The Wrath Of God Was Satisfied?

(Picture found here)

Last week Christianity Today reported on the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.’s decision to exclude the modern hymn In Christ Alone from their hymnal.

The decision came down to one line – “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied.”

The PCUSA had hoped to change the line to read – “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” – in keeping with their understanding of what occurred on the cross, or to be more specific their doctrine of the atonement.

Personally, I think it would have been a fantastic change, not least of all because it aligns well with my own understanding of the atonement. However, the writers of In Christ Alone declined the PCUSA’s request to change their lyrics. So, rather than sing theology they didn’t believe in, or more accurately theology that contradicted their own beliefs, the PCUSA chose to leave the song out of their hymnal.

Not surprisingly, this story garnered quite a bit of response online with parties from both camps applauding each’s decision to take a stand for what they believed in.

As I said, I wish Keith Getty and Stuart Townend had allowed their lyrics to be changed. It’s a wonderful song, but whenever that line about God’s wrath comes up I stop singing. And as I learned from other people commenting on this story, I’m not the only one who does that.

So, why do I choose not to sing that line?

Because despite what you may have been led to believe, the penal substitution theory of the atonement, which declares that God’s wrath was satisfied through Jesus’ death on the cross, is not the orthodox position on the atonement. It is an orthodox position, but it is not the orthodox position.

And, in fact, it’s one I and many others throughout the centuries have found highly problematic.

On the most basic level, when we hold up penal substitution theory as the only orthodox, or true, understanding of the atonement based on one passage from Romans, we disregard the other images and descriptions of Christ’s work on the cross that the Bible offers, understandings which themselves have led to several other understandings of the atonement which the church has held to be just as orthodox as penal substitution, such as ransom theory, Christus Victor, satisfaction theory (a similar, but different understanding from that of penal substitution) and the moral influence theory.

While each of these has problems of their own, this diversity of understandings demonstrates the fact that while we can certainly choose to affirm one theory over another, denouncing those who hold different understandings as outright heretics is an act of incredible arrogance and profound ignorance.

But as I said, there are problems with some of our understandings of the atonement and they should be highlighted because as people who claim to be made in the image of God, it is that image that will shape and define our lives in countless ways. If God is ultimately loving, merciful, self-sacrificing, and full of grace, then we too must be loving, merciful, self-sacrificing, and full of grace if we are going to claim to be his people. But if God is ultimately vengeful and full of wrath, (and according to penal substitution theory he is for despite the claim that Jesus loves us enough to satisfy God’s wrath it is that wrath that is of ultimate importance for until it is satisfied God cannot extend God’s love) then we are free to be vengeful, wrathful people who can use violence and manipulation to get our way.

What inevitably results from the penal substitution theory of the atonement is the picture of a God who is a blood-thirsty monster who demands violence and death in order to satisfy his boundless wrath and who apparently can conceive of no other response to sin other than murder (which ironically is itself a sin). This in turn creates antipathy, if not outright anger and disgust for a Father who murdered his own Son.

Sure, we can love Jesus. He died for us!

But the Father?

According to penal substitution, he’s a cosmic child abuser, a divine murderer who demands blood, and must use violence to get his way.

But that’s only part of the problem.

If Jesus dies to save us from the Father’s wrath and, as all Christians agree, Jesus is God, then what we are really saying is God saves us from himself. Which means either God suffers from a horrific case of split personality disorder or Jesus and the Father must be two separate gods.

However, even if we try to maintain the unity of the Father and the Son, the wrath of God needing to be satisfied still leaves us with a big problem.

If wrath is something that must be satisfied, if God can’t simply choose to relinquish it through an act of grace and forgiveness, then God is beholden to wrath, or more accurately as Slavoj Zizek points out, wrath stands above God as, essentially, a separate and more powerful being than the Father to whom the Father must answer.

If that’s the case, what penal substitution theory ultimately leaves us with is paganism, not Christianity.

But why does any of this really matter?

