Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

A few things are becoming a little bit clearer this week, as various bloggers have commented on Nigerian bishop Orama's declaration that homosexuals and lesbians "are inhuman. . . . insane, satanic and are not fit to live ...."

At StandFirm, Matt Kennedy offers a half-hearted defense of the Nigerian bishop. Kennedy says: "we are all by nature objects of wrath." Here is the whole paragraph:

While it is certainly true that no human being is “fit to live” and in fact we are all by nature objects of wrath, it is not at all right to single out homosexual offenders alone. We are all worthy of condemnation.
I think Jonathan Edwards would gather Matt into his bosom. I grew up in that same "God really hates us all" mentality.

Fortunately, I have grown to believe that God loves us -- all of us -- with a fierce love beyond our wildest imagining -- with a love so deep that He sent his very Son to live among us to redeem us, and that God desires holy lives for all of us. Thanks be to God for redeeming us, and rescuing me from that 17th century worldview.


Blogger Scott Gunn said...


See, Matt's on to something that we liberals miss. All our "love everybody" stuff lacks poetic possibility. Nicey-nice, yada yada.

Now this (from the referenced Jonathan Edwards) will preach: "The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours."

That's Matt's God. Never mind that it's not particularly Biblical, or that our prayer book offers another view ("made worthy to stand before him"). Where's the fun in preaching if you can't pound on the pulpit and scare the sin out of people? Why live in the 21st century, or why quote the 3rd century, when we can dwell in the terror-filled 17th?

OK, I'm going to crawl back out onto my web and make some s'mores.


9/06/2007 12:26 AM  
Blogger Suzer said...

As a cradle Episcopalian, I was taught of a loving God. I have difficulty understanding why some people embrace a concept of God as angry and wrathful, especially after reading the New Testament (though I do certainly see that depiction of God in the Old Testament). I'm really grateful to have been raised in the religious tradition of TEC!

9/06/2007 1:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Scott, you win the prize for a comment that's far more delightful than my blog posting. Thank you!

Suzer, I did grow up in the Jonathan Edwards tradition in which our wormliness was impressed upon us 4 times on Sunday and every Wednesday night. I thank God for leading me into the Episcopal Church, even as it's taking me a while truly to internalize that God has done all God has done (including sending Jesus) because he loves us and is not looking for a chance to send our sorry souls to Hell.

9/06/2007 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Edwards was a great man and probably America's greatest theologian...did you read the rest of the sermon, or just the fiery parts :). Have you read Freedom of the Will?

The fact is that God's infinite wrath at sin was, for believers, exhausted on himself on the cross in the Person of Christ...where perfect love and perfect justice meet. Christ became sin for us so that in him we could become the righteousness of God.

But for those who will not surrender and quit the rebellion, yes, unfortunately, there is wrath. This does, indeed, underscore the urgency of mission and evangelism

Matt Kennedy

9/07/2007 4:25 PM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

I grew up attending Roman Catholic schools, and my impression of God, by the time I reached high school age and began thinking about sin, was that God was "up there" waiting to pounce at the least transgression of any of the Ten Commandments. That attitude made ordinary life a scary experience.

Unfortunately, emphasis on the Two Great Commandments and the concept of a God who loves us infinitely came much, much later.

9/08/2007 2:02 PM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

IMHO, "God loves you and wants to share his life with you," is a more attractive approach in evangelization than "Hurry up and surrender to God, or you will be the victim of his wrath."

Of course, I could be wrong.

9/08/2007 2:28 PM  
Anonymous Peter Dewberry said...

The comments on Jonathan Edwards are a caricature of one of America's most influential and godly pastor/theologians. It is easy to pull a comment out of its context and build an easily demolished straw man.

Granted, Edwards language is much stronger than what we might like to hear. However Edwards, like the Wesleys and the likes of George Whitfield, believed that people cannot fully appreciate the love of God without first understanding the depth, the power and the consequences of sin. For that reason preachers of their stature moved their generation and subsequent generations by first bringing their hearers to a personal conviction of sin through what is called the "preaching of the law", they along with the apostle Paul were convinced that sin and its consequences had to be spelled out clearly. cf. Romans 7, especially vv 14 - 25.

It is at that point that these luminaries of the past would begin to lovingly and winsomely speak of the love of God in Christ and through his cross. They would then, as it were, lead them into the uplands of Romans 8, knowing that their hearers would be more able to appreciate the love of our holy God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jonathan Edwards was a prolific writer on theology and philosophy, but above all he was a preacher/pastor and many of his published pastoral works are easily accessible to those who have the will to read. One of his greatest pastoral books is "Charity and its Fruits", this book is an exposition of on 1 Corithians 13, and is a deeply moving presentation of God's love in and through Christ.

I don't know Rev. Gunn, but I suspect that he is an intelligent man who probably knows better than to reduce Jonathan Edwards' theology to a mere one-liner. We have enough politicians who trivialize the debates of the day by reducing issues to one-liners, surely we ought to move beyond that.


Peter Dewberry

9/11/2007 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Peter Dewberry said...

