Friday, December 4, 2009

Does God Have Wrath?

Does God have wrath? Seems like a simple question doesn't it? Increasingly though it seems that it's not quite right to believe that God has wrath or gets angry. These notions are deemed unworthy of God and are simply the remnants of a less enlightened age. I read yesterday that Julian of Norwich (this is the book I was looking at) did not believe there was any wrath in God and some find this to be a very liberating thought. Some like to create all sorts of caricatures of the wrath of God and then politely ask if that is what we "really" believe about God. When all else fails they pull the trump card--the wrath of God is simply not compatible with his being all loving.

I want to highlight one of my favorite books on the love of God. Now this is not a new book but it is one you should be aware of. It is called Nothing Greater, Nothing Better: Theological Essays on the Love of God edited by Kevin Vanhoozer and is published by Eerdmans. Take a look at the table of contents:

1. Introduction: The Love of God — Its Place, Meaning, and Function in Systematic Theology by Kevin J. Vanhoozer

2. The Concept of Love: Divine and Human by Gary Badcock

3. A Biblical Theology of the Love of God by Geoffrey Grogan

4. Augustine, Christology, and God as Love: An Introduction to the Homilies on 1 John by Lewis Ayres

5. How Do We Define the Nature of God's Love? by Trevor Hart

6. Is Love the Essence of God? by Alan J. Torrance

7. The Wrath of God as an Aspect of the Love of God by Tony Lane

8. Can God Love the World? by Paul Helm

9. Will the Love of God Finally Triumph? by David Fergusson

Postscript: The Love of God: A Sermon on Hosea 11 by Roy Clements

I would like to quote two paragraphs from the chapter by Tony Lane.

"Judgment is according to one's response to the love of God in Jesus Christ (John 3:16-21,36). But why is this? It might appear that God's judgment is no more than the macabre revenge of a jilted suitor. If wrath is nothing more than rejected love, God is open to the following charge: 'Why does he get so angry, then, when we just want to be left alone?' But there is more to the story than simply jilted love. We are God's creatures and own him our love and obedience. We are sinful people who have been 'bought with a price' (1 Cor. 6:20). We are not autonomous beings receiving overtures of love from a neo-Marcionite God who has no more claims upon us than the romantic affections of a stranger. The love that is being spurned is the love of Creature for creature, of the One who has redeemed us at great cost. To reject such love is to turn one's back upon one's only hope and to consign oneself to wrath and judgment." (page 166)

"The fallacy of those who deny the wrath of God lies in the attempt to reduce God purely to love. As Brunner notes, 'the Nature of God cannot be exhaustively stated in one single word.' In particular, the holiness of God must not be suppressed. P. T. Forsyth has made this point forcefully with his talk of 'the holy love of God.' Our starting point should be 'the supreme holiness of God's love, rather than its pity, sympathy, or affection,' this being 'the watershed between the Gospel and the theological liberalism which makes religion no more than the crown of humanity.' 'If we spoke less about God's love and more about His holiness, more about His judgment, we should say much more when we did speak of His love.'" (page 161)

Speak less about God's love and more about his holiness and judgment. Now there's something you don't hear everyday. But don't miss Forsyth's point. The better we understand God's holiness and judgment the more meaningful becomes his love. There's wisdom here but far too many will dismiss it without giving it a second thought.

So, my answer is to the original question is "Yes, God does have wrath and it is not incompatible with his love."

1 comment:

Scripture Zealot said...

"The better we understand God's holiness and judgment the more meaningful becomes his love."

Amen. God is love but He's a lot of other things.