Sunday, August 20, 2017

Reading A More Christlike God, by Bradley Jersak #5

JersakThis post begins the third and final part of A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel, by Bradley Jersak. In this section Jersak is “Unwrathing God.” That is we need to read the descriptions of the very active wrath of God as a metaphor for what Paul calls “a giving over” of sinners to the natural consequences of their idolatry. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Kindle version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 10, Love and Wrath as Consent, begin Part III of the book, 'Unwrathing' God. In this section Jersak is trying to correct what he sees as misunderstandings of the wrath of God that move our view of God away from the way Christ reveals Him. He defines biblical wrath as "a metaphor for the intrinsic consequences of our refusal to live in the mercies of God." (199) I do agree that any time God is portrayed with human emotion there must be metaphor in play, because God's "emotions" would be far above humans', especially fallen humans. Jersak will defend this definition in the next 5 chapters of the book so I will deal more with it in the commentary there. I agree with his point that God's wrath is not an angry flare-up, but is built into the fabric and order of the universe. Natural consequences eventually will bring justice and wrath. I am still not fully convinced that there are not some situations in which God might directly intervene, like protecting His plan or people.

The Bible itself takes us on a progressive, cruciform pilgrimage from primitive literal understandings of wrath, where God appears to burn with anger and react violently, to a metaphorical reading of wrath, in which God consents— gives us over—to the self-destructive consequences of our own willful defiance. 185

Scripture describes mercy as an everlasting, unfailing attribute of God...It strikes me, then, that our experience of divine mercy must therefore also somehow be intrinsic—contingent on our willingness to receive it …or rebuff it. But from God’s side, his mercy is not given at times and revoked at others; it is always available. 196

(Jesus) has not always prevented my willful disasters, but he has repeatedly welcomed me into the Father’s banquet of redemption and mercy. 199

In chapter 11, Divine Wrath as Giving Over, Jersak sees God's "active wrath," as portrayed in many biblical passages, as metaphorical for a wrath that is indirect and "gives over" the sinner to the consequences of their actions. When later scriptures explain earlier ones, they often explain actions which were attributed directly to God as being caused secondarily. The classic example is the book of Kings saying God incited David's census while Chronicles attributes this to Satan. Paul often does this with no OT validation. Of course, the key passage on this issue is Romans 1, in which Paul defines God's wrath as the giving over of idolaters to the results of their own sin. God is ultimately responsible for the way the world is, but his consent to our freedom provides the entry of love in Jesus Christ into creation and He has overcome the evil and suffering and will bring about His good purpose for it.

Paul is careful here (1 Cor. 10:9-11) to distinguish: yes, the people tested God, but what actually killed them? First of all, sin. And ‘the serpents.’ And ‘the destroyer.’ Paul’s warning is not, “God will get you,” but that the intrinsic consequences of sin opens the door for ‘serpents’ or ‘the destroyer’ to lay waste to our lives. 204

What Paul actually says (in Romans 5.9, the phrase "of God" is added by most English translations, is that God through Christ was saving us from the wrath. Period. We are not to believe that Jesus is saving us from God the Father, but from the consequences intrinsic to sin itself, namely death. 209 

Thanks be to God, at the pinnacle of humanity stands Jesus Christ. His nonviolent consent to the Cross—the intersection of humanity’s affliction (our freedom-to-violence) and God’s radical forgiveness—becomes the occasion whereby supernatural love flows through God’s own wounds into the world. God’s love, far from being weak or impotent, will eclipse violence, might and force as the relentless catalyst for the renewal of the world. 212

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