How, why or when is 'wrath' God's?
Why does the Bible talk about 'the wrath of God'?
As we continue to preach and teach the NT message that "God is Infinite Love," embodied in Christ and revealed on the Cross, it is right that we should continually challenge and be challenged by "the wrath of God." That challenge requires us to keep returning to the Scriptures and to the Lord for greater clarity, because such great potential for error persists. We dare not slander God, either as a violent punisher or a spineless pushover, because such images serve as stumbling blocks, especially to those suffering under the consequences of their poor choices or those of somebody else.
In A More Christlike God, I referred to 'wrath' as a biblical metaphor for the natural and supernatural consequences of our self-will and defiance. I lament the fact that these consequences often afflict others with terrible suffering, such as victims of drunk drivers. And I question whether it's appropriate to think of sin's effects as the 'wrath of God.' In that book, I cite the great church Fathers, St John Cassian and St John of Damascus, who show us that 'wrath' is an anthropomorphism for human anger, projected onto God, and which must not be literalized lest we commit a "monstrous blasphemy." I showed how Paul redefines wrath as passive, as divine consent, as "giving us over" (Romans 1) to our choices and their consequences. And in Romans 5, we see finally that God-in-Christ came to rescue or save us, not from God, but from "the wrath" (an allusion to Wisdom of Solomon 18:22-25 , where "wrath" is a synonym for "the destroyer").
So much for review. For those who need more backstory, see:
Today, I stand by the progress we've made, but press a little harder. All the above still begs the question: why does the Bible sometimes refer to the consequences of sin as "the wrath of God" when Paul so clearly sets "the wages of sin" (death) over against "the free gift of God" (life)? How, if Satan is the destroyer and Christ is the Savior, can "the wrath" ever be said to be "of God"? Why does God ever own punishment for sin in any way, if judgement for sin is intrinsic to sin, rather than God's literal reaction to it?
"And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." Genesis 6:3
"For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations." Psalm 100:5
"O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever." Psalm 136:1
Final conversation from True Detective (full video link - language warning).
Marty: “Didn’t you tell me one time, dinner once, maybe, about how you used to ... you used to make up stories about the stars?”
Rust: “Yeah, that was in Alaska, under the night skies.”
Marty: “Yeah, you used to lay there and look up, at the stars?”
Rust: “Yeah, I think you remember how I never watched the TV until I was 17, so there wasn’t much to do up there but walk around, explore, and...”
Marty: “And look up at the stars and make up stories. Like what?”
Rust: “I tell you Marty I been up in that room looking out those windows every night here just thinking, it’s just one story. The oldest.”
Marty: “What’s that?”
Rust: “Light versus dark.”
Marty: “Well, I know we ain’t in Alaska, but it appears to me that the dark has a lot more territory.”
Rust: “Yeah, you’re right about that.”Rust insists that Marty help him leave the hospital, Marty agrees.As they head to the car, Rust makes one final point to his former partner.
Rust: “You’re looking at it wrong, the sky thing.”
Marty: “How’s that?”
Rust: “Well, once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.”
Rust stares at all of the stars in the midst of the darkness.
Kenneth Tanner (FB post 15 June 2016):
It was always there in Psalm 23:
God does not visit evil on humanity, and God does not prevent the evil that men and the dark angels do.
Rather, God is *with us* as we endure the evils our departures from his light and life bring us.
"Even though I walk through of the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me."
"This song and video was just released by Radiohead. It's like Radiohead has been reading René Girard -- sacrifice at the dark heart of civilization." - Brian Zahnd
I concur with Brian. Certainly the Girardian themes of scapegoating and sacred violence are intrinsic to both the witchhunt lyrics and the Wickerman-style references in the video. First to the lyrics:
Song meanings are notoriously subjective. Listeners hear what a song means to them, sometimes quite divorced from authorial intent. And this is as it should be. Art does that. One interpretation of the song and video comes from Virpi Kettu, an animator who collaborated on the video, spoke to Billboard about her take on the song:
Based on Kettu's understanding of what the band was after, she opines they may have wanted "Witch" to raise awareness about the refugee crisis in Europe and the "blaming of different people... the blaming of Muslims and the negativity" that could lead to sentiments such as "burn the witch."
