Saturday, May 4, 2013

The wrath of anti-wrathians

I was slightly bemused yesterday to follow the course of debate on Bosco Peters' Liturgy site following his post on 'the wrath of God was satisfied', 69 comments to date as I write this. I was also very disappointed that no one was bothering to press Bosco to have me tried for heresy. What more can I do in order to appear before a Tribunal in our church?

I note that Mark Harris at Preludium has posted on the matter here.

Naturally I have been having a few more thoughts of my own, both in response to comments there, comments here, and some off-blog correspondence. In no particular order of priority ...

(1) A challenge for all theologically-minded Christians is to engage with the whole of Scripture. By all means let us debate 'Till on that cross as Jesus died / the wrath of God was satisfied' (=JDWG) as to its satisfactoriness or otherwise as a theological statement expressing aspects of Scripture. What is quite unsatisfactory is a dismissal of the statement because that leaves considerable chunks of Scripture hanging in the air. If Romans 1-5, for instance, is not summarised accurately by JDWG, what is an accurate summary of Paul's argument in those chapters?

(2) I accept that 'wrath' is a difficult word in current English usage today. It too readily lends itself to a thought sequence wrath / inchoate anger / sadistic punishment  and in soteriology generates Jesus dies / Son punished / divine cosmic child abuse. However just because it is a difficult word does not mean we drop it. Might we usefully re-empower the word as an appropriate word to express 'anger at injustice'. What are many newspaper headlines but an expression of wrath? Paul Krugman's NYT blogposts (linked to on my sidebar) are the wrath of an economist deeply dissatisfied at the peddling of lies and mistruths which have real time consequences making people's lives more miserable through 'austerity'. Talk-back sports radio on a Monday morning is often the wrath of the sporting public at the injustices of referees decisions ... no wait, sometimes those conversations are inchoate anger! Rereading the first chapters of Romans, I am reminded that the 'wrath' of God expounded there is God's rightful anger against wrong-doing, God's just reaction to injustice.

(3) Paradoxically, the JDWG line in the hymn strikes some potential singers as wrong, heretical, misleading. But there is no passive acceptance of the line and fatalistic singing as a consequence. No! This must be reacted to. The words must be changed. Or if not possible, the words must not be sung. What is that reaction but a form of wrath, of anger against wrong. So the JDWG debate in part is the wrath of the anti-wrathians at work!

(4) At the heart of debate about JDWG is this question: how seriously does God take our wrong-doing? What level of opposition does God bring to the inordinate capacity of humanity to participate in sin, act unjustly, and deny God's Godliness? If we are dissatisfied with JDWG, is our alternative at least as robust in its answers to these questions?

(5) God's grace is amazing. When I consider my own life, looking as deeply as I can into its dark recesses, acknowledging not just the amount of wrong-doing in it, but the depth and breadth of it, I find it impossible to think I could undo what I have done, let alone live the remainder of my life perfectly pleasing to God. There is no satisfying route before me to being counted righteous in God's sight. Except the route which Christ has taken on my behalf. On the cross, as Jesus died, everything was done which is needed for me to be forgiven, redeemed, ransomed, liberated, justified, washed, reconciled to God and declared righteous. Everything. That is very satisfying indeed! And God has done it for me, in and through Christ. Amazing Grace!


Andrew White said...

With apologies for a "me too" post...

Point 5? "Amen!" This brings me to tears, in a good way.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Andrew!

David Ould said...

Peter, we've had our disagreements in the past but it is a profound joy for me to say how much I agree with you here.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you, David.

Joshua Bovis said...

Agree! Agree! Agree!

Point 5 = Gold!

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

In Christ Alone was sung at the Lausanne III conference in 2010, at its closing ceremony. Judging by the way it was sung, I would not be surprised if it was one of the few songs from the 20th century western church still sung in a hundred years time by the Global church.