The Myth of a Christian Nation, Ch 2

Chapter 2 is entitled, “The Kingdom of the Cross,” and in it, Boyd lays out a very biblical description of the Kingdom of God, which he says is “the heart of Jesus’ teaching.”

Boyd’s interpretation of the Kingdom of God reflects a Christus Victor view of the Atonement (Boyd’s ministry beyond his pastoring Woodland Hills Church is called "Christus Victor Ministries"). Here's an excerpt:
“Though the world as a whole was and remains part of the domain in which Satan is king, in Jesus the domain in which God is king has been introduced into the world. The central goal of Jesus’ life was to plant the seed of this new kingdom so that, like a mustard seed, it would gradually expand. Eventually that kingdom would end the rule of Satan and reestablish God, the Creator of the world, as its rightful ruler (Matt. 13:31-31). In other words, Jesus came to destroy the cosmic “power over” lord and establish the kingdom of God upon the earth (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). Jesus planted the seed of the kingdom of God with his ministry, death, and resurrection and then gave to the church, the body of all who submit to his lordship, the task of embodying and living out this distinct kingdom…We collectively are his “second” body, as it were, through which he continues to do what he did in his “first” body…As we allow Christ’s character to be formed in us—as we think and act like Jesus—others come under the loving influence of the kingdom and eventually their own hearts are won over to the King of Kings. The reign of God is thus established in their hearts, and the kingdom of God expands. That process…will culminate in the return of the King accompanied by legions of angels, at which time Satan’s rule will end, the earth will be purged of all that is inconsistent with God’s rule, and his kingdom of love will be established once and for all.”

The rest of the chapter looks at Jesus’ teachings on the kingdom of God—that it is for those who are like little children, not seeking power, money, or social respect (Matt 18:3-4), that it washes people’s feet in service (John 13:3-11), that it does not retaliate with power but heals those who threaten (as in when Jesus healed the ear of the man struck by the sword in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:50-51), that it loves neighbors (Matt 22:36-40), that it prays for those who persecute (Matt 5:43-44), and that it even does good to those who seek to do harm (Luke 6:29; 6:34-35).

There is little to criticize in Boyd’s description of the Kingdom of God—it is indeed the subversive kingdom that overthrows the kingdom of Satan by love and sacrifice, for this is what the King did on the cross (and which was vindicated in the resurrection). Our mandate is indeed to seek first this Kingdom and to become kingdom people. If Christ is King, he must be King of all. And we live in the tension of the time in which there is a cosmic battle between these two kingdoms.

However, Boyd goes one step further (following John Howard Yoder), saying that all governments are a part of the kingdom of the world—ruled, therefore, by Satan.

And that is the problem. If each government is itself a “power” that is fallen and under the control of Satan, then this leaves little room for Christians to be a subversive, redeeming force for and in the government. According to Boyd, government is evil because it is ontologically evil doing the will of Satan; government itself is a fallen power (not just an institution that is under the influence of evil powers, it itself is an evil power).

But this does not seem to be the teaching of Scripture, which says that the governing authorities have no authority “except that which God has established…Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong” (Romans 13:1-3). Paul’s language does not sound like he is condemning governmental authority because it is demonic; rather it seems to be the exact opposite: “God has established” rulers, and therefore they “hold no terror for those who do right.”

Posts in this series:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 & 5
Reflection: Boyd and Colossians 1
Chapters 6 - 8
Chapter 9
Wrap-up Review

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DLW said...

It's like I told Boyd at his old discussion board, it's hard to deal with politics with a Spiritual Warfare Theodicy.

Can one presume Satan's power/influence is the same as it once was after Jesus's death on the cross? Can one presume it's possible to extricate oneself from the system of power that exists and is presumed to be demonical by Boyd?

Are we not in the time of the divided kingdoms that are composed of a mixture of iron and clay, democracy and aristocracy(or plutocracy) that Daniel spoke of?

I ordered the book, but my pressing question is would a book like this possibly move the heart of President George W Bush to repent of some of the ways he has use Christian-speak and try to be a better/different sort of president for the remainder time in the office?