Isn’t it just theological speculation?

Yes and no.

The simple reality of the matter is that our beliefs shape our lives – whether intentionally or not.

Think about all of this in the context of the songs we sing during worship on Sunday mornings.

Our hymnody is our faith put to music. When ideas are set to music, they are easier to remember because melodies stick in our brains far better than bland facts. That’s why you can still remember the lyrics to that N’Sync song you haven’t heard in years, but can’t remember all the state capitals you had to memorize in 3rd grade.

The hope in singing our faith is not simply that we will memorize our beliefs, but that those beliefs we sing will become so burned into our imagination that they begin to shape who we are and how we live our lives. If we sing about being the children of God and if that God is the sort of God who’s wrath must be satisfied through violent, bloody child abuse, then we are left with the image of an angry, blood thirsty parent who suffers from an apparent and unpredictable personality disorder and who may not even be in control of things.

In turn, we being creatures made in the image of that God, we ourselves are free to be vengeful, wrathful people who can use violence and manipulation to get our way….and do it all in the name of God.

How is that a God worthy of worship?

And why is that a life we should model?

Moreover, how can we hope to share that God with people who themselves have been victims of child abuse or who have had parents abandon them?

If it’s not too late to add one more thing to the list of why millennials are leaving the church, I’ve got to think this is one of them even if it’s not always articulated as such. After all, can we really blame people for not wanting to follow a God they are told from the get-go is full of wrath and murderous rage towards them and who apparently has no qualms with murdering his own children?

If we do blame them and take this approach despite its many flaws, our only recourse is to pitch a fear based salvation – turn to Jesus or burn in hell at the hands of an angry God.

Now we can try to dismiss this by arrogantly sticking our heads in the sand and crying out that some people are just uncomfortable with the truth.

But is God killing God’s only Son to save us from God really the truth?

I don’t think it is.

And I can’t blame people for not wanting to embrace a religion or a God based on fear and wrath.

But that’s just it.

I think.

I don’t know.

None of us do. We can pretend we know all the precise mechanisms of the atonement, but we’re just deceiving ourselves because not even the Bible gives us one definitive answer.

We don’t know, we believe and those are two very different things and that’s ok.

In fact, the Bible itself seems to think not knowing, but simply believing is actually a pretty good thing,

“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Which is why I really wish Keith Getty and Stewart Townend had allowed the PCUSA to tweak the lyrics of their song.

Not because I think I’m right and they’re wrong.

But because I believe there is a beauty in diversity and grace in allowing the church to speak with multiple voices.

Yes, I disagree with penal substitution theory and yes I think it is full of pragmatic problems for everyday life, but there are good people in the church who disagree and who find ways they believe they can articulate what is admittedly a Biblical image in ways that are healthy and constructive.

Which is why I believe it would have been a beautiful statement of the church’s unity in the face our disagreements to allow both versions of the song to be sung.

But alas it was not to be.

I hope one day that will change.
Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

  • S. Kyle

    Thank you for this. I have been really frustrated with the knee-jerk reactions and gossiping that has been going on over this situation with the PCUSA, and when I have voiced objections in conversations about this online, it feels like it’s falling on deaf ears (I wrote about it here: http://toomuchlovenathanaelkyle.blogspot.com/2013/08/in-christ-alone-and-pcusa-getting-story.html)

    Again, thank you for this.

  • http://markcaudill.me/ Mark

    I agree with you on atonement theory. But put yourself in the song’s authors’ shoes. If you wrote a song proclaiming the joys of Christus Victor (or something) and the SBC asked you to remove the language or change it to reflect penal substitution, you’d probably (rightfully) deny their request.

    • ZackHunt

      You raise a good point and I actually did think about that. And the point that they could simply not want it changed for artistic reasons. I’m not saying they were “wrong” or that they don’t have the right to not want it changed, I just wish they had given permission for another further to be sung alongside the original. Could have been a cool thing.