My reaction: With the current refugee crisis, and even prior to that, with the momentum of Muslim immigration into the UK, movements like 'Britain First,' (and watch for America First) are sharpening their pitchforks and terrifying people with how the Muslims will impose Sharia Law once their numbers make them the majority.
Now, those who oppose the fear-mongering typically say, "You're exaggerating. The population balance won't tip that soon and the danger that Sharia Law will be imposed here is fabricated."
But I say, let's do a thought experiment. Let's assume for a moment that for sure Muslims will outnumber non-Muslims in the UK (or Europe) by 2050 or 2070. And let's assume that your children or grandchildren will live under Sharia Law. If you knew that for sure, how would you want to treat Muslims for the next 35-50 years as you wait for that day? What we sow, we will reap. If for the next 35-50 years, we sow fear, hatred and exclusion, what do you imagine our descendants will experience once Islam is running the nation? If it were me, foreseeing what's coming, I would want to be so kind, respectful and hospitable that when the day comes, mistreating my children or trampling on their rights would be unthinkable to them. The spiritual or social math on this is unbelievably obvious.
Typically, I see glazed looks in response. And the next words always start with "Yeah, but ..." My reaction: "Yeah, but ... what did our Lord, Jesus Christ say?"
The golden rule, after all, is part of the sermon on the mount. Jesus said,“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). And he did say,
43 I was a stranger [the Bible-word for immigrant/refugee], and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, [YEAH, BUT] Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee.
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
"Yeah, but ..." A common, but oh-so-inappropriate phrase after Jesus speaks. Or worse, "By no means, Lord!" -- Peter's words in Acts 10 as Christ is preparing to dismantle his racism!
In any case, such interesting timing ... the release of Radiohead's song coincides with the election of London's first Muslim mayor! Of course, Britain First will be panicking. Their own mayoral candidate, Paul Golding, defiantly turned his back on Kahn at his swearing-in ceremony
Is it ironic or poignant (in light of the controversy) that the first Muslim mayor of London is the son of Pakistani immigrants and became a civil rights lawyer. His statement at the swearing-in didn't sound so much like the first steps to Sharia Law. It didn't feel like the great tribulation had begun:
"I'm determined to lead the most transparent, engaged and accessible administration London has ever seen, and to represent every single community and every single part of our city as a mayor for Londoners."
Not that I believe political promises or trust the systems that overwhelm their good intentions. But Gandalf seemed happy. Actor Sir Ian McKellen greeted Khan at the cathedral gates. He said,
"To have a Muslim mayor seems preferable to me to any alternative regardless of the politics. I hope it's an image that will go round the world as representing a new sort of England that's at peace with itself regardless of race and so on. That's the beauty of it."
Meanwhile, much closer to home (for me ... 2 miles from America), I write this the week that Donald Trump crushed it in Indiana and became the GOP's presumptive nominee. Today, Donald Trump is having a rally in Lyndon, Washington, about 15 miles from my house. I'd probably cross the border and attempt to start negotiations with him on building the northern wall (echoes of Game of Thrones), but I'm told that I'd have to get a ticket and line up by 9:00 am to get into the 3:30 pm rally. I guess I won't bother.
Some of my very good friends (truly) will be voting for him in November. I'm just saying.
I only bring him up to connect the dots between the above story to one policy item that's come up. Thanks to BZ for digging this up for me:
"America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration." - Donald J Trump, Foreign Policy Speech, April 27, 2016
You have to admit, he's good at slogans. Slogans are powerful. Slogans cover a multitude of sins. "Make America Great Again" may yet stand as the greatest marketing slogan of all time ... at least since "Jesus is Lord." As one of his Evangelical supporters put it: "It doesn't matter if he's a racist or a misogynist or a xenophobe. We need a strong president. We need someone who will make America great again."
Back to scapegoating. Donald Trump is an expert at employing Girard's scapegoating mechanism: you create pseudo-peace by bringing mimetic rivals together to focus on and sacrifice a common threat. In the end, though, those who live by the sword, die by the sword, and I won't be too surprised if the Donald becomes the scapegoat whose sacrifice will make everyone feel good about themselves. Creating the Trump phenomenon and then voting him out in a landslide (if that happens) could almost make the nation feel virtuous, yes? No?
