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July 23, 2012

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Matthew Gindin

Excellent piece. I've been considering something along thiese lines for years on the basis of Maimonides ' undestanding of "divine wrath" in his Moreh Nevuchim (Guide for the Perplexed). In the Guide Maimonides argues that God's wrath actually refers to the negative consequences of human actions- natural results according to God's law, or in other words his justice as expressed in natural causality. Maimonides goes farther than this and denies any emotions to God- which I think is a mistake- but his argument has raised questions for me along the lines you pursue. I have been timid to fully develop the thought, but here you do in provocative and intelligent ways. One difficult text to ponder in this regard- Isaiah 10. This text seems to say that God has weilded Asyria like an axe in His hands against Israel, and Assyria has gone beyond their mandate by exalting themselves and by aiming to perpetuate not just conquest but genocide and imperialism, and will consequently be punished by God. Any thoughts? I'm tempted to think that some combination of theological options #2 and #3 in your piece may be necesary......love to hear your further thoughts on this.

Jacob Wright

This is amazing. And your response to the Keller quote is equally amazing. Can I quote that response? However you would have to reword the first couple lines so it would make sense without me having to first quote Keller. Is that okay?

Brad

I generally track with Keller, but the problem with this particular notion of the wrath of God in this passage is that if God were wrathful in this way, it appears that He's very ineffective, arbitrary and not very good at it. That is, if God's wrath amounted to an angry feeling, of what use is that to the victims of holocaust or sexual assault or brutal slavery? Is such a wrath contained in the heavens?

Or is this wrath displayed in the earth? When? Where? Why New Orleans and not Burma? Why on Ananias and Sapphira and not Hitler. If God's wrath means direct interventions against the great evils we perpetrate, He should get on with it and tweek the focus on the gunsights.

But there is a real wrath, described throughout the Bible and esp. in Romans 1, where we discover that God 'gives us over' -- i.e. consents -- to allowing us our own rebellious self-destructive trajectory, where sin is its own horrific punishment. And when God says, 'Enough!' and steps in, it is not as the mighty Smiter, but rather, the forgiving victim.

I would dearly love to see the angry God of wrath who loves me enough to protect the weak from the powerful ... but if He exists, I see scarce evidence. What I do see is the wrath of God's terrible permission, and His desperate appeal that we should respond to His forgiveness and mercy.

The God who revealed Himself in Jesus--the God who is exactly like Jesus, always has been and always will be--may never live up to our lust for retribution. And blessed are those who are not offended by this.

Rose

I found your podcast on 'Theology of Consent' interesting. It really goes along with my understanding of God's involvement with us. I especially liked your friend's idea of the lease holder. I listened to your podcast just after reading Tim Keller's "King's Cross". I'm including an excerpt from Chapter 15 for your consideration. My understanding of love also includes anger at abuse, injustice, ...

The Wrath of Love from Tim Keller's King's Cross chapter 15
“Here you may say, "I don't like the idea of the wrath of God. I want a God of love."
The problem is that if you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God. Please think about it. Loving people can get angry, not in spite of their love but because of it. In fact, the more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get. Have you noticed that? When you see people who are harmed or abused, you get mad. If you see people abusing themselves, you get mad at them, out of love. Your senses of love and justice are activated together, not in opposition to each other. If you see people destroying themselves or destroying other people and you don't get mad, it's because you don't care. You're too absorbed in yourself, too cynical, too hard. The more loving you are, the more ferociously angry you will be at whatever harms your beloved. And the greater the harm, the more resolute your opposition will be.
When we think of God's wrath, we usually think of God's justice, and that is right. Those who care about justice get angry when they see justice being trampled upon, and we should expect a perfectly just God to do the same. But we don't ponder how much his anger is also a function of his love and goodness. The Bible tells us that God loves everything he has made. That's one of the reasons he's angry at what's going on in his creation; he is angry at anything or anyone that is destroying the people and world he loves. His capacity for love is so much greater than ours - and the cumulative extent of evil in the world is so vast - that the word wrath doesn't really do justice to how God rightly feels when he looks at the world. So it makes no sense to say, "I don't want a wrathful God, I want a loving God." If God is loving and good, he must be angry at evil - angry enough to do something about it.
Consider this also: If you don't believe in a God of wrath, you have no idea of your value. Here's what I mean. A god without wrath has no need to go to the cross and suffer incredible agony and die in order to save you. Picture on the left a god who pays nothing in order to love you, and picture on the right the God of the Bible, who, because he's angry at evil, must go to the cross, absorb the debt, pay the ransom, and suffer immense torment How do you know how much the "free love" god loves you or how valuable you are to him? Well, his love is just a concept. You don't know at all. This god pays no price in order to love you. How valuable are you to the God of the Bible? Valuable enough that he would go to these depths for you.
Your conception of God's love- and of your value in his sight - will only be as big as your understanding of his wrath."


Florian Berndt

Just love it!

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