‘The Myth of a Christian Religion’

3 05 2010

Description: In this sequel to his bestseller, ‘The Myth of a Christian Nation‘, Dr. Gregory Boyd issues a clear call to manifest God’s beauty and revolt against evil—with Jesus’ life as our example. Passionate theology and practical insight combine to create a guidebook for simple, radical, Christlike living.

From the Back Cover: The kingdom of God is a beautiful revolution. Marked by the radical life, love, servanthood, and humility of Jesus, it stands in stark contrast to the values and ways of the world.

Regrettably, many who profess to follow Christ have bought into the world’s methods, seeking to impose a sort of Christianized ethical kingdom through politics and control. In this illuminating sequel to his bestselling book ‘The Myth of a Christian Nation’, Dr. Gregory Boyd points us to a better way—a way of seeing and living that is consistent with the gospel of Jesus and his kingdom. Between the extremes of passivity on the one hand and political holy war on the other lies the radical, revolutionary path of imitating Jesus.

In twelve areas ranging from racial and social issues to stewardship of the planet, this book will convince and inspire you to live a Christlike life of revolt and beauty—and it will help you attain a practical lifestyle of kingdom impact.

Greg’s story behind the writing of ‘The Myth of a Christian Religion’:

The Myth of a Christian Religion‘ crystallizes a vision of the Kingdom that has been evolving in my mind and heart for at least the last twenty years. It began, I believe, when I first discovered the horrors that have frequently taken place throughout church history “in Jesus’ name.” Whatever Jesus came to do, I thought, it clearly had nothing to do with things like the Inquisition, the Crusades or the barbarism that characterized the early European conquest of America “for God and country.” My thinking about the Kingdom was further refined as I grew increasingly uncomfortable – and eventually, disgusted with – the politicization of the faith with movements like “the Moral Majority” and “the Christian Coalition.” While I might have agreed with some of the political points these groups stood for, I couldn’t see anything in these attempts to acquire political power and control the behavior of others that looked remotely like Jesus.
At the same time, throughout the 90’s and early years of the third millennium, I have become increasingly aware that many of the most fundamental values and ideals that undergird American culture radically contradict the values and ideals of the Kingdom Jesus came to bring. And yet, the vast majority of American Christians (including myself until recently) are completely unaware of this contradiction. Over time, I gradually woke up to the profoundly simple and simply profound truth that the Kingdom Jesus came to establish always looks like him. Which means, if a movement or country or organization doesn’t look like Jesus – loving the unlovable, serving the “least of these,” refusing all violence while dying on behalf of one’s worst enemies – then it simply isn’t the Kingdom. It’s that simple! It doesn’t matter if they call themselves “Christian,” recite orthodox creeds and even engage in good deeds. If a movement, country or organization doesn’t manifest the beauty of God’s will and self-sacrificial character, reflected most profoundly on Calvary, it’s simply not the Kingdom. This vision of the Kingdom was reflected in my book ‘The Myth of a Christian Nation’. Yet, this book is polemical in nature, critiquing the way in which contemporary western evangelicals tend to politicize their faith.
Consequently, the publishers of ‘The Myth of a Christian Nation’ (Zondervan) thought it might be helpful to provide readers with a much more comprehensive and slightly less polemical vision of the Kingdom, as I understand it. (The fact that Myth of a Christian Nation was a best seller might have had a little to do with their interest in a sequel. It’s possible. That’s all I’m saying.)

“I’m convinced that the practice of remaining surrendered to God’s presence moment-by-moment is one of the most foundational (and the most challenging) disciplines of the Kingdom. It’s actually implied in the most foundational teaching of the New Testament; namely, if we confess Jesus Christ as Lord, we will be saved. To show this, I’ll address two common misunderstandings of this teaching.

First, in a consumerist society like America, many treat this teaching like it was simply a good sales pitch. We can be saved – which these people think means we won’t go to hell – simply by reciting this magical confession. We’re basically purchasing fire insurance with this magical prayer. While submitting our life to Christ and thus having our characters and lifestyles transformed may be highly recommended, these things are not required of us to “seal this deal.” We need only believe and confess.

For good consumers who are always shopping for the best deal, this offer is too good to pass up.

The trouble is – this is utter nonsense! This about it. According to the Webster’s Dictionary, a “lord” is one who “has the power and authority over others.” So when a person confesses that “Jesus is Lord,” they are confessing that Jesus “has power and authority” over them. And for a person to confess that someone “has power and authority” over them means they submit to them. So if someone confesses “Jesus is Lord” but doesn’t submit to his “power and authority,” they are literally contradicting themselves. Their confession is meaningless.

