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It must have sounded like a suitably edgy title: Repenting of Religion. Why on earth, the slightly shocked reader is supposed to ask, of all the things to be repentant about, should we repent of religion?

Because, Gregory Boyd explains, springing the trap, religion is all about "getting life from the rightness of our behavior," a fatally delusive sense of self-satisfaction sustained by perpetually judging others and finding them wanting.

Such judgment, Boyd argues—based on his Bonhoeffer-influenced reading of Genesis—is in fact the primal sin from which all other sins derive.

Yet most evangelical churches, the senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, writes, utterly fail to recognize this; indeed, their very identity depends on sinful, self-righteous judgment. And while evangelicals are particularly egregious in this regard, the whole church stands indicted: "What we shall find is that, as has been the case with almost all religions throughout history, the Christian religion has to a significant extent become the defender of and promoter of the Fall rather than the proclaimer of the Good News that alone can free us from the Fall."

And again, this is the verdict Boyd renders on "large segments of the body of Christ": "Tragically, they promote the essence of the Fall as though it were salvation." The remedy, as Boyd's subtitle indicates, is to turn from judgment to unconditional love: "The only conclusion about other people that God allows us and commands us to embrace is the one given to us on Calvary: People have unsurpassable worth because Jesus died for them."

It is the business of "each believer" to "focus on his or her own relationship with God. Rather than being concerned with whether others ...

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February 2005

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