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May 28, 2009

Thought for the day

The very thought of the curse motif of the atonement gets some people angry.  That seems to be true in both classical liberal protestant circles, as well as, with some in the emergent church camp.

In the 1930s Yale Professor H. Richard Niebuhr offered a poignant description of liberal Protestantism’s message then, and I think the emergent church’s message now in his book, The Kingdom of God in America:

A God without wrath brought men without sin into a world without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.

God is not only is a God of love, but He is also is a God of wrath.  He is a God of justice, and He is a God who is true to His word.  Fortunately for us Jesus took God’s wrath and satisfied it so that we don’t have to face it.

Shane Vander Hart, "A Christ without a Cross Is Not Good News," Caffeinated Thoughts, May 28

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Shane Vander Hart

Hi Gina,

Thanks for the props!

Jason Taylor

And yet, as it happens, most of us become quite sympathetic to the idea of a God of Wrath if our little brother is beat up.

Glenn Sunshine

The connections between the emergent church and the origins of liberal theology go even deeper than their thoughts on the atonement. For example, Johannes Semler, the father of higher criticism, was a Pietist who believed that a living, personal faith, lived out in the world, was far more important than the authority of Scripture and propositional revelation. He thus felt free to dissect (deconstruct?) the text and effectively remove its authority. This may have worked for him, but the next generation, who did not have the same kind of Pietistic upbringing he did, lost their faith entirely. Substitute a few words here and there and you've got the problem with the Emergents.

Rolley Haggard

The wrath of God. How those words used to fill me with fear and dread! And I suspect there is many a tender believer out there who is needlessly in abject trepidation over the term.

Don’t get me wrong. Outside of Christ, our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29), and those who continually, willfully spurn God’s gracious overtures for reconciliation have “surpassing great” need to fear. And those professing believers who willfully play fast and loose with sin, likewise, have need to fear, for it is not at all clear where they stand. As labrialumn (and others) have so often reminded us, the job of the dutiful minister is to “comfort the afflicted” and “afflict the comfortable.” That is a faithful statement, worthy of all acceptation.

But, for the simple believer who walks with God daily and looks to Him continually for forgiveness and help, there is no need to fear – none! The perfect love of God casts out all fear, for all the fiery justice that the sinner might ever deserve was poured out on Christ, consuming Him utterly in that one sacrifice on Calvary. It is good to be continually reminded of that. It is like the hearty meal at the end of the day enabling the hard worker to sleep the night soundly in peace. And so God intended for us to have “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13).

For those earnest souls struggling with the wrath of God, consider an analogy. When the Heavenly Father created the angels, He put them in an environment that was entirely without sin and evil. And here’s the analogy -- they were put in a “disease-free” world (evil being the disease in this case). He put them in that pristine environment for one reason and one reason only -- because He loved them and did not want them to “get sick and die.” Now, in light of His great love for His children, how do You think He is going to view anyone who introduces evil (a/k/a disease) into His world? He’s going to be “wroth” (as the oldies used to say). But He is wroth for the sake of those who will be harmed, not “because He is a wrathful person.” He has *reason* to have wrath – in fact, a person can’t be truly loving if they can’t or don’t get white-hot angry when someone hurts an innocent someone else.

The wrath of God springs from the love of God, who loves us so much He will not tolerate that which will destroy us. “Twas grace [OT “lovingkindness”] that taught my heart to fear…”

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