyd talks about this at length in the last section of MoCN, but I’m not convinced.
While I agree with Boyd’s critique that the church has too often not even seriously considered promoting nonviolent alternatives – such as intense prayer and sacrificial intervention – it seems to me that either we say that it is God’s will for the violent to harm the defenseless, or that it is within God’s will that action is taken to restrain those who harm others. (restrain meaning any range of actions from nonviolent response to nonlethal response, to even lethal at times). As has been said about the UN response to instances of genocide in Africa: “Stop! or we will say “Stop!” to you again!”



report abuse
 

:mic

posted November 6, 2009 at 12:10 pm


Let me first acknowledge that I’ve not read Boyd’s work, and I doubt that the length of this post is able to present the entirety of his case (and that I often respect Boyd’s work as a whole).
But the way which I read this makes a strong point: that Christians have too often been consumed with political power rather than kingdom power (and I agree). But is the answer the complete removal of Christians from political or governmental life? It appears that the perspective offered here is that no Christian could/should be a government leader, which is an odd place to be.
And then is he willing to advocate a rather Amish lifestyle? Where do you draw the line?
I’ll admit that I feel like I’m missing something vital to his case . . . but there is a gaping hole right now.
Interestingly, debates like this sound quite similar to the Pharisee-Sadducee-Essene debates around the time of Jesus.



report abuse
 

Rick

posted November 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm


Brian #3-
Your questions and concerns are mine as well.



report abuse
 

Naum

posted November 6, 2009 at 12:49 pm


Absolutely agree with Boyd on this. If we take Jesus words to heart, it is all about “power under” and not “power over”. Hearts are won over by love, prayer, compassion, etc.? not by the sword. Boyd is not alone in proclaiming the “myth of redemptive violence”, though it may seem that way to many conservative Christians in America.
Recently I read a book “Slavery by another name” (author = Douglas Blackmon) that chronicled how race relations improved little or not at all in the south (and even north of Mason-Dixon line) and how black Americans were oppressed as much if not more, with a reign of fear and terror imposed upon them, sanctioned by corporate forces, and little, outside of a few marauding attorneys, was basically ignored. And yet a terrible war was waged with tragic human loss ? which amounted to nothing other than war memorials and empty bromides until the hearts of Americans were changed (and still there is racism in some American hearts).
Yes, it goes against common sense, but then again, there’s lots in the Gospel that flies against worldly sense?
And in reading Boyd I don’t think he calls for Christians to be apart from government, or not to participate, just that to be wary of the union, that state sanctioned religion is evil that corrupts the church?



report abuse
 

joanne

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm


I agree with power under, I think we do need to be wary and not align ourselves with any political party as “the” christian party.
i think we need to work for justice but also that the community that has been formed by the Holy Spirit is reflect that justice. Sometimes I think working in the political field has value but it is an external focus and expectation, sometimes I wonder if the community became the community envisioned by Christ and in union with him… then that community would change and impact the world.
If there really was no jew or greek, slave or free, male or female in the community and if this community shared the table of God freely and if this community recognized the union in Christ, then we could not validate injustice or see our body part go hungry. we would have to act and justice would have to be done because it was Christ’s body that was experiencing the injustice or the hunger or lack of health.
I don’t think it is either/or, politics or kingdom. It could be both/and plus something else.
What if we lived the kingdom in our faith communities and local cities and towns? It’s not an exact science but we should strive for it.
Power under is a great discernment lens that can help us discern the kingdom.



report abuse
 

RJS

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:09 pm


Naum,
No one would claim that things changed instantaneously with the end of slavery and the impact of the Civil war was terrible. I am certainly not claiming that war was the right approach. But the idea that “black Americans were oppressed as much if not more” strikes me as dead wrong – even stupid.
This was only the start of a long (and to an extent still ongoing) process. But it was a real start.
We don’t change hearts then act — it is the acting and persistent acting that ultimately (perhaps with a new generation) changes hearts.



report abuse
 

Ted M. Gossard

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:27 pm


I like much of what Boyd is here saying, but I still struggle over what role Christians can have in government or more precisely for most of us, how it is wise for us to be involved in the political process in an Anabaptist vision.
I do need to read Boyd and this book.



report abuse
 

Dan S.

