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Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgment to the Love of God [Paperback]

Greg Boyd
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 July 2004
We human beings are burdened by our tendencies to harshly judge others and ourselves. Unfortunately for believers, this bent is as prevalent in the church as in the world. Pastor and author Gregory A. Boyd calls readers to a higher standard through understanding the true manner in which God views humanity: as infinitely worth while and lovable. Only an attitude shift in how we perceive ourselves in light of God's love can impact how we relate to people and transform our judgmental nature. Believers wrestling with the reality of God's love and Christians struggling with judging in the local church will appreciate this examination of how we move from a self-centered to a Christ-centered life.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801065062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801065064
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 14.1 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 496,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Gregory A. Boyd is the senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church (B.G.C.) in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of many books, including the bestselling Letters from a Skeptic, and formerly taught theology at Bethel College.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gods kindness leads us to repentance. 6 Oct 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is phenomenal. I took two books with me on holiday this summer (this and 'the Shack') and loved both. The title grabbed me because Repentance and Religion have been two of my theological preoccupations in the past 3 years.
Boyd's writing is engaging (like his preaching I've discovered) passionate, clear and theologically precise. He builds on Bonhoeffer's ethics and his explanation of Bonhoeffer's understanding of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil, is accessible for lay readers without being superficial in any way.
It was refreshing to read a theological book, which wasn't arguing a case in a debate, as much as bringing God's people back to biblical truth, about God's love and our call to live in line with it. He's provocative and some will react, but I believe this book has something profound to teach us and it shines some biblical light into the C21st church.
This is essential reading for every Christian, I'm taking our staff team through it and we're excited by what we're re-discovering.
His interpretation of Genesis 3, is particularly helpful. If I had any critique, I'd ask for more stories, this isn't heavy on illustrations, but it is packed with life changing truth. I'm buying it for all my pastor friends' birthdays in the coming months!
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72 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Back to basics 12 Mar 2005
By Will Martin - Published on
My inspiration for reviewing this book came not so much from its impact on my own life - though that was significant - but from the negative reviews which only serve to reinforce Boyd's thesis.

One reviewer writes:

"Too lopsided on one aspect of God's character ... Does not balance personal skew with God's holy wrath against sin."

These words exemplify the essence of Boyd's concern, as stated in the chapter titled 'The Center is Love:'

"Even as I write these words, I can hear someone saying, 'Yes, we must love. But we must balance love with truth. ... Love has its place, but we must not forget God's wrath.' ... We have to wonder where anyone got the idea that love in any way competes with truth, holiness or biblical doctrine. Love is the central biblical truth; it is the essence of all holiness." (p. 57-58)

Boyd in no way infers or states that we should gloss over sin in our own lives and the lives of others, but in discerning evil, or sin, we should be motivated by the love of Christ that lives within us, not our need to draw worth from our power to judge others, a desire rooted in our fallen, or 'old man.'

As Boyd so clearly states, our focus on hatred of sin is often rooted in our desire to play God, by deeming who is worthy of love and who is not, based on their love-ability. This, simply stated, is heretical to the very nature of the God, who IS love, and portrays a skewed image of Abba Father that believes the divine's hatred for sin, not his lovingkindness, sent him to the cross.

All the writers of the New Testament clearly state that all we do should be done in love, and even our acts of apparent harshness, discipline and discernment need be motivated by what is best for the others involved, not a sense of righteousness. Boyd captures this sentiment wonderfully and saturates this thesis with countless scriptures and a theology that, while unsettling to our paradigms, is sound to those who have tasted of the grace of God.

The further accusation of antinomianism is baseless, and, as is so often the case with those who are quick to toss about this term, indicates a failure to understand its actual meaning. Antinomianism is the belief that God's grace, as evidenced through the cross, eradicated the law by destroying the reality of wrong and right, good and evil, and this belief is a a lie; it IS heresy. Boyd's thesis far from antinomian. Like the Apostle Paul, he is simply stating that its power to either condemn us when we fail to fulfill its demands or its ability to ascribe to us worth when we fulfill is demands IS DEAD.

While we still seek to discern sin and the lies that bind us, the law and its power died to us at the cross, and the only thing that matters now - the only law that binds us, is the law of liberty, or as Paul states, faith expressing itself through love.

