Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wrath of God

I seem to have a theological obsession with this topic. I was in a men’s Bible study for several years, and there was a collective groan whenever I raised the subject!

My anxiety seems to peak around Easter - around the doctrine that Jesus was a scapegoat for our sins. I fully appreciate his sacrifice, but I’m troubled with the notion that God required it. I understand the consistency with Jewish tradition and theology, but again, it confounds me.

I can grasp the wrath of God as a concept. When we go our own way, when we lapse morally, ethically or selfishly there are consequences.

Are there eternal consequences? Yes, maybe there’s a separation from God. Maybe a spirit or soul can be so overrun by evil that it’s somehow extinguished. Indeed, I hold tightly to the belief that God is in the process of eradicating evil and restoring humanity. Still, I’m not convinced this invokes the sulfurous fires of hell.

God made us. He gave us free will. He can't be surprised when we run amok. Surely, he's disappointed, but not angry.

I’m rambling. It’s more useful to pray:

God of Mercy, God of Forgiveness,

I return to this theme with trepidation. I don’t want to mislead anyone with my doubts. Still, I seem to revisit the wrath of God regularly.

The phrase is noted about twenty times in my concordance. There’s no denying that it’s Biblical, but I cannot reconcile my God of love with an angry deity.

Did the Bible’s narrators and interpreters give you human emotions? Were personality traits borrowed from the gods of pagan cultures? We’re inclined to link our desire for justice with punishment, but maybe that’s a temporal construct?

Lord Christ, is there really fiery and eternal punishment for the people you died to lift up? Does the suffering servant really impose suffering upon others?

Wrath, retribution, anger - it just seems like an insult to your nature, to your character. It misses the point of Easter. You came to save us. You died to save us.

Jesus, do my questions teeter on the brink if blasphemy? (Have I crossed the line?) Where there are gaps in my comprehension fill them with your love. Amen.

Artwork: depiction of God by Michelangelo; Sistine Chapel, Rome