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:30 pm


.
I could be wrong, but this sounds a lot like the classic controversy between pacifism and just war.
If you resonate with the pacifism of Yoder and Hauerwas, you will generally agree with Boyd. If you have concerns with some of the practical implications of pacifism (Can police officers ever shoot to kill? Are militaries ever necessary? Can guns ever be used to defend the vulnerable or prevent/limit the advance of genocide?), you will have concerns with Boyd.
I realize that Boyd’s paradigm cannot simply be reduced to pacifism, but I suspect the responses to his ideas are largely related to where one stands on this issue.



report abuse
 

T

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:30 pm


I think we grossly under-estimate the power of “power-under” and grossly over-estimate the power of “power-over.” Gandhi saw this in Christ and put it to work in the world, but few “Christians” manage to do so. Doing good to evil people (cross-power) is the strategy, according to Jesus and Paul, for good overcoming evil in this world–a relatively central plot-line in the world’s story, no? Coercive power, at best, puts evil in a cage, and, at worst, multiplies it.
For some first rate discussion of this topic, I recommend Michael Gorman, whom Scot has recommended here before. Fantastic work on Paul arguing that our life in Christ must be cross-shaped through and through. He argues powerfully that Paul also saw a repudiation of coercive power as part of life in Christ. Check out Gorman’s brief summary of a similar argument in Douglas Campbell’s new (and enormous) work, the Deliverance of God, here: http://www.michaeljgorman.net/2009/11/05/a-foretaste-of-my-review-of-campbell%e2%80%99s-%e2%80%9cdeliverance-of-god%e2%80%9d-2/



report abuse
 

Naum

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:34 pm


RJS,
Really? Not to claim slavery was nirvana compared to post Civil War, but after 1875 condition wasn’t any better ? just because the color of your skin you could be plucked into forced labor just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or speaking in the presence of a white women. No economic freedom whatsoever, and totally subservient to white overlords who inflicted “power over” with little recourse?
Give “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas Blackmon a read?
OR “The Bloody Shirt: Terror After Appomattox” by Stephen Budiansky
Not until WWII and the hypocrisy of Americans fighting the evil Nazis and their racism, yet on the home front, were these wrongs righted?
People memorialize the Civil War, yet hearts only hardened for most in the South. Soon, nobody cared for the reason the war was fought for and a race of people left to oppression and terror?



report abuse
 

RJS

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:35 pm


Our responsibility is to live as Jesus lived — not to run government, not to advise government, and not to play with government.
Our responsibility is not to “live as Jesus lived” – not one of us is “son of God.” Our responsibility is not even to live as the early church did (we don’t live in the same time, place, and environment).
Our responsibility is to live as Christians in our world today.



report abuse
 

RJS

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:41 pm


Naum,
Not nirvana before, not nirvana after, not nirvana between WWI and WWII, not nirvana during the civil rights movement. But all of this was part of the long process.
I do think that abolition was an important point in the process – we don’t change hearts then act – action eventually changes hearts.



report abuse
 

Rick

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:44 pm


Naum-
“Not until WWII and the hypocrisy of Americans fighting the evil Nazis and their racism, yet on the home front, were these wrongs righted?”
The main reason we fought the Nazis were because they were taking over Europe, and because they declared war on us.
“People memorialize the Civil War, yet hearts only hardened for most in the South. Soon, nobody cared for the reason the war was fought for and a race of people left to oppression and terror?”
No one claims it was a quick fix. But as RJS mentioned, it was a beginning.



report abuse
 

RJS

posted November 6, 2009 at 1:45 pm


Naum,
Let me take a different tack here – should Johnson have sent federal support to assist integration during the 60′s? Was the demand for response justified – despite the fact that hearts were not yet changed?



report abuse
 

Craig V.

posted November 6, 2009 at 2:09 pm


As a parent I see one of my two children forcibly taking away a toy from the other (this is hypothetical as my children would never behave this way). Do I use my power and authority as a parent to right this wrong or do I give up my rights and offer the errant child a free choice in the matter? Is this a true either or? Perhaps, out of love, I sometimes choose one option sometimes the other. I suspect love resists a one size fits all approach to problems concerning the use of power.



report abuse
 

John W Frye

posted November 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm


RJS (#13),
I want to push back vigorously on your stringent comment: “Our responsibility is not to ‘live as Jesus lived’ – not one of us is ‘son of God’.” While I agree none of us is or ever will be the second Person of the Trinity, that does not invalidate the call to “live as Jesus lived.” The Apostle John clearly wrote, “Whoever claims to live in him [God] must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6). The reality behind the “claim” is a moral obligation to “walk” (verb in Grk text) as Jesus did. “Walk” is a metaphor for “way of life.” The clear implication of Jesus’ initial invitation “Follow me…” means “learn to live the way I live.” You must wrestle through the implications of the *kenosis* in Phil. 2:5-11 before you suggest that we cannot or should live the way Jesus did. An excellent book on the topic is Gerald Hawthorne’s *The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Life and Ministry of Jesus.* This does not deny that there were some things in Jesus’ life that were uniquely his alone, e.g., dying on the cross for the sins of the world.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted November 6, 2009 at 2:47 pm


