Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wrath of God

At what point does suffering become too much?

There are times when I've become intrigued by the idea, especially lately, that the wrath of God can be conflated to many different ideas. When one thinks mostly in terms of a wrathful God, it makes sense that they follow in the direction of differing theologies. I get that.

And, on the flipside, thinking about God's love can often lead one to a fluffy dimension where rainbows are edible and everything is made of chocolate.

And there are some of us, like myself, that are constantly trying to find the middle ground between two extremes. The worst part is sometimes one of those extremes is right.

But, to bring this back I've reflecting specifically on the wrath of God as a Biblical notion. I'm not going to write about any specific instance, instead I'm going to meander about the theme for a while. There is certainly a theme through the Bible about this, though often it seems it seems directed at the act of sinning or at the injustice at the expense of the innocent.

The very idea that God had to punish something never quite sat well with me, particularly as a child. Though I've (mostly) grown out of that phase, some elements in Scripture seem far more clear about the future.

Namely God's completed victory over sin and death. Interestingly, thinking about God's wrath didn't push me to adopt any new way of thinking. Instead, it was based on the ideas present and extrapolating them a bit. A sacrifice to God including the notion of penal substitution is in Scripture. There are definitive seeds in there which people can farm from. The way we view God's wrath (and His "targets") is the way we view God as who He is.

However, Scripture seems far more clear that Christ's victory (both in love and in submission) broke open the system and exposed it as corrupt. God's wrath, viewed through this prism, seems far more plausible and more consistent with the meta-narrative of Scripture.

So, the wrath of God, which causes many to struggle and some to (understandably) search for alternative methods (many of which I found lacking), is actually what brought me back to some interesting views of atonement, God's character and the annihilation of sin and death.

Maybe the wrath of God isn't such a bad thing when viewed through a redemptive lens. If one thinks about God's wrath as against injustice (or as being "for our benefit"), then God's wrath becomes far more interesting than what we've made it out to be. The crucifixion is justice.

So, in my eyes and within the parameters of this rambling post, the point of suffering becomes far more integrated with atonement theory and the character of God. Of course there are different kinds of suffering, but I will leave that for another time.

For a defense of atonement that I wrote, please check out Christus Victor, a brief defense

--Nick

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