Toward an Understanding of the Wrath of a Loving God

If there is no God whose wrath will produce ultimate justice, we who are justice-minded have no recourse other than to respond in kind


I am currently reading, A Gentle Answer: Our “Secret Weapon” in an Age of Us Against Them, by Scott Sauls. The following statement in the book reminded me of similar observations made by Miraslav Volf:

“Some [people] object [to the idea of God’s anger] strongly: ‘…. If there is a God at all for me, it’s not an angry God. My God is loving. My God would never lash out or punish or judge or get angry at people.’ When I hear someone discount or downplay the biblical idea of God as a judge, whose holiness sometimes includes expressions of anger, I wonder if they have ever been the bullied kid, or the abused woman, or the oppressed slave, or the assault victim? I wonder if they have sat down and listened to the story of a holocaust victim, or of someone whose child was kidnapped, or of a woman whose husband abandoned her for a younger mistress?’”

I have heard Tim Keller talk on the subject, and the most poignant source of his ideas that he quoted was writings by Miraslov Volf, the Croatian theologian, professor of Theology and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture at Yale University.

Volf was influenced by his own experience with the Yugoslav Wars, characterized by the ethnic cleansing that raged in what is now known as Croatia in what is, perhaps, his most influential writing: Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (1996). According to Wikipedia, “Exclusion and Embrace deals with the challenges of reconciliation in contexts of persisting enmity in which no clear line can be drawn between victims and perpetrators and in which today’s victims become tomorrow’s perpetrators—conditions that arguably describe the majority of the world’s conflicts.”

That context might represent a large portion of the world we live in at various times and places. Think Hatfields and McCoys, for instance. In a later work, Volf reflected:

“I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days! How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandparently fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.

“Once we accept the appropriateness of God’s wrath, condemnation, and judgment, there is no way of keeping it out there, reserved for others. We have to bring it home as well. I originally resisted the notion of a wrathful God because I dreaded being that wrath’s target; I still do. I knew I couldn’t just direct God’s wrath against others, as if it were a weapon I could aim at targets I particularly detested. It’s God’s wrath, not mine, the wrath of the one and impartial God, lover of all humanity. If I want it to fall on evildoers, I must let it fall on myself – when I deserve it.

“Also, once we affirm that God’s condemnation of wrongdoing is appropriate, we cannot reserve God’s condemnation for heinous crimes. Where would the line be drawn? On what grounds could it be drawn? Everything that deserves to be condemned should be condemned in proportion to its weight as an offense – from a single slight to a murder, from indolence to idolatry, from lust to rape. To condemn heinous offenses but not light ones would be manifestly unfair. An offense is an offense and deserves condemnation…” (From Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace pp. 138-139)

These poignant reflections work toward the “appeal”, or at least makes some sense of, the idea of a wrathful, but loving God. I sense, though, that people of modern sensibilities may still be reluctant to credit the goodness of a wrathful God. This is where Miraslov Volf brilliantly exposes the faulty thinking of the western mind that has been largely untouched by evils that are reality in many other areas of the world: Continue reading “Toward an Understanding of the Wrath of a Loving God”

When Truth Stumbles in the Public Squares

Have you ever considered how vital truth is to justice? 


“Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares….”

Thus, said the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 59:14 ESV) to the nation of Judah approximately 700 years before the new millennium that begins at 1 AD. Thus, might a modern prophet say today, over 20 years into the new millennium beginning with 2000 AD. Justice is still turned back while truth stumbles today in the public squares.

Fake news is the story of our times. We can’t trust anything written or said in the public squares. Never has so much information been available to people; but the glut of information comes without a guaranty: Buyer beware.

Indeed, information has become a commodity that is bought and sold. We get to choose our own facts. We can take our facts from Fox News, CNBC, Dailywire, Buzzfeed, and hundreds (probably thousands) of sources – served up just the way we like them.