This IS the gospel. We no longer view God, ourselves or the world through the grid of the law, but through God's love, and God's love is selfless and always seeks the best for the other, and so, as Boyd states, we must discern those things that harm us - the lies we believe and the sins that bind us - but never to establish our goodness before God, as our goodness is found only in the person of God through Christ.

I believe Boyd expresses well the truth that love need not be balanced with truth, as if his lovingkindness, grace and tenderheartedness and his truth, holiness and majesty are opposites, but these are all many expressions of the essence of God who is love. Boyd quotes philosophy professor Peter Kreeft to drive this point home:

"God is not half love and half wrath, or 99 percent love and 1 percent wrath. God IS love. Wrath is how his love appears to us when we sin or rebel or run away from him. The very light that is meant to help us, appears to us as our enemy when we seek the darkness (p. 59)."

Boyd further states: "All the attributes of God are to be defined by Christ. In the crucified Messiah we see God's just and holy wrath against sin, but we see it as a manifestation of God's love. ... Everything that God does, even his expressions of holy wrath, are done out of love (p. 59-60).

And at the risk of overquotation, let Boyd's word best summarize the heart of this writing: "Hence, as those who are called to live in such a way that people can know God by knowing us, we are called to love. We are only balanced in our understanding of love when we understand that it is the one thing we must live in - to all people, at all times, in all situations, without exception. If we do this, everything else we need to do will get done. If we don't do this, there's simply nothing else worth doing (p. 60)."

While one may not agree with all the practical applications of Boyd's thesis, the doctrinal and spiritual soundness is unquestionable in light of the apostles' writings and the living expression of God's love as found in the life of Christ.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do yourself a favor and disregard the negative reviews 28 May 2007
By Hector Lasala - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Please do yourself a favor and disregard the majority of the negative reviews of this astonishing book.
These only confirm the main premise of Mr Boyd's argument:
a large number of American Christians have been mainlining juice from the fruit of the wrong tree for years now.
Thus, they have lamentably and tragically and ironically allowed themselves to become a 'community of accusers,'
whose perverse aim is the 'moralizing of life,' which is the total antithesis of what Jesus initiated!

With this book as well as a previous one (The Myth of a Christian Nation),
Mr Boyd is prophetically addressing serious flaws and downright sins in present-day churches.
He makes the most compelling and scripturally persuasive case as to
what has turned so much of Christianity into an aggressive and cold-hearted pathogen amidst a culture that
desperately needs Christ-like lovers--whose love is as reckless, extravagant and promiscuous as that of Jesus.

I could refute many of the false arguments and objections raised below by quoting from the book.
Instead I say: buy it and read it; this is a well-balanced argument and thoroughly faithful to the Spirit of the Word.
It will answer much that has baffled you and confirm what you have known was not right in many a congregation.

But I will address one legitimate observation:
the seeming contradiction of a book that forbids judgement judging the judgmental attitude of others.
Here's a quote from the book that I believe settles this issue:

"Jesus' religious reputation was tarnished in the eyes of religious people
because he did not honor many of the religious taboos of his days.
Walking in unity with God, Jesus possessed a joyful freedom--indeed, a recklessness--
that was scandalous to those whose worth was derived from their supposed ability to judge good and evil
and their willingness to separate themselves as good apart from those they judged as evil...

"But Jesus wasn't concerned about his reputation.
He did what he was called to do and let others matters at the hands of his Father.
Jesus came to heal the sick, not to placate the religious sensibilities of those who thought they were healthy.
To heal the sick, you have to love the sick, which means you have to fellowship with the sick.
And this means you have to ignore what those who (mistakenly) think they are healthy, think about you!

"... Far from tiptoeing around them,
Jesus sometimes seemed to go out of his way to confront religious leaders who lived from a variety of forbidden fruit.
While he demonstrated only compassion toward ordinary folk,
and especially toward those ostracized and/or judged by the religious establishment,
Jesus publicly expressed anger toward self-righteous religious leaders--the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees.
Though these people were 'the most moral of people, lived the best of lives,
and were perfectly obedient and virtuous, they substituted their own morality for the living and actual Word of God [Jacques Ellul].'
They were experts on eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

"Jesus aggressively intended to stop these leaders because they shut the door of God's gracious kingdom on people,
placed heavy loads on people's shoulders, and lured people down their own path of destruction.
With their highly refined moralism, they incarnated the serpent's lie about how to be God-like.
Consequently, Jesus had to publicly confront these religious forbidden-fruit eaters...

