Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Religion or Revolution? 6

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  warns us about “religion” in today’s post.

As a teen Boyd was rescued from drugs and sex and rock and roll into “religion” at a Pentecostal church. He made a complete break and signed up on the sheet — he was in and the others were out. But he wasn’t good at the religion thing. 
So what does he mean by “religion”? What do you think of his definition? 
“any system of beliefs and behaviors people embrace and engage in as a means of ascribing transcendent worth to themselves” (58). But there’s something at work here for Boyd: “religious people feed the hunger of their heart by striving to impress whatever picture of God or gods they embrace with the rightness of their beliefs and behaviors — in contrast to the wrongness of others’ beliefs and behaviors” (59).
Wow, he’s defining religion along the lines of self-congratulatory faithfulness. Divine authority is granted to their beliefs and behaviors. It was the religious who opposed Jesus — they still do.

The kingdom revolts against the religious attempt to get Life from beliefs, including true beliefs.

The Kingdom promotes Love and not violence. Anything that is not loving of others and of God is not Life; it is idolatry. He never tortured his enemies; he loved them.
So who’s the real heretic? 
The ultimate test of orthodoxy is the person who loves. To fail to live as Jesus lived — in love — is the ultimate failure. Calvin, he says, committed a worse heresy than Servetus. But this is not to judge Calvin but to discern how we are to live in following Jesus. 
Jesus befriended sinners because he loved. The leaders didn’t join Jesus at table.  Jesus’ holiness led to God as Life; the Pharisees’ holiness led to separation.
Who’s the real heretic?

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posted November 13, 2009 at 7:50 am

his definition is highly challenging. I see this kind of religion often in the church especially among folks who know their beliefs but don’t really seem to know God’s heart. it is faith as know or belief not faith as union with Christ.

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nick gill

posted November 13, 2009 at 9:04 am

I have very little patience with people whose lives reflect the definition of religion given above — but I also have very little patience with people who redefine Bible words that already have clear definitions in Scripture.
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:26-27 ESV)
I sympathize with the battle Dr. Boyd is trying to fight, but when he and James disagree, I’m gonna have to go with James. Hopefully he addresses this conflict in the book.

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posted November 13, 2009 at 9:13 am

Wow, I’m totally unimpressed by that definition of religion. If that’s all he means, then his book is really about works righteousness and his “myth of a christian religion” isn’t as radical as he (and his publisher, I suppose) would have us believe. Pretty standard, really.

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Steve Mook

posted November 13, 2009 at 10:03 am

Nick, could you explain further how you see Boyd and James differing?
Eric, how do you see Boyd advocating works righteousness?

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posted November 13, 2009 at 10:11 am
Eric, I would like to hear what definition of religion does “impress” you.
Nick – “but I also have very little patience with people who redefine Bible words that already have clear definitions in Scripture”
I would take a closer look at the Greek word translated as “religion” in James before you get too “impatient”.
Anyways, as one who studied religion in college, I believe Boyd’s definition is pretty spot on.
Scot, I love your question, “Who’s the real heretic?” I think this is something all Christians should sit and think about more often.

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Don Heatley

posted November 13, 2009 at 10:14 am

Unfortunately, for many people, the definition of a heretic is “someone who says something I didn’t already think abut my religion.” I haven’t read much of Boyd but I think I lean a little more toward his mindset.

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Joe James

posted November 13, 2009 at 10:16 am

Nick –
I don’t think Boyd and James disagree at all. I think Boyd’s argument is precisely that heretics are those who claim to be Christians with their tongue and then remain stained by the world. I wonder if you think James meant something he didn’t mean? Plausible? Or if you think Boyd means something he doesn’t mean? Plausible? Or maybe I am not understanding Boyd or James? Plausible? Please help me learn how to come to the clear conclusion that Boyd and James are in sharp distinction to one another!
Eric –
I have read all of Boyd’s books, and listened to 100’s of his sermons. I have heard all kinds of accusations leveled against him. But that would be the first time I have heard him accused of advocating works righteousness. I guess you could accuse Jesus and James of the same thing?

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Kevin J Bowman

posted November 13, 2009 at 10:22 am

Nick – It seems to me like Boyd is stating the definition of religion as it is practiced in the churches of the American civil religion. He does not agree with this definition because the point seems to be this is not a good definition?
Where do you see his conflict with James idea?

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posted November 13, 2009 at 10:51 am

I clearly did not say he was advocating works righteousness. I said his book was about works righteousness.
Boyd’s definition of a religious person was somebody who hold to works righteousness:
“religious people … striving to impress … God … with the rightness of their beliefs and behaviors”
If that’s what he means by a religious person, then I find that rather ho-hum and not as radical as I was expecting based on the title of the book.

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Steve Mook

posted November 13, 2009 at 11:15 am

Eric, thanks for the clarification.
I would argue that though Boyd is not stating anything new; it’s radical, because it’s true. Christians in every generation usually need reminders of what I understand as true religion, true “revolution”. If you’ve already lost the religion that Boyd is writing against, then I can understand why this book and title wouldn’t be provocative for you.
It will be intriguing to read his conclusions…

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Jason Coker

posted November 13, 2009 at 11:22 am

I am the real heretic.

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posted November 13, 2009 at 12:16 pm

I haven’t read the book, so I’m reading between the lines of this post, but I believe that the point is that Boyd is saying that X is the definition of religion, and that we as Christians should therefore strive to abandon religion.
We leave religion and join a revolution. Sounds like a catchy title for a book.
Some of the commenters seem to think that Boyd’s definition of religion is one that he somehow agrees with or advocates. I think is definition is purposefully repugnant.

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posted November 13, 2009 at 4:49 pm

“The ultimate test of orthodoxy is the person who loves.”
No. The NT says the mark of a believer is the love of the brethren, but that’s not the same thing.
“Calvin … committed a worse heresy than Servetus,” but I’m not judging.
How about “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Not very loving of him.

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posted November 17, 2009 at 1:32 pm

There shd only be local rules of faith, not attempts at purportedly universal rules of faith. The best of all religions is radically anthropocentric (tri/mono)theism at the margins of empire, the worst of all religions is triumphalistic (tri/mono)theism at its helm….

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posted November 17, 2009 at 1:36 pm

to “truly” love someone is not bereft of qns of doxy/praxy, but more a matter of how then do we discern/infer how we manifest our faiths? This is best done in local communities of faith, with dialogue that similarly fosters decentralization and deemphs the personal viewpoints of specialists in theology and what-not.

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