I think RJS has made a good point we need to think about more carefully. At one level it sounds off base, but we aren’t called to relive Jesus’ life now but to live out Jesus’ life now as we discern through the Spirit how to be 21st Century Christians. While I appreciate the tone of Ed Dobson’s new book, I think this is the tone that RJS is now publicly wondering about — sometimes this all smacks too much of mimicry instead of incarnation.
Is this what you are getting at RJS?



report abuse
 

Naum

posted November 6, 2009 at 3:24 pm


RJS,
Invalid analogy ? comparing war w/ police action. Yes, on the surface, appears to be similar?
Scot,
So to be a follower of Jesus means we not charged with doing the same stuff he did? Or am I being too “literalist” in loving your enemy, blessing those that curse you, etc.??



report abuse
 

Naum

posted November 6, 2009 at 3:25 pm


Who is Ed Dobson?



report abuse
 

RJS

posted November 6, 2009 at 3:27 pm


John,
Even beyond the cross, we are not all in a position to be wandering teachers and prophets at a time when Judea is under Roman rule and many are advocating open revolt. So what does it mean to live as Jesus did?
Rather than mimicry aren’t we called to live in the power of the Spirit and walk in Jesus footsteps – but in our context today?
I think that the church got many things wrong as it adapted from persecuted to power. Power certainly had/has a corrupting influence. But “live as Jesus lived” – and then apply this to interaction with the government? This just doesn’t seem right.



report abuse
 

Scot McKnight

posted November 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm


Naum, I’m in your corner but just want to avoid that we have to eat with lepers because Jesus did; the issue is finding the same kind of need for mercy in our world.
The only difference: we don’t go for the poor because Jesus did; we love as Jesus loved and that love will leads us Jesus was led — to those in need.



report abuse
 

Naum

posted November 6, 2009 at 3:43 pm


Scot,
LIke “not of the letter but of the Spirit”?? OK, /yes indeed?
Sorry, perhaps a bit hasty (in lieu of posting before the CAPTCHA timeout interval ;))



report abuse
 

RJS

posted November 6, 2009 at 4:52 pm


Naum,
You can’t separate police action and war in this situation, and I am not defending the Civil War as just, nor am I suggesting that war is the way to go in any situation. I am simply saying that the change of attitude in this country has been a long and difficult process and that “wait for hearts to change” isn’t enough.



report abuse
 

RJS

posted November 6, 2009 at 4:59 pm


Ah Scot – the last comment of yours gets to my point I think.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says things like, …the ancients were told, but I say to you, … when you pray, what you seek, judge, give etc.
The emphasis is not on the letter or on “mimicry” but on the heart. So I would say that “live like Jesus lived” means all the way down authenticity. Love God, Love others with every essence of being.
Mimicry doesn’t allow this to play out – the only thing that actually allows this to play out is transformation and reorientation.



report abuse
 

John W Frye

posted November 6, 2009 at 8:20 pm


RJS and Scot,
Of course 1 to 1 “mimicry” of all that Jesus did in his day is impossible. But there are so many things that Jesus did we are called to mimic– just a few examples (and there are many): he prayed, we pray; he served, we served; he fasted, we fast; he confronted the powers, we follow him in that. Does Jesus know what it’s like to drive a Pontiac Grand Prix? This kind of talk dilutes the high calling we have “to walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6) and becomes silly. God’s purpose for us “to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” is not an empty phrase; it is a transformation of the way we actually do live. BTW, mimic is a legitimate NT verb often translated “imitate.”



report abuse
 

pam w

posted November 6, 2009 at 11:18 pm


RJS, Scot and John,
Your conversation helps illustrate my discomfort with this post. Though I lean more towards anabaptist,
I don’t believe that relieves me of my responsibility in our current form of government ( not a first century form of gov).: participatory democracy. I’d be curious which framers of our constitution were anabaptists. anybody know? In a participative democracy, we are the government. Those who represent us in DC are to vote the values of their
constituency. We vote laws for the common wealth, write policies on behalf of the least of these, and make decisions when to pick up the sword. We make those dcisions when we show up to participate. The structure is based on the desire to tap the ‘power under’. We are to be incarnational and applying the Way to our world, and I see that as participating in democracy from the eyes and values of Jesus.
I strongly advocate the separation of institutional church and state,
but we as the Body must show up and participate from our core values. I haven’t read this book, but have listened to Boyd a great deal. Is he an advocate to not be involved in government?



