God’s wrath?

Partly in response to neuro in the previous post and partly because i wanted to talk about this anyway.

“For those who love the Lord, His presence will be infinite joy, paradise and eternal life. For those who hate the Lord, the same presence will be infinite torture, hell and eternal death… The “fire” that will consume sinners at the coming of the kingdom of God is the same “fire” that will shine with splendor in the saints. It is the “fire” of God Himself who is love… For those who love God and who love all creation in Him, the ‘consuming fire’ of God will be radiant bliss and unspeakable delight. For those who do not love God, and who do not love at all, this same ‘consuming fire’ will be the cause of their ‘weeping’ and ‘gnashing of teeth’. “Thus it is the Chruch’s spiritual teaching that God does not punish man by some material fire or physical torment. God simply reveals Himself in the risen Lord Jesus in such a glorious way that no man can fail to behold His glory. It is the presence of God’s splendid glory and love that is the scourge of those who reject its radiant power and light” (Thomas Hopko).

Between God and us there is an analogical gap. There is always analogy in all our language about God. Eg. If i say ‘God loves me’ the meaning of the word love in this sentence is different than if i am to say ‘my mum loves me’. My mum’s love for me is not the same as God’s love for me and yet i have used the same word. my mum’s love is in someway like God’s love but they are also different. and yet they are not so different that i can’t grasp something of God’s love by thinking about the love of my mother. Make sense? SO, there is always a gap between God and creature even in our language about Him. It is wrong to say there is no gap (eg God’s love is exactly like my mothers love) and it is also wrong to say that there is no connection at all (eg God’s love and my mum’s love have nothing in common whatsoever). We must recognise this gap as we read scripture and talk about God.

It is in this context that i have been thinking about God’s wrath. I (maybe we) have a tendency to leave no gap in our understanding of Gods wrath and our wrath. We understand that it is bigger and more just (perfectly just) but the nature of his wrath we think of as the same rage and danger that we see in ourselves and each other. Because of this the quote above by Thomas Hopko really caught my eye, along with a reminder of CS Lewis’ thinking in ‘the weight of glory’.

As you read above, Hopko describes God’s wrath as we know it, as actually being God’s glory or beauty. This beauty destroys that which is not of it because it is unable to bear the weight of glory. When we see moments of God’s wrath eg in stories in the Old Testament we think that God must have just lost it in that moment. This is ok to us because we understand that God only looses his temper for the right reasons and from the right heart and motivation. (admittedly it does make God seem a bit like jackal and Hyde at times)

But what if Hopko is right? What if our experience of God’s wrath is actually his love and beauty and glory being revealed and the parts of me that are not of Him cannot bear it and are destroyed by it. This is very different than the picture i often have in my head of God zapping people (i picture lightening coming out of his finger cause that’s how my mind works) because they didn’t bring the right sacrifice or whatever. It is not so much God punishing but rather God simply revealing himself and that which is not born of Him cannot survive in his presence. Bonaventure said “I cannot see God’s face and live, so let me die!”.

This idea also makes sense to me in light of the fact that God is love. He is not only loving, but he is in fact Love itself. This means that God can be and do nothing other than love. Kind of like the way sun is light and can’t not give light (i plagiarised that). So what we call God’s wrath is actually His love. I’m not saying that God is wrathful for loving reasons i’m saying that His acts of wrath are actually themselves acts of love.

We need to view every experience of God through the lens that He is love and his love is constantly and fully expressed in every moment. This is where i begin to struggle, because when we ask questions of why did God allow suffering the answer must somehow be ‘because he loves me’. Although i find this hard to swallow somehow i also feel freed by it and for many years i have lived my life on the same kind of premise except it was the words of Jesus when he said ‘i have come that you may have life to the full’. when i really saw this i was able to view everything in my life and everything that God commanded me to do through this lens. So when i hear God say forgive your enemy and i say but why God? i know the answer is partly because He wants me to have life to the full. That is always his agenda for us. To live like this is to see God as much more involved in your life and everything that he allows in your life. It also allows me to enter into pain with a sense of joy and hope at the same time.

BUT! I really struggle with this whole idea though because it seems then that God is not angry and (although i don’t want him to be angry at me) i want him to be angry at the people who have hurt me and the people who hurt others. If he is not angry it seems like he doesn’t care about the suffering in the world, kind of like he is passive towards it and uninvolved. This doesn’t really sit right with me but i cant seem to reconcile it all.

SO, bring on the comments i need your help.

Explore posts in the same categories: mini series on beauty

3 Comments on “God’s wrath?”

  1. neuro-praxis Says:

    Well, I won’t say much, because I have said a lot and really, what do I know? But I will say this.

    If Jesus got so angry at the temple, and Jesus is a clear picture of God, then we can only imagine how much more angry God becomes in the face of abuse, rape, murder, etc.

    But we should remember, God is slow to anger and quick to love, thank goodness.

  2. transfarmer Says:

    Thanks neuro, (and what do you mean what do you know? you know more than most of us put together). anyway i really like what you’ve just said and i am pretty sure i agree. If the idea that God’s wrath does not involve actual hatred of sin then I dont think it can be so. And yea Jesus in the temple thing confirms that in a way that i can’t get around. If what i proposed in this post is true then God has no emotion or feeling (at least ‘negative’ emotion) and considering an earlier entry (christians are’t angry enough) i dont think i can agree with myself on this one! i really did/do like the idea though!

  3. alip1 Says:

    This may be slightly off the topic (it’s a bit late and I’m bleary-eyed right now, don’t know why I’m blogging, neeeeeed to sleeeeep), but just thought I’d share a verse that I never remember reading before but that my lovely dad highlighted in a recent talk I heard him do. “Judgement is God’s alien work”. I think it’s in Isaiah, too tired to look it up right now. But anyway, I loved this verse when I heard it – the thought that judgement is not what God wants to do, it’s alien to him. I think I could maybe even go so far as to say it’s not his nature. He’ll do it because he’s just, but love is how he should be primarily characterised (ref the slow to anger quick to love thing, also mentioned above).
    So just thought of it when you mentioned seeing everything through the lens of his love. Don’t know if it’s remotely helpful… In fact, it may open a whole other raft of questions šŸ™‚ But for me, it was a comforting and beautiful thought, a bit of a jewel… Whatever else we may not understand about why the world is how it is etc etc, if we have faith that God, first and foremost, wants to show his love to all (and has shown it to all in Jesus, if we’d only look), hopefully that helps us to reconcile the other stuff.
    And… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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