“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

One of the "writers’ block" suggestions last weekend was to write on the topic of "sinners in the hands of an angry God". You have probably heard of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon of that name, and maybe you know that John Piper has done quite a bit of research into Edwards, his theology, his life. Googling any of the above leads to around 46,700 articles on the web, so I don’t want to lead you down a path you when so many other folks have done such a wonderful and studious job already.

But can I take it a slightly different direction? Most of my interaction with this sermon has been on the "sinners" part and on the "angry God" part, making the case that we’re all sinners and God is decidedly hacked off. But there’s a line towards the end of the wikipedia entry that got my attention: "The underlying point, often overlooked in this sermon, is that God has given humanity a chance to rectify their sins. Edwards says that it is the will of God that keeps wicked men from the depths of Hell; this act of restraint has given humanity a chance to change their ways and return to Christ."

One of the questions I have is to whom is God angry? to what? We are the sinners, He is the angry God – but who’s He really angry at? It’s not necessarily us as sinners, perhaps. Maybe He’s more mad at the stuff of this world, the things in our lives, our culture, our environment, that take us away from Him, that distract us and harm us. Maybe it’s the "fall of man" where we decided that we could take on the Knowledge of Good and Evil apart from any relationship with Him. Maybe He’s mad at all that – and not at us. In His hands, maybe we’re actually being protected, given opportunity to realize His restorative and redemptive and reconciliatory bent towards us, His friends.

Just a thought.

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12 thoughts on ““Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”

  1. maryann says:

    you got it.
    He is in LOVE with us.
    🙂
    peace.
    (have you read ‘The Shack’ yet?)

  2. iggy says:

    Rick,
    God is angry with sin… not us… “God so loved the world”… I believe God is not angry with mankind but in how sin has ravished his creation.
    but great thoughts.
    I had been listening to Life of David Brainard which is really sort of inspirationaly depressing! LOL! It seems he just almost finds Grace but then misses it.
    Now I have not finished it but it sure reminds me of my early days of being a Christian.
    Thanks for your thoughts,
    iggy

  3. Rick says:

    No Shack yet 🙂
    But that’s just the thing, Iggy – we spread “the gospel” as God’s mad with you because of your sin, so you need to accept Jesus to be made right. Just strikes me that we might’ve generally missed it somewhere along the way.

  4. Martha Moultrie Gerrick says:

    I’ve never thought of God as ‘angry’. I think his anger is aroused and things happen (the flood, Sodom, Gomorrah, etc.), but in general I’ve always believed that he is caring, loving, gracious, disappointed in us yes, sad for us that we stumble and fall, holds us accountable for our actions, but not angry.

  5. Rick says:

    Congratulations for not getting bogged down in the “angry God” scenario, Mot 🙂 What do you do with the passages in the Bible on “God’s wrath”? For lots of us, maybe especially in the Bible belt, it’s a huge part of our Baptist or whatever upbringing. Or at least, it’s the bad news that makes the good news of the gospel look good.

  6. Martha says:

    As I said, I think God’s anger is aroused (see the examples I gave) over different things but in general I don’t buy into the thought that God is constantly angry/wrathful. I guess my upbringing in the Methodist church was not the ‘fire and brimstone’ version. I think we can see what God does throughout the bible and understand that his anger was riled over certain things without seeing him as only angry – just provoked on occasion.
    For me, the bad news doesn’t have to be awful for the good news to still be great. I don’t have to live in fear of something to walk the straight and narrrow. Having said that, clearly there are consequences to actions, but in the overall sense my faith in God brings me peace, I pray for understanding, and even if I don’t know the whole plan I can deal with that most of the time (or I pray for understanding when I struggle) because I know there is a plan and God is in control.
    The one thing the Methodist church does not do as much as the Baptist church does is focus on bible study (having attended both i have seen the differences). I mean, it is certainly used as the lessons and sermons are derived from it, but not a specific focus on learning/memorizing or on dissecting verses. It is not laissez-faire religion and does focus on all of the Christian themes/tenants/beliefs, but it is not as much ‘in your face’ type of preaching. I have attended Baptist churches that were not ‘in your face’ (I liked Don Davis’ style for the most part when I saw him preach from time to time), but I have also attended those that seemed more fearful/intimidating and I personally don’t respond to that as well.
    If I had to characterize, I would say that the Methodist churches I’ve attended for most of my life are very middle of the road type – not hard right, certainly not left, but firm on right and wrong without being overbearing. I guess that’s why I don’t get the angry God thing. Does that make sense?