It’s like confessing you’re a married bachelor or a round square.
No wonder Jesus asked, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things that I say?”

The simple truth is that when the Bible promises us that if we confess Jesus is Lord we will be saved, it’s not telling us how to get cheap “fire insurance” by reciting a magical salvation formula. Rather, it’s stipulating what kind of relationship we need to have with Jesus to participate in the healing and wholeness of God’s reign. This relationship, by definition, must be one of submission. We are “saved” when we authentically surrender our life to Christ, enthroning him as Lord.

This brings me to a second common misunderstanding of what it means to confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Though it’s hardly ever discussed in contemporary Christian literature, addressing this misunderstanding takes us to the heard of the Kingdom living and shows how the Kingdom is centered on a revolt against secularism.

We’ve seen that the profession of Christ’s lordship isn’t a magical formula. The confession has meaning only when it’s understood to be a genuine pledge to surrender one’s life to Christ. But we need to notice something that is both obvious and almost universally overlooked.

We all make an initial pledge to surrender our life to Christ, but the actual life we pledge to surrender is the life we live each moment after we make our initial pledge. For the only life we have to surrender is the life we live moment-by-moment.

Think about it. Our lives are nothing more than a series of present moments strung together. The only thing that’s real is now. Yes, we remember the past and anticipate the future, but we do this in the present, for our life is always lived in the present. And the whole of our life is nothing over and beyond the totality of these present moments.

When we pledge our life to Christ, this is what we’re pledging – to surrender each of our present moments to Christ. By definition, this can’t be done all at once. It can only be done one moment at a time.

You can think of it like marriage vows. Twenty-nine years ago I looked into my wife’s gorgeous eyes and pledged my life to her. But the actual life I pledged to my wife is the life I have lived each moment since I made that pledge.

The quality of my marriage, therefore, isn’t decided by whether or not I made a pledge twenty-nine years ago. It’s decided by how I live out that pledge now.

So too, the quality of our relationship with God and of our Kingdom living isn’t decided by whether or not we made a pledge twenty-nine years ago – or yesterday. Rather, it’s determined by the extent to which we are living our that pledge now. Whether we’re talking about marriage to another person or our marriage to Christ, our pledge is without content unless we are living it out now, in this moment – and now, in this next moment.

Unfortunately, because of the magical, consumerist view of salvation that pervades Western Christianity, we tend to assume that our life is still currently surrendered to Christ because we once-upon-a-time pledged to surrender it to Christ – which is why we tend to live largely secular lives, despite our confession of Christ as Lord. We have theoretically surrendered to the Kingdom, but the majority of our actual life is lived outside the Kingdom.

I believe that one of the most fundamental challenges Kingdom people face is to move beyond the theoretical Christianity that permeates our secularized culture, while striving to increasingly make our moment-by-moment life the domain over which God reigns. We’re to seek first the Kingdom of God, Jesus said, not merely in a theoretical way that claims God is first in our life while few of our waking moments are even aware of him. We’re to rather seek first the Kingdom by actually making the Kingdom the highest priority in our life – which means doing so in this moment. And now, in this moment. . . Many today embrace the erroneous view that getting “saved” is about avoiding hell. The biblical concept of salvation is not about avoiding the consequences of sin (hell) but about being freed from the sin that leads to those consequences. It’s about being empowered to walk in a Kingdom way that leads to eternal life, not death. This is why the New Testament speaks of salvation as something that has happened, is happening, and will happen.”

‘The Cross and the Sword’ sermon series by Greg Boyd.

Greg’s YouTube channel.




3 responses

10 08 2010
‘The Story of Stuff’ « Jeff Figearo's Blog

[…] “The two main things Americans do with their leisure time is watch television and shop. The first brainwashes us to do the second, and the second requires that we work incessantly to pay for all our stuff we’re brainwashed to buy. Consequently, most Americans have neither the time nor the inclination to cultivate meaningful relationships. The Powers have reduced us to mice on a treadmill futilely chasing the cheese of the American dream.” – Greg Boyd (‘TMCR’) […]

12 08 2010
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[…] by fullness of joy, even when our circumstances are unhappy.” – Greg Boyd (‘The Myth of a Christian Religion‘; also the author of ‘The Myth of a Christian Nation‘, and ‘Letters from a […]

12 08 2010
I Pledge Allegiance… « Jeff Figearo's Blog

[…] Boyd (‘The Myth of a Christian Religion‘; and also the author of, ‘The Myth of a Christian Nation‘, and ‘Letters […]

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