Putting the Wrath of God in Perspective Part 1
The wrath of God has long been a source of discomfort for believers and a stumbling block for unbelievers. The subject is one step away from the question, “How can a loving God allow evil to exist in the world?” The counter punch is, “I cannot believe in a God who kills people, who wipes out innocent men, women and children.”
I am going to tackle this prickly subject in a series of writings. I have already written on the subject a number of times because it is a perplexing one.
It seems clear to me that the “answers” one finds are largely determined by orientation. A person who wants to understand will seek resolution and understanding; a person who is not interested in resolution or understanding will camp on the questions and make them rhetorical. I am writing for the person who is seeking to understand.
But first, a little digression seems to be in order. I want to point out that understanding does not necessarily mean agreement. We can understand another person’s position, but not agree with it. In this exercise, I am seeking to understand God as He is revealed in the Bible, and not how He is caricatured in the modern mindset. You may not agree with me, but I ask you to try to understand.
Along the same line, I want to highlight that tolerance, as the term is used today, is not really tolerance at all. People commonly conflate tolerance with acceptance and agreement, but we have nothing to tolerate if we accept and agree with what each other says.
Tolerance only applies at the point of disagreement. Tolerance means “putting up with, conditionally” (among other things). Understanding and respect is better than tolerance if tolerance simply means “putting up” with what others believe. We can disagree about what each other believes, and still seek to understand and respect each other – and that, I suggest, is better than tolerance.
In reaching some understanding about the wrath of God, I think we need to start with a basic notion:, if God is God, and, if we have any connection to Him, we have access to the source of the answers. That does not mean that the answers are easy (or easy to accept). We may not like the answers, and God may not supply the answers (or understanding of the answers). But we believe we have access to the Source and, therefore, should not shrink back from the difficult questions.
When God shows up, He is all the answer we really need. Anyone who has experienced the presence of God knows what I mean; the questions melt away. But, that does not mean we should not look for answers or understanding. Experience with God does not satisfy the question of the seeker who has not had that experience. When the seeker asks us for the basis of our hope (2 Peter 3:15), we should be ready with an answer.
As for the wrath of God, the first point to make about the wrath of God is simple, though not entirely the kind of answer that makes modernites comfortable: God is God.
He simply is who He is. When Moses asked for some reference with which to approach his fellow Israelites with the ridiculous notion of leaving Egypt, God gave him these credentials for authority: “Tell them I AM WHO I AM sent you!” (Exodus 3:14)
This answer may not sit well in modern society in which individual rights have been championed to death and all the cool kids and intellectual types learn from the first encounter with an older person to question authority. If, however, God really is God, we should take the point seriously. God is God, and we are not.
God can do what he wants. God is who He is. If God is full of wrath, He is full of wrath; there is nothing we can do about it. We are in no position to defy Him or judge Him.
Believers, however, assert that God is love. 1 John 1:14 says exactly that. Therefore, even if God is wrathful (something I will explore further in this series), God is not just full of wrath.
This is first in series of musing on the subject. To follow through the subsequent articles, see part 2 of the series on Putting the Wrath of God in Perspective – The Wrath of God in History