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Getting Back to Basics

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April 7, 2010 Tags: Pastoral Voices

Today's video features Greg Boyd. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Editor's Note (4/8/2010): We have updated the video to correct a slight editing glitch.

In today’s video Conversation, Dr. Greg Boyd discusses the basic truths that provide the framework for Christian belief and distinguishes them from the potentially divisive issues that do not compromise what he refers to as the “non-negotiable” truths.

Boyd lists the following as non-negotiables: the basic storyline of scripture, which includes the progression of creation, the fall, the redemption, and the eschaton—the final hope. There are also some attendant theological perspectives that Christians must accept. For example:

Who is God? He is the God revealed in Jesus Christ and the Triune God.

How are we redeemed? We are redeemed through God’s grace.

In the last century, however, many in the church have lost the ability to be gracious about our disagreements on negotiable issues.  While having to wrestle with diverse thoughts and ideas in the church is nothing new, it seems that we have lost the ability to discuss these issues lovingly. This is especially true among conservative Protestants in the last century.

Boyd comments that this spirit of generosity is one of the saddest things that the church has lost—our lack of tolerance with each other carries over into society. Consequently, many others see Christians as intolerant and judgmental because we are not at all representing the graciousness and love and service of Jesus Christ.

This lack of graciousness is not the beauty of Jesus Christ. And we need to get back to the beauty of Jesus Christ.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Greg Boyd is founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical mega-church in St. Paul, MN. In 2000, Greg founded Christus Victor Ministries (CVM) a nonprofit organization that promotes Greg’s writing and speaking ministry outside of Woodland Hills Church while raising funds to further research projects related to his ministry.

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Glen Davidson - #9012

April 7th 2010

To be fair, how to decide what is true and what is not has become an issue—if it wasn’t always.

Supernatural manifestations were accepted as “evidence” during the witch trials, while much of the religious world considered supernatural intervention to be rare at most, hence not acceptable as explanations in the judiciary or within science.

With ID, it seems to be basically the same fight, whether to relax the demand for demonstrable causation—and to simply accept that unpredictable and essentially unevidenced interventions happened in the past—or to stick with investigable evidence for the standard. 

Oddly, what is being fought over are standards that any IDist would demand to be used to convict themselves.  Yet when it comes to teaching their children how to evaluate the evidence, the flimsiest presuppositions take precedence over hard causation and statistical analysis.

Glen Davidson

Charlie - #9013

April 7th 2010

With these disagreements, as yourself how do you determine truth?  Are you consistent in using that method when determining truth (with both your religious and non-religious beliefs)?  How do organized religions determine truth? Are they consistent?

Charlie - #9014

April 7th 2010

I’ve tried to convey my stance on the matter of determining truth and the way I see it is that there is sort of a gradient of what truth is.  We can say something is more likely to be the truth or less likely.  What determines where a theory lies on this gradient is how much and what kind of evidence supports or refutes the theory.  Then comes the issue of where on the gradient do you need to be to consider something the truth.  This is the tricky part that causes conflict.  Can we at least agree that the more evidence you have to support a theory, the more likely that theory is the truth?

dopderbeck - #9021

April 7th 2010

He mentions “the fall” as part of the non-negotiable story.  Is it?  The author of “Saving Darwin” says no in his book….  Or is he talking about “the fall” as a metaphor, or an “upwards fall?”  Without some explanation in this context, it’s an unsatisfying video.

Karl - #9022

April 7th 2010

I work at a state university with many secular people, and it pains me that most of the secularists with whom I’ve spoken about Christianity reject it for precisely the reasons they should be drawn TO Jesus. They don’t reject it on intellectual grounds nearly as often as they reject it on moral grounds. They think Christians are hard-hearted, self-serving, stupid people who make the world less loving, less fair, and less peaceful. To them, Christians are people who support torture, worship anything military, relativize good and evil according to who’s doing it, think the poor deserve their condition, don’t care about the Earth because God can always poof it back together if we need him to, etc. The best way I’ve discovered to get around these silly misperceptions is first to let them get to know me as someone who is not heart-hearted, self-serving, or stupid, then to let them in for the shock that I’m a Christian. What hurts the most is when other Christians, albeit a minority, make those misperceptions seem less silly.

Bilbo - #9044

April 7th 2010

Hi Karl,

I agree with you.  As a political liberal IDist, I’m frequently embarrassed by the company I keep. 

