4 Problems With Downplaying God’s Wrath
When people start arguing for a God of love and acceptance, remember that this is a new concept and has little to do with Christendom.
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. (Nahum 1:2)
In this blog post I will mostly be expanding on what has already been written about by Gavin Ortlund, in the Gospel Coalition.
I believe that we can make a compelling case from the Bible that God is indeed wrathful. That is not to say that he is not loving (at least from how he is represented). But that is to say that he is a maniac, which further suggests that he must have been created.
How could we ever consider celebrating a leader that we would never celebrate if he were elected now?
As you read this list, remember what David Hume said:
“If you find any inconveniences and deformities in the building, you will always, without entering into any detail, condemn the architect”
Think about that. Maybe it’s time to condemn the architect, rather than defend him.
1. The Bible
Clearly, the theme of God’s wrath is one about which the biblical writers feel no inhibitions whatever. Why, then, should we? Why, when the Bible is vocal about it, should we feel obliged to be silent? — J. I. Packer
I won’t get into this point too much. Anyone who has read the Bible (and I have — yes — the entire book, not just the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and the New Testament) will know that you can’t really argue against this point.
J. I. Packer even says in his notorious book Knowing God:
“God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil” (Knowing God, 151).
Let us consider these cases:
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” (I Samuel 15:2–3)
Or possibly one of my favorite cases, where God literally orders Moses to kill every woman that has had sex. Because . . . . Well, we don’t know why, actually. Perhaps because the Bible is insane?
Or maybe because sex is bad? This is a recurring theme in history within all religions and is still causing an immense amount of bad even today (consider the case of child rapings by the Catholic church).
“Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.” (Numbers 31:16–18)
This text is probably the only proof we need of a case where the Bible has so obviously been written by man.
2. Church History
Ortlund in his mentioned article on God’s wrath argues (for some unknown reason) that we should agree with the righteousness of God’s wrath because of Church History.
This type of reasoning is fallacious, however. Let me demonstrate.
Because our Church fathers have believed (for the most part) that slavery is okay, does that mean that we should still currently possess slaves?
99% (arbitrary number) will agree: NO.
Because our Church fathers have believed that the “blacks” are inferior to the “whites,” does that mean that we should still currently believe that also?
Once again, all of us will agree: NO.
You see what I am trying to say. This is a Logical Fallacy.
“Discomfort with the doctrine of God’s wrath appears to be primarily a recent, Western development. By and large, pre-modern Christians didn’t have a problem with the notion of an angry God. In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to find any major theologian before 1750 who would regard current objections to divine wrath as anything other than strange, alarming, and highly eccentric.”
3. Cultural Considerations
“Why did the idea of God’s wrath (like God’s judgment) not even require a defense to most Christians throughout church history? Why does it tend to flourish, instead, in the most affluent and comfortable societies? Perhaps because it’s hard to appreciate the righteousness and appropriateness and even desirableness of God’s wrath when we have fairly cushy lives. When we come face to face with brutal evil — when we sit with a rape victim or walk the halls of Auschwitz — the idea of an angry God rarely strikes us as offensive. Instead, we see why the biblical writers viewed God’s wrath as a good thing — a righteous and fitting part of the world’s governance.”
“Perhaps” it is the case that when you come in contact with the most horrific events that could ever unfold, you create mental illusions to be able to live with yourself after the event?
I’m sure if I dabbled more in psychology, I’d be able to argue this case better. Anyone trained around here know more about this than I do?
4. The Psychology of Anger
The belief in a God of pure love — who accepts everyone and judges no one — is a powerful act of faith. Not only is there no evidence for it in the natural order, but there is almost no historical, religious textual support for it. . . . The more one looks at it, the less justified it appears. — Timothy Keller
In conclusion, I agree with Timothy Keller.
If you are a Christian and argue for a God that is not wrathful and universalistic, you will have to make one up. You will have to cut out large chunks of the Bible, until only half of it is left. You will have to completely disregard Revelations and the fact that Jesus spoke more about Hell than anything else he ever mentioned.
Speaking of which, here’s a couple of blog posts I wrote about Hell. I think it’s an absurd thing to believe and probably one of the strongest cases against the existence of God.
The Concept of Hell is Absurd (Luckily)
“Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear” (Bertrand Russell).
The Concept of Hell is Still Absurd
“If you find any inconveniences and deformities in the building, you will always, without entering into any detail…
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