Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgment to the Love of God

repenting of religionAuthor: Gregory A. Boyd

Publisher: Baker (2004)

Topic: Theology: What’s wrong with religion and how can we be freed from it?

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Description: In this bold and provocative book, pastor and author Gregory A. Boyd draws on the insights of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer to demonstrate that the foundational sin of humanity is “eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Instead of being content reflecting God’s perfect love to others, we are inclined to eat of the forbidden tree and judge them. The heart of the Gospel, Boyd argues, is receiving and reflecting God’s love, but this is precisely what our judgmentalism prevents. Unfortunately, Christians tend to be at least as guilty of this foundational sin as the world. Boyd challenges Christians to repent of our judgmental religious attitudes and commit to living in God’s outrageous love.

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.

Greg’s story behind the writing of Repenting of Religion: I first read Bonhoeffer’s Ethics in graduate school, and it frankly bored me. Then in 1998 I met a couple (Gina and Richard Patton) who were exceptionally bright and who were really into the writings of Deitrich Bonhoeffer. Through many stimulating conversations they inspired me to re-read Bonhoeffer’s Ethics. It honestly turned my world upside down! I then went on to read Temptation and Fall and other works. This research, combined with other things God was doing in my life at the time, awakened me to the fact that I was a compulsive judger — though most of my judgment was unconscious. Even more significantly, I came to see that judgment is the antithesis of love and is, in fact, the “original sin” of the Bible (eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil).

The book Repenting of Religion was originally going to be a study on Bonhoeffer’s concept of judgment. But as I began to put the book together several years later I came to see my thinking on the topic had evolved quite a ways beyond — and in some cases, against — Bonhoeffer’s. So, while I rely a lot on Bonhoeffer’s thought, the book expresses my own thinking on judgment as humanity’s foundational sin.

The responses I’ve gotten from this book over the last several years have been incredibly moving. Thousands have told me this book completely re-framed what Christianity was all about and empowered them to love people in a way they hadn’t previously imagined. Many have told me that the book woke them up not only to the fact that they judge, but that they used to identify their judgment as the essence of Christian living. So too, many report being freed to love in ways they never dreamed. When we get free from our addiction to “the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” we can experience the joy of God’s unsurpassable and unconditional love for all people — no ifs, ands or buts. It’s beautiful!

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