If it is not likely to do that, then I think it tragically falls short.

Michael W. Kruse said...

I have been around many from the anabaptist tradition for most of my life and I have great respect for the integrity of most I have met. However, I am with you about the nature of government. To me, government is the inevitable extension of the call for humanity to fill the earth and exercise dominion. Fall or no fall, I think we would have had government. I too reject the idea that government is intrinsically evil.

Ted Gossard said...

Government/the state is instituted by God so that in and of itself it is not evil. However in this in-between time, the kingdom of this world is essentially, or at its heart in opposition to the kingdom of God.

dlw, your point about the mixture now is quite interesting. Is interpreting the iron and clay as democracy and aristocracy reading into that passage?

Bob- and Michael (and really dlw too), The above view of mine does seem to cause problems for Scripture's teaching that we are salt and light on earth, I take it, across the board.

However, I think not entirely. We can function in these God-ordained institutions with a realism of what we're up against, as well as a realization of limitations not only God-ordained, but due to the fall of man, and Satan's hold on earthly powers (I take the UN as an example of this, myself).


Ted Gossard said...

By the way, I heard (somewhat distracted) most of the interview on "On Point" last night. Tom Ashbrook interviewing Gregory Boyd. Boyd does touch on Christian participation in politics a little. In a popular vein, and I'm not sure he really said all that much beyond his basic paradigm. I thought it was a pretty good interview.

Would have been good if you Bob, or dlw or Michael could have been on that program. The evangelical leader (of some organization) they had on there with him for a short time, disagreed, but not discussing the theology behind his disagreement (much).

Here's the link: http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2006/08/20060807_a_main.asp

Ted Gossard said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ted Gossard said...

Sorry about link. You can find the program through google, on point ashbrook, then go to archives, august, third program.

For some reason it won't copy entire link.

DLW said...

possibly. I think it is biblical to associate iron with the use of technology to exert military supremacy. It is not a coincidence that the altar to the lord is not to be made with iron tools in Deut 27:5. We also see the use of Iron associated with the enemies of Israel who put their faith in their own creations rather than YHWH.

Clay on the other hand seems to be used as a way of referring to what us humans are ultimately made of. It is not that far off to associate a gov't composed somewhat of clay with it's having democratic "aspects", as ours does still.

Ted, I agree that the rule of our world does frustrate the spread of the kingship of God. But to view "the gov't of the world" as irreparably pagan or Satanic and yet still frame the Christian mission as one basically of overcoming evil with Good tends to conflict with a holistic view of Christian missions.

Methinks they selected a non-theological heavyweight to debate with Boyd on purpose... Boyd is likely getting media attention for his book, not necessarily because some of the powers that be like his evangelical theology, but because he is seen as likely to get more evangelicals to be less likely to vote on the basis of the cultural wars issues in upcoming elections.


DLW said...

The NCR reviewed Boyd's book.

Key quote:"Catholics may also find a bit too Manichaean his division of the world, but what he says about how churches compromise their fundamental purpose by aligning too closely with political strategies, candidates, programs and parties is a worthy warning to all denominations and church leaders, including bishops, and all political points on the spectrum."


RonMcK said...


Is the state ontologically good or just inimical? :-)

I have listened to a couple of Greg's sermons and I agree with you that his description of the kingdom of God seems to be right on the nail. So the issue seeks to be the status of governing authorities. Greg seems to be saying that they are always evil. You seem to be suggesting they are all good (I presume you do not really mean that).

I agree with Greg, that if there had been no fall, then we would not need the state, because there would be no crime. But in our fallen, partly redeemed world, surely the truth is in between. Some states are better than others. Some are more of the world and some are closer to the Kingdom of God. Our goal should be to push them from the Kingom of the World towards the Kingdom of God. The key question for me is when and how that should be done. We need to be clear about what the state would look like and how it would behave as it moves more towards the kingdom of God. If it is to be more "power under", then I suspect it would be less coercive.