      (Of course, truth be told, there are plenty of churches that already tweak the song without permission, but that’s another issue altogether)

      • http://markcaudill.me/ Mark

        Yeah I think it gets to the whole issue of us feeling threatened by the various slippery slopes that get introduced with the diversity of theology that actually exists within the Church. We really need to get over that.

    • Charles Page

      I am theologically conservative and my complaint w/ SBC is they in fact don’t really hold to substitutionary and perhaps less so than the Presbys who chose to delete the song. (at least they are honest)

      SBC is interested in large crowds and anything that contributes to that is a pragmatic method and as their deceased hero said “pickles have souls” meaning you will teach what we tell/pay you to teach. It is more about gain than theology!

  • http://1t412.wordpress.com/ Christina

    I don’t see how the new lyrics are particularly objectionable even to advocates of penal substitutionary atonement. I mean, they do remove the reference to God’s wrath, but I belong to the same group of churches as Townend did when he wrote the song, and I have never heard any of our leaders claim that the love of God *wasn`t* magnified on the cross. Heck, I was just talking to my pastor yesterday and mentioned the proposed new lyric and his response was “Oh, I like that. It gives a more complete picture of what actually happened.”

  • Tom LeGrand

    Artists, including song writers, seem to be pretty definitive in their chosen craft and what they are trying to say through their work. I have a sister who is an artist, and I often tease her to paint something that someone will actually BUY, knowing full well that she isn’t the least bit interested in that! She is extremely reluctant to change her work because she wants it to convey her intent, not necessarily what someone else wants to see.

    At the same time, I agree that it would have been a welcomed gesture to allow different groups to sing the song with some word changes. We’ve solved this by not singing all the verses, but that seems a bit lacking as well. The point is well-stated here: It would help if we realized that something as complicated as Atonement is bound to have more than one explanation, making it a pretty tough litmus test for who is “in” and who is “out”. Does the Cross only count if we get the theology of it exactly right?

  • Dave Stewart

    Zach, I feel like your portrayal of penal substitution theology pushes at the boundaries of the fringe of how it’s understood. This paragraph is alarming and not altogether accurate (in my opinion) of how many people feel about it. “But as I said, there are problems with some of our understandings of the atonement and they should be highlighted because as people who claim to be made in the image of God, it is that image that will shape and define our lives in countless ways. If God is ultimately loving, merciful, self-sacrificing, and full of grace, then we too must be loving, merciful, self-sacrificing, and full of grace if we are going to claim to be his people. But if God is ultimately vengeful and full of wrath, (and according to penal substitution theory he is for despite the claim that Jesus loves us enough to satisfy God’s wrath it is that wrath that is of ultimate importance for until it is satisfied God cannot extend God’s love) then we are free to be vengeful, wrathful people who can use violence and manipulation to get our way.”

    Clearly, God’s wrath is displayed in scripture. This doesn’t mean that He is “ultimately vengeful and full of wrath”. Wouldn’t you agree that there is room for a lot of nuance there? I don’t want to miss the point of the post, and I think I agree with the heart of what you are saying (I’m not sure if I would have given permission to change the lyrics, had I written the song). But I do believe there is some merit in a penal substitution understanding of the cross without favoring the use of violence and manipulation.

    • ZackHunt

      Hey Dave,

      I really appreciate the feedback and agree that there is certainly language about God’s wrath in scripture and that penal substitution theory is not without merit. But just for clarity sake, those weren’t fringe criticisms of penal substitution. I’m only repeating pretty standard critiques of the wrath of God/penal substitution argument. I wish I could come up with something new and boundary pushing, but I’m generally not that creative. Sometimes, maybe if I get lucky. But this time I’m just regurgitated what many others have said for a long time..

      • Erik Bobbitt

        I’ll agree that I was a little alarmed by the accusation of ‘murder’ (most murders I’ve heard of aren’t consensual) and the use of violence-oriented imagery.

