Monthly Archives: January 2020

How Far Can We Take The Cruciform Model?

I’m reading Greg Boyd’s latest book, “Inspired Imperfection” at the moment. So far, I’m digging what he is saying. He gives a great analogy from the Indiana Jones movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” about what we would expect if a book claimed to be from a divine being—perfect. No mistakes. No errors. In the movie, Donovan, the leader of a Nazi group and Indiana Jones are on a quest to find the chalice that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper. They are told by a wise knight, whom is watching over the chalice among others chalices in the chamber where the chalice Christ drank from, that they should choose wisely for the proper one. For if they don’t choose the proper one, they will end up as a pile of ash.

Some of the chalices look eloquent and perfect. Some don’t. Donovan chooses the chalice he thinks Christ would have drank from. The chalice is one of the beautiful and eloquent ones. This one, he thinks, is one that is fit for a King. Christ would not have drank from one of those uglier, drab, crude ones. A KING wouldn’t do that! Donovan drinks from it in choosing which one he thinks was Christ’s. Poof! A pile of ash. He chose unwisely.

Indiana Jones chooses a more crude and ugly one. This is fit for a carpenter! He drinks from it and survives.

This greatly illustrates Boyd’s “Cruciform Model.” Basically, the cruciform model shows how God would have used weakness and ugliness and imperfection to accomplish his purposes. And this is a major theme or motif throughout Boyd’s works and frankly, is one that I would agree with concerning this question as it relates to the Bible. God can use imperfections to accomplish his will. You see this throughout most of the scriptures themselves. In Philippians Paul pretty much comes out and says exactly this Philippians 1:15-18. And so, God can use a Bible with imperfections.

My only pushback on Boyd’s cruciform model is that he seems to stretch it beyond where he should. In chapter 10, “The Foolish and Weak Bible” Boyd says,

“This brings us back to this fundamental point: if the cross reveals what God is truly like, it must be considered the quintessential expression of what God is like. **It must, therefore, also be considered the perfect expression of, rather than an exception to, the way God generally operates in the world, a point Paul confirms when he announces that the cross is the wisdom and power of God.**”

What is problematic about this is what this actually looks like in concrete situations. This seems to be the Achilles heel of the cruciform model. For Boyd, a cruciform model colours EVERYTHING down to the concrete examples. However, this is simply implying one’s bias. For example, what does the cruciform form look like in politics? Could it not look like a doctor who is about to perform surgery causing pain and suffering? Could not serving look ANYTHING like this? Could it not look like surgery including pain and suffering for the sake of a greater good, the cutting off of a leg to save the body? I have to admit that an emotionless doctor “who has to do what he has to do” doesn’t look very loving, serving or cruciform to me. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t.

This post is really not about the biblical questions PER SE but rather about the cruciform model and how far one is willing to take it. For Boyd, the cruciform model is persuasive (normally) which downplays any unilateral action on God’s part (the doctor analogy above). And for that, I think it should include this.