January 12th, 2006


To-do list/God's wrath

Plans for the day:
-Do a bit of work
-Go out with some coworkers for a spot of alcohol (I am proud of myself).
-Take a wonderful girl out to dinner.

Understanding God in the Old Testament/ Is this heresy?/ A bad reinterpretation of other people’s ideas

Time and again I read through Scripture to find that God’s wrath is associated with His “hiding His face”, His being far away from His people. The wrath of God is His absence. When light withdraws we must face darkness. But who or what causes this absence?
It is man in his own sin, his own fleeing from God? Or is it God in response to man’s sin? Must a most-holy God flee from our failings? If that is so, if God must hide Himself from man’s ungodliness, then it would seem to follow that the incarnation was not only unlikely, but impossible.
The incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, if it shows me anything, must show me that God is not a tit-for-tat, spiteful and annoyed being. It shows me that God invades unholiness with His own holiness, that He invades hatred and contempt with the forces of love and forgiveness.
It is then quizzical that so many of the acts of God in the Old Testament seem to paint a picture of an annoyed and arbitrary deity. But this revelation must be interpreted through the ultimate and final revelation God in Christ. My hermeneutic must be the incarnation.
So what does this mean for my reading of the Old Testament? Mostly, I have no idea. But let me share a couple of thoughts.
In light of the incarnation, I must look less for my explanations in the supposed arbitrary and annoyed character of God, and more in the way the humanity and the created world function - the laws that govern man’s behavior. These perhaps are not so much juridical as they are ontological:
God is peace; when man separates himself from God he will experience conflict.
God is beauty; when man separates himself from God he will know ugliness and blight.
God is life; when man separates himself from God he will ultimately meet death.
And of course, much of the wrath of God in the writings of the prophets is set in a poetic tone, and license is taken: inanimate objects are given human characteristics; the invisible God is given ears and feet and a garment wrapped about His waist. And thus, when God is cast treading a winepress of blood, we must remember life apart from God – who is Life Himself – is surely a road to destruction, it is marked by spilled blood. And I must also remember the spiritual, moral and allegorical interpretations of these Scriptures, as well as the literal ones, as the Church has done for ages.
It has been said somewhere that God’s wrath is truly only the other side of God’s love. God is constantly offering life and well-being – those who receive these gifts through obedience thrive and are called blessed, and those who reject them through disobedience grow sick and are called cursed. To one man God’s gift is a blessing, to the other, a curse.
Of course, this type of theology (whatever type it may be) requires a fundamental belief in the free will of man. And this belief in man’s free will requires me to take seriously the thought that man is created in the image of God, for God is totally and completely free.

I haven’t brought myself to any conclusions. Perhaps it is not my place to bring myself to conclusions. But it does feel nice to straighten out thoughts that have gone crooked in my mind.

Who can explain His mysteries?

Me and my things.

"How often have we heard today’s a parable about those people who were called to the Bridal Feast of the King, and who refused to come. The one who had acquired a plot of land; he thought he was in possession of it; in reality, he was so attached to it that he could not detach himself from it: he was a prisoner of what he thought he possessed. And so it is with whatever we imagine we possess; it is enough for us to have the smallest thing in our hand - and this hand is alienated to us; we cannot use it anymore, we cannot use our arm, our whole body is conditioned by what we possess, or imagine we possess: we are held a prisoner by it." -Metropolitan Anthony Bloom