If you have not read “Part 1”, read it first. Click Here
I grew up with a strong fear of God. The reality of hell was taught often. Hell was taught as a place of fire where people would be tortured forever. It was a place that was used to often scare people into making a choice to follow Jesus.
In my last post, I quoted Jonathan Edwards from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.
“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you… (click here to read more)”
People often write me on social media and tell me that they are concerned that I am too easy on people about the depravity of man and anger of God, and in doing so people will be less likely to repent. It is like we are scared of what will happen if we understand the loving grace of God.
Grace is not the enemy of the gospel… it is at the heart of it!
I was blown away when I began to see God’s loving pursuit of mankind, and God being present by stepping into our mess instead of being disgusted and pushing us away.
Let me say this another way… God is continually stepping into our messiness and pursuing us, over and over again. It is not God’s desire or posture to be disgusted with us and desiring for us to feel the effects of His anger. It is His desire to do the opposite.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
I am becoming more and more aware of how unbiblical caricatures of God and the afterlife have thrown us into some strange beliefs that are not fully Biblical.
Here is a brief history.
In the ancient world, philosophers were trying to figure out the reasoning behind the universe. They landed on the idea that when a lack of rain effects crops or natural disasters come… it is the forces or gods behind creation being angry. This brought in a lot of fear of the divine.
These ideas of an angry God in the first couple of centuries were mostly found in the pagan world only, but something happened after the 500’s with the Roman Catholic Church. We see the fear of an angry God beginning to be used to control people.
In the late 1400’s Martin Luther came onto the scene. Martin Luther lived under the fear of God so much so that his fear was the original reason why he became a monk (he survived a lightning storm and promised to give his life to God). Martin Luther’s main push was against the Catholic church for using the fear of afterlife to control people into paying the church.
In the early reformation years, instead of landing on a more accurate view of God’s character, the reformers landed on the death of Jesus being the remedy to appease God’s anger. The early reformer’s eschatology was not developed well, so all they were answering questions around a simplified caricature of the afterlife and not one that was fully Biblically represented.
Eventually these views of a God, who’s character default was seen as angry, contributed to two different movements.
- A view of God that N.T. Wright calls “split level”. This is a view that God created the Earth, but has stepped back, is distant, and is not involved in creation. This view leads us to a view that God is a landlord. This belief system thinks that He is distant, but when something goes wrong, it is His fault and/or He is responsible. This view contributed to the belief systems of Deism, Darwinism (influenced by epicureanism), and kept Gnostic (belief that physical matter is evil) ideas in the Christian faith as the enlightenment moved forward.
- Militant atheism. This idea sees religious systems as systems that are behind much of the war and violence in the world. When atheists in this camp see that people act out of the idea that these gods are believed to be angry, they also then see God as violent, and then they want to have nothing to do with these beliefs at all whatsoever.
We have to understand that God’s character is that of love and only love. This means that His justice and judgement comes out of this reality.
What if the afterlife (heaven or hell) was a reality and God’s wrath and judgement was real, but maybe what we have been taught to believe has more pieces of a caricature based on greek mythology and medieval folklore then a Biblical view?
God’s justice of breaking the hold of sin in the world was through lovingly offering Himself to be put to death at the hands of evil men.
The wrath of God being satisfied, is not necessarily the same thing as a God’s anger being appeased. God’s wrath in the Bible is a merciful act that I believe breaks His heart (more on this idea coming soon).
I will continue writing. Next… I will be moving towards defining the wrath of God Biblically (possibly talking about hell) and what that means for the death of Jesus.
Thank you for engaging in this conversation with me!