At the end of the day, Robert Plant's 'Band of Joy' gets it right. "I heard the voice of Jesus say, Satan, your kingdom must come down." A great tune worth hearing before I give Michael Hardin the last word.
I dare not wax eloquent about Girardian theory without passing the mic. to Michael Hardin--Rene Girard's preeminent interpreter. What say you, Michael?
This pervasive disease that is Christendom (Empire Christianity) must fall. The whole megalomaniac, flash and glitz, narcissistic personality disorder that I see dominating Christendom (except for the few, the proud, the Pope Francis's; and Richard Rohr's) has got to come tumbling down. And then I wonder how will Islam respond to its internal Janus-faced god, it's economies of exchange and its theology of glory. I wonder: 100 years from now, who will be known as the Kierkegaards and Bonhoeffers of our generation?
By the grace of God, there will be some.
Bradley, my wife and I met you recently at the Grace Conference. I asked a question about sovereignty, and your response addressed misunderstandings of what sovereignty means. Would you please elaborate and give some additional sources for me to look into. We enjoyed the conference and the material you presented. MUCH food for thought and reflection.
What is God like? (1 John 4, Eph. 3)
God as infinite love without remainder as revealed in Christ, esp. on the Cross.
Audio (mp3) to be viewed with slides:
Slides (powerpoint): Download PPT of God - Infinite love without remainder
Slides (pdf): Download PDF of God - Infinite love without remainder
"A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel" - WTC Pub Night Interview of Brad Jersak by Matthew Lynch and Lucy Peppiatt
This episode of WTCLive comes to you from the student pub at WTC’s student residential (January 2016). Lucy Peppiatt and Matt Lynch discuss Brad’s recent book A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel (Plain Truth Ministries, 2015). Brad explains his journey toward writing this book, and how his perspective developed. Hear Matt, Lucy and Brad in a fun and lively discussion about Brad’s book.
Until now, most Christians have assumed that evangelicals – people who base their convictions clearly on the teaching of Scripture – cannot possibly be universalists – people who believe that God will one day redeem all mankind.
With the release on March 8 of Zondervan’s Four Views on Hell (Second Edition), that understanding suddenly changed!
For the first time, a well respected, evangelical publishing house has clearly acknowledged that universalism is a view Christians should seriously consider.
An Evangelical Universalist
The four views presented in the book are: Eternal Conscious Torment, Terminal Punishment, Purgatory, and an essay by Robin Parry on Christian Universalism.
According to the book’s general editor, Preston Sprinkle –
All of the authors are committed Christians who believe in the full inspiration and authority of the Bible . . . All of the authors will derive and articulate their views based on Scripture and theological reasoning.
Dr. Sprinkle goes on to say –
I found Robin Parry’s essay to be a fascinating read! And, if I can be quite honest, I think it is a game-changer . . . Christians can no longer dismiss his view as unorthodox. We must now actually crack open our Bibles and, like the Bereans (Acts 17:11), see if these things are so.
Response by Brad Jersak
While 'Christian Universalism' and indeed a truly 'Evangelical Universalism' is as old as St Gregory of Nyssa and as rich as Rev. George MacDonald, it has often required some key leader, popular denomination or established publishing company to formalize broader acceptance of any controversial doctrine, practice or people. Who has the courage of St Peter to come along and say, 'Like it or not, 'they' (whoever they happen to be) DO have a legitimate place at this table'?
"Easter is God’s 'victory over death.' Death is no longer the curse that it was. It is no longer the power that rules. It is no longer the enemy to be feared. But here’s the twist. In doing so, Jesus also reclaims death and befriends it – not death in its perverted form, but death in its state of grace. Jesus reclaims death as a natural blessing to the rhythm of life and shows us that it is possible to befriend it."
|Woman grieving after death of 70+ in Pakistan|
My first reaction to this quote is that while it sounds wonderful, perhaps the author wrote it from a great distance to those who have recently experienced death as an enemy ... and should maintain that distance for the time being. But before being immediately dismissive, let's have another look at Easter, death and dying.
What is death, in fact? I am working to free my mind from previous definitions and assumptions, in order to see a fundamental shift in the nature of death as a result of Christ's work. In light of 1 Cor. 15:26, I'm not ready to call death a friend yet, but how might the statement be true? Three points bear considering.