PS I think you need to dig a bit deeper into Romans 13. I do not think Paul would say that Hitler and Stalin were put there for the good of Christians. He was talking about overcoming evil with good; he was not saying that evil is good.

Bob Robinson said...

The link to Boston NPR's "On Point" radio program that Ted speaks of is here.

DLW said...

I think that one could say that all gov'ts are under evil influences, just as one could be influenced by "demons" without being possessed by them.

This fits with the divided powers of our world being a mixture of iron and clay.

Boyd's problem is that he is making it seem too clearcut and selectively selecting aspects of scripture to fit with his own personal skepticism wrt politics.

I'd like to see a Christian political ontotheology book where four prominent evangelicals with somewhat different perspectives set out their political (onto)theology in a certain no. of words and then interact with the others in a somewhat less no. of words with an even shorter response given and one or two interpretive essays at the end.

I think that would be so much more helpful than having one particular evangelical get the stage/book all to themselves. It'd be true more to the inevitable selectivity involved in how we interact with politics or understand that sphere of conflict that pervades all of our lives and that many white USEvangelicals have failed to deliberate on extensively in the past with the result of our current fallen situation.

Bob Robinson said...


First, I hope it didn't seem that I said that I think that Paul would say Hitler or Stalin were put there for the good. I don't want to call evil good. I think Paul is not saying a blanket statment that all govt is good--I think that he understood how evil it was for Rome to kill the Messiah. So I think we need to understand him as speaking about a properly functioning government.

The bigger point is this (and I'll be getting into this a little more in the future): There is basically two interpretations of Rom 13 within evangelicalism.

Boyd (following the anabaptists, especially Yoder) says that all governments are evil powers, each a part of the Satanic "kingdom of the world." As such, they are an evil in a fallen world, something that God allows in order to govern fallen humans so that their evil actions can be restrained with the power of the "sword."

The other, more prominant, view in evangelicalism is that government is part of the creation order. Ron Sider writes, "Even if sin had never entered the human family, creating violence and evil that government rightly restrains, human beings would have needed processes and institutions to nurture the common good and arrange society so that all could live in wholesome mutual interdependence." ("Justice, Human Rights, and Government", in Toward an Evangelical Public Policy [Baker Books, 2005], p. 168).

Here's what I want to explore with everyone: If all we do is frame our discussion about government around the issue of "power" and retributive justice, then are we missing God's larger intention for government?

What if God's view of government goes beyond just a "remedy for sin?" What if his intentions for government also include the promotion of love, shalom, and all aspects of justice (not just retributive justice, but also the root meaning of justice: giving all their "due" in fairness and equity)?

Bob Robinson said...


Your quote that Boyd may be a "bit too Manichaean" in his division of the world into good and evil is a great one from the "The Anti-Manicheaist"!

Bob Robinson said...


Maybe Boyd would participate in such a "four views" book. He has already done so - on a different topic. Coming out later this year is a four views book on the Atonement, with Boyd offering the Christus Victor view.

Bob Robinson said...

BTW Ron,

I laughed out loud -

your ontological / inimical comment...

Anonymous said...

Sorry hear about your heart. You sound like a good-hearted aman to me.

Thans for yuour clear comment, I guess I am uncomfortable with both approaches to Rom 13.

Further to my note above, I believe that "when" is as important as "how". We cannot push the political space towards the kingdom of God, when we are in a minority, or society is moving in a secular direction (the situation in NZ).

Politics will be the last sphere of life to be touched by the gospel. It cannot be done until the majority of people are christian or accept christian values. If we try before that has happened when end up shoving stuff down peoples throats (what Greg seems to be concerned about). We start forcing christianity onto people.

If as Greg says in his third sermon, America is a pagan nation, then this is a totally wrong time to be trying to shove the political sphere towards the kingdom of God.

In a pagan society, all you can do is speak prohetically to the powers as Daniel did. You can also start thinking, so that if the Holy spirit comes through and the gospel is accepted by a majority, then you are ready to touch the political space.

Part of the problem at the time of Canstantine, Christians had not done the thinking. They knew how to live in a hostile cutlture. They did not no how to live in a culture where they were the marjority.

