- Wrath, anger, etc. are dark, evil emotions and the idea that God would ever experience them conflicts with the premise that God is light and in him is no darkness at all -- here he borrows a quote from an Archbishop of Canterbury who says that God is Christlike and in him is no un-Christlike-ness at all.
- The ultimate revelation about God's true character comes in the Gospels from our encounters with Jesus there -- culminating in the Cross and because we can see no wrath there, only mercy, wrath is not part of God at all.
- Any other data about this in the Bible is suspect because the writer had never encountered Jesus and even in the New Testament the rest of the books have to be seen through the lens of the Gospels.
- When the Bible refers to wrath, it's really a metaphor for God backing off his protection and allowing us to experience the consequences of our actions, and hence, he's not doing it to us -- we're doing it to ourselves.
So where is my problem? Mostly with 1) and 4). I think that to not allow for this aspect of God's character is to lessen his personhood. Wrath, anger, etc. are not intrinsically evil. Any and all righteous beings, if they have any emotions at all, ought to and ought to be allowed to disapprove of evil on an emotional level. That seems a limp-wristed definition of wrath, but really, everything else is a matter of degree and perception. Presumably greater evil would evoke a greater response. Certain situations (say, being called to account) will amplify the perception of wrath. Secondly even if the wrath talked about outside of the Gospels was not clearly perceived by the writer, something was perceived. It can't be negated into a metaphor or written off as a complete mistake. I also feel that the whole discussion has an 'our time' feel to it, that it never would have occurred to earlier cultures, especially the culture of the times of the Bible's actual writing, to raise these issues. (But I've touched upon that elsewhere)
Another thing that has to be said is that we're all really on the very same side. We're even accepting the same task. Those who want to see God exonerated of all wrath are defending his character by saying that with wrath, he has a defective personality. I'm defending his character by saying that without wrath he doesn't even have a personality.
But, accepting the standard of the Gospels as the lens through which all else is understood, my task is clear. I have to find wrath in the Gospels. Maybe I have made things too easy for myself by defining wrath as disapproval on an emotional level, but really what else is there? I freely admit that the wrath of fallen humanity is tainted with evil, so if God and/or God in Jesus experiences righteous anger, it's going to be different at so many levels than our experience of even what we call righteous anger. Emotions-based disapproval might be the only commonality, so that is what I am looking for. So sternness, severity, anger are fair game as candidates for wrath because all are perceived the same by those on the receiving end. It could be that wrath is qualitatively different, and I'm just not understanding that aspect of the argument, but for purposes of this post I will shelve that idea and anyway, I haven't heard anyone say anything like that. Excuse me for a bit...
(passage of time while the 'Pilgrim' skims through the Gospels -- "talk amongst yourselves?")
So here's the most significant thing I've found. (I avoided the Cleansing of the Temple because that's gotten to be a cliche. "Jesus got angry and so can I.") What caught my attention was the parables. The 'God' figures in several of the parables express wrath fairly clearly. Some actually are said to be angry and acting in anger, and some, as evidenced by their words, are merely severe. And I think it's more, not less significant that these moments of wrath are in the parables. Thing is, parables are stories. The "master", the "king", the "wedding host" getting angry at evildoers rounds out the story because that makes the story more plausible, more understandable, more right. So back to our story. Doesn't it make sense that if we sin, we suffer his extreme displeasure? Is that not wrath in some form? And does wrath not round out our story too?
One last little note about 4). A near as I can guess, it's not a solution at all. It's time-shifting to beg the question away altogether. Consequences come to us for our actions because that is the way the world was made from the beginning. By whom? Um, God. It seems God designed the cosmos with consequences in mind -- the punishment for evil is built right in. And who removes his hand of protection? Um, God. So it's really moot. At the recipients end, the difference between wrathful punishment or impassive non-protection are really not distinguishable. Metaphor? I think not. The story makes more sense, if God, having a legitimate reason to be angry, actually is.
And having allowed God the prerogative of just anger, I am even more thankful that "he will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever..." (oops, that was from the Psalms, not the Gospels-- maybe the Psalmist should have said, "we won't experience this metaphor forever?")