In his second chapter, Boyd discusses the Kingdom of the Cross, setting it in stark contrast to the Kingdom of the Sword, which he addressed in the first chapter. If I were to critique his argument in a phrase, it would be with the phrase false alternatives.
Quoting Rosser and Yoder, Boyd says that the difference between the kingdoms, the difference between "power over" and "power under," is the difference between Lion power and Lamb power. Boyd's argument depends entirely on how carefully he frames everything. But the argument is a house of cards -- it doesn't take much to dislodge some of his founding premises.
"The crucial distinction between the two kingdoms is how they provide antithetical answers to the questions of what power one should trust to change ourselves and others: Do you trust 'power over' or 'power under'? (p. 33).
When this alternative is presented in this way, the first thing we should ask is whether the Bible contains any godly examples of 'power over.' And the answer is yes, boatloads of them. But Boyd certainly has focus.
"The power of the sword, even if wielded by mighty warring angels, can never transform a peson's inner being" (p. 33).
Well, who asked it to? Maybe we need to restrain some people so that other people can stay alive long enough for us to present the gospel to them.
"The character and rule of God is manifested when instead of employing violence against his enemies to crush them, Jesus loves his enemies in order to redeem them" (p. 34).
This is just a liberal bromide, packaged up in Bible-speak. And it is certainly true in some ways, while manifestly false in others. As it says somewhere in Scripture, go and find out what this means. And yes, I know that Jesus followed it up with "I desire mercy and not sacrifice." This is not an absolute statement, sweeping across the board. It was addressed to Pharisees who were guilty of the same thing Boyd is -- cherry picking passages to suit their preconceived notions, and then forcing all remaining passages to fit. And so, go and find out what these passages mean.
"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 13:41-43).
And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage" (Jude 14-6).
"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me" (Luke 19:27).
"And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
There are plenty of others. Shall I go on? And just in case someone wants to reply that "yeah, well, that's God's prerogative . . ." we should remember that Boyd is trying to ground his whole argument on what God does. Second, we have passages like the following. If it is God's prerogative, He can assign it to men, deputizing them. He can and does make deacons to administer His wrath.
"For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" (Rom. 13:4).
So, when the Lord does all this, is it "power over" or "power under"? If "power under" is the only way that God can manifest His character in this fallen world, then who is going to run the Day of Judgment?
The truth of the matter is that, come what may, we know that the one who will execute judgment upon sinners is the same one who suffered the penalty of God's wrath in place of sinners. We see that His heart is not one of malice, but rather holiness. This means that when He executes "power over," there is nothing morally deficient about it. There is not suspect about it. It is righteous, holy and good judgment. The problem is not that sinners are judged. The problem is that we deserve to be, and when it happens, there is no complaint department to sort things out afterwards. Nothing will need to be sorted out afterwards.
Boyd's problem here is that he takes certain passages, fixes them far off in the firmament, and then tries to read the remaining passages in the blinking starlight he created.
"Though he rightfully should have been honored by the world's most esteemed dignitaries, he chose to fellowship with tax collectors, drunkards, prostitutes, and other socially unacceptable sinners" (p. 35).
Right. But Boyd left centurions off this list for some reason. And the omission is quite striking. Boyd spends a goodish bit of this chapter looking down his nose at those people who sacrifice themselves for Boyd's comfort, dismissing their sacrifices as mere power-grabbing. He simply assumes that motives in the "kingdom of the sword" must be corrupt, and cannot be pure the way motives in the church can be pure. The policeman who stops a violent rapist is somehow participating in the "chain of hate" (p. 41). Now Boyd has elsewhere acknowledged that God uses the civil magistrate to keep things tied together, but he is unwilling to acknowledge that Christians serving as Christians could be fully functioning as faithful servants of Christ in that role.
"If we follow the 'pattern of this world' (Rom. 12:2 NIV) and allow bitterness and hatred into our heart, and if we consequently demonize our enemy, we cannot possibly obey Jesus' teaching -- or Peter's and Paul's" (p. 41).
"Where people choose violence, retaliation, and self-interest, however, they are merely participants in the kingdom of the world, however understandable or 'justified' their behavior is by kingdom-of-the-world standards" (p. 43-44).