We’ve also dispensed with the distinction between fact and opinion. Facts now are served up with ready interpretations. We used to call it “spin”, but we don’t even bother anymore. Facts are sorted for us as well, packaged together in neat bundles, with the pesky counter facts removed for our convenience.

Have you ever considered how vital truth is to justice?

Should there be any wonder that justice is turned back as truth stumbles in the public square?

“Behold, the Lord ‘s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear…. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity…. [W]e hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the Lord, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.”

Isaiah 59:1-2, 4, 11-13 ESV

The way to justice is the way back to God. The way to justice requires truth, honesty, integrity and righteousness.

Contemplating the Failure of Our Attempts at Justice

Even when we strive in good faith with our best efforts, we often fail.


“Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O Lord; we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth….” (Isaiah 26:17-18 ESV)

These words were written approximately in the 700’s BC by the prophet, Isaiah. Yet, there are as relevant today as they were almost 3000 years ago.

That is my opinion, of course. What do I know?

As an attorney, I am in an unique position to speak to the American system of justice. I have seen it operate from the inside out, and I have participated in it for going on 30 years, so I think I have sufficient insight to be able to provide a well-informed opinion on the subject.

I was intrigued, even stricken by a bit of awe, in law school as I studied the history of American jurisprudence (with its roots in English common law, but for Louisiana, which has roots in the French legal system of justice). The principals, which build on themselves going back to ancient times, and the care and thought that informed American Jurisprudence is something for which I developed quite an appreciation. Many of those principals were, in turn, developed in view of the ancient texts that we call the Bible.

I graduated from law school at the age of 31, having much “real world” experience under my belt before law school, but I was filled, nevertheless, with the kind of naivete and idealism that is informed by the theory but is untried in the practice.

I have tried hard to carry with me the ideals of justice that inform our legal system, and I have fought for almost 30 years, now, to implement them to the extent that they are within my control of influence. Unfortunately, one person is not able to move those wheels of justice that grind very far off the course on which they doggedly and often very bluntly drive forward leaving casualties of justice in the great ruts they create.

Relative to current events, a 2018 report to the UN on the criminal justice system in the United States reveals some gross disparities in the outcomes. “African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites and Hispanics are 3.1 times as likely.” The report summarizes the disparities in this way:

“The source of such disparities is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and people of color. The wealthy can access a vigorous adversary system replete with constitutional protections for defendants. Yet the experiences of poor and minority defendants within the criminal justice system often differ substantially from that model due to a number of factors, each of which contributes to the overrepresentation of such individuals in the system.”

Racial disparities in our criminal justice system are only one area in which our system of justice fails to provide the justice it promises. On the ground level, I saw the failure of justice nearly every time I stepped into a courtroom in thousands of ways, big and small.

Continue reading “Contemplating the Failure of Our Attempts at Justice”

Being Innocent as Doves and Wise as Snakes in the World of Justice

We do a yeoman’s job of distinguishing ourselves from the world, but we are not doing well distinguishing ourselves to the world. 


I have been wrestling with the divergent views of social justice, critical theory and gospel justice for some time now. They all “compete” in the same arenas, have some overlapping commonality, but they diverge in some very fundamental ways. I am not going to get into those difference here, but I want to try to open a discussion about how we, as Christians, move in these areas and discuss them in ways that honor the desire of Jesus to leave the 99 and go after the lost sheep.

I am writing this after reading a well-written article by Natasha Crain, 5 Ways Christians are Getting Swept into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment. I like that she starts out by acknowledging that George Floyd’s death, which prompted a massive public response, was unjust, and that racism is not only wrong; it is not biblical. She acknowledges that Christian can agree with the secular world on those points.

She goes on to describe five (5) ways in which Christians get swept along by secular currents that are not biblical in attempting to respond to injustice. Critical theory (and critical race theory), in particular, is antithetical to Christianity in some of its core tenets. Though she doesn’t really say it directly, critical race theorists and Christians can both agree that injustice exists and even on that much of what that injustice looks like. The real divergence is in the worldview that informs and under girds critical race theory and its proposed solutions.

