Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Wrath (of God?) - Matthew Distefano

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This is a guest post by Matthew Distefano. You can read more of Matthew’s work at his website All Set Free and his book All Set Free: How God is Revealed in Jesus Christ and Why That is Really Good News.

There are certain theological assumptions within American Christianity that you just don’t touch. But I have always been the questioning type, and if I have learned anything from Girard’s mimetic theory, it is that prohibitions increase desire (to say the least!). Tell me I can’t question the doctrine of hell and I will. Tell me I can’t question the doctrine of sola scriptura and, again, I will. And tell me I can’t question the “common” understanding of the “wrath of God,” and well, here I am doing just that.

Like many Western Christian doctrines, the definition of God’s wrath seems to be a given. Frankly though, like so many other “orthodox” views, I cringe at our eagerness to espouse such a belief. I mean, I do understand the propensity to believe in a quid pro quo type of God (thanks for that one Rob Grayson!) who A) reserves blessings for the righteous while B) reserving wrath for the wicked. I understand the human psychological need to ensure that we are in rather than out, that we are Jacob rather than Esau, elect rather than non-elect, and vessels of mercy rather than vessels of wrath (Romans 9:22–23). Ernest Becker’s work on the topic of death anxiety comes to mind in explaining our propensity in doing this. But I will leave that topic for another time (like in my forthcoming book, From the Blood of Abel).

But is this view not unlike the God of Deuteronomy 28? Is it not unlike the God of Job and his so-called friends? Is it not unlike the God of the writer of Wisdom of Solomon? And didn’t Jesus—in places like Matthew 5, Mark 2, and John 9—teach his disciples that this economy-of-exchange model of God is inherently false? Answer: I believe he did.

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