Would You Have Left Boyd’s Church?

reflection on The Myth of a Christian Nation and Colossians 1

Why did so many people leave Woodland Hills Church when Boyd preached his original message series?

Boyd says, in an interview with Charlie Rose, that he thinks 1,000 people left because “Some people didn’t understand what I was saying…some, their mindset is so politicized that if you are not supporting the right-wing political cause, you must be a ‘liberal’ and so they assumed that I was sneaking in liberal politics when I am actually saying the kingdom of God is beautiful and it transcends this partisan political stuff…and then others just flatly disagree: their faith is so strongly wedded to American nationalism and to right-wing politics that for their pastor to say that this is not what we’re about is to go AWOL, so in anger or in frustration, they left.”

I think Boyd needs to consider yet another possibility: That there may have been a significant number who do agree with him about the inappropriate power-grabs of the Religious Right, but that they found his solution to be unsatisfying.

I am one who would LOVE to go to a church that explicitly states that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, a church that never hands out “voter guides” published by the Christian Coalition, a church that does not perpetuate the myth that America is a Christian nation, etc.

I have left congregations that have done this, for I feel this kind of politicizing of Christianity is not aligned with the will of God.

But I do not agree with Boyd’s solution to the problem. I do not agree with his labeling government as a satanic evil and destructive power. I think that there are other solutions to the problem than to simply chalk up all government as evil and “power over.”

So, I wonder…
Since I have left other congregations because of what I listed above, if I were in Greg Boyd’s congregation, would I have left?

Maybe. But for different reasons.

I sincerely believe that Christ seeks to redeem everything. I believe what is written in Colossians“For by him (Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Col 1:16, 19-20).

If all things (including “thrones, powers, rulers, authorities”) were created by Christ and for Christ, and are being reconciled back to Christ (whether things on earth or things in heaven), then I don’t know if I would remain under a pastor that seemingly denies this. I'd have to sit down and talk with Pastor Greg and hear his thoughts on this passage. I deeply respect Greg Boyd (I have read a number of his books and have found much of this book on politics to be intriguing), and I'd hate to have to leave the church he pastors over something like this. He seems to be a reasonable and articulate Christian who passionately loves the Lord and wants the church to be what it should be, and that has a lot going for it!

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

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RonMcK said...

You set out a great vision in your last two paragraphs. However, I presume that there are not many churches with pastors that are grappling with these issues in the way you describe. So I doubt that a pastor's failure to do so, is not sufficient reason for leaving a church.

I hope that more and more Christians will start thinking in this way about these issues. I suspect it will take longer for pastors to get on board. I am encouraged that Greg Boyd is thinking about the issues and seems to be open minded.

BTW. I belong to a house church, where the leaders submit to each other. The concept of being "under a pastor" sounds too much like Christendom to me. Woodland Hills Church sounds very pastocentric. (Its tough being a gifted communicator).

Bob Robinson said...


I guess what I'm saying is that too often I've experienced what Boyd is reacting against: Pastors proliferating the myth of a Christian nation. I've left because I felt that one had to be in agreement with the Religious Right in order to be fully accepted there. It's not an issue of my thinking that the RR is correct or not, its the presumption that this is the only legitimate Christian stand.

About being "under" a pastor. I'm not speaking necessarily in Christendom terms, but in the meaning of episkopos, an overseer. I think the pastor is an overseer, and thus in some way I am "under" his "oversight."

Anonymous said...

I'd say, yes, WHC tends to be somewhat pastor-centric, they do have cell groups.

I want a holistic gospel and oppose dualism, as well.

I remember when Boyd invited me to join his church back when I was a college student, I didn't go because I felt like I offered up leadership/strength to my local church and didn't think that joining Boyd's church would be that good of an idea.

I went to emotional health support groups at his church, a couple of years ago and was blessed by it.

Anyways, thought you might like this post about Christians in Politics in Great Britain. What they do is totally in opposition to Boyd, but may be worth learning from for the US.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment Bob,

Now, we need to see if we can get something similar to the British "Christians in Politics" going for the US.

That would be so much more preferable to having the NAE leadership act politically on our behalf, not unlike any other special interest lobbying group.


RonMcK said...

Interesting Bob.
I think it is hard for someone living outside the US to understand how strident and controlling the RR can be.

I suspect that here in New Zealand most pastors tend to avoid political issues from the pulpit. This is partly the result of Christianity being more of a minority culture. In some ways, we need more engagement with these issues along the lines you describe in you post.

Miche said...

I do not fool myself to be so theologically savvy to be able to defend Boyd's position, but what little I have familiarized myself with his thinking, I have truly appreciated his heart regarding this issue. IMHO, there is something very unhealthy in how the religious right and left approach politics and culture in our country. I have never been able to place my finger on it, but it does not take away from the stench I smell when I am confronted by it. Boyd is refreshing to me in light of this. He is on to something, even if it is not theologically air tight.



Bob Robinson said...



This is why I am reviewing the book. I have purposely immersed myself in Christian political theories so that I can better understand a way out of the stench.

Boyd's way out of the stench is a legitimate one - one taken by the Anabaptists. The way out of the stench that I have found myself preferring is the one taken by the Dutch neo-calvinists. But I think that there may be a middle ground between these Christian political theories that I'd like to discover and articulate here, a new way of looking at it that would be in the vanguard, something that would be apealling to an emerging sensibility on the issue, something both biblical and practical in our current situation (postmodern, postconservative, postliberal, postsocialist, postnationalist, post-religious-right, post-religious-left).

Bob Robinson said...

After further thinking and prayer, I've changed what I said about leaving Boyd's church (see the end of the post). FYI.

Ted Gossard said...

Good stimulating thought here!

I so strongly agree in Christ having reconciled all things. What I want to learn is how this redemption takes place in Christ, and I'm thinking here, through his people: the Church- his Body on earth.

Reading Bonhoeffer presently, is making me wrestle more with the anabaptist view, that it is to be subversive and no less than in congruence with our Lord's "Sermon on the Mount".

This is surely just one piece of the whole, but it may be a most important one, not only because of it, but also because of the neglect of it.

Of course how its interpreted, the hermeneutics, is certainly always an issue.

But I think the Sermon on the Mount, and something of the Anabaptist vision is sorely needed by all today. Especially in all of our life, politics being one part of it. And this being true, whether we agree with it all or not. Wherever we may be on the spectrum of Christian belief in all of this. As I already believe you hold to.

Thanks again, Bob. Great stuff. And yes. I would be hurt to be a part of a church that you describe as having left (and really wouldn't want to be part of any of that).

Marc said...

Hi Bob,

Great dialogue. I appreciate everyone's comments here. I listened to a Tim Keller video at John Piper's site, desiringgod.org (Tim is one of the speakers at the upcoming conference that John puts on annually in Minneapolis). Tim does not like the unnecessary dichotomy between an anabaptist approach that focuses on developming Christ-centered, authentic community that speaks cogently to a hopelessly lost culture via its counter-culture values, over against a reformed view that seeks to engage the culture directly and recognizes that God owns everything. Tim wants both and so do I. So I agree with you Bob, I actually like your thinking a lot better than Greg's, but I still think that Greg is on to something. In effect, he is engaging the culture via a reformational model by the mere fact that secular media outlets are airing his views for him both in print via the NYT, and also on the air with the Charlie Rose interview on PBS.