I sense that Greg does not expect that to happen, so the issue does not exist for him. I have more confidence in the Holy Spirit, so I would like us to be ready, if theat time does come in my nation.

RonMck away frmom home on a funny keyboard

DLW said...

Ideally, I'd like theologians with a bit more political ontotheological sophistication than Boyd participating, but yeah he is a good writer and obviously now a name and so he'd be a good choice.

For me, I think it's wrong to have a single theologian write a political theological treatise given the serious selectivity going on in such matters. It's like with Rauschenbusch's Social Gospel, when we elevate the views of a single theologian(a Luther) with a certain selective exegesis of scriptures, they may get calcified in too many people's minds in ways that ultimately undermine the witness of Xty as a whole.

If our subjectivities entail decisions about whose shoulders to stand on, we need to be more aware of the options and willing to question our received views to follow the path that bears the most Christlike light/fruit...


Ted Gossard said...


I do mention your series on my blog as I try to set out the issue: http://communityofjesus.blogspot.com/2006/08/christians-and-world-of-politics_14.html

Thanks for your read and critique of the book, and each chapter in it. Much appreciated.

The Bose said...

After watching Gregory Boyd in his interview on Charlie Rose the other night, I could not help but get excited over some of the comments that he makes. I have not read the book, so I cannot speak to it directly, but I like how he explained it in the interview.

I think the important point that he makes is that it is wrong to pretend that America is the model of what every country should be. I agree with him that there are too many Americans who have their faith so tightly entwined with American nationalism. I believe, and I think Boyd is trying to make this point, that this is exactly the kind of mindset that makes people think that America is a nation (for lack of a better word) mandated by Christ; that God has set us up as the top hegemon because it is a "Christian Nation" and because of that it is America's job to keep itself "for God" and help carry out the work of God's kingdom in the world. I'm so glad to hear his reminders to everyone that the kingdom of God is not an earthly kingdom.

As for the discussion about government itself being evil or good, I think I tend to agree with the former. I was very moved when reading "Common Sense" and some of the other works of Thomas Paine where he explains the story of how government originated in the Judeo-Christian tradition. He draws attention to 1 Samuel 8 where Israel, after being led by the Judges for so long, asks for a King. In that chapter, Samuel warns the Israelites of all the things a King may ask of them and that...

"When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day." 1 Samuel 8:18 (NIV)

Thus, Paine (if memory serves me correctly) argues that the Israelites were basically replacing God as their king with an earthly king, and this was not what God had intended for them, yet he allows them to have an earthly king after making his disclaimer and has Samuel appoint Saul as the king (1 Samuel 9:17).

On this point, I wonder what Boyd would say about the Israelites under Saul. Were they still a Jewish nation? They had an earthly king, but one that we understand almost certainly to have been chosen by God. However, what the Bible tells us about Saul would seem to indicate that even a leader chosen by God can turn out to be far from perfect. The cases of Israelite kings to follow such as David and Solomon and the like would indicate the same.

Ideas about God-chosen leaders becomes even more complicated when you throw in the democratic process. After all, democracy is all about the _people_ choosing the leaders, not God choosing them. With a literal interpretation of Romans 13, can we assume that God somehow arranges it that the leader he wants is who gets the majority vote? And if that's true, does that mean that whoever voted against that leader is against God? How can God have a leader voted into office without treading on free will?

I would tend to think that God takes no such action in this way to place leaders in power as he sees fit. History has seen so many leaders with agendas that oppose what we understand as Christian values that it doesn't seem likely. It seems to me that it could be possible that God always has someone in mind for the role, but just like it was ultimately the Israelites' decision to follow Saul and their other kings, it is our decision today what leaders we choose to follow. I think that was the basis of Thomas Paine's argument, at least. And that was a huge basis for our current system of government, a system designed with the will of the majority, not the will of God, in mind for choosing its leaders.