According to Scott Gunn "our prayer book offers another view" of God. To support his claim he quotes The Holy Eucharist: Rite Two, Eucharistic Prayer B, but he chooses to leave out two vital words at the beginning of the sentence he partially quotes, namely "IN HIM" The full sentence as all Episcopalians know reads "In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you."

Edwards would have wholeheartedly agreed with this sentence, because it makes it clear that the only worthiness that we have to stand before him, is because we are "in him" that is in Jesus.

This great sentence from the BCP is clearly an echo of Ephesians 1:4 "he chose in him . . . to be holy and blameless in his sight". Verse 7 "in him we have redemption, through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." Verse 6 speaks of the rich blessings and the standing we have before our loving heavenly Father are all "freely given us in the One he loves", Jesus Christ. Jonathan Edwards would love the truth of this sentence.

In his sermon "Sinners in the hands of an angry God", Edwards was declaring the absolute holiness of God in preparation for pointing his hearers to his eternal love for us in Jesus Christ.


Peter Dewberry

9/11/2007 7:21 PM  
Anonymous trog said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9/11/2007 9:13 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Trog, this is my blog. I will not tolerate your lewd comments. Your comment is gone.

9/11/2007 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately, emphasis on the Two Great Commandments and the concept of a God who loves us infinitely came much, much later."

Grandmere mimi,
These are commandments directed at us. Have you always loved God and your neighbor perfectly? If not, why did they not serve to increase your guilt? (Luther made this point in Bondage of the Will).

If you think God was ready to 'pounce', I'd suggest perhaps you didn't feel guilt enough (a law breaker merely afraid the law will catch up can't be said to feel guilty, and we are all guilty before the law).

Also, why are you thinking of 'attractive approaches'? We are dealing with a reality that is true whether or not we find it attractive.

The only way to properly understand grace, is to understand one's guilt before the Law. If Edwards is too heady - try Todd "Frrreakishly Tall" Friel at Way of the Master Radio. Very genial, very funny, but he makes exactly the same point.

9/12/2007 12:55 PM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Anonymous, why can't we have a name? Make one up.

Oh, most surely, you are right. I don't feel guilty enough.

1.If you are out to win souls and snatch them from the brink of the pit, what's wrong with "attractive"?

2. Are you at all familiar with I.R.O.N.Y?

By the way, I often pray this prayer before receiving the Eucharist:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy; Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore ever dwell in him, and he in us. Amen

9/12/2007 3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry 'bout that, Mimi, Calvinism does that to one (as Mencken noted).

I really love that prayer - Chirstians are after all mostly gentile (as I am)- using that verse in prayer more often seems natural (since it basically was a petition by the woman to God), but people being sinful and rebellious probably steer away from it for that reason.


9/12/2007 7:34 PM  
Anonymous trog said...

Lewd? As you wish: your right.

However, if I signed a name of a person you respect perhaps you would have uttered the “p” word.

Good luck and may God bless you.

9/12/2007 8:14 PM  
Anonymous trog said...


9/12/2007 8:17 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Trog, you are making no sense. I have absolutely no idea what you mean about some "p" word.

Friends, be aware that the troll-maisters at Blog Viagra have linked to this thread. So we are seeing more than our usual trolls. I'll do my best to keep this a friendly neighborhood.

Grandmère, you are lovely and inspiring as ever. Thank you! I, too, pray the "Prayer of Humble Access" whenever I attend our 8:00 (Rite I) service. And -- along with everyone in our parish -- I pray it on my knees, which is where I belong.

I take the traditional stance during the Eucharist. I spend a great much of it on my knees. I am not one of those who feel it appropriate to stand during the Prayers of the People, Confession, Eucharist, etc. I drop to my knees ... which is, I believe, my proper place. Not because the God of Matt Kennedy hates me. But as my due homage and gratitude and reverence and thanks to the God who has saved and redeemed my sinful self. It is an honor to assume that kneeling position before my God. Because he loves me, and I adore him. Not because I fear being thrown in the fiery furnace of hell. That, I think, is the difference between me and the folks who are trolling here from SFiF.

9/12/2007 8:52 PM  
Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Lisa, thanks for keeping it friendly here.

Cheers to you, too, Robert. I guess Calvinism does that to one.

9/12/2007 10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa, God loves you infinitely and he died to take away your sins and mine. I have never and would never say that God hates you. Rather he hates sin, mine and yours...which is why we must repent.

BTW, Trog is not ours. I've never seen him on SF

Matt Kennedy

9/13/2007 5:40 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Matt, I can say "amen" to that, without reservation.

9/13/2007 7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm late coming to the discussion. But, I think part of the difficulty is a misunderstanding relating to God's wrath. I don't think it's something at all synonomous with hatred, spite, or a desire for revenge. But, is rooted in holiness, and righteousness.

I truly don't think in the mind of God, wrath and judgement, negate His love. Of course, God is wrathful against anything that is destruction of human life, and of His creation. That's why, as Father Matt has shared, God hates sin, and He has redeemed us, and the whole creation in Christ.

My thoughts, anyway, Lisa.
God bless!


9/13/2007 9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


4/02/2009 12:05 AM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

You are welcome here, Ruth/Tessa.

4/02/2009 12:09 AM  

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