1. How has our relationship to death been altered as a result of Resurrection Sunday? I need not move from enmity to friendship with death in order to make the basis NT assertion that death has apparently lost its sting (which is not to say, its grief ... a different issue). Death's sting was that either we 'were no more' or that we were consigned to the gloom of sheol/hades. Death's sting is the fear or death-anxiety common to humanity. Through our death-anxiety, the devil held us in bondage and it is that fear of death and subsequent demonic bondage from which Christ has freed us. Heb. 2:14-15 (and maybe Jn. 14:1-6).
If death is an enemy, it is no longer an enemy I need fear. This suggests to me that perhaps death in the NT is not synonymous with the cause of death, the experience of dying, the moment of death or the grievous aftermath for the survivors. All of these remain most unwelcome, in want of God's compassion, comfort and/or healing.
Rather, in the NT death per se relates to the destiny of those who are dead. That is, death and 'the grave' were synonymous, used in tandem in the same manner of Hebrew parallelism. If so, then Christ has not only changed my relationship to death but fundamentally changed the nature of death itself. Thus...
No Christian thinker has synthesized the rich and varied imagery of the gospel into a single beautiful picture as did C.S. Lewis in his classic novella, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Through Lewis’ children’s fantasy, the New Testament themes— redemption and reconciliation, substitution and sacrifice, ransom and victory—coalesce into one of literature’s greatest plotlines. After all, it is a retelling of the greatest story ever told!
Spoiler alert: I’ll summarize the epic climax shortly!
Plot: Four English adolescents pass through a magical wardrobe into the strange world of Narnia, which has fallen into a deathly winter through the dark magic of the witch, Jadis. The witch succeeds in luring one of the boys, Edmund, into her evil clutches and deceives him into betraying his siblings.
The great lion Aslan—Lewis’ Christ-figure— conceives a plan to rescue Edmund, but Jadis claims eye-for-an-eye justice to demand Edmund’s execution. Aslan secretly bargains for Edmund’s life by offering his own in exchange. Jadis is delighted; Aslan’s death will be her final victory. She and her minions tie Aslan to ‘the Stone Table’ (representing the law of condemnation). They shave his mane, mock and beat him, and finally, Jadis delivers the fatal wound with a stone knife. Wondrously, though the Witch can kill Aslan, she cannot take his life! Aslan is resurrected, the stone table is broken, Edmund is redeemed and the witch is destroyed!
This is the Beautiful Gospel as C.S. Lewis imagined it. This famous fiction captures essential truths of Christ’s saving work as understood by the first apostles, evangelists and theologians. But the tale also underscores Lewis’s corrections to the most popular ‘atonement theory’ of his time (or ours). In his letters (to Bede Griffith), Lewis refers to the Anselmic theory (after Anselm of Canterbury) and says it “was not to be found either in the N.T. or most of the fathers.” In Mere Christianity he describes it:
“According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem quite so immoral and silly as it used to; but that is not the point I want to make. What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor any other is Christianity. The central belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.”
Yet neither Lewis’ letters nor his non-fiction compare to the beauty and clarity of the gospel preached in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
1. In the story, God appears only as Aslan—the Incarnation of God in Narnia.
2. In the story, God never demands the death of Edmund or of Aslan. The witch does. God is not the witch. God is Aslan.
3. In the story, the witch thinks she has cornered Aslan into satisfying the wrath of the Stone Table. But she has not and he does not. There is no law higher than Aslan. He willingly gives himself to save the victim, he breaks the Table and conquers both death and the witch.
4. The Table is not God’s intractable wrath. It is the law of retribution and condemnation, broken by the deeper “magic” of sacrificial love. If the Stone Table can be broken, then it is not one of God’s eternal attributes.
5. The witch could and surely did execute Aslan—but she was wrong to believe she could take his life. Like Christ, Aslan alone has the power to lay down his life, and therefore, the power to take it up again. She never took his life. He gave it, but not to her and not to death. He gave it for love to ransom everyone. The witch (like Satan and death) fell into her own trap and found Aslan to be very much alive.
C.S. Lewis provides an important corrective to ideas of the Cross that mistakenly cast God into the witch’s role. But more importantly, he expresses the Beautiful Gospel in a way that even children can see it, even if some theologians cannot.
