Thursday, February 27, 2014

on God's anger


More highlights from David Wells' God in the Whirlwind...

"In all Western cultures, I have suggested, the love of God is welcomed and the holiness of God is given inhospitable treatment. Western nations will tolerate almost anything except a hard truth like this. We therefore do need to do a little ground-clearing work—because this idea has been so widely misunderstood and is so easily caricatured...



"If we are to understand the biblical teaching, we must distinguish between wrath in God and what we so often see in human anger. Human anger is often accompanied by malice, vindictiveness, retaliation, revenge, and hatefulness. God’s wrath, of course, has no such defilements. It is a pure expression of his holiness. It is not an outburst of irrational temper. Temper, malice, revenge were seen in some of the ancient gods and goddesses. They could be capricious, bad-tempered, and destructive. God, though, is not. He is none of these things and never could be. His wrath is instead about restoring to an unchallenged position all that is good, pure, true, beautiful, and right. And it is about removing everything that challenges his rule because it is bad, impure, rebellious, repugnant, or otherwise evil. This wrath is the way in which God’s holiness finally engages all that is wrong, all that has defiled his world, all that has defied his law, all that has rejected his rule, and all that has spurned his love expressed in Christ. It is the pure reaction of God to all that is impure. It is the dissatisfaction that arises within God over all that is other than what it should be, all that is dark, all that still has a raised fist. Wrath is his repudiation of all of that. It is the way in which he upholds the moral order of the universe...



"God’s anger is his holiness asserting itself against what is morally wrong. It is the way in which he upholds what is right in the face of what is wrong. It is how he preserves what is good against the assault of what is evil...



"The biblical writers had no difficulty in declaring that God will act in judgment. The difficulty would be if he did not act, for then evil would have triumphed. As it is, the day of reckoning is coming. When God finally acts to eliminate all evil, heaven will ring in triumphant shouts of joy. God has finally, and decisively, asserted his holy character! Until this moment, those in heaven are in suspense, saying, 'O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?' (Rev. 6:10)...



"Those who live in this psychological world think differently from those who inhabit a moral world. In a psychological world, we want therapy; in a moral world, a world of right and wrong and good and evil, we want redemption. In a psychological world, we want to be happy. In a moral world, we want to be holy. In the one, we want to feel good, but in the other we want to be good...



"God therefore stands before us not as our Therapist or our Concierge. He stands before us as the God of utter purity to whom we are morally accountable.



"He is not there begging to enter our internal world and satisfy our therapeutic needs. We are before him to hear his commandment. And his commandment is that we should be holy, which is a much greater thing than being happy. It is a commandment to be holy but not a promise that we will be made whole. We will not be made whole in this life. We will carry life’s wounds with us, and we will be beset by painful perplexities and our own personal failures. It is true that there are psychological benefits to following Christ, and happiness may be its by-product. These, though, are not fundamentally what Christian faith is about. It is about the God who is other than ourselves, who is the infinite and gracious God. But let us never forget, it is this God who also summons us to come and die at the foot of Christ’s cross."


Painting above is "The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah" by Henry Ossawa Tanner.


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