Greg Boyd is perhaps one of the most influential living theologians of our time, and is someone I have the deepest admiration and respect for. I accidentally stumbled upon him in seminary after hearing three people in the same week say “Greg Boyd is one of the smartest people I know”. The three individuals didn’t even know each other, so when they all said the same exact thing, I figured I needed to find out who Greg Boyd was. He’s since ruined my life, but in that “really, really good” kinda way– you can’t study Greg’s work without being radically changed. Basically, Greg is the guy I look to and say, “I want to be like him one day when I get my crap together”.
I’ve been reading and re-reading his book, Repenting of Religion, which has become one of my all time favorite books. The basic premise of the book is that the original sin in the garden was the sin of desiring to judge as God judges– thus the name of the tree, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve stole this knowledge and invited us into a never ending cycle of standing in the place of God by judging others based on this stolen and very limited information. We will never be operating with the same quantity of facts that God operates with, and therefore have no business trying to do his job for him. When we do, we simply make more of a mess of everything– becoming people who close doors instead of people who build bridges.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes on the uniqueness of the sin of religious judgmentalism from the book:
“First it is important to notice that religious sin is the only sin Jesus publicly confronted. The religious variety of the forbidden fruit [judging] is the most addictive and deceptive variety. Instead of acknowledging that the knowledge of good an 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, for it masquerades as it feeds off the illusion of health. Far from being open to a cure, this kind of sickness thrives on the illusion that it is the epitome of health. By its very nature, it resist soft correction. Indeed, because it gets life from the rightness of it’s beliefs and behavior rather than from love, the religious version of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil tends to construe all compassion, accommodation, and unconditional acceptance as compromise. People afflicted with religious sin thus tend to disdain compassionate love, even if it is extended toward them. Hence, Jesus’ approach to leaders who fed off this illusion could not be to gently offer them a cure. Rather, for their sake and the sake of those who blindly followed them, he had to publicly expose their sickness.
What does this mean for the church? We have seen that the church is called to be the corporate body of Christ that unconditionally loves and embraces all people, regardless of their sin, and invites them into its own celebration of the cessation of the ban [on judging]. The only exception to this otherwise unconditional embrace is the sin Jesus confronted in the religious leadership of his day… Religious sin [judging] is unique in that it is the only sin that can keep a community from fulfilling the commission to unconditionally love and embrace everyone. As we have said, it is a sin that by its very nature resists the cure of God’s unconditional love and embrace.”
Greg Boyd. Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgement to the Love of God., p 203-204
In a world where it’s often said that things are going down the tube because of rampant sin, could it be that the one sin actually getting in the way of our mission is the sin of religious judgmentalism?
I think it just might be. Perhaps all this time we’ve been pointing fingers in the wrong direction.