18 thoughts on “In Defense of the Angry God

  1. “What we [often] understand salvation to be is the incidence of divine wrath alleviated by the slaughter of an innocent victim.”

    — David Bentley Hart, in answer to the question of what he means when he says that the god most Christians worship is evil

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  2. “To our “enlightened” modern minds, the idea of a wrathful God that needs to be appeased through blood sacrifice sounds pretty archaic doesn’t it? And yet, what is the alternative?”

    God who gives his Son as as gift to a wrathful humanity who then despises and executes Jesus who shows the true nature of the Father by forgiving his murderers.

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    • I would say that’s not an alternative since love and wrath stand together in God without compromise or contradiction. To suggest that it must be one or the other is to fashion a god that fits our understanding and pleases our sensibilities.

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      • Who/what says that “[ ] love and wrath stand together in God without compromise or contradiction”? If those attitudes are exhibited equally by the Father, then we also would be obliged to exhibit the same. Do you propose such? Actually, it would seem to me that you are allowing that God can behave worse than what He wants of us and in a worse way than His Son on the cross.

        One of the few ontological statements in the NT about the Father is “God is love”. I don’t recall any statement that “God is wrath”.

        Have you considered that from Rom. 1:18 into chapt. 4 that Paul is employing a rhetorical device called prosopopoeia?
        Take a look at this rendering by D. Campbell of Romans 1:1-4:3 in Dialog Form;
        http://girardianlectionary.net/special_series/Romans1-3_read-in-light-of-Campbell.htm

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      • I guess I missed this one. Wrath isn’t an essential quality of God. Holiness is. Wrath is the righteous response to the human tendency to discount his holiness. The sinful world and the sinful person will never know the holy God as long as they minimize their sin. To know God as he is, both holy and loving, we must admit his right to wrath and then accept the satisfaction of that wrath through the atonement he himself has offered in Christ. I went to the link. My reaction, “convenient.” Yes, Paul uses diatribe, but he makes it clear in the context when he’s expressing an opposing view. Do we really think that nobody has understood the Romans letter for two thousand years. Wow, that’s a whole new level of arrogance.

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      • “…is to fashion a god that fits our understanding and pleases our sensibilities.”

        In my experience most religious people would much rather have a wrathful God than a forgiving God.

        “If God has really done what the Epistle to the Romans says he has, he’s gone ahead and solved all his problems with sin independently of what sinners might or might not do about it.

        That’s outrageous, of course; and it’s not at all what most people think a God who’s a card-carrying member of the God Union ought to do. But it is what the Mystery of Christ is all about. because by that Mystery, God’s love and forgiveness are intimately and immediately present in full force to everyone in the world, virtuous or wicked, Christian or not, simply because the Word of God incarnate in Jesus is present to everyone in the world. Nobody has to clean up his act in order to be forgiven or loved; all anybody has to do is believe (trust, have faith) that he’s home free already, and then enjoy the forgiveness he’s had all along by passing it on to everybody he runs into. Therefore, the only unforgivable act, if there is such a thing, is refusing to be forgiven or to forgive – which is not so much a sin as it is a failure of faith. Everything else has been taken care of.”

        — Robert Farrar Capon, The Mystery of Christ… & Why We Don’t Get It

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      • I can’t argue with your experience, but the point is that it’s not a choice. There is only one God who is both wrathful and forgiving. In the cross the vertical axis of God’s holiness/wrath intersects with the horizontal axis of his love/forgiveness. Neither axis can be deviated by the other. They must both remain in their original orientation. Otherwise, the gospel will be robbed to some degree of its power. Either, it will no longer have power to draw humanity to Christ or it will lose its power to draw us away from the world. The grace of God has appeared teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust so we can live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age. The suggestion that we must choose between a wrathful God or a forgiving God flattens theology onto our plane. That’s the inclination of every pagan god maker who’s ever taken up the craft.

