It’s always interesting when someone else says something that you’ve said exactly the way you said it and then you want to critique it for the same reasons that somebody else critiqued you. Greg Boyd preached a sermon about God’s wrath two Sundays ago called “The Judgment Boomerang” that helped me understand some inadequacies in my own reflections on it. I agree with Boyd in very essential ways, but I disagree with him in one very fundamental way. So I wanted to lay out the unhealthy, un-Biblical conception of God’s wrath that Boyd and I both react against, then share Boyd’s solution to it, and then share my concerns with Boyd’s solution and what I would propose instead, even though I know I’m still on a journey to figuring this out. Bottom line is that God’s wrath has a constructive purpose in the universe and that purpose is on display right now in the grief and anger with which our country responds to the horrific shooting in Connecticut. Continue reading
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). That is the fault-line that I try to follow whenever I write about a public figure’s sin, especially a brother in Christ. Delighting in evil is cynicism; rejoicing with the truth is prophecy. I am often a cynic rather than a prophet, and I have a very difficult time discerning between the two. Dinesh D’Souza is someone towards whom I feel a lot of wrath, some of which God has put into my heart and some of which is my sinful flesh. D’Souza has been a key player in what I call the outrage industrial complex, the group of pundits and professional hyperventilators who have seduced a large number of evangelical Christians with a form of ideological pornography that has poisoned the witness of our church. So I think it’s legitimate to say that I “rejoiced with the truth” to learn that D’Souza was caught attending a family values conference with his mistress and forced to resign his presidency of King’s College as a result. And I think that events like this are how God reveals His wrath against His people so that they can repent of misrepresenting Him before He has to up the ante. Continue reading
My reformed brother Derek Rishmawy and I have been having a stimulating discussion about the nature of God’s wrath. It’s a huge stumbling block for many Christians, and it doesn’t help that pastors are often very clumsy and barrel-chested in how they talk about it. So I want to offer the following experimental analogy with the hopes that it will help some people (like me) who hate the fact that the Bible includes the phrase οργή θεού (God’s wrath) in too many places for us to embrace a theology that doesn’t account for it. What if we think of God’s wrath as the spiritual immune system of the universe? Every time there is a violation of shalom (peace), torah (law/harmonic order), or mishpat (justice), God’s wrath is provoked like the body’s immune system in response to an infection.
“No scripture can mean that God is not love and that His mercy is not over all His works.” This statement, from John Wesley’s sermon “Free Grace,” forms the foundation for how many United Methodist pastors like me were trained to interpret the Bible. We are burdened with understanding and explaining how God’s mercy and love are at stake in everything He tells us to do in the Bible. Methodists who follow our Wesleyan heritage cannot say with Dan Savage that “parts of the Bible are bullshit,” but neither can we settle for shallow, decontextualized applications of scripture that aren’t understood and appropriated as expressions of God’s mercy. Sadly, the debate over homosexuality at the United Methodist General Conference has devolved into a shouting match of sound-bytes rather than thoughtful conversation about Biblical interpretation. The question that no one seems to accept the challenge of answering is how the prohibition of homosexuality expresses God’s love and mercy. Continue reading