Thursday, August 04, 2011

Does God get Angry?

Okay, so I'll try this again. The reason Ro. 2:2 leaped out at me (and I winced) was the surprising thought, "Wait. Did Paul mean that?" In other words, in light of his comments about the wrath of God in Rom. 1 as well as his propitiatory language in Rom. 3:25, did Paul believe that God actively punishes sinners in this life (setting aside the implications for hell).

Do you believe that God actively punishes sinners in this life? And, if you do, how does that square with the death of Jesus as a "wrath averting" (one meaning of "propitiation") sacrifice?

15 comments:

JDTapp said...

Seems like there is a lot of punishment of sinners in the Old Testament and in Revelation. Both as judgment and as a way to bring repentance. Seems the Psalmists spend a lot of ink asking for God to punish the wicked in this life. No?

Isn't anyone who is not in Christ under judgment and God's wrath?

Rodney Reeves said...

JD,

So, God punishes others, not us?

Tarquinius Superbus said...

Probably sounds a little too tidy, but does God's wrath have anything to do with Him allowing us to have our way over His way?

jr. forasteros said...

I've been looking at God's wrath through the lens of God's love. If God fundamentally is self-giving (ala 1 John, Luther, Volf, etc.), then we have to ask how a self-giving entity displays wrath.

In Romans 1, Paul says God's wrath is giving us what we want. I'd argue the same is true in Revelation.

Rodney Reeves said...

Tarquinius,

That's the implications of Paul's argument in Ro. 1. But, what about Ro. 2:2? Does God "get his hands dirty" by punishing us directly? If not, why not? Is it because at this point we all want the god of deists?

Rodney Reeves said...

JR,

We've had this conversation before, haven't we?

See my comment to Tarq.

Tarquinius Superbus said...

Whoops, I posted too soon.

It seems to me, the last time we see God's wrath being poured out on mankind vis-a-vis punishment was the suffering of Jesus. It seems God's wrath has changed in expression.

It seems God allows us to 'have it our way.' Those who insist on being depraved, God allows them to become depraved; whatever you hold as highest in your being or as your identity, becomes your actual nature. Granted, that idea is very neatly pilfered from Lewis, but I cannot think of a better explanation....

Reminds me of Orestes from The Flies. Typical right? Man's definition of freedom being the antithesis of Heaven; the surest expression of Hell.

Tarquinius Superbus said...

The unofficial sect of 'enlightened Christianity' has eschewed the thought of God interacting with man as much as possible. Keeps us from having to get around popular science, keeps us from being lumped with those who claim hurricanes and tsunamis are the direct act of an angry God, helps us to distance ourselves from those who hold up signs warning judgement on busy, city streets. We also don't like to have things go unexplained.

If the kindness of God leads to repentance, what does his wrath lead to? I don't see God hovering over our World with some sort of half ethereal half corporeal heat/wrath lamp slowing cooking those who anger Him; even if they deserve wrath. What is this wrath and why?

We know that now the 'Holy Ghost over the bent World broods...' and the World is being reclaimed in anticipation of the King's return. We believe Jesus (acting as Christ) is seated beside the Lord and asking the Lord to rule in our favor -but not because we are somehow innocent now.

I'll be vulnerable and ask: is this some kind of 'out-of-time/inside time' wrath? Again, if God's kindness leads to repentance (which is what we claim He desires), then what is the wrath doing to achieve the Lord's will. What does it look like? How can I escape it? Who could?

Rodney Reeves said...

Tarq,

I wonder if our "male-bashing" culture has so domesticated our ideas of "wrath" that we don't know what to do with the idea of divine wrath.

At the same time, I loathe the "John Eldridge" approach to "reclaiming" what it means to be a man "Get angry, be tough." That advice not only scares me; it's downright heretical (yet very popular).

So, how do we make sense of the wrath of God, esp. the way Paul conceives of it. And, what "in the hell" does that have to with divine punishment (wink).

JDTapp said...

Rodney,
Psalm 39:11 (Holman):
"You discipline a man with punishment for sin, consuming like a moth what is precious to him;"

It's a mark that we're His children if God disciplines us (Hebrews 12), right? God doesn't discipline those who are not His children, so I can see punishment and discipline as being separate ideas.

Rodney Reeves said...

JD,

I don't see how you can separate discipline and punishment. When you discipine your children, part of teaching them right from wrong, is punishing them for wrong behavior. Right? I think we want to believe God doesn't punish sinners (especially when it comes to us).

Here's what I'm thinking: If Jesus was right (that riches are a curse), then perhaps they way God punishes the greedy is to give them more than what they need. The way He punishes the powerful is to give them control. The way He punishes the selfish is to give them the loneliness of their own lives without Him.

In so doing, they "pile up their sins" to heaven, and eventually evil implodes, turning on itself.

jr. forasteros said...

@Rodney -

What you said to JD is essentially what I would believe. God gives us what we want. More of him, more Mammon, whatever. Doesn't that fit with both Romans 1 & 2?

I look at Revelation - especially when the Whore is devoured by the Beast. Both drink from the winecup of the wrath of God. But they were both drinking from that cup throughout their part of the book. God gives Empire more Empire. And Empire destroys itself.

And yup, we've definitely talked about this :D

JDTapp said...

I agree with the above, I also thought of Romans 1&2.

I thought from your original post that you were saying that the concept of a God who actively punishes sinners in this life was incompatible with the concept of propitiation. It seemed like you were making a sort of universalist statement.

But my thinking is that Paul is telling believers in Hebrews 12 that they are experiencing God's discipline, which proves they are God's children. So, then, what are the unbelievers undergoing? I looked at Psalm 39 as one example of Scripture saying they will be punished in this life. But can that punishment rightly be equated with "discipline" since they are not God's children?

Rodney Reeves said...

JD,

This is one of those places where we hold to certain theological ideas (the placation of God's wrath via the cross of Jesus Christ) without thinking through the implications for our daily spiritual life.

I see a tension (my former students are laughing right now): God's wrath was spent on Christ (a very offensive idea) and yet we call it divine love. Could it be that the cross of Jesus (an apocalyptic, end-of-the-world event) changed everything--even our ideas about the wrath of God?

Rodney Reeves said...

Just ran across this quote from John Chrysostom:

"Envy is a terrible passion, you see, and when it affects the soul, it does not leave it before bringing it to an extremely sorry state. It damages the soul that gives it birth and affects the object of its envy in the opposite way to that intended, rendering him more conspicuous, more esteemed, more famous--which in turn proves another severe blow to the envious person." (from "Ancient Christian Devotional" by Oden and Crosby).