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Hardcover
208 pages
May 2006
Zondervan

The Myth of a Christian Nation

by Gregory A. Boyd

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Review:

Gregory Boyd challenges Christians to fully identify with the Kingdom of the Cross in The Myth of a Christian Nation. Using Scripture and reasoning, he describes all governments as belonging to the "god of this world." Because of their connection to Satan and the role that God has given to them to enforce order, Dr. Boyd sees the power of government as that of "power over" people to force submissive behavior. Governments form the Kingdom of the Sword.

On the other hand, the Kingdom of the Cross follows Christ in "power under" others to serve. Christ embodied His kingdom by His care of others and by sacrificing His life on the cross rather than calling angels to defend Him. Christians are little Christs only as they follow Him in serving and sacrifice.

Dr. Boyd believes that, by definition, a government, because it is ruled by the Kingdom of the Sword, can never form a Christian nation. He stoutly denies that the United States ever has been a Christian nation because, in its treatment of Native Americans, slaves, and other racial groups, it did not behave as Jesus would have. Indeed, he finds that "even the best versions of the kingdom are part of the world's problem. The fundamental problem in the world is that fallen people trust 'power over' rather than 'power under,' coercion rather than love." (56)

After tracing the abuse of political power by the church throughout history, Boyd comes down hard on the evangelical right. Some of his positions on moral issues will greatly trouble, even anger, many readers, while drawing praise from others. However, he does raise some excellent points that beg Christians toward self-examination. Christ said that others would know we are Christians by our love, but do they? We are to be the body of Christ, the body that He uses to expand His kingdom, but do we act, talk, entertain, serve in the way that He would? Why should we be disappointed or surprised when Kingdom of the Sword people do not act with Christian principles? In choosing to behave like Christ during attacks on us, "we reveal, even as we expose the injustice of his actions, that our nemesis doesn't have the power to define us by those actions." (40)

Dr. Boyd is a pastor and has been a professor of theology at Bethel College in St. Paul, MN, so I must admit to being out of my league in analyzing his book. However, several things troubled me, even as he challenged and provoked me to growth. Like many, he sees the "eye for an eye" principle given by God in the Old Testament as an injustice rather than as a limitation on revenge to establish justice. Isn't it just or equal to poke out my eye if I did it to someone else instead of poking out both my eyes and my children's eyes?

Another issue in dealing with justice comes up when other people are the victims. Some evangelical Christians have become more concerned about loving oppressors than loving their victims, and Boyd sounds that way in places though he suggests that we come between the aggressors and their victims to sacrifice ourselves in their places. He seems to say that we shouldn't get too upset by evil governance in this world, because it's God's fault anyway. "This means that kingdom people must leave to God the ultimate responsibility of governing the world and instead focus their attention on living out the radically distinctive call of the kingdom. We must not allow our fallen and fallible ideas about 'what the world needs' to compromise the unique call on our life to live in Christlike love, even toward our nationalistic enemies." (175) He does not seem to consider that Christians can serve the needy by utilizing a country's own laws in "power over" evil, as the International Justice Mission does in delivering slaves out of brick kilns and girls out of forced prostitution.

Dr. Boyd doesn't really explain at what point "the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ." (Revelation 11:15) He recognizes that a kingdom of this world that carries "out law, order, and justice is indeed closer to God's plan for the kingdoms of this world." (55) Missing are recognition of God's ordaining governments, objective standards of what makes a kingdom of this world good, and an explanation of how the kingdom of God can "slowly and inconspicuously--like a mustard seed-- grow and take over the garden" (60) without influencing the part of the garden which includes the government. His discussion of Romans 13:1-8, Paul's instructions on the Christian and government, does not take into account that while describing the Christian's proper response to government, Paul also describes the God-ordained role for government.

Other problems that readers may have is a lack of the discussion of repentance, the lack of influence he allows the Old Testament, his mistake on declaring that Old Testament prophets never declared judgments on non-Jews, his interpretation of the woman taken in adultery, the misapplication of Paul's assertion that he was the greatest of all sinners to all of us being moral inferiors to everyone else. Paul declared himself the greatest of all sinners because he had persecuted the church. Most of us have not done that and though none of us would consider ourselves the equal of the Apostle Paul, it makes no sense to see ourselves as morally inferior to those who abort babies for a living, commit racist acts, and molest children. Let's put things into perspective. True humility must be based on truth. Some readers will disagree with Dr. Boyd's eschatology also.

Most of the chapters present Dr. Boyd's argument in a learned manner. He is not stuffy in his presentation, but thought-provoking and ardent. This is a book for someone who reads well and has a basic knowledge of history. He answers questions in his last chapter, including his position on non-resistance.

Dr. Boyd states that his goal is not “to provide the 'right' answers to ambiguous ethical questions but to help kingdom people appreciate the urgency of preserving the unique kingdom-of-God perspective on all questions and on life as a whole." (162) Although I disagree with him on many assertions and particulars, I think he accomplished his goal rather well. He indeed challenges readers to live a distinctively Christian life marked by love and service. – Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com

Book Jacket:

The Path through Politics Is Not the Road to God

When the kingdom of God is manifested, it will wear the face of Jesus Christ. And that, says author Gregory Boyd, has never been true of any earthly government or power. Through close examination of Scripture and lessons drawn from history, Dr. Boyd argues that evangelical Christians who align themselves too closely with political causes or declare that they want to bring America “back to God” are actually doing harm—both to the body of Christ and society in general. Boyd shows how Jesus taught us to seek a “power-under” kingdom, where greatness is measured by sacrifice and service. There are no sides or enemies because we are meant to embrace and accept everyone. In The Myth of a Christian Nation, Dr. Boyd challenges readers to return to the true love of Calvary and the message of the cross—setting the “power-over” politics of worldly government aside.