Thursday, December 03, 2009

Our Wrathful God

I posted this as a comment at my friend Rho's blog (his post w/comments is HERE) and thought it worth posting here.

I used to overreact to the wrath talk of Calvinism by going to the opposite extreme of "God doesn't have wrath; it's just love experienced negatively" (River of Fire and all that mess). Unfortunately, I think that particular line has become something of an oversimplified approach to Orthodox soteriology--perhaps used by some a way to be different from "the West" as a way to stand out, though I know of some priests I greatly respect with whom I also differ on this point.

While Rho does well to point out where the Bible explicitly tells us that, yes, our heavenly Father does get angry with us, his children, the anger is not of the same type that continually gets trotted out by Calvinists, namely, that God is wrathful because of his offended honor or out of some desire to take vengeance on his besmirched Name. Rather, God is asking us, angrily, "What have you DONE to yourselves?! I will and must fix this, for I am good." He will fix us whether we want Him to or not, and the fixing, imposed on us by a righteous God, will be hell to those of us who don't want it, but there will be nothing we can do to stop it. The attitude of the Father, however, is one of a Father whose anger is provoked by seeing what's become of His child, not a selfish, "How could you DO this to me?! I'll teach YOU...!" type of anger.

I'd invite everyone to listen to these two talks, given by an extremely well-respected priest and former dean of my current place of studies, who I think does a masterful job of allowing the Bible to speak of the wrath it does indeed speak of, in the way of which it is meant to be spoken. They are the following:

The Wrath of God


The Wrath of God - Part 2

They show extremely well how Christ takes away the wrath spoken of in Scripture, not because He Himself "took the beating" that the vindictive, bloodthirsty "Father" needed to dish out, but because He is already fixed, and stands as the One who is fixed before the Father and can, thus, fix us so that we, too can stand before the Father.

Salvation from the wrathful righteousness of the Father, through the becoming sin for us of Him Who knew no sin. It is the gospel, Rho; you're right...but I do not think we mean what you want us to mean.


Rhology said...

that the vindictive, bloodthirsty "Father"

I see that vein all throughout EO thought wrt the biblical picture of God. You really think we Calvinists think of God that way? Where's the talk of a just God who is concerned that all sin be punished with justice, b/c sin is actually evil? Etc.

Anyway, I think your response has furthered my point about sin's not really being a big deal in EO thought. It seems like sin is barely worthy of irritation, much less "vindictiveness" or punishment. The very awfulness of biblical sin, by contrast, is what makes me so, so glad for the embrace of the Savior. That's the Gospel.


Unknown said...


I think it's a matter of mercy, in a way, trumping justice. One of the Fathers, I apologize I can't remember which, once said that we should never ask God for his justice, but rather pray for his continued unjustice, which is mercy. God's perfect justice casts out and/or destroys everything imperfect -- us. It is his perfect unjustice, though, that allows even us to be forgiven and return to him and become his sons.

Rdr. David:

Thank you for this post. I'm looking forward to listening to the podcasts.

Rhology said...

once said that we should never ask God for his justice

Well, on THAT we can certainly agree, 110%!

Fr. David said...

Rho -- thanks for your comment. I started to respond, but this will take up its own blog post, most likely. Should be up sometime Sunday.

Layman Lucian said...

So we're signing our posts with READER David, now, are we? :-\ Well, well, well...

Yes, God is not passionate, or a slave to the passions, otherwise we wouldn't call Him "Lord", if He were enslaved by the very things which He Himself proscribed (Sermon on the Mount).

b/c sin is actually evil

Yes, and that's what *YOU* don't get: sin is truly evil. Evil is truly evil. The best way to understand this is when one falls prey to the onslaught of clinical depression because of indulgence in it... only that in such cases one might not live to tell the story. Well, anyway, Kalomiros knew very well what he said, when he spoke about good and evil being their own rewards, and punishment being the internal out-growth of evil, and not some externally imposed torment, as some people childishly make it out to be.

Fr. David said...

LL -- Ha! You can feel proud, now; I'd been meaning to change it back for a while now but never got around to it. Some folks took to calling me that on other blogs...meh. But layman lucian. That's rich.

Rhology said...

Oh, you're not a Reader anymore?

(Word verification: inifir. As in, "inifir pants don't fit, we'll jes' git another pair."

Fr. David said...

*ahem*...yes...says so in the profile.

But *going* by Reader so-and-so is usually not something one does oneself.