Meanwhile, Greg Boyd pointed out that the Fall is one of the non-negotiable doctrines of Christianity.  I hope Biologos will take that to heart.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they will.

Unapologetic Catholic - #9050

April 7th 2010


As usual, good question.  I know there is a difference in theology betwen Eastern Christian theology and the West regarding “the Fall.”  My limited understanding is that the Eastern position is that the Fall is more of a fallen condition of the world than the result of a single man’s conduct whose guilt is passed down through the generaltions.

Furthermore, we have to define what is essential about the “Fall.”  Pre-lapsarian immortal vegetarian lions simply conflict with the scientific evidence.  If the death casues by the Fall is more of a spriitual thing, then there is no necessary conflict.

Karl A - #9070

April 7th 2010

Thanks for the video from Greg Boyd.  I’m a big fan of his, and I think he would have some significant contributions to this conversation, namely dealing with the problem of evil, cosmic battle, randomness and determinism, and in general framing issues in a way that brings church history more into the conversation.

pds, you have taken a fair beating the past few days here.  Hopefully it has mostly stayed on the intellectual level rather than being personal.  Whether or not I agree with your positions, I respect your tenacity, your willingness to engage in sometimes hostile territory and helping to sharpen the discussion through “Devil’s advocacy”.   I’m glad to be your brother in Christ.

Dunemeister - #9072

April 8th 2010

The fall is non-negotiable even in the orthodox tradition. The eastern churches don’t consider the fall a genetic thing like the western church does. But all orthodox theologians would say that Adam (whatever that means) has plunged creation into its current predicament.

What IS negotiable, then, is the western church’s Augustinian analysis of the fall, not the fall itself.

Joe Francis - #9096

April 8th 2010

If the Fall is non-negotiable….why isn’t a historical Adam non-negotiable?  Who decides?  It seems to me that the Fall is negotiable if you have a non-historical Adam.

Jeffrey L Vaughn - #9189

April 8th 2010

Bilbo, Joe,

Boyd also said, “How are we redeemed? We are redeemed through God’s grace,” yet he also held up the Nicene Creed as the standard.  Where is “saved by grace” or “the Fall” found in the Nicene Creed?

Boyd’s non-negotiables are a mess of contradictions.  I won’t sweat that part because that part wasn’t the point of the video.  What comes after is the point.

Unapologetic Catholic,

Pre-lapsarian, immortal, vegetarian lions also conflict with Scripture.  Before the Fall, Adam named lions “does violence.” 


Jim_Rapp - #9193

April 8th 2010

Studies of religious attributions of Presbyterian Congregational members were examined to see how confessed theology about God’s sovereignty affects real-life attributions (saying “God did it”) in every-day events (attributions of events to God. or, to secular causes).  Study results fail to support a correlation between theological confession (of the non-negotiables of faith) and real-life attribution (with some exceptions between distal and proximate events – see e.g., Miner, M. H. and McKnight, J. (1999). Religious Attributions: Situational Factors and Effects on Coping. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(2), 274-287). 

  The dramatic story line is that professors get fired, churches split, denominational variety increases (as variety increases via mutate-select and sexual reproduction). 

  The by-line is that so many believers don’t believe what they confess they believe in the first place. 


  It’s a curious puzzle how the science of Darwinian evolution threatens beliefs (about God’s activity in the world) which are already discounted internally in confessing believers.

Edward T. Babinski - #9200

April 9th 2010

Greg, What do you mean by “ugly?’ Can you give us some examples?

Maybe BIOLOGOS should make a film on the topic? Hold up the mirror so to speak so Christians can see how badly the’ve been acting toward their fellow Christians instead of embracing Christ?

The film can be titled,  EXCOMMUNICATED!

And BIOLOGOS can hire the actor from EXPELLED, Ben Stiller, to host it!

pds - #9243

April 9th 2010

Karl A #9070,

Thank you for your kind words.  Unfortunately, Biologos has deleted my comments contesting Boyd’s statement about church history.  Details are here

Roger D. McKinney - #9286

April 9th 2010

Karl: “They don’t reject it on intellectual grounds nearly as often as they reject it on moral grounds. “

I would take non-Christian explanations of their rejection of Christ with a huge grain of salt and a big swig of diet Coke. People fool themselves. We are least honest with ourselves. You will rarely find a non-Christian who will say “I don’t want to become a Christian because I love getting drunk and having sex with strange women.” I did have one person say that, but it is still rare. Most non-Christians think very highly of themselves and will rarely admit anything wrong with how the think or act. I have found from years of experience in conducting surveys that people lie and they lie a lot. The only sound knowledge of what is in human hearts is in the Bible where God said that they hate us because they first hated him.

