repenting of religion: a book talk

Repenting of Religion:  Turning from Judgment to the Love of God, by Greg Boyd

With a title like that, how could I resist?  I haven't even read past the first couple of chapters, and already Boyd has done some 'splaining that draws together a whole bunch of questions that have been spinning around in my head lately.  

Some of those questions come from conversations with readers and clients and friends.  Some of them have just been sloshing around in the depths for a long time inside of me, just waiting for the answer.

I'd list some of the questions for you here, but the more questions I listed, the more there were, and so...

Think of your own question.  The one that's really bothering you.

Got it in your head?


Here's the answer Greg Boyd gives to your question, whatever that question is:


photo:  Michael Bruner

photo:  Michael Bruner

You want to know what's wrong, what's really, really wrong?  It's this one thing.


You know the tree, right?

"Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil...

"The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the Lord God warned him, 'You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.'"  Genesis 2:8,9, 15-17

Why would eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil be bad?  I've never really understood that, have you?  

Knowing good from evil seems like the most basic thing our religion is about.  Know the good, do it.  See evil, avoid it and condemn it.  

It's weird that eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the original sin.  

Which, I think, bolsters the case for it being the original sin--it's so ingrained in us that we don't even feel it there.  It makes no sense to call this sin a sin.  It just seems like the right thing to do.

But eating from that tree was utterly catastrophic.

Here's what Greg Boyd says about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  

"Our fundamental sin is that we place ourselves in the position of God and divide the world between what we judge to be good and what we judge to be evil.  And this judgment is the primary thing that keeps us from doing the central thing God created and saved us to do, namely, love like he loves."  (emphasis mine)


The tree of the knowledge of good and evil separates.  It makes good people and bad people, strong people and weak people, right people and wrong people, male people and female people.  It puts judgment over Love.

Now.  Remember your question?  

Your questions about how does all the bad stuff happen?


Because of that tree, we can't just be connected in Love any more.  We have to judge.  

Once we start to judge, we can almost always convince ourselves that we're right, good, better, holier, maler, whiter, richer, successfuler, straighter, stronger, thinner, teetotaler, favoriter.

And if we can't figure out how we're better, then we'll throw our shame onto others.  ("The woman thou gavest me.")  And once we've thrown our shame onto others, we can do whatever we want to them, because they're at fault.  

Remember our discussion about defense mechanisms?  Think about how that fits with judging others and getting ourselves off the hook, and how that makes a big mess in all of us, and in all of the world.

When there's a hierarchy, I have to find a way to make my way up the ladder.  And if I have to step on you to get there, well, that's the price of doing business.  It's nothing personal.  



Think about what Greg Boyd says about the tree.  

Then, read this passage from Paul:

 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.  He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (emphasis mine)

Here's a completely crazy idea:  our ministry of reconciliation might be just this: to stop evaluating others from our human point of view.  To stop putting everyone in a hierarchy of good or evil, better or worse, sinner or saint.  To stop counting people's sins against them.  

To turn instead to reconciliation.

To see what God sees: people, created in his image.  Precious.  Beloved.  And the price, already paid and sufficient for all.

And then, to invite others back.

Back to the Love that sees and knows and Loves no matter what.

As simple and scary as that.

(Next time I'm going to talk about how boundaries fit with Love in this picture. Love doesn't mean victimization of us or anybody else.  Victimization is the exact opposite of Love.  Not everybody is going to say "yes" to Love, and we have to figure out how to live with that reality.  Love doen't override free will--because overriding free will would be a form of victimization.  Love is free and full and a gift that may or may not be accepted.  So fret not, friends.  I haven't lost my boundaried mind.)

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