Thursday, October 27, 2005

"the true heart of the Bible's message is 'I love you'"

Recieved this in a e-mailout this week...

"One of the truly bizarre things about Christianity is the way we humans see the message through tinted spectacles. And not always rose-tinted, either.

The Bible seems to say contradictory things. (I know I'm going to raise a few eyebrows here, but bear with me for a while.) One of the most frequently repeated phrases talks of God's "steadfast love and tender mercy". Yet in other places it refers to God's "fierce anger", sometimes directed towards nations who were abusing his own people, sometimes directed to his own people themselves. How can we square "fierce anger" with "steadfast love"?

Part of an answer begins with the Bible's insistence that there is a fundamental unity at the heart of things. The Lord your God is One. So if God's people experience painful times then God must lie behind that experience; there is (as a famous politician used to say) no alternative. So painful experiences like that were attributed to God's "fierce anger". It didn't really fit the picture they had of God's steadfast love and tender mercy. The "fierce anger" was the anomaly they found hard to fit into their system. It bugged them so much they lost sight of the "steadfast love".

At the beginning of his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul unpacks this a bit further. He's talking about sin, and in the course of his conversation he mentions of list of things that, today, might provoke lurid headlines in the tabloid press -- or even in Spark! Many of us would say in response "there's the heart of the problem; if people stopped behaving like that everything would be fine." But Paul makes it clear that lifestyles like this are the consequence, not the cause, of the problem. God is saying, in effect: "OK, I've given you the choice. If you really want a life that has no space for me, that's fine, go ahead, you shall have your heart's desire. But don't be surprised if things don't turn out quite the way you thought they would."

And all this happens because of our habit of looking at God through spectacles that see only God's "fierce anger" and not God's "steadfast love". So we despise the fiercely angry God, and don't see the God of steadfast love. Remember, the message God wants you to hear is "I love you", not because he's kidding you and the real agenda is "fierce anger", but because that truly is God's nature.

If you think God's fierce anger is getting at you, or even the idea of God's fierce anger, then remember the true heart of the Bible's message is "I love you".

Blessings,

**** ***** (Methodist Chaplain)"
Erm, helpful to address a conflict that is sometimes observed beween God's wrath and love.... however I think the chaplain finds the wrong solution...

Like it or not, God is wrathful - he hates sin, and he hates sharing his glory with anyone else. Yesterday Ed and I were studying Ezekiel 35-36, God will not let the nations magnify themselves over him.... God will act for his own glory. He is jealously angry for his own name. Our problem is our deep lack of zeal for God's name. A really big problem for us, one that puts us on the wrong side of God.

Yes, undoubtedly God loves. But before he loves us, he loves his own name. And his love for his name, and for us are clear to see. Not by sweeping his wrath under the carpet, but at the Cross of Christ, the centre of all our theology, all our faith... the place where God's love, wrath and righteouessness are most revealed, the place where wrath and mercy meet...

Elsewhere on the same theme as the chaplain, but bringing truth rather than denying it, Phil Johnson brings us more of Spurgeon.... no punishment required?. Helping us to see that Messrs Chalke et al, are certainly out of line with baptist history, and out of line with scripture.