Roger D. McKinney - #9287

April 9th 2010

This ties in with the larger issue of the origin of evil in the world. We have two kinds of evil: 1) evil that humans commit and 2) the evil of natural disasters and disease. The Biblical story is that God created mankind innocent, without evil or a tendency toward evil. But man rebelled against God and that rebellion changed mankind’s nature to one with a tendency toward evil. Part of God’s judgment against such rebellion was to let us have our way (Romans 1) and allow evil men to commit evil acts against each other. However, theistic evolution teaches that God created mankind evil because our evil is nothing but our following our animal nature to kill, steal and have sex with as many other animals as we can. What the Bible calls “lust of the flesh” is nothing but animal behavior.

Natural disasters and disease, according to the Bible, were the other part of God’s judgment against rebellious mankind, but according to TE, they are not evil, but a natural part of life and evolution and therefore good things.

Jeffrey L Vaughn - #9295

April 9th 2010


I agree that your comments on Genesis are what is typically claimed, but I’ve read the passages in question at least a hundred times and I don’t see that at all.

After all, Adam died on the day he ate, yet lived to have sons and daughters.  In contrast, his son Abel died a physical death before Adam did.  Physical death was not Adam’s judgment.

Jesus came to redeem us from Adam’s death and to avenge Abel’s death (Mat. 23:35).  If Adam and Abel died the same death, then why does one require redemption and the other require vengeance?

Goshen in Egypt and the plain where Sodom stood were compared favorably to the Garden of Eden.

Before the Fall, Adam named the lion, does violence,” and the eagle, “tears flesh.”

Eve’s pain in childbirth increased.  According to Isaiah, the physical pain was not increased.  The pain of futility was added to the physical pain.

God even went so far as to ask Job why He created the ostrich so stupid she got her eggs crushed.  God did it on purpose.  Before the Fall.

The physical world before the Fall and after were not much different.


BenYachov - #9450

April 10th 2010

>If the Fall is non-negotiable….why isn’t a historical Adam non-negotiable?  Who decides?  It seems to me that the Fall is negotiable if you have a non-historical Adam.

I reply:  It’s not a problem for us Catholics since we believe the Holy Spirit protects the Church in \Her teaching.  But I fear this whole liberal Protestant Meme(i.e. You either believe Genesis is literal & therefore Adam is a historical figure OR you believe Genesis is an Allegory & Adam is a mere symbol & under no circumstances should you ever conclude Genesis can be an allegory & Adam CAN BE HISTORIC TOO) will serve no good purpose other then to drive Evangelicals away from considering both Evolution & the Bible true.

I can’t harsh on this “Adam is a mere symbol only”  Meme enough.  I’m just glad Pius XII put the Kibosh on theological Polygenesis & the whole “Humans souls evolved naturally” modernist nonsense.  Praise the Lord for that.

Mike Beidler - #9650

April 13th 2010

Within Christian theology, is it the historical Fall that is non-negotiable, or is it the historical reality that all people are sinners that trumps the etiological explanation the Hebrews developed to explain our condition? 

Does it really matter that it wasn’t the huge power lines that caused your uncle’s cancer after all, but rather a strong genetic predisposition that, given the right environment, spurred on his condition?  What really matters is that your uncle is in the hospital suffering from a life-threatening disease.  In the same way, the manner by which we came to be sinners is not as important as recognition that we are finite, self-aware, moral creatures, predisposed to rebel by the very fact that we are the created and not the Creator.

BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) - #9657

April 13th 2010

Well yeh it does matter.  Without the historical fall then there really isn’t anything for Christ to save us from now is there?  Besides, Theistic Evolution or not there doesn’t seem to be any rational reason to deny a real Adam & a real fall even if we see Genesis as merely a stylized parable with an actual hiastory behind it.

I don’t understand why this is such a hard concept?  I don’t understand why there is such resistance to it & finally like I said you will never get conservative Evangelicals on board with a non-existent Adam & equally non-existent fall.

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