Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

God’s Righteous Wrath

In Christianity as Tribalism: Initiation on April 16, 2010 at 4:19 am

 “God is perfect in love, on the one hand, and He is equally perfect in hate, on the other hand. Just as totally as He loves, so totally does He hate….  [W]e will never understand at all the profound reality of God’s love until we comprehend His hate.” 

John MacArthur, Jr., “The Wrath of God”

                 As a child, I was immersed in an evangelical Christianity that emphasized the holiness, awesome power and majesty of God.  I will never forget the weekly children’s bible lessons — based on a Child Evangelism Fellowship curriculum — I attended between the ages of 7 and 10. 

                There, the teacher used Bible felt sets (aka flannelgraphs) to illustrate stories like the Noahic Flood (Gen. 6:5-7:24); the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah (Gen. 19:1-29) including God’s turning Lot’s wife to salt (Gen. 19:26); the ten plagues including the killing of every firstborn Egyptian child (Ex. 12:29-30); Samson’s murders of 30 men for their clothes and another 1000 with the jawbone of an ass (Jg 14:19; 15:14-17); the earthquake and plague to punish Korah’s rebellion (Num. 16:1-49); God’s sending bears to rip apart forty-two boys for making fun of Elijah’s bald head (2 Kings 2:23-24); God’s killing of Uzzah for his “irreverence” in reflexively steadying the ark of the covenant when the ox pulling its cart stumbled (2 Sam. 6:1-7); and God’s disappointment in having appointed Saul king because Saul spared King Agag when he killed all the other Amalekites (I Samuel 15), among other stories.  As intended, and in the way they were taught, these stories instilled the authoritarian virtues of fear, reverence, and obedience.

                 Any honest Biblically literate person must agree that God’s wrath is a prominent Biblical theme.  The evangelical culture in which I was raised firmly believed that “[t]he fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:7).  That culture didn’t shy away from teaching stories about God’s wrath, as they were a critical part of one’s introduction to the Christian faith.

                 In the next few blog posts, I intend to elaborate on the following wrath-related subtopics, and discuss the devastating implications that the Biblical theme of God’s wrath has on the notion of intrinsic dignity:

  • The Biblical Prominence of God’s Wrath
  • The Pedagogical Purposes of God’s Wrath
  • Christian Meditation on God’s Wrath… and its Relation to the Atonement

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