I've been completely snowed for the last week and am just now getting around to nailing some thoughts down about this not-so-easy-to-deal-with book. Yes, I know Boyd is an openness proponent. But rather than listen to others dissect and condone/condemn this book, I wanted to deal with it myself. So there.
Boyd goes to lengthy detail to establish a 'warfare worldview', in which God has enlisted us as believers to engage in the conflict. He gives a great historical and cultural background of many world cultures (from Eastern Ecuador to Babylonian and Mesopotamian). Those of you familiar with Gilgamesh and the like, will appreciate the connections he makes. However, don't think this is a demons-under-every-bush book, either. It's not.
The perennial question has to be dealt with in concrete terms : Why do evil things happen to good people? After all, if the world is truly caught up in the middle of a real war between good and evil forces, evil is to be expected–including evil that serves no higher end. For instance, when evil happens (murder, rape, abuse, …televangelism), it may not be 'in order to bring glory to God by your testimony years down the road.' Evil just happens. In any state of war, evil for the sake of evil is just part of the equation. "Only when we assume that the world is meticulously controlled by an all-loving God does each particular evil event need a higher, all-loving explanation." [p.21]
Now before I get a slew of nasty emails: He's NOT saying God is not all-loving, or that God cannot/does not/will not bring good/blessing/healing from evil suffering. He IS, however, saying that just maybe, when Jon Benet Ramsey was murdered, it wasn't for a higher cause of fulfilling His will. If we are in a real, spiritual war, maybe she was murdered as a casualty of that war.
Chew on this: why do we pray? Out of duty? Or out of a sense of 'warfare'?
Why study the Word? What difference does it make if we know what our role in The Church is supposed to be? If 'everything that happens is according to God's plan'…why bother? Won't it work out anyway?
Why share our faith? Why bother with the rejection and ridicule? Why not spend the day at the lake rather than in worship on Sunday? When someone drowns in Lake Travis this upcoming Labor Day weekend…why be concerned? If it's ALL according to plan, that is….
Within a warfare worldview, particular evils are their own explanation. When we ask the question 'Why do bad things happen to good people?' we are assuming that bad things are supposed to happen to bad people. That's how God gets even with sinners and they learn their lesson, right? Somewhere along the way (Augustine, I think), we've picked up the idea that people suffer because they deserve it. (To the theologs who visit here, think of a more pre-Augustinian, biblical understanding of the world as involved in a cosmic war.)
Part One of the book (the first 160+ pages) deals with OT references, beginning with the genesis of creation and Yahweh's conflict with the raging sea, and dealing with humanity's role as 'restorative viceroy over the earth.' (I like that.)
Part Two (which I'm beginning as soon as I hit the 'post' button) deals with the NT and the Kingdom of God as a warfare concept, the Christus Victor concept of Jesus' death/resurrection, and spiritual warfare in the life of a believer. Again, not about exorcisms and holy water, but about prayer, service and mercy as acts of engaging the conflict.
I'll post more thoughts as they brew. Right now, I need to top off my Halle Berry coffee and get back to work…