Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"The wrath of God was satisfied"??

My wife and I have been going to a wonderful church for the last 4 months. Wellspring church is a part of the Anglican Mission in America (there sending church is located in Africa). Our Easter service was raucous and I loved it. One of the songs that was sung that I dearly love was "In Christ Alone." This is such a beautifully moving song, but have trouble when we get to the line that states,

Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

This line has always intrigued me and I am not quite sure what to do with it. I was chatting about this with some friends in the bookstore and one of the main conclusions we came to (with the help of one wise professor) is that there is a problem in our thinking when the wrath of God and the love of God seem like dichotomous opposites. Perhaps the main issue is with our definition of wrath that seems to stem most often from violent presuppositions which I have a hard time relating to the picture of God in the person of Jesus on the cross. Finally, I know this is a bit crass, but when I imagine the wrath of God being satisfied I picture a toddler throwing a temper tantrum who needs to be appeased into settling down. I am sure my Calvinist friends will note my limited perspective, but this is my blog and it just needed to be said.

My final analysis (at least for today, who knows what tomorrow will bring) is that the idea of the wrath of God is completely meaningless outside of the love of God. If God shows wrath, and this cannot be in the way it is seen today (i.e. the "shock and awe" campaign in Iraq), it is only out of his outrageous love and outrageous love cannot be fulfilled through killing that person.

I need some help so please give me your thoughts and opinions.


Adam said...

Trying not to rehash our conversation earlier (the one in the bookstore referred to in the blog for anyone else reading) I still feel compelled to ask this question: Is there any satisfaction for wrath present in the crucifixion? It is my belief that this was the primary primary purpose of Jesus' death, but admitting that there are several other valid views, I would still contend that there must be some element of wrath poured out in that event. However, if you say "no" my question will be, "How, then, does God remain consistent in His character (peaceful, wrathful, just, righteous, perfect, etc.) allowing once sinful humans to come into His presence without some satisfaction for their sin?" In other words, is God's wrath anywhere then?

ryan said...

I think that

ryan said...

I think you are right David in saying that we do have a very warped idea of what God's wrath is like. Truth is I think his wrath is a lot more loving than we realize, and it motivates the incarnation and the work of the Cross. Often angry is the true signal of love and concern. In fact if God saw our sin and was apathtic about it I would be more scared of that than his wrath.

By way of analogy I would just say what is the proper response one would have if the caught their spouse cheating on them? Wrath/Anger. What if someone was harming or abusing your child? Wrath/Anger. God's wrath is another demonstration that he passionatly loves us and that the way we live does matter to him. I do not have to tell you because your the OT guy, but it seems God constantly draws the husband/adulterous wife metaphor between him and the people of Israel. The great news and love of the Cross is that God was not willing to let it end with his people being whores, but he loved them enough to do what ever it took for reconcilation to happen. But that is my to cents.

Aaron said...

I Like what Ryan said, God is a relational God. In order for us with our finite minds to know him, he constantly uses relational metaphors to explain who he is, and how he relates to us and his world. That helps me understand the use of anger even wrath in the context of an all loving God.

Ryan 1 said...

1 - Read the Nonviolent Atonement by Denny Weaver. This will clear up all the mish-mash on how we got to believing in the Satisfaction theory of the atonement...and then blow it out of the water.

2 - Ryan's second analogy of the harm/abuse of child is a false analogy because it does not relate the object of love and the object of wrath.

3. Adam's question about the character of God is irrelevant in the Christus Victor model of the atonement. Perhaps not irrelevant, but adequately addressed. Especially the Narrative Christus Victor (Denny Weaver...seriously, read him). The inauguration of the Kingdom of God brought a glorious new age of relationship between us and God. Stop forgetting about the inauguration of the Kingdom.

I do not mean to sound overly pejorative. This is why it is bad news to discuss theology online...you can't hear my tone of voice. My tone is kind and gentle, like a soft breeze tickling the fingers of weeping willows.

Finally, this is a different Ryan...as you may have been able to tell already.

Carn-Dog said...

"The very God who gives us unspeakable gifts is the affronted party. Because of such gifts abused, prophetic rage bespeaks the hurt that our waywardness on earth evokes in heaven. Judgement that is not understood as a form of unendurable hurt misses the pont of the biblical drama."

Walter Brueggemann, Finally Comes the Poet, 20.

Carn-Dog said...

pont should be point

David said...

Thanks all for your thoughts and please keep sharing them. I think that the biggest difficulty for me is that I still do not know how to bring together the ideas of the justice and mercy of God. It seems that the majority of reformed thinkers like to focus more on the justice of God while others emphasize the mercy of God. That is probably an over-simplification, but I catch myself wondering if at some point in the story the mercy of God will triumph over the need for justice.

