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A Review of Gregory Boyd's Trinity and Process

Dr. Robert Morey  |  August  3, 2007

(Peter Lang, N.Y., 1992) by Dr. Gregory Boyd
Reviewed by Dr. Robert A. Morey

Introduction
In 1992, a friend of mine handed me a copy of Boyd’s doctoral thesis from Princeton and asked me to read it. I had never heard of him and thus had no preconceived prejudices against him whatsoever. As I read his thesis, it was clear that he had bought into most of Process Theology, a revival of Platonic religion by Alfred North Whitehead.

Boyd’s mentor was an antichrist by the name of Charles Hartshorne, whose works I had studied when writing Battle of the Gods. Hartshorne is a well-known enemy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The following review first appeared in 1992. I sent Boyd a preview copy in the hope of converting him to Christ, but to no avail. He threatened to sue me if I printed it! (Letter on file) I would have enjoyed the court trial, as it would make public what he preached in secret. But his threats were as empty as his arguments. Since that time, John Piper and many others have taken up pen to refute Boyd’s heresies. Even his own denomination has finally condemned his theology as erroneous. We were the first to sound the warning about Boyd and we are glad that so many people now see how dangerous his doctrines are.

 

Our Foundational Principles
We have been writing book reviews for Christian magazines and theological journals for many years. Our reviews are based upon the following principles:

1. God has revealed in Scripture propositional truths concerning His nature and attributes.

2. Our views of God and Christ must arise from a careful exegesis of Scripture and not from a priori philosophic speculations.

3. Historical, classical, traditional, confessional, orthodox theology as expressed in the great creeds of the Church for nearly two thousand years is the Biblical position set forth in confessional form.

4. Any theology that denies the historical, classical, traditional, confessional, orthodox understanding of the nature and attributes of God and the two natures of Christ is heretical.

5. We are not deceived by heretics when they use orthodox terms such as God, omniscience, Trinity, etc., but give them an unorthodox meaning. For example, the Socinians pretended that they believed in the “omniscience” of God while denying that God knew the future!

The liberal theology created by Karl Barth is called “neo-orthodoxy” even though it is not orthodox Christianity. Just because someone uses the same religious terms we use does not mean that he is orthodox in his definition of those terms.

As Francis Schaeffer pointed out, our beliefs about God and the world must conform to the “orthodoxy of history” as well as to the “orthodoxy of Scripture.” The moment someone denies the historical, classical, traditional, confessional, orthodox definition of God and Christ, they have opened the door to the relativism of modern liberal theology and the cults.

This is what cultists such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses have always done as well as Liberal theologians. They all dismiss historical, classical, traditional, confessional, orthodox theology as being Platonic, or Aristotelian, etc. In its place, they substitute their own views of God as being more “biblical” than the orthodox creeds!

This book review focuses on Boyd’s book Trinity and Process and its implications for orthodox Christian doctrine. The first rough draft was sent to Dr. Boyd for his comments in the hopes that he would clarify some of his remarks. Since he has not seen fit to send us a detailed response to the doctrinal issues we raised, we are forced to proceed without his input.

According to the back of the book, Dr. Boyd is a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and teaches theology at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota. The cultic Campbellite movement of the 19th Century spawned many other cults such as the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. That Boyd was a product of one of the cultic offspring of Campbell is no surprise.

In order to avoid the charge that we have taken Boyd “out of context” and thus “misrepresented” his position, we reproduced the entire page from which the citations are taken and sent them to such well-known scholars as Gleason Archer and Ronald Nash. 

Thus each statement was read in its full context. We received many positive letters from those who checked the review for accuracy.

 

Boyd’s Goal
It is clear from his book that Dr. Boyd attempted to construct a concept of a “three-fold” deity that process thinkers such as Hartshorne might accept. But this attempt ended in abject failure as Hartshorne did not accept Boyd’s views.

 

Why He Failed
Boyd’s attempt was doomed from the beginning for a very good reason. He started out by announcing that he accepted the fundamental principles of Hartshorne’s process philosophy as correct.

It is our conviction that the fundamental vision of the process worldview, especially as espoused by Charles Hartshorne, is correct. (Preface, i)

And, even when he disagreed with Hartshorne, he praised Hartshorne as his greatest mentor.