        It made me curious, though – was your choice of that language due to the specific wording of the hymn, “until the wrath of God was *satisfied*”? The fact that God is *just*, and that the penal substitution of Christ fulfilled God’s character of justice… that’s one thing. While I can see what the writers meant, I could also see how “satisfaction of wrath” could convey a more violent and hardline understanding.

      • http://www.redemptionpictures.com/ Micah J. Murray

        I’ve heard a similar critique – that PSA as you described it really a caricature of the teaching. But I don’t know? It seems pretty consistent with my understanding. Of course there’s the quibble that Jesus was in on it from the beginning, but maybe this quibble should be emphasized rather than added as a footnote? Because it really was God dying for man, not Son dying for Father or God dying for Wrath, right?

      • Dan

        Yeah, I would say that there is definitely language of God’s wrath in Scripture. God flooded the whole world. God struck down a man for touching the Ark of the Covenant. God opened up the ground to swallow half of his people. God killed all the first-born of Egypt (and implicitly the Israelites who didn’t put blood on the doorposts). God instituted a system of sacrificial death of animals for the assuaging of his wrath against his people. God sacked Israel and sent his people into exile twice because they weren’t faithful to his covenant. And finally, just like God said he would in Isaiah 53, God crushed his Servant. You may think that this makes God bloodthirsty, but rather than satisfy his thirst for blood on us, he emptied it on his Son. All the wrath that we deserved, the Son willingly accepted.

        But he was pierced for our transgressions;
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
        upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
        and with his wounds we are healed.

        • Karen

          The language of God’s “wrath” is in the Scriptures, but there are huge differences in how that language is interpreted between the Reformers on the one hand and the early Fathers of the Church (particularly the Eastern Fathers who were reading the Scriptures in the original Greek) on the other. Truth is in the interpretation. You may be interested to know that the Septuagint version of Isaiah 53 (rooted in a much earlier Hebrew text than those Hebrew mss. currently available to translators) reads significantly differently at those places in the text where it most seems to support a PSA view in the translations in most modern English Bibles.

          If you look to find the place in Scripture where the word “satisfy” is used in the context of God’s wrath, you won’t find it. You will find the word “propitiate” or “propitiation” in modern (mostly Protestant) English translations of the Bible, but this, too, is an interpretation of a word that in the OT is simply mostly literally translated “mercy seat.” That the Cross is the place where God and man are reconciled is the definition of orthodox Christian doctrine. Explanations of how or why that reconciliation is effected is in the realm of theory or theological opinion, some of those historical explanations are more compatible with orthodox and biblical teaching as it has been understood from the earliest years of the Church than others.

          Penal Substitution, at least as it is popularly understood and as Zack describes it here, is not an interpretation that can be sustained by a careful reading of the Scriptures in the light of the most important Bible interpreters of the first millennium of the Church’s history. That should tell us something. It should tell us something, too, that in Eastern Orthodox and biblical teaching (Romans 5:10), the death of Christ “reconciles” us to God, but it is his “life” that “saves” us. For the EO, the Cross and Resurrection of Christ are of one piece, and we are not saved apart from His Resurrection (which is way more than mere ratification of his righteousness and Deity in EO understanding), but the Resurrection hardly factors in to Penal Substitution atonement theory at all.

          The bottom line is that theories of the atonement that propose a change in God’s intentions or attitude toward man as a result of the Cross are, by definition, not orthodox. God doesn’t change. PSA also doesn’t explain well why according to the Scriptures, God’s “wrath” against sin continues against the unrepentant and the wicked for as long as that wickedness and lack of repentance persists (thus the existence of hell)-even though PSA claims it was exhausted at the Cross. Even Orthodox Jews will tell you that God, being of His own nature abounding in mercy and forgiveness, doesn’t require sacrifice to forgive us, but rather desires our obedience/repentance (Micah 6:6-8, Psalm 50:12-15, Psalm 51:16, 17, Psalm 40:6-8). The sacrifices of the OT represented a change in the offerer and a restoration of the offerer’s communion with God (those that were not genuinely accompanied by this change/repentance were rejected by God). They were not given to change God’s mind. The manifestation of God’s love in Christ upon the Cross and the infusion of His Resurrection life into our human nature is what renders us capable of obedience and repentance. Jesus’ death and resurrection changes humanity, not God. We were the ones that needed changing.

