Friday, November 6, 2009

Appropriately preaching, teaching, and defending God's wrath

I am by inclination, believe it or not, much more enthusiastic about preaching God's love, mercy, and grace than I am about preaching hell-fire, brimstone, and wrath. I've seen churches and preachers who have overemphasized God's wrath and it's not only ugly it's a perversion of God and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, however, I feel like the trend is not overemphasizing God's wrath but to completely ignore it. My inner being rejoices because I am so much more comfortable with this "tickle my ears" (pseudo-)Christian message, but, unfortunately for my "inner being", I know that my desire to preach and teach this truncated gospel is inspired by selfishness and out of a desire to please people and not from a love of God or, even, out of a love for people. The gospel without wrath is incomplete. The cross is pointless (even twisted) and the Scripture and gospel become simply inspirational messages but give us nothing of eternal value.

That is not to say that we don't need to be cautious when we preach God's wrath. I've heard preaching before that unintentionally made God look like a capricious three year old with occasional temper tantrums. We can't preach God's wrath without helping people understand why God's wrath is appropriate. Telling people that "God is angry at sin" is good, but needs meat. We need to help people see why God is angry at sin. I think people are willing to accept the assertion that they do wrong things, but what's the big deal? Why would God get so angry at sin? Why hell? Why the purging of the Canaanites and the subsequent punishment of Israel for not wiping them out when they are told to? Why doesn't God just forgive us?

It seems like those of us who remain committed to preaching a gospel which includes God's wrath, do a good job of telling people that God hates sin but do a very poor job of helping people understand why. If people don't understand how bad their sin is and how much they need forgiveness, then they will miss out on the depth and power and wonder of God's love. Believers who know that God is angry at sin but don't have a full understanding as to what is so bad about sin, may see God as harsh and unjust (even though they wouldn't verbalize this underlying doubt since that would make it look as though they are questioning God, and we can't have that!).

If any of you still remember my Apology of Hell novel thing from about a year ago, that's kind of what I'm trying to accomplish, defending the need and appropriateness of God's wrath in response to sin. I've recently begun to revive this stuff and will have another chapter finished pretty soon. But I would like your feedback before I share some of my thoughts in both fictional and nonfictional formats.

How do we help people understand the appropriateness of God's wrath towards sin?

P.S. I'm still getting to the baptist distinctive series, but those take work in the form of research! SO you have to wait until I get the time!

1 comment:

theone withabeard said...

So I'm in dialogue with a friend who's writing a paper on male anger and violence, and we're tryiong to think through what good aspects of anger are related to the image of God and what bad ones are simply results of sin. Understanding the wrath of God more clearly relates - thanks for the thoughts.

About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States
"It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt." Fyodor Dostoevsky. I'm a Northwest Baptist Seminary graduate (MDiv) and current student (ThM). I plan on someday going to Africa and teach Bible and Theology at a Bible College or Seminary level. I hope to continue my studies and earn a PhD, either after I go to overseas for a few years or before. I'm a theological conservative, but I like to think outside of the box and challenge conventional thinking and consider myself a free thinker. I am currently serving in my fourth year as a Youth Pastor at Prairie Baptist Fellowship in Yelm Washington. My blogs will reflect my thoughts on both seminary and ministry life, though not (of course) exclusively. I enjoy literature and occasionally try my hand at writing stories and poems. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes..." Paul