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Editor's note: Graham Ware interviewed Brad Jersak on the Rethinking Hell podcast (listen here). The following is the written correspondence version of the interview (not a transcript) so it includes some questions and answers not covered on the podcast. Graham also asked additional follow-up questions on the podcast not recorded here.
Right now, you wear many hats vocationally. Instead of me reading your CV, maybe you could sum up what it is you currently do vocationally (besides being the author of 13 books)?
After being discipled in Moravian Brethren tradition, and attending an evangelical bible college and seminary, you have had some changes in your theological convictions, presumably not just on the issue of hell. Can you perhaps share how those changes came about and perhaps where you sit now? Not because we're enslaved to labels and affiliations, but just to get a sense of where you're coming from as you approach a theological topic.
Actually, my ancient heritage included Moravian Brethren, but in terms of actual upbringing:
Thomas Merton and the Counterculture: A Golden String (St Macrina Press, 2016) is a collection of essays and illustrations by many of North America's top Merton scholars, including Leah Cameron, Stephanie Redekop, Russel Hulsey, Ross Labrie, Robert Inchausti, Lynn Szabo and of course, Ron S. Dart. The book also features sketches by North Van artist, Arnold Shives.
Two elements set this booklet (123 pages) apart. First, it not only speaks of the counterculture historically; it gives one a feel for the counterculture because a good number of the authors lived in the thick of it and arguably never 'sold out.' In some ways, the book then feels less like a retrospective and more like a time machine, enabling me to relive by proxy some of the highpoints of the counterculture ideals that I was insulated from as an elementary school child.
The other great strength of this book is that so many of the essays relate Merton to other major figures of that age. Some he knew or corresponded with personally, while others were parallel figures climbing and converging on common peaks by other trails and approaches. So we not only get more of Merton the monk, but Merton becomes a posture from which to view the likes of Mark Van Doren, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Everson, Denise Levertov and Henry Miller. Some of these names were familiar to me among the great 'Beat Poets,' but I did not know that many related to Merton directly. Others were unknown to me but the book provided an initial introduction.
For Merton and counterculture poetry aficionados alike, the book is well worth the read, not just as nostalgia, but to give a personal inside scoop on the abiding value of that important epic. Indeed, there's an urgent need to remember their wisdom in these dark days.
C.S. Lewis & Bede Griffiths: Chief Companions (St Macrina, 2016) is Ron Dart's own booklet (58 pages) on the interaction of thoughts and letters between Lewis and Griffiths. Ron has attended closely to this long-term friendship and gathered up sources, letters and articles to highlight and provide a very warm commentary on the importance of this connection.
The book begins with their 1. Faith Affinities, which might surprise those who know Lewis as the Oxford scholar and Griffiths as the contemplative theologian who led the 20th century in interfaith dialogue. But in fact, both men testified that the other was their chief companion at the stage of their conversion to Christianity through the early1930's.
In chapter 2, Ron describes the correspondence between Lewis and Arthur Greeves in which Griffiths is mentioned. Chapter 3 moves on to letters by Lewis to Griffiths himself. Chapter 4 switches perspectives and we're treated to a review of two articles that Griffiths writes about Lewis. In chapter 4, we follow the drama of how Griffiths (in The Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal) enters the conversation over Christopher Derrick's C.S. Lewis and the Church of Rome -- esp. concerning Lewis' decision not to become Roman Catholic. In chapter 6, Dart publishes two letters he personally received from Griffiths (along with reflections). The final chapter is a summary, pointing out that virtually no work has been done on the Lewis-Griffiths connection in four decades. For my part, I'm glad Dart broke the silence!
For those who are late to the game and wondering who Brian Zahnd is and where he's coming from, Water to Wine is a good place to start. You'll be able to experience his long faith journey in these memoirs of a master storyteller and wordsmith. The book marries spiritual autobiography with the fine wine of sage wisdom. I don't doubt that Brian is the best preacher in America, but in this book, you'll also witness the thoughts, dreams and prayers that ensure his oratory is far more than rhetoric. Readers will get also taste of this theological artisan's hand at parables and poetry ... he even provides a playlist of songs that have moved him. But don't mistake this accessibility for watered-down pop Christianity: Brian is as fine a biblical theologian as you'll find and this comes clear throughout these pages. As the subtitle suggests, this is "some of [his] story," but a fine introduction into his other books and podcasts ... and a way to join him on the trail to this point. A keeper!