  7. Joel D says:

    I think this is a case of our humanist conditioning slapping up against what the Bible says.
    Psalms 5 says that God hates the workers of iniquity. It doesn’t say he hates-the-sin-not-the-sinner; it plainly says he hates the sinner. Psalm 7 says he is angry with the wicked every day.
    His wrath against and hatred for sinners is also plainly shown in what he did to Jesus who took the place of these sinners – “it was the will of the Lord to crush him” (Is. 53).
    Finney once wrote: “God is not angry merely against the sin abstracted from the sinner, but against the sinner himself. Some persons have labored hard to set up this ridiculous and absurd abstraction, and would fain make it appear that God is angry at the sin yet not at the sinner. He hates the theft, but loves the thief. He abhors adultery, but is pleased with the adulterer. Now this is supreme nonsense. The sin has no moral character apart from the sinner. The act is nothing apart from the actor. The very thing that God hates and disapproves is not the mere event–the thing done in distinction from the doer; but it is the doer himself.”
    How great is God’s love? It is so great that he can love even the objects of his hatred by crushing his Son instead. His mercy extends for now, but we must understand that one day those hands of mercy will be withdrawn and only those who are “in Christ” will be spared.

  8. Rick says:

    Maybe – but I have a tough time reconciling that take, which I’ve been a part of and understand and don’t totally disagree with, with Jesus’ call to “love our enemies”. Isn’t there a balance that’s missed by focusing that far on that side? Or does “love your enemies” have an expiration date?

  9. Joel D says:

    Well, there is no conflict. We are showing love by warning people of the danger they are in, not by propping them up with false assurances. It’s not me who’s angry – I’m just the messenger, and one who needs the gospel just as badly as anyone at that. That’s what the gospel is all about – being literally saved. Saved – from what? An unfulfilling life? Bad feelings? No; being saved from judgment. People don’t always like to hear that they need that kind of salvation, but it’s true and we are being UNloving if we know this to be true and don’t tell people so.

  10. Rick says:

    Yeah, but doesn’t that sell “the good news” short? I’ll respectfully disagree and add that I think it’s a “saved from all of the above” thing that Jesus offers in “the abundant life”, not just being saved from hellfire.
    If we make the thing look bad, in order to make the good thing good, isn’t that just slick marketing? Isn’t God’s gift, God Himself, inherently good? Maybe that’s another post somewhere along the line.

  11. iggy says:

    To say that God hates the sinner and then to use Psalm 5 to prove it misses what Psalms 5 is teaching. It is not that God hates the person, but as Paul states later in Romans 7:23 “I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” Notice it is “sin” at work within my members.
    Sin dwells within a person. In that we, as Paul stated, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” and so forth…
    John also states in 1 John 3: 8. “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” as we have no power to overcome sin that works within us. What Psalm 7 is stating is that God hates the devil’s work… if one is totally turned over to evil and iniquity, then they are doing the devil’s work… though in bondage, they no longer even fight to do right.
    That is why God turns some over to a “depraved mind” as in Romans 1 (Though i ahve yet to have a Calvinist explain how a totally depraved person can be turned over to more depravity.) Again, God loves the person so much he sent His Son, and nto only that as one of the major themes of Romans, we find a God Who justly could judge and condemn all mankind, instead show kindness in long suffering so that more will nto perish.
    God does not hate the sinner. He hates sin… in Psalm 5, the word for hate can also be “a foe of”… God is a foe of workers of iniquity. So we must be careful not to impose our imperfect language on scripture in a dogmatic way when more scripture points us to the kindness and compassion of God. We must never sacrifice Grace at the expense of wrath.
    iggy

  12. Jayuff says:

    hey, has anyone seen my pb&j sandwich, I think I lost it somewhere around the corner of God hating kittens and puppies or something.
    My wife has been fighting an illness for 16 years. I get angry at the illness. She thinks I’m mad at her. I mad because it takes away from our fun and quality time. She still thinks I’m mad at her and can’t understand because she can’t help it she’s sick.
    Then you throw in the fact that the fun quality time is merely my expectation of what quality time and fun ought to be and maybe I have the problem. oooh i’m so confused!!! I need counseling. Gotta find that pb&j. HEY MOT!!!!

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