  • Erik Bobbitt

    Hold up… I just realized Stuart Townend also wrote “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”, which ends with the line, “His wounds have paid my ransom”. Seems odd that he would reject a lyrical change on theological grounds, considering he penned another song with lyrics reflecting a different view of atonement (or, at least, evoking the language of another theory).

  • B.C. Askins

    Out of one corner of his mouth the author says, “…denouncing those who hold different understandings as outright heretics is an act of incredible arrogance and profound ignorance.”

    But out of the other corner he asserts,”According to penal substitution, (the Father’s) a cosmic child abuser, a divine murderer who demands blood, and must use violence to get his way;” displaying “incredible arrogance” in attributing to PSA what its advocates deny.
    And “…either God suffers from a horrific case of split personality disorder or Jesus and the Father must be two separate gods;” displaying “profound ignorance” of Trinitarian theology.

    This sort of blatant hypocrisy and self-contradiction might lead one to think the author’s views aren’t worth anyone’s time…

  • http://www.plannedpeasanthood.com/ Rick Dawson

    Singer/songwriter and believer here, putting in their two cents worth.

    Why, as an artist, would I change what I wrote to conform to beliefs I do not hold? Especially with this song? Getty and Townsend made the right decision. It will not stop people from singing the song – not even in churches that don’t hold with their views – because of the truths it does express so much better than many other grim tunes in the hymnbooks.

    Too old to appreciate – or even like – a reference to Nsync. Tell me what, out of their catalog, I – a man almost 60, who has been playing music since I was 13 and playing in the church since the days of folk mass – might know or even be familiar with? Strike that paragraph, and I get what you are saying – though I don’t always agree.

  • Seth Madaris

    I am curious as to how Romans 5:9 fits into the writing of this song.
    Perhaps its not so much about the substitutionary atonement and all the
    theology it entails as it is just using a basic statement from Paul. You alluded to a passage in Romans and I imagine this it (maybe?) but I wonder if Townsend was wrapping the entire penal substitution theory in this one line given the other
    songs he has written. I can’t help but wonder if this particular line in this
    particular song is more from a quotation then a systematic theology.

    I do completely agree with you that changing the song should be allowed simply because I change lyrics in Hymns ALL THE TIME because I disagree with the theology behind it and so fill it is a fair practice. :)

    Personally, I can sing it as written without the theology in mind (just as a bit of quotation) and I love the changed line as well and may hum that in my head. Thanks for the post. Always enjoy reading your thoughts.

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  • Donald Borsch Jr

    Above
    all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were
    bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.” –

    The sacrifice at The Cross is the fateful and horrible price God paid for the sins of men, once and for all. Indeed. To believe otherwise is to doubt His Sovereignty and Grace, as though The Cross is lacking.

  • karlkroger

    Zach, great post. Critical topic. Our image of God shapes us, and how we love or don’t love others. I continue to experience folks for whom PSA is important, support the torture and demonization of fellow human beings. People who believe in holy wrath toward people…tend start to practicing it.

    But like you I don’t want to mock or over-criticize PSA subscribers, and I wish they were more inclusive of the other atonement theories; however, if I’m honest, I’m not interested in giving PSA any validation. I know PSA is scriptural, it’s weaved into our hymns, and it’s all over within the Body of Christ…but I want it out. And as a pastor, I actively work toward that.

    So the question is, how to do we humbly lift up other atonement theories as better and more accurate than PSA, without becoming arrogant, dismissive, or patronizing-as I’m probably already sounding?

