God at War, by Gregory Boyd
I have just finished reading God at War, by Gregory Boyd. I have found it a fascinating read. I believe this may be among the most important theological works of the last twenty years.
In some ways this book is advocating what was already going on in my theological direction, namely the vital importance of angelogy in theology. In other ways, it is forcing me to re-think the way I approach the subject of evil and God's providence.
It is my intention to write several posts summarising key arguments in this book.
This book and its sequel, Satan and the Origin of Evil, deal with the subject of evil and the providence of God. Boyd argues that traditional theodicy focuses too much on either God's secret providential plans or else the sin of man as the explanation for evil.
Boyd argues for a Warfare Theodicy, an expanded view of the Free-Will Defence in such a way as to include the free-will of Satan and other angelic beings. Satan and the Origin of Evil, deals with the philosophical issues involved in this Warfare Theodicy, while God at War makes the Biblical case for it.
Boyd argues in this book that both the Old and New Testaments present a picture of the cosmos being in a state of war, chaos and strife. Rather than being under the harmonious rule of divine providence, the cosmos is being wrecked by the enormous power of evil celestial beings who control this world. These beings have been decisively conquered by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, however they continue to resist His rule and authority until their final defeat in the eschaton.
Boyd is an Open Theist, a view I do not share and he criticises Classic Arminians (a position with which I share much common ground) as being far too committed to the Agustinian paradigm for theodicy. While Boyd would probably disagree with me, I do believe that his thesis is compatible with classic theism.
Boyd begins his book by quoting Daniel 10:
12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.
13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
Boyd argues that this presents a radical challenge to conventional ideas about the power of prayer among Chritians. This passage tells us that Daniel's prayer and fasting were heard in heaven and he received a response in the angel being despatched. However, this response was delayed by the actions of an evil angelic being, the prince of Persia. This would seem to indicate that evil celestial beings possess the power to prevent prayers being answered. If so, a good deal of the evil and suffering experienced in the world can potentially be explained by the actions of these cosmic powers.
Boyd argues that this is the Warfare Worldview. That is, a view that mankind is at the mercy of spiritual beings, both good and evil. The early Christians, before Augustine and his new view of providence, all held this view. Hence, they did not see evil as a problem in the way that later Christians did. Likewise, the Jews also saw man as caught in the conflict between good and evil angels and demons.
It is not just Augustine which prevents Christians from embracing the Warfare Worldview. Boyd also attributes blame to the rationalism of the West, which mocks the idea of a spirit world. Modern Western Chritians are deeply uncomfortable about the idea of intermediate beings between God and man. The 'second storey' is denied by the liberals and played down by the conservatives. However, Boyd argues that Western Civilisation is unique in its refusal to embrace a Warfare Worldview. He points out that even primitive tribal cultures in Africa and Asia are able to view the suffering and death as attributable to the work of spirits.
I hope in a number of posts in the near future to outline some of Boyd's key arguments that a Warfare Theodicy is fundamentally biblical.