Ryan 1 said...

Thank you Carn-dog. We must remember the hurt. I had a couple more thoughts on this discussion. I want to make it clear that I do believe in the wrath of God. Having said that, I do not believe in the satisfaction theory of the atonement for a number of reasons.

On the marriage metaphor for God, read Between Noon and Three by Robert Farrar Capon. I would go into it, but Capon's work is so beautiful, it would be a sad shadow. Yes, we are like a cheating wife, but we are also the object of a Divine Grace that is far beyond anything we could hope to fathom. Let me give an example (many of you will probably not like this, because you probably don't like inductive theology, which is what I'm about to do)...
When I was in high school, I cheated on my girlfriend. This was a dark time in my life, and I'm not happy it happened, but that's a different discussion. Regardless, Erika felt in a very real sense what God feels with us. However, she did not need a sacrifice to appease her wrath and sense of justice. Instead, it took a combination of her incredible grace and love in tandem with my contrite heart and maturation. As some of you know, I am now married to her. It wasn't easy, but we rebuilt trust and came to a glorious understanding of grace and love.
Obviously inductive theology does not always work, but as the image-bearers of God, one way I believe it does is when humans display virtuous qualities that find their examplar in the nature of God. This is such a case. Erika was able to forgive me and we rebuilt our relationship with all the things I mentioned. No offence to Erika, but her capacity for grace is miniscule compared to that of God.
The other aspect here is that the abuse of Divine Satisfaction leads us away from the hard work of sanctification and rebuilding trust with God. I'm not talking about salvation here. Don't worry Luther. Rather, God wants us to become that which we were created to be. Christ laid the foundation for this with his work on earth (that's the other thing, satisfaction stems from a fragemented view of the atonement that focuses exclusively on the death and resurrection, but that's another thing), but with a restored relationship, we must continue that which was started in us.

My other problem with satisfaction is that it came by way of the death of God's Son. There are two options. Focus too much on the persons of the trinity being distinct, which results in a mad God who is appeased by the death of his obedient Son (Divine child abuse); or focus on the oneness of the Trinity which results in a God who is super-mad and can only be appeased by killing himself (Divine masochism).

This is why a prefer a non-violent model of the atonement. In short, this is an example of God working good out of the evil FREE actions of humans and demons. This is too brief to defend myself here. This is why I said to read the Nonviolent Atonement. Boyd also handles things well and more briefly in his parts of The Nature of the Atonement. Sorry this was so long, but this is a big-ass topic. Thanks for reading.

Ben Dahlvang said...

Interestinly, one of the biggest, and in my opinion the best, critique of Anselm came from a well known Reformed systematician: Lois Berkhof. Moreover, the Westminster Assembly (which BTW was not united on the neccesity of the atonement; some thought God could have done it another way) and the Naderie Reformatie were not afraid to hurl polemic at the great scholastic. Why? because he did shitty exegesis and read the fuedal system back onto the biblical text. Did the Reformers and thier codifiers read anything back onto the text? Plenty! Does this mean their understanding of the atonement was a reading of early modern violence back onto the text? You'd be hard pressed to make a case for it historically, and it seems to me, harder pressed to make a case for it exegetically.
I've read most of the stuff mentioned on the non-violent and Christus Victor theories. It has much to commend it I think, especially its critique of Anselm and its eschatological focus. But it comes far too close to Abbelard to make much sense to me. As I see it, only some type of Federal or Covenant Theology (there are many) can answer the question: what does it mean for Christ to become sin for us? What does it mean for Him to be a propitiation of God's wrath?
The Reformation/Post-Reformation model gives full wieght to the relational aspect of the atonement,(it's built around it) as well as the entire history of humanity itself. As a nice, quick intro., I would recomment Michael Horton's Lord and Servant, especially his chapter on the atonement (ch. 7). Though there are many other sources that are more indepth.
Nice Bruegg quote Carney!

Beth B said...

P.P. Waldenstrom (1838-1917) got in big trouble with the Swedish Lutherans when he began looking for scriptural evidence of substitutionary atonement. He came to the conclusion that

“the Scriptures teach that no change took place in God's disposition towards man in consequence of his sin; that, therefore, it was not God who needed to be reconciled to man, but that it was man who needed to be reconciled to God; and that, consequently, reconciliation is a work which proceeds from God and is directed towards man, and aims not to appease God, but to cleanse man from sin, and to restore him to a right relation with God.”

You can read his sermon, "Be Ye Reconciled to God" wherein he expounds this doctrine. http://www.gospeltruth.net/recon_walden.htm

Those who agreed with him now compose the Evangelical Covenant Church.