The policeman who stops the rapist is "choosing violence, retaliation, and self-interest." It happens that the opposite of collateral damage -- call it collateral edification, by accident -- occurs, for which we thank God, but these instruments of His kindness (cops and soldiers) are fundamentally compromised. But suppose we have someone who bears the sword who has the intention of sacrificing himself for the sake of others.
Boyd says this:
"The point is that love, through service, has a power to affect people in ways that 'power over' tactics do not, and it is this unique power of self-sacrificial love that most centrally defines the kingdom of God" (pp. 38-39).
Right. But why does 'power over' have to be about the person over whom the power is exercised? Why can't "love through service" be rendered to the people who are protected from the lawless? In short, this whole thing that Boyd sets up is a false alternative. There are selfish men bearing the sword, selfless men bearing the sword, selfish men not bearing the sword, and selfless men not bearing the sword.
But Boyd simply appeals to an NPR ethic, the kind of ethic that goes down smoothly with a five dollar latte.
"When we respond to violence with violence, whether it be physical, verbal, or attitudinal, we legitimize the violence of our enemy and sink to his level" (p. 40).
Boyd rejects an approach that is "practical and rational" as "power over" and inherently corrupted (p. 42). To be practical and rational on a topic like crime control is to necessarily give way to self interest.
"What is more, while the kingdom of the world is centered on what 'works' to achieve one's self-interests . . ." (p. 43).
Boyd is nothing but an absolutist when it comes to his approach.
"The only criteria that matters, then, in assessing whether anything has any value within the kingdom that God is building on the earth is love -- love defined as Jesus dying on the cross for those who crucified him" (p. 45).
Boyd is right that the only thing that matters is love; his problem comes with his "love defined as." Love is defined as Christ on the cross, a suitable blank screen for projecting all our accummulated sentimentalities. Yes, what matters fundamentally is love. But in the Bible love sometimes knocks heads together, fights serpents and dragons, silences the foe and the avenger, and casts the godless into Hell. Next time we say that to respond to violence with violence is tantamount to sinking to the criminal's level, and we must not do this because of the character of God, then what are we to do about God responding to violence with violence?
Let us never forget that Hell is ultimate violence. It is certainly true that it formed no part of the uncreated and internal triune life, but it is a manifestation of God's holiness in this world. And we are supposed to think in terms of it, and build our lives in accordance with that understanding.
Those who have a problem with the doctrine of Hell -- sentimentalists all -- reject the teaching as troublesome, but then, because of their naivete, set about creating hellish conditions here on earth. As my father has taught me, hard teaching creates soft-hearted people. Soft teaching, which Boyd is serving up hot and gooey, right out of the oven, creates hard-hearted people. Sentimentalists are hard and brittle. Obedient Christians, accepting all that God has revealed to us, know that they are to be tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave us.
But Boyd is having any tota et sola Scriptura.
"The contrast is rather between two fundamentally different ways of doing life, two fundamentally different mindsets and belief systems, two fundamentally different loyalties" (p. 46).
So he wants ungodly people to do the dirty work of keeping people safe from harm. He wants the godly to withdraw into the cocoon of God's kingdom, where we might be fully cozy, wrapped up in the afghans of self-congratulation. Here we live, in the church, following the way of sacrifice. We can see this at a glance in the fellowship hall, as we take another koinonia donut and cup of coffee. There they go, pursuing the cycle of hate, violence, and self-interest as they go out on patrol for another night, risking their lives so selfishly. Not like us Christians.
"The kingdom of the world trusts the power of the sword, while the kingdom of God trusts the power of the cross" (p. 47).
Actually, godly Christians trust in God in everything, and they utilize the appointed means for trusting Him in any given arena. Sometimes that is the sword, and sometimes it is turning the other cheek. Sometimes it is violence and other times it is the refusal to give way to violence. It depends on what the Bible requires.
"The kingdom of the world seeks to control behavior, while the kingdom of God seeks to transform lives from the inside out" (p. 47).
Sure. When the behavior is destructive, somebody needs to control it. This is one of the things that the Bible tells us to pray for, so that we might have the opportunity to present the gospel. Restraining people is not a final answer -- of course not. But it is part of God's clearly revealed word. Our responsibility is to stop spinning new kingdoms out of a pre-fab systematic theology, and just receive what God has given.