The word "Evil" is a hard term, and I think that it is wrong to say that government is "Evil." However, I believe the same is true for "Good." It's not a case of Matthew 12:30 (He who is not with me is against me) but rather Mark 9:40 (Whoever is not against us is for us). Earthly government is just like us and the individuals involved in it - Human. It's not perfect. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's against God. However, and I believe this is the point that Boyd is trying to make, we should assume that earthly government cannot be good, that is, it cannot be completely in line with God's will all the time. The same can be said for an earthly nation itself.

I don't believe that this book will be effective in changing the ways of our current earthly leader, but I do hope that its message will affect the hearts of those who will have a hand in choosing our next one. Too many people seem to believe that legislating morality and "Christian Values" in the United States is more important than putting Christianity into practice through social reform in this and other parts of the world.

On a side note, the guest preceeding Gregory Boyd on this edition of Charlie Rose was Rick Warren, the author of the famous book "Purpose Driven Life." I would like to mention that one of the first statements made by Warren on the show was that the evangelical chuch in America from the beginning of the 20th century has become more and more divided between the priorities of personal salvation and social reform and that these two factions need to come back together. This is another point that I am in strong agreement with.

The Bose said...

By the way, video of the interview I speak of can be seen here:


and transcripts can be ordered from here:


Nicholas said...

You are observing the scipture on "authorities" from a very modern perspective. Don't view it through the lenses of an American living in 2006. Your thinking has to span time and culture.

Simply because "all governments are given authority by God," does not mean those governments must be Godly. Look at the world today. Are all governments "Godly?" No. But nonetheless, they are worldly authorities which have been *allowed* to exist.

God allows evil to exist, after all.

Think of the context of when scripture was written. The Roman Empire was in full swing, brutally conquering multiple nations, falling into obscene moral decay, and (eventually) killing Christians. Heck, they killed Christ. That was the "authority" Paul was talking about.

So no, your conclusion isn't logical. It *presupposes* that Christians have a duty to influence society through politics and government. Those are worldly institutions that are allowed to exist, but are ultimately governed by Satan. They have no place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Bob Robinson said...


Thanks for your input! You articulate the Anabaptist stand very well, and I appreciate that.

If I inferred that I think that simply because all governments are given authority by God that this means they are automaticaly "Godly," I need to clarify.

I am saying that government is a part of the created order (as does Yoder, the best articulation I've read from an Anabaptist perspective). Where we part on our interpretation is the effects of the fall on government. Yoder states that all government is a fallen power. What Boyd is saying (following Yoder) is not that government act unjustly because they are under the influence of fallen (satanic) powers, but that government are THEMSELVES the fallen powers.

As I see it, government is not ontologically evil (as Boyd states), it is that government is influenced by that which is evil. Why? Because government is run by those who are influenced by satanic evil.

If I carry the logic to its end, then the humans themselves are evil powers, not humans influenced by evil powers due to their fallenness.

That's a big difference. One says that humans (and governments) are redeemable, the other (Boyd's view) says that they are not, they are intrinsically evil, beyond hope of redemption.

Bob Robinson said...

The Bose,

Thanks for the links to the Charlie Rose interview!!

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joe said...

I didn't take from Boyd's book that he thought governments were completely evil. I felt he was trying to sat that God orders governments to act and be a certain way, but like anything fallen, it has been corrupted by evil. He even states I believe that there is a dualism there. So I think he was trying to say to maybe just stay a little suspicious. He may be overstating just to prove a point on idolatry and nationalism.

Maybe not. Maybe it is just what I want him to say :-)

Bob Robinson said...


Boyd is clear that he thinks that gov't is a fallen entity, without the prospect of redemption. All gov't is a part of the "kingdom of the world."

"Fusing together the kingdom of God with…the kingdom of the world is idolatrous… This fusion is having serious consequences for Christ’s church and for the advancement of God’s kingdom." (p. 11) "The kingdom Jesus came to establish is 'not from this world' (John 18:36), for it operates differently than the governments of the world do. While all the versions of the kingdom of the world acquire and exercise power over others, the kingdom of God, incarnated and modeled in the person of Jesus Christ, advances only by exercising power under others. It expands by manifesting the power of self-sacrificial, Calvary-like love." (p. 14)