Tuesday, June 21, 2016

No Wrath in God - from T. J. Rynne's "Jesus Christ, Peacemaker"

Editor's Note: The following excerpts come from Terrence J. Rynne, Jesus Christ, Peacemaker: A New Theology of Peace (Mayknoll, NY: Orbis, 2014), 29–31. They reflect an Orthodox theology similar to the 'theology of consent and participation found in Brad Jersak's A More Christlike God.

No wrath in God

Another way of saying there is no violence in God is "there is no wrath of God." The threatening, great God, Jehovah, coming on the cloud of judgment of the wicked is not found in Jesus' reading of the scriptures. The lust for punishment of the bad guys is not God's; it is a human reaction projected onto God. There is judgement, but the judgement of evil is in the evil itself playing itself out to its own demise. Humans who refuse the offer of goodness judge themselves by the measure with which they judge others. That leads to complete self-aborption and can descend into what can only be called hell. ...

Forgiveness doubled

"God is always in himself the kind father who meets sinners with anticipatory love; only if sinners, despite the experience of grace, cling to their own criteria of judgement do te imprison themselves," Schwager writes. Even the murder of his own son did not provoke the reaction of vengeful retribution. The risen Jesus appeared with the message of peace and forgiveness--even to those who had reject the offer the first time. Forgiveness doubled. In the events after the resurrection we clearly see the nonviolent face of God....

God's response to human obduracy is to deliver humankind to ourselves. We do make our own beds and lie in them. We do indeed make our own hells. God does not break in to punish us; we do it to ourselves. God's so-called wrath consists in granting full respect for our freedom. The possibility exists that humans could resist even redemptive and unfathomably forgiving love.

Only unfathomable love

Jesus' concern was focused on the here and now, the events of history and where those events lead. He used language that is "apocalyptic," that is, taking historical and political events metaphorically to demonstrate the built-in trajectory of those events into the future. As James D. G. Dunn describes it: "Apocalyptic language has to be understood metaphorically in reference to historical and political events rather than literally in reference to the end of the world. ... Neither Jesus nor his contemporaries were expecting the end of the space-time universe."

No wrath in God. No violence. Only unfathomable love. With that understanding of the God of his forefathers, Jesus could not countenance a political order built on exclusion, separation, and hatred of the enemy--in the name of religion, in the name of their God. If there is no violence in God, that undercuts the age-old tendency of humans to label those who are outside the privilege circle as threats, as enemies, as evil--to dehumanize them and then make them objects of righteous, sacralized violence.