I am not going to talk about the details of those differences either. (I did a little bit of that in Critical Race Theory from a Christian Perspective.) What I want to address, using Natasha Crain’s article as a backdrop, is the extent to which I believe the evangelical church failed to address justice issues as God would have us address them.

We are good at preaching the good news (the Gospel), and good at proclaiming truth (including articles like Natasha Crain’s article detailing what is wrong with the critical race theory and social justice efforts the truth and/or leave the Gospel out of the equation), but we are not so good at doing justice. (I have written about this recently here, here and here.)

I see many articles like Natasha Crain’s article, and I hear many voices warning about the evils of critical race theory and social justice initiatives that are divorced from the Gospel, but we need positive voices to speak into the area of justice from the position of the Gospel at the same time. Justice is at the very foundation of God’s throne. (Psalm 89:14) We can’t ignore it!

In that vein, I will add to the voice of Natasha Crain who addressed five (5) areas in which Christians are getting swept into a secular worldview at this time. I don’t disagree with her on her assessment, but I think we need some counterbalance in this discussion that emphasizes God’s heart for justice. Continue reading “Being Innocent as Doves and Wise as Snakes in the World of Justice”

The Need for the Church to Address Racial Injustice

Everyone agrees there is a racial disparity problem. Only people on the fringes deny the problem.


Christians who seek to follow Jesus as he followed the Father are as earnest in doing justice as they are in preaching the Gospel. The Gospel and justice go hand in hand. The evangelical church, however, has fallen short on the justice side of the equation. The void left by the church has allowed new, competing philosophies to take over the cultural space.

Critical race theory has become the loudest voice in that arena. Many Christians who are justice-minded have gravitated toward the voices that come from a critical race theory platform without realizing that critical race theory is another gospel that runs antithetical to the true Gospel.

Critical race theory defines the problem and the solution in terms that are sometimes contrary to the Gospel and to biblical truth. That is not to say there is no redeeming value to critical race theory, or that people who espouse CRT are wicked or evil. It’s just not the Gospel. Inevitably it’s a solution that doesn’t get to the heart of the problem and doesn’t bring about true justice.

The Gospel offers true justice.

The Gospel says that all humans are made in the image of a holy God. The problem with men is the orthodox idea of sin – the tendency to do wrong and the failure to do right, which we know we ought to do. Love God and love your neighbor is a simple formula, but we want to go our own ways and to please ourselves rather than love God and love our neighbors.

Jesus offers salvation by taking on the sin of all people (of all races) on himself and setting us free from the wages of sin. Jesus does that so we can have relationship with God who, then, begins to work within us to will and to act according to His good purpose. That reality is borne out in the process of personal sanctification (vertically) and in just relationships with our fellow man (horizontally).

We do not achieve salvation by anything that we do. It’s a free gift available to all by grace. We simply need to embrace it. Salvation takes away the shame and the ultimate consequence of sin, which is death (physically and spiritually). It frees us up to live as God intended by the help of the Holy Spirit who takes up residence within people who yield to Him. We demonstrate that by our love for God and our love for people.

Racism is the sin of partiality. In Christ, there is no Jew nor Gentile; no male nor female; and no black, nor white or brown. We are all one in Christ, and the ultimate goal of the Gospel is to unite all humanity in Christ with God the Father. The picture of that ultimate goal was given to the Apostle John in a vision:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb….” (Rev. 7:9)

Everyone agrees there is a racial disparity problem. Only people on the fringes deny the problem of racial injustice.

The evangelical church, however, has had a very mixed track record on the issue of racism. Many Christians with a heart for justice are (rightfully) responding to the voices who are speaking to the issue of racial disparity, but some of those voices are preaching a false gospel that is, in many ways, antithetical to the true Gospel.

Continue reading “The Need for the Church to Address Racial Injustice”