Saturday, April 3, 2010

The wrath of God was satisfied (5/4)

One last thought re 'the wrath of God was satisfied'!

Approaching the subject of wrath/God it seems beholden to me and others to downplay any thought of God's wrath being emotive, passionate, or generally analogous to human anger.

But are we being consistent? (!!)

When we approach the subject of the love of God, it strikes me that many Christians forget to have reservations about 'feeling' side of God's character. We write or enjoy reading books about 'the Father heart of God', we enjoy sermons on the Prodigal Son with its revelation of the heart of God yearning for us sinners to return to him, and we speak about God's ability to feel our sorrow and grief 'because God too once lost his Son'.

Do we want a God who is dispassionate, utterly principled, and completely unswayed by emotive response to sin when judging us, and a God who is passionate, compassionate, and biased towards our spiritual plight when seeking to draw us to himself?

In short, do we fail to be even-handed in our explanation of who God is?


Tim Harris said...

Hi Peter. I'm glad you defied mathematical logic to post 5/4!

I have just finished reading an excellent treatment of atonement - probably the best I have ever read, and will be high on my 'must read' list for students. It is written by Graham Cole, one of the most formative of lecturers I have encountered, so I approached this book with anticipation - and was not disappointed!

The book is called God the Peacemaker: How atonement brings shalom (NSBT, IVP 2009). He has a great treatment on the wrath of God, and deals with the expiation/propitiation debate perceptively.

Cole has argued previously for an understanding of God as a passionate God (RTR 59, 2000). In this book he quotes with approval from Warfield (square brackets added by Cole) :

'Men [and women] tell us that God is, by very necessity of his divine nature, incapable of passion, incapable of being moved by inducements from without; that he dwells in holy calm [the apathy axiom] and unchangeable blessedness, untouched by human suffering or sorrows... Let us bless our God that it is not true. God can feel; God does love. But is this not gross anthropomorphism [more precisely anthropopathism]? We are careless of names; it is the truth of God. And we decline to yield up the God of the Bible and the God of our hearts to any philosophical abstraction'.

Great quote, to my mind (read it this morning before reading your blog entry).

Cole concludes: 'The God of biblical portrayal is no frozen absolute without emotion' (257).

Peter Carrell said...

I am convinced! And will buy the book!!

Howard Pilgrim said...

Just two things to say, Peter.
1. Love and wrath don't deserve equal treatment. Where is the "God is wrath" text, for instance, or "They that are angry know God" for that matter?

2. A dispassionate God is a product of Greek philosophy, and not part of the biblical treatment. Nevertheless most of that popular "Jesus loves me" spirituality is so cloying, so cosy with a pint-sized, tame god ... yuuuuuuck!

Peter Carrell said...

And yet, Howard, the letter in which we find 'God is love' also talks about hilasterion and Jesus being our advocate with the Father!

Nevertheless my point is not to offer equal treatment of 'wrath' and 'love' so much as to hope that God is as passionate in his determination to rid the world of sin and evil as he is to draw everyone to himself.

Tim Harris said...

As a follow up to Howard's (2), with which I quite agree, there is another quote from Graham Cole I found quite helpful:

'Scripture does speak of God's love for us (most famously John 3:16), but not of God falling in love with us. Scripture commands us to love God (e.g. Deut 6:5). But nowhere does Scripture speak of our falling in love with God - nothwithstanding all too many contemporary love songs to Jesus. Scripture does speak of divine anger (e.g. Nah. 1:6). However. nowhere does Scripture speak of God's losing his temper.' (God the Peacemaker, 73)

Anonymous said...

The glorious revealed truth is indeed that 'God is love'. This is foundational to Augustine's profound reflection on the Trinity as the 'vinculum caritatis'.
The mysterious truth is that men [and ometimes women!] impenitently reject God, despite the witness of truth. (What was going on in Judas's heart?) When we set aside all 'reasonable reasons' why people may reject the Gospel (which we must imagine God will 'factor' into His judgment), can we rightly (and on what biblical basis?) picture God 'compelling' people to believe and repent? Or, when love is spurned, must we not reckon with the wrath of hell?
I may search out Graham Cole's book, but want to suggest that 'divine apathy' is easily prone to misunderstanding. It is not that God is 'incapable of passion', but rather that, if He suffers ('pathein'), it is through choice rather than cosmic compulsion. That is, it belongs to the order of His will, not His being. God's absolute blessedness and joy are not at stake. Thomas Weinandy's critique needs to be revisited, or we will end up in the stranger territory of the neo-Hegelians.

Anonymous said...

"Hi Peter. I'm glad you defied mathematical logic to post 5/4!"

Logic? Pshaw! Only a Sith deals in absolutes.*

- Star Wars Episode III (the dreadful one that was made decades after Episode VII).

*I'm not sure if this statement is absolutely true.