God’s Wrath (And Other Inconveniences)

I’m excited about starting a new sermon series this Sunday.

Does God Have a Temper Problem? from Dave Barnhart on Vimeo.

I don’t think Christians wrestle with this issue enough, honestly. Plenty of atheists are happy to point out that although we say “God is love,” it seems that kind of love is often smiting people rather indiscriminately, slaughtering entire towns, including children. Christians—people I consider my friends, even educated clergy colleagues—will often float the argument that the genocide detailed in the book of Joshua was necessary. You know, because of the corrupting influence of the surrounding cultures.

……o-kay. That’s more or less always the reason for genocide, right? Corrupting influences and the purity of the race?

One good reason for leaving literalism-which-isn’t-really-literalism behind is that it leads us to this kind of thinking: that God is the kind of God who kills kids, giving our Lord and Savior the same moral character as school shooters.

Yet historians and archeologists cast doubt on whether this kind of large-scale invasion ever happened, which points us, I believe, toward a better way of thinking about these stories. What were the original authors of these stories trying to tell their audiences? What was their lived experience of siege warfare, cultural assimilation, and persecution?

In the Noah story, I believe the author is raising critical questions about the violence we attribute to God. I think the same is true in the story of Jonah, and Tamar, and Job, and in prophets like Isaiah.

I think Jesus expresses a Jewish tradition that is highly critical (and self critical) of violence and its users. We understand the wrath of God not in plagues, floods, or invading armies that hurt our enemies, but in the cross, where we see our complicity in the injustice and ugliness of the world.

6 thoughts on “God’s Wrath (And Other Inconveniences)

  1. My experience has been that Christians often blame a victim thinking that God was punishing them for some sin in their lives. Instead, I think they might blame this on the evil source that exists in this world. Some things are not from God. Yes, he allows it, but that doesn’t mean it comes from him.

  2. And if you ever come to understand “wrath” to mean “passion”, the nature of God’s love is opened up in a way preciously unimagined.

    • Also we have to remember that God has an eternal perspective, and death is just one step in that enternal progression. In some cases, He may allow people to die as an act of love and compassion, to prevent them from committing more serious sins that lead to greater condemnation.

      • I agree with the first part of your comment. As to the second, it’s possible. I have wrestled a lot over the years with whether or not God is that involved in individual lives or not. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a question we can answer in our present state, so I tend not to take a stand on it either way. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! I do enjoy a good conversation. 🙂

  3. I once sat in a Sunday School class that debated the question of whether Jesus had a temper (as in when he drove the money changers out of the temple). Class was divided in half, one took the pro side the other half the con side. As I listened to the comments and debate, I realised that each side defined “temper” differently so that they were really argueing the same thing. One argued that Jesus did not have a temper (out of control anger), as he was in control of every action. The other side argued that Jesus did have a temper (anger), but his actions were always in controll. So both sides were saying the same thing, but they didn’t know it. It was so funny I could hardly contain myself.

Comments are closed.