My warmest appreciation must also be expressed to Charles Hartshorne. Though I disagree with him on a great many points, he has influenced my own thinking more than any other single philosopher, living and dead. (Preface, ii)

Since Boyd states that the “fundamental vision of the process worldview, as espoused by Charles Hartshorne is correct,” and that Hartshorne influenced his thinking “more than any other philosopher, living or dead,” we can describe Boyd’s theology as being “neo-Hartshornian” Process thought.

Once Boyd admits that Hartshorne’s process worldview is fundamentally correct, why should Hartshorne change any of it? No wonder Boyd’s attempt failed.

 

The Implications
Boyd points out that Hartshorne’s process philosophy has great implications for Christian theology. First, he states,

The paradigmatic shift taking place in our contemporary culture, the “death of substantialist philosophy,” requires contemporary theology to rethink its classical dogmatic structure. (p.7)

Now, this does not just mean that Christians should try to be “relevant.” Boyd states, “The classical structure of our confessions must be reworked” (p.7).

Evidently, Boyd believes that The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicene creed and indeed all the great creeds “must be reworked” to conform to Hartshorne’s process thought! But Boyd is not 
yet finished.

There is another reason why Hartshorne’s thought is centrally significant to Christian theology. Norris Clark has argued, quite rightly, that Process thought is not only one of the most compelling contemporary metaphysical systems of our time. It also represents one of the “principal challenges to traditional theism” at the present time. In the course of arriving at a view of God and the world which is consistent with the modern proclivity to think in dynamic and relational categories, Process philosophy and theology has sacrificed a great deal of what has traditionally been thought to be central to the Christian proclamation. Much of this, we shall argue, is actually advantageous to the Christian Church, for a good deal of its traditional view of God, being significantly influenced in an adverse way by Platonic and Aristotlian philosophy, has little resemblance to the God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, It needed to be attacked and rejected. In my estimation, therefore, Process thought has the Church a great service. (pgs.9-1O)

Boyd states that the “traditional view of God” found in the confessions of the Church “needed to be attacked and rejected.”

Did you understand what he is saying? The Church’s traditional view of the nature and attributes of God as found in the creeds needs to be “attacked and rejected” according to Boyd because the Christian Church has been wrong all these years’ The historic orthodox view of God is actually pagan in origin and came from Plato and Aristotle!

Can you imagine that! All the creeds, all the Fathers and all the hymns were pagan in their view of God! For two thousand years, the Church has been worshiping a pagan god!
The traditional view of an “Almighty God” is reduced to a “god” that must die to set men free. 

Notice that Boyd not only quotes with approval Migliori who spoke of the “omnipotent god” but he himself uses the small “g” for the God of the creeds in the following two passages.

As a number of recent theologians have argued, the classical ideal of God's power, imported into the Church from extra-biblical sources, has had significant personal and political repercussions. This too constitutes part of the difficulty of the classical view of omnipotence we are presently concerned with. Migliori, for example, speaks of the repercussion of the view of God as sheer almightiness when he writes, “The image of the domineering God breeds fear, resentment, arid rebellion,” If God's rule over us takes the form of unlimited control over impotent subjects, then the master-slave relationship in human society finds justification in religious belief. The only way to be free from coercive power exercised by the omnipotent god and earthly tyrants is to repudiate their authority and actually or symbolically to destroy them. The only possible response to such despotic authority is revolt- against the earthly tyrants, and then against the omnipotent god which grounds such views. Revolting atheism, in other words, is the inevitable response, and indeed, to the extent that atheism has declared this god of “sheer almightiness” dead, it has done Christian theology a great service. (p.264-265)

Boyd is not finished yet. At the bottom of the page he gives us the following footnote.

This is what has been called “the truth of atheism.” The god which made human life unlivable must be proclaimed dead that free humanity may live.

Boyd states that not only have the atheists done the Church a “great service” by declaring that “Almighty God” is “dead” but the radical feminists have also helped the Church by attacking and rejecting God as “the Father.” (n. 76, p. 265)

 

How To Rework The Creeds
Now we see how the creeds can be “reworked.” Instead of saying,

I believe in God the Father Almighty.

we should say,

I believe in God the Parent who is not almighty.
 

