Saturday, May 4, 2013

"THE WRATH OF GOD WAS SATISFIED?"

Bosco Peters' post at Liturgy, titled "the wrath of God was satisfied?", has received over 70 comments.  The entire discussion is worth reading.
At our recent synod meeting, one of the songs was Stuart Townend and Keith Getty’s In Christ alone with the words:
“Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied”
Those words as understood by many (if not most) in that room are heresy. The understanding of those words by many (most) who enthusiastically sing this in services around the planet is heretical.

The understanding is that God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.

This understanding is heresy. 
My comment at Bosco's blog is rather long, and I thought it worth quoting here, even out of context, because the words reflect some thoughts of mine on atonement theology. 
 Bosco, the hymn you mention is not in the 1982 hymnal of the Episcopal Church in the US. In all good conscience, I could not sing the words about God’s wrath being satisfied by Jesus’ death on the cross.

What an interesting discussion. I’m reminded of my words to a friend who is in deep depression. I doubt whether my friend is able to take hold of the idea in a way that will help lift the depression, but, after I read my words over, I thought to myself that they express well my living experience of God’s salvation day by day. So. The words may or may not have been helpful to my friend, but they were helpful to me.

“Do you have inside yourself a sense that you are a person of worth? You are, if for no other reason than you are God’s wonderful creation, and God declared you to be good – not for your accomplishments, nor for the work you do, nor whether you’re crazy or sane, but simply for who you are before God, who loves you. I know I’m sermonizing, and maybe because of depression, or for some other reason, what I say doesn’t seem right, and you can’t or won’t take hold of the concept, but I believe it to be true, and it’s what gives meaning to my life. When there seems to be nothing left, I hang on to the knowledge of God’s abiding love, which rescues me time after time and is my salvation.”

My theological starting point is God is love. God loves God’s own creation unconditionally. God created us with the gift to choose, which means we can choose good, or evil, or make choices that are neutral – like what color clothing to wear. When God gave us the ability to chose, did God not know that we humans would make wrong choices? The allegory of Adam and Eve tells us God knew. Humans did sin, and God sent the Beloved Son to save us by his Incarnation, the example of his life, his teachings, his crucifixion, his death, and his Resurrection. God came down and became incarnate, fully human, like us in every way. By doing so, through all of his life on earth until after the Resurrection, Jesus’s words and actions, his whole life, are efficacious in drawing us into the very life of the Trinity and saving us.

God’s will cannot be divided. Jesus freely chose to become one with us and do the Father’s will here on earth. He was obedient to the Father in the manner in which he lived his life and in what he taught his followers, with the result that the powers of the day feared insurrection, and eventually put him to death. Jesus did not need to die the horrible death to satisfy the wrath of God for our sins to be forgiven. Humans put Jesus to death, not the Father.

There is no wrath in God’s love for us. God loves us without conditions.
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The Incarnation is the biggie for me, that God came down to be one of us to catch us up in the life of the Trinity. I was taught that the greatest feast of the life of Jesus is the Resurrection, but I’m now inclined to think the children had it right all along to see Christmas as the great feast.

Let me add that I think we all make up our own theology, to one degree or another, after reading and prayerful reflection on the Scriptures, the writings of the Fathers of the church, and the writings of the great Christian theologians and philosophers throughout the history of Christianity. Now my idea may, in itself, be considered heretical, but there it is.