“The Wrath of God Stuff Bothers Me…..”

angry cartoon godAs I noted in a previous blog, Brian McLaren spoke in Ft.Wayne, on March 20 sponsored by the  Indiana Center for Middle East Peace. He spoke about the Israel/Palestine conflict, Christian antisemitism and Religion and Violence and violent passages in sacred writings. Brian is very interested in mimetic theory as postulated by Rene Girard. Brian first introduced me to Girard through his blog and especially two books which touch on the subject, The Jesus Driven Life by Michael Hardin and Compassion or Apocalypse:A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard by James Warren, which Brian highly recommends as a user-friendly book to better understand Girard’s work. I am about half way through both.

There has been much thought recently about the violence of God and the Penal, Substitutionary Atonement Theory or as Nadia Bolz-Weber calls it, “God as the Divine Child abuser who sent his little boy, and he only had one, to die for our sins, because God was so pissed-off and demanded payment for our misdeeds.” (My loose, but fairly accurate paraphrase both from hearing her speak in person on this and see Animate: Faith.) So about a week ago I wrote Brian an e-mail asking about a “Wrath of God “passage in Romans that was in the epistle reading for the 2nd Sunday after Brian spoke to us. My question and Brian’s answer through a guest posting by Michael Hardin follows here.

angry-godThe essence of his answer about a wrathful God and atonement theory is as follows:

Both of these ‘shifts’ are part of the new realization that the gospel is not about appeasing an angry deity and that the violence or retribution in the death of Jesus in not God’s but humanity’s. This new approach to atonement has created both a crisis and a horizon for moving beyond views of God which portray God as a vampiric deity with an anger management problem to understanding the person, message and work of Jesus to be that of revealing our tendency to make God in our own image and to show us that God is only love, light and shalom.

Thanks, Michael, for this helpful response. Your phrase “vampiric deity with an anger management problem” evokes Dallas Willard’s statement about a “vampire Christianity that wants Jesus for his blood and little else.” Speaking of Dallas, I once asked him to preach at the church I pastored. I asked him to speak simply about God, and he chose as his text 1 John 1:9: “God is light and in God there is no darkness at all.”

May we come to realize that God is indeed love, that God desires that we flourish. God does not desire nor demand conscious, eternal torment and torture. How can we say,”God is love” and at the same time believe that God somehow demands violent eternal torment in hell.  Jesus ended the violent scapegoat approach once and for all. Jesus said, “Father , forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” That still applies to us today.god_is_angry_bill board






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