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The Love of God

I just watched a distressing video (that I'm not going to link) with R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur talking about how God's love is not conditional and how God is angry with us, particularly those who have not yet repented and become Christians. It is their view that preachers need to do more hellfire preaching to convince people that their souls are in danger of eternal conscious torment from this God that hates them. And these men are considered leaders in American Christianity.

I am NOT a leader in American Christianity, but I call Bullshit! (Yes, at the ripe old age of 51, I've started cursing a bit. It's rather freeing!) You can make the argument that God is wrathful and angry using the first part of Romans and certain Psalms, but I argue that doing that is proof-texting. First, I would like to recommend Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd, an excellent (and rather short) book that refutes the entire notion of the angry god trope. Next, (remember that I'm not a theologian) Paul was making a legal argument in the book of Romans of how the atonement worked. I don't think he saw anger as God's primary attribute.

See what he says in Ephesians 1:3-6 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." This doesn't sound like he thinks that God is a God of anger. And this is just one of the epistles. Paul writes like this through all of them.

The testimony of Jesus is the primary evidence that God's posture towards his humans is love. John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.") is the most clear articulation of Jesus himself talking about God's love, but Jesus' entire mission was to give his life to pay for our sins. That is the ultimate act of love. Jesus didn't do that because he was mad at us. The atonement was love in action.

The men in the video also talked about how important it is to let people know that their souls are in danger of Hell. I assume they are talking about the doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment. I've been interested to learn over the last few years, that the doctrine of ECT is not universal throughout Christianity and not even the oldest doctrine of what happens to our souls after death. The book, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, has a nice section on various theories about Hell. I also recently read an excellent book called Her Gates Will Never Be Shut (by Bradley Jersak) which examines the different theories of existence after death and the scriptural support for each. What was made very clear to me is that the subject is muddy, at best. What is really interesting is that Jesus is clear in several places that our eternal destiny is continent not on saying a special prayer, but on how we treat "the least of these" (Matthew 25). Hmmmm. (My current stance, if you are interested, is that ECT is not well-supported. I think what is most likely is some form of possible purgatory/post-death salvation for those who accept God's love but annihilation for those souls who persist in refusing. All that being said, I'm prepared to be wrong and completely understand that God's going to do what God's going to do.)

Why am I writing this? Partly because writing is good for me. But, also, because I want people to hear something besides the "angry god" trope!! The Bible can be interpreted different ways, but I think the interpretation that is most faithful to it's original meaning and context shows us a God of love who wants us to love Him back. God cares enough for us that, even though we screw up because we are humans, Jesus (who was totally God and totally man) died for us. God wants us to believe this and love Him, not to avoid Eternal Conscious Torment (Hell), but because it's true and we want to be part of His love. And, He wants us to obey Him and live a good life because we love Him, not because we're trying to avoid Hell.

So, that's it. What do you think? Leave comments. I'm happy to be corrected on factual matters. If you don't agree with my opinions, that's cool. I might debate you; I might not. Be nice.


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