The Traditional God
Boyd gives a definition of the “traditional” or “classic” view of God, which needed to be “attacked and rejected.”

The dominant motif of this classical tradition, as we arm here defining it, is that God is conceived of as an actus purus, as embodying no potentiality for change, Hence, to state the matter most generally, God is here conceived of to be nontemporal, immutable, impassible, simple, all-knowing (even of future events, and all determinative. (p.179, n.3)

Boyd singles out Church Fathers such as Augustine, medieval theologians such as Aquinas and modern theologians such as Gruenler, Craig, and Geisler as representing the view of God take he must “attack and reject.” Boyd must have had a special dislike of Dr. Norman Geisler because he singled him out for attack on pages 197, 254, 314, 328, and 360.

 

The Christian God
The historic orthodox view of the nature and attributes of God as found in the creeds of the Christian Church is as follows: There exists only one triune Being of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who by permanent nature is an eternal, timeless, immutable, perfect Spirit who is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient of all things including the future, all wise, all good, all holy, righteous, true and sovereign.

The bulk of Boyd’s book is an attack and rejection of the traditional view of God given above. The game plan of his book is quite simple. Boyd first sets forth Hartshorne’s arguments against the historic Christian view of God and then agrees with him that the Church has been wrong all these years.

 

Boyd’s “god”
What kind of god does Boyd want us to adopt after he has successfully “attacked and rejected” the God of Christian orthodoxy? I can only guess that Boyd’s creed might be as follows:

There exists in a non-substantialist sense a contingent event who not having any fixed or permanent nature is eternal along with Time (with God being eternally “in” Time and not Time “in” God). This contingent event is temporal, mutable, imperfect, limited in power and limited in knowledge because it is incapable of knowing the future. It is neither good or sovereign in the traditional sense. This contingent event is eternally triune in a social or relational sense. But we should not use such terms as “persons,” “Father,” or “Son” lest the gays
and the feminists get upset.

Now, while I was obviously poking fun at Boyd’s pathetic deity, I believe it does substantially reflect what he said in his book.

 

What of Christ?
Does Boyd support the traditional orthodox view of Christ as having two natures in one person? No. Boyd rejects the “one person - two natures” doctrine. He argues,

As has been frequently pointed out in recent times, the most fundamental difficulty which the traditional understanding of Christ poses for the modern mind concerns its substantialist categories: Christ is said to be two natures” in “one person.” if the concept of an “enduring substance” as the ground of an entity’s actual attributes has become problematic to the categories of modernity, how much more problematic is the concept of ~p such realities “crammed” into one person... “without division,” and “without confusion?” (pgs. 399-400)

Instead of Christ having two natures, Boyd believes that,

Christ may be said to be distinct from all other humans in that in this one person the disposition which defines God as God, and the disposition which defines humanity as human, converged. Thus, we might say that the dynamic essence of Jesus was wholly taken up into the dynamic essence of God so that God now “aims” at Godself — as God eternally does — but now God does so through this one man. in this one man, God achieves Godself anew. p.400)

It is clear that Boyd is as heretical in his views of Christ as he is of the nature and attributes of God. The man Jesus was not “taken up” into God. Christ had a divine nature and a human nature without division or confusion as the orthodox creeds state.

 

Conclusion
Boyd’s attempt to “attack and reject” the orthodox view of the nature and attributes of God, the Trinity and the two natures of Christ failed to convince us. His views are offensive as well as heretical. He has been “weighed and found wanting.”

We agree with Carl F. Henry, Francis Schaeffer, Walter Martin, Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark, James Kennedy, John Ankerberg, Norman Geisler, Ronald Nash, R. C. Sproul, J.I. 

Packer, Gleason Archer, Calvin Beisner, and many other orthodox apologists, that there is only one true God who has revealed Himself in Holy Scripture. He has repeatedly warned us that He is a jealous God who will not tolerate idolatry. To believe in and worship any other God than the One revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture is idolatry. This means that the “event-god” of Process Theology is Idolatry!

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