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      • “In the cross the vertical axis of God’s holiness/wrath intersects with the horizontal axis of his love/forgiveness. Neither axis can be deviated by the other. They must both remain in their original orientation.”

        Where does that idea come from?

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      • The first 39, my brother. I shared my “targum” on Genesis 22 with you before. The point, I believe of that test was to demonstrate the necessary juxtaposition of the right response (fear) to God in his essential nature with YHWH in his person (love). Also notice that the two archetypes for the prophetic ministry, Elijah (Yahweh is God) and Elisha (God saves) embody this juxtaposition in their names and ministry. Elijah showed God alone as worthy of worship on Mt. Carmel. Elisha demonstrated God’s tender care for poisoned water, lost ax head, and dead children. Throughout the Elisha cycle the word, “two” and “double” are mentioned again and again. I believe God in his transcendent wisdom meant for us to understand that these two prophets were two parts of one message and yet those parts had to be kept somewhat distinct to avoid dilution of either idea through mingling. This is why we struggle to reconcile the God of the Old Testament with Jesus because he’s a paradox from our perspective. This is why Isaiah neatly divides into 39 chapters of judgment and 27 chapters of love and mercy. When Yeshua (Yahweh saves) came onto the scene he brought both truths about God into harmony on his cross. Yahweh in his mercy offered Christ there as a propitiation (Romans 3:25). To suggest that God was never wrathful because Christ died on the cross sadly attempts to undo millennia of revelation crafted carefully to keep us from doing just that.

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    • “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

      “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

      “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
      But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’”

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  3. gob·ble·dy·gook
    /ˈɡäbəldēˌɡo͞ok/
    nounINFORMAL
    language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms; nonsense.
    I’ve carried on many conversations with others. But frankly, I grow weary of discussing worn-out paradigms that distort the Christo-centric emphasis on the inexhaustible nature of God’s mercy. Just look closely at Paul’s emphasis on the daily journey aspect of God’s mercy – especially in 2 Cor. Don’t fall for the common trap of piecemealing to buttress salvation as an incantaious event. That is what drives this mindset you are regurgitating.

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    • Thanks for weigh in. I can tell you’re weary, but please keep in mind that you’ve not carried on those conversations with us. Please don’t presume we know what you’re talking about. Honestly, I have no idea what you’re driving at. I’m quite familiar with 2 Corinthians and you’ve offered nothing compelling enough to send me into a deep exploration of the book again. I approved your comment because it seems whatever you believe, you believe it sincerely and I enjoy honest dialogue with others even if I disagree with them. Although, I think you’ll find conversations more productive if you refrain from using inflammatory language. Just a thought.

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  4. The formatting of this discussion thread is becoming untenable. Responses aren’t necessarily appearing in the right locations. I’ll make one more response then leave it at that.
    ___________________

    “When Yeshua (Yahweh saves) came onto the scene he brought both truths about God into harmony on his cross. Yahweh in his mercy offered Christ there as a propitiation (Romans 3:25).”

    I think your targum fits a pattern and style not uncommon with the Exilic/Post-exilic editors of the text that demonstrate an ongoing dialog as to the nature of YHWH. Earlier speakers/writers understood Elohim as rigid, tribal, and war-like. The Prophets began to see YHWH more as merciful, changeable, and universal (the God who rules all nations). This Priest vs. Prophet argument persisted and the Prophets themselves didn’t escape the dualism of holiness/mercy. The OT text is poly-vocal.

    “Propitiation” is a poor rendering of “halastrion” — mercy seat, place of forgiving. Jesus breaks with the Priest (and John the Baptist) and carries the Prophets all the way into the reality of God’s abundant mercy. Jesus is the revelation and exegesis of the Father, and Jesus’ actions on the cross are an exhibition of humility, sacrifice, and forgiving — not pronouncements of wrath/vindictive. The “vindication” of Christ is his resurrection, not the Father’s wrath.

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