The religious variety of the forbidden fruit is the most addictive and deceptive variety.
Instead of acknowledging that the knowledge of good and evil is prohibited,
religious idolatry embraces the knowledge of good and evil as divinely sanctioned and mandated.
It gives the illusion of being on God's side even while it destroys life and hardens people in direct opposition to God.

"Religious sin is the most destructive kind of sickness...."

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely profound and prophetic... 22 Jun 2005
By M. Lamson - Published on
I am still mulling through my own actions after reading this book.

I was a fan of "Letters From a Skeptic," and was pleasantly amazed to find this title and see how Boyd beautifully expounds on Bonhoeffer as well as the Scriptures in God's mandate to humanity to fulfill the Greatest Commandment, to love God and neighbor. There has been much debate on what this looks like, and Boyd paints a narrative from beginning to end, walking through the Scriptures and paying attention to what Jesus' way of life could look like today.

If the church of Jesus could grasp one iota of this argument, it would be better for it, something I believe this book is trying to accomplish.

There will be those in conservative evangelical circles (I include myself there, although I am moving further away) who will be upset by the reading of this book, which Boyd suspected as outlined in chapter 11. Boyd is not soft on sin, but he is hard on judgment.

If you were to ask a question of anyone here about what the #1 thing Christians are known for, would they say love? I would wholeheartedly think they wouldn't (a Barna survey in August 2004 said that 91% said "hates gays."). Boyd presents a clearly detailed, biblical philosophy, with heavy influence from Bonhoeffer, about how we are to love others as Jesus loved with holiness, accountability, and the integrity of the Scriptures not being compromised. He outlines in detail how most of us in the modern American church are not familiar with first-century church context and how they confronted each other on sin issues.

Chapters 11 and 12 are worth the price of the book alone, but every chapter of this book is priceless. This is a book that every pastor and Christian leader should have close by. It is a detailed outline through the Scriptures on how God has wired us to love without conditions through Jesus Christ. Even if you disagree, pick it up and read it yourself, it is a must read.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing 16 Mar 2010
By Ted Haggard - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Being a first hand observer of those inside and outside the church responding to me after my scandal of 2006, I can assure you that this book is needed by all followers of Christ. Christians had the same percentage of love, hate, cynicism, scrutiny, kindness, and hesitation as worldly people. Theological beliefs made no noticable difference from me and my family's point of view. Now, over three years after my scandal, Christians are finally starting to differentiate themselves with demonstrated love. Though they may not use Boyd's language, they certainly apply these principles and it is healing to me. These are the principles Gayle and my children used when deciding how to respond to my failures, and as a result, my family is whole. Neither hateful judgmentalism nor endless suggestions about how to be a better person from unloving Christians were helpful to me or my family. Instead, those who were kind, whether they did it because of their theology or just human kindness, helped us the most. I thank God for this book. It gave me language and insight regarding my experience and observations over the last three years. My hope is that it will instruct all of us to use our faith as a springboard of life, love and healing instead of judgment, hate, and heartbreak. So because of my experience, and my love for God's Word, I am a fan of the principles highlighted here by Boyd.
33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Evils of Religion Called Out 6 May 2005
By A. Omelianchuk - Published on
Controversial pastor/theologian Gregory A. Boyd known for his strong and honest opinions in theology reveals his true pastoral heart for a non-judgmental vision of the Church. With the passion of an evangelist and the conviction of a prophet Boyd claims that "the Christian religion has to a significant extent become the defender of and promoter of the Fall rather than the proclaimer of the Good News that alone can free us from the Fall." This is because the Church eats from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and therefore stands in God's place of judging rather than loving others. Boyd offers some very keen incites from Jonathan Edward's Triune Creationism, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theology of the fall, and about the nature of the human heart's longing for self-righteousness.

However, at times Boyd falls on his sword by unashamedly making the same kind of judgments of Christians he seeks to condemn them for; probably born out of response to his legion of critics. He becomes very ambiguous at times when trying to distinguish loving intervention with judging others, which leaves him more or less against the practice of Church Discipline. He also blurs a distinction between the sin of gluttony and being overweight, and then awkwardly tries to contrast them with homosexuality.

Nevertheless, Boyd makes his case for a clarion call for believers to repent from judgmentalism and practice love and mercy towards not only other believers, but sinners as Jesus would.
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