    • Karen

      “I know PSA is scriptural, it’s weaved into our hymns . . . ”

      Karl, the thing I want to ask is “scriptural” according to whom? Scripture requires interpretation. Just about anyone can come up with a set of propositions they can support “logically” from Scripture, but that doesn’t mean they’ve put the Scriptures together right and come up with the right picture of God. The Pharisees who opposed Jesus were steeped in the OT Scriptures which according to Jesus “testified” of Him, but they rejected Jesus.

      From the Eastern Orthodox tradition, I have learned from earliest times for Christians there has been a certain traditional hierarchy regarding which portions of the Scriptures give context to the other parts of Scripture for purposes of interpretation. For the Jews of Jesus’ day (the Pharisees) the Prophets and other books of the OT were interpreted in the light of the Torah (Sadducees embraced only the Torah). For the early Christians, the Gospels were pre-eminent and gave context to the Epistles and everything in the OT. Jesus is the only correct hermeneutic of the Scriptures (John 5:29) and the Apostle John writes in John 1:18 that only Jesus “declares” (reveals, lit. “exegetes”) the Father. Only in Jesus do we fully come to understand what God, the Father, is like.

      Also, from what I have learned, in the earliest Christian traditions (those tracing their doctrinal roots all the way back to the patristic period and earlier, not just back to the Reformation), the understanding was that the formal gathered worship of the Church is where its theology and the correct apostolic framework and interpretation of Scripture is found. Which Scripture texts were actually used in the earliest iturgies of the Church was one of the primary criteria the early bishops used for determining which writings were actually apostolic and should comprise part of the canon we now know today as the NT. The principle still used in the Orthodox Church today to determine authoritative interpretation of Scripture is “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” See more about that here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lex_orandi,_lex_credendi

      Eastern Orthodox still use a Eucharistic liturgy that has been substantially unchanged since about the 8th century and which follows the same basic outline and understanding of the nature of the Eucharist (and hence of the Christian faith) of the earliest known Christian liturgies. There are two main liturgies used by EO (during different parts of the Church year), and both are traceable to the earliest Christian liturgies (which in turn stem from the Syrian tradition in the Middle East, which is attributed all the way back to St. James the brother of Jesus who was first bishop of Jerusalem during the NT period). I can assure you there is no hint of PSA in the hymnody of the Church of the first millennium A.D. in the East (that is, the Church that has always used the Greek of the Septuagint and the NT as its Scriptural text) or to this day in the liturgies used by the Orthodox Church, which expound its faith.

  • Cap Stewart

    Thanks for the article, Zack. I appreciate your desire to cultivate an accurate picture of what God is like. The abuses of His character (even in the church) are, unfortunately, legion.

    As someone from a different doctrinal persuasion, I’d like to ask you a few questions if you don’t mind. I want to better understand those who don’t believe in penal substitution. I agree that God is ultimately loving and merciful. Wrath is not God’s core essence. Wrath certainly does not stand above God as a separate and superior force. More than anything, though, I guess I’m confused.

    First, you state that penal substitution (PS) leads to God being ultimately vengeful and full of wrath. You say that what inevitably results from PS is “a God who is a blood-thirsty monster.” How exactly have you come to this conclusion? Is this based on personal experience in your local church community?

    I’ve fellowshipped with believers who adhere to PS for years and I haven’t seen God characterized in such terms—explicitly or implicitly. I could be wrong, of course, but it seems to me that most of the negative views of God which you are against (and I would fully agree with you on them) is based on a perverted version of PS instead of the doctrine itself.

    It is true that PS states God’s wrath (or, rather, His just judgment) must be satisfied; He cannot simply choose to forgive and move on. I don’t see how this turns Him into a servant of wrath. Would this not rather point to the fact that His wrath is subservient to His love? For if He is indifferent to all the injustice in the world, He would not be a loving God. Wrongs must be righted. Simply forgiving us of all wrongdoing doesn’t fix everything.

