If you haven’t yet read part one click here as it’ll help give you context to what this issue is all about. However, let’s jump right into where we left off. Again, I want to make clear the sort of awkwardness that’s in this issue. It would be really easy for me to see God in light of how my own culture defines how a god should act and be, to conform to how it defines love and justice, to run with how it thinks the Bible should be understood. Now, I’m all for looking at fresh ways of approaching God’s Word, I love turning the gem and seeing it from all sides. I welcome discourse, a difference of opinion, and meditating on what the wider body of Christ has to teach. However, I have to be honest, I draw a bit of a line in the sand on this issue. I understand completely and even empathise with people who take a more higher or extreme Christocentric hermeneutic then myself. Jesus, in the Gospels, does seem very inclusive, loving, and nonviolent. It’s true that Jesus said that all the Scriptures point to Himself (John 5:39), that everything written in the Old Testament was fulfilled in Him (Luke 24:44-49), that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), so if you’ve seen Jesus you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9).
However, it is precisely these Scriptures (and many more) that leads to me reject the premise that it wasn’t God in the Old Testament that ultimately commanded the flooding of the world (Genesis 6-9), the killing of the firstborn in Egpyt (Exodus 11:5, 12:29), the destruction of Canaanite villages in Joshua, who purposely had King David’s son killed because of David’s sin (2 Samuel 12), who had Ananias and Saphhira killed for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5), who had King Herod struck down and eaten alive by worms (Acts 12:23), who will be the ultimate judge of all and will grant everlasting life to those who believe (John 1:12) but will throw the unbelievers into everlasting fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
My critique is thus:
I’ve heard it said, “what we see in Christ in the gospels is the truest picture of God we have in the whole Bible.” I get it, but this is actually a flawed perspective to have in my opinion. While it’s true that Jesus gives us the best representation of who God is (He is the perfect image of God after all), I would say what the New Testament authors say about Jesus, and what the Old Testament authors have to say about who the Messiah is are all as authoritative. The way I see it is if you start to pit the gospels as being more superior, authoritative, and infallible then the other parts of Scripture, how can we even trust the gospel writers to give us an accurate portrayal of who Jesus is and subsequently the entire Godhead? What I mean is, elevating the gospel writers above the others in Scripture is fairly arbitrary. While I agree that the gospels give us the most robust picture of Jesus and subsequently the Godhead, the apostles and the authors of the rest of the New Testament have just as much of an understanding of who Jesus was and is as the gospel writers did.
Why? Take Paul for example who wrote a fair chunk of the New Testament (13 books in total). He saw the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), was called to be an Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 1; Galatians 1:17), received the Gospel from Jesus directly not from anyone else (Galatians 1:12), ascended into the third heaven where God Himself dwells (2 Corinthians 12:2), if anyone is qualified to give us the full picture of God and His message its Paul. Yet Paul preaches violent judgement on those who don’t believe (Thessalonians 1:7-9), that salvation is from God’s wrath (Romans 5:9) which is in a sense both here (Romans 1:18) as a result of sin which Paul says deserves death (Romans 1:19-32) and is still to come (Colossians 3:6).
To conclude, I’ve given readers two gospel authors (Luke and John) references on how God can be violent and full of wrath, ultimately judging mankind. I’ve given readers direct references from Paul’s letters where God is furious at sin, willing to destroy any who continue in it. If I were to do a complete study on God’s wrath and violence in the Bible we’d be here all year. The verdict is in. God hates sin, He is angry at people who practice sin, kills them, and will ultimately judge them for it. Why? Well, it’s actually Good News. God is just. He will throw every rapist, murderer, thief, blasphemer, liar, idolater into the lake of fire because separation from God’s goodness is what every sinner (you and I) deserve. But there’s hope, God might be extremely furious at a world that abuses sin, that abuses one another and worships other gods, but He also loves it. We can escape the wrath to come very easily by turning from our sinful ways and trusting in a new way, in a greater person. Jesus. He offers life, peace and love. He offers forgiveness, reconciliation and grace. Trust in Jesus, love Him with all of your heart and no longer will you be a child of wrath.
God’s wrath is scary and rightly so. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom after all (Proverbs 9:10). As C.S Lewis writes in the Lion Witch and the Wardrobe:
“’Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy. ‘Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.'”