report abuse
 

Kurt Anders Richardson

posted November 7, 2009 at 12:03 am


The whole matter that Greg uncovers is that Rome adopted Christianity as its ‘religio licita’ – the legal religion of the empire. Christianity had to adapt to it, particularly its definition of ‘pietas.’ The rest is history. Now one needs to recognize that the Christians and deists (which included Baptists and Quakers) at the Constitutional Convention, all agreed on the first amendment for the sake of genuine, uncoerced faith. The beginning of the end of the ‘Christian Religion’ was established there.



report abuse
 

Clint Parsons

posted November 7, 2009 at 3:43 am


The Church in: China is growing; Indonesia is growing; the continent of Africa is growing…
Here in the U.S.?
“…More than two out of three [people]… noted that they are open to new ideas and easily adapt to change…. Most Americans, it seems, are willing to change as long as the pathway promises benefit and enjoyment, and generally avoids pain, conflict and sacrifice. — http://www.barna.org
“I don’t think that Christ died on the cross to create a stable institution. He died on the cross to help us understand that the world is a wicked place and we are wicked individuals at our bottom level. We have to be transformed and there is only one way of that happening, but that is not happening in America today.” — George Barna
From church records and surveys, we know much church growth today isn’t from ‘new converts’ but from ‘believers’ changing churches. I think the actions of the Church in the US is so deafening our words have become meaningless. I agree, Jesus died on the cross, going, as He did, largely silent. But He was by no means passive in the process.
Most times I can’t hear the shears for my own bleating …



report abuse
 

Percival

posted November 7, 2009 at 7:53 am


Every good parent (of more than one child) knows they must sometimes bring their power to bear to protect another. This is about love. It’s not about non-violence, whatever that is. This principle of protecting people out of love is why we should have police, and dare I say it, soldiers.
I’m afraid we have exalted “non-violence” into the place that only love should have. “God is non-violent.” is no substitute for “God is love.”
But is this what Boyd’s book is about? I doubt it. He is more concerned that Christians know where their real citizenship is.



report abuse
 

ann&steve

posted November 8, 2009 at 12:54 am


dear readers i think everyonr should read the book by pat robertson in plain english so you can think for yourself. god sent jesus to earth to save us so we can enter the kingdom of heaven. i do not go to church because god dwells with in you. he had to send his only son so that we could enter the kingdom of heaven. like it says in the bible the only way to the farther is through the son xnd not mary she did not die for the worlds sins.and unless a man be bornagain he can not enter thr kingdom of heaven that means the spirt not the body like some people think. because repation is of the devil. and some people are scared of god but he told us how to pray and then talk to him like you would a friend.so i will not tell you pick up a book and read for yourself what does it do to beleve but think of what you could lose if you dont .god bless you all. ann&steven A.



report abuse
 

Abambagibus Fortasse

posted November 10, 2009 at 11:24 am


In the Marxist context, the ‘power-under’ approach is easily regardable as just another way of placating the servants, and the power-over approach as another way of walking with lords and ladies. Methinks this dichotomy is far more artificial than natural. And, as for the power of sword versus word, its modern manifestations are too formidable for the timidity of Christians to openly consider. Nevertheless, I would rather believe that the Word in letter and flesh is really the sword of the Truth. The literal ‘s’ is irrelevant to its ultimate manifestation.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Jesus Creed. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Red Letters with Tom Davis Recent prayer post on Prayables Most Recent Inspiration blog post Happy Reading!  

posted 11:15:58am Aug. 16, 2012 | read full post »

Our Common Prayerbook 30 - 3
Psalm 30 thanks God (vv. 1-3, 11-12) and exhorts others to thank God (vv. 4-5). Both emerge from the concrete reality of David's own experience. Here is what that experience looks like:Step one: David was set on high and was flourishing at the hand of God's bounty (v. 7a).Step two: David became too

posted 12:15:30pm Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Theology After Darwin 1 (RJS)
One of the more important and more difficult pieces of the puzzle as we feel our way forward at the interface of science and faith is the theological implications of discoveries in modern science. A comment on my post Evolution in the Key of D: Deity or Deism noted: ...this reminds me of why I get a

posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.