    One illustration I’ve heard goes something like this: you and I are throwing a Frisbee around in your front yard and I accidentally break one of your windows. You can certainly forgive me and let me off the hook, but that means that, when I go home, you’re still left with a broken window. So you now have to pay the penalty yourself (i.e., replace the window). That is more along the lines of what I believe Scripture says.

    I’m confused about why you say PS leads us to act as people who are “free to be vengeful, wrathful people who can use violence and manipulation to get our way.” In my mind, it’s like you’re trying to call apples oranges. Again, in my experience, I have never seen PS used as an excuse for revenge, violence, or manipulation. Have you seen this connection at work in everyday life, or is this connection more theoretical?

    Sorry for the long response. I appreciate any addition thoughts you might have!

  • Rebekah

    You said “If God is ultimately loving, merciful, self-sacrificing, and full of grace, then we too must be loving, merciful, self-sacrificing, and full of grace if we are going to claim to be his people. But if God is ultimately vengeful and full of wrath…” I would say that God’s most defining attribute is neither his love nor his wrath. It is his holiness, his righteousness. What quality of God is focused upon by those who saw him with their own eyes in Scripture? His holiness! The seraphim that flew around God’s throne in Isaiah’s vision (Is. 6) did not cry out, “Love, love, love” but rather “Holy, holy, holy.” Isaiah’s response to the vision was not one of feeling loved and all fuzzy inside; he said “I am ruined!” and lamented over his sins and the sins of his people. In Revelation, John’s God-given vision of what is to come included a scene of worship in which creatures cried “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the Lord God Almighty…” (Rev. 4:8) Yes, God is a loving God. But his holiness is downplayed a whole lot by us humans, who are so unholy in and of ourselves. And holiness does not overlook sin. My sin is rebellion against the God who created me to reflect his glory-and owns me because he created me. He is just in his wrath against rebellion, and he is loving in freely giving me his own righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)by laying that wrath against my sin on Jesus, who came FOR THE PURPOSE OF laying his own life down as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). To emphasize one side of God’s character and throw out another is dangerous. Please take this as a concerned and heartfelt response, not an argumentative one. As far as I can tell, I have been in line with God’s own Word on the matter.

    And what do you do with John 3:36? “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” Those are God’s words, not some theology made up by people.

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  • Dave

    Zack, for me, your references to God committing murder are simplistic and hasty at best…there are still some penalties in the universe that are Just penalties, including the timeless penalty for sin against a God Who is righteous… nevertheless this is not my main comment, which is: …I DO NOTE that the word ‘wrath’ makes a frequent entrance to the sacred script, and that most often among its approximate 196 occurences, it makes direct reference to the wrath of God. That being said, it is noteworthy that the Lord Jesus Himself did not once use the expression “the wrath of God” . The only reference which comes close is Luke 21:23, where Jesus foretells distress and wrath against the people of God (Israel?) (a prediction which many scholars believe referred to something which took place in 70 AD, and is not still future). MOST of the occurences of the ‘wrath of God’ are found in Ezekiel and Revelation, with many in the epistles, and then elsewhere in the OT. How does one reconcile Jesus’ quietness on the subject with the preponderance of it elsewhere? First, the wrath of God is at least implied ,if not directly stated, by the Lord, although the approximate 20 such references are more correctly understood as referring to everlasting torment or judgment, which are NOT one and the same as ‘wrath’. It is possible to be properly judged without wrath, and it is possible to experience awful torment, without wrath. There is a link however between the quietness of Jesus (not the silence) and the abundant biblical references elsewhere to wrath. It is possible that the link is the predominant message of the Lord about the God who so loved the world that He sent His son, and His son came to save, not condemn. That does not say there is no condemnation, for there is condemnation. But to confuse condemnation with divine wrath is to presume a bit about the Just motivation of a holy God. Is there a ‘wrath of God’? Yes, but according to Jesus, it is not receive the dominant press that some good believers have preferred to give it.