dealing with destruction

“We accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice.” (MB Confession of Faith)

This phrase is part of my denomination’s confession of faith, asserting the centrality of the Bible for the Christian life. I have no trouble accepting this assertion...usually.

Stories about Jesus and phrases like “God is love” and “love one another” (1 Jn. 4) form some of the best testimony for the world to follow Jesus.

But there is a problem.

The Bible also includes some words and sections and images that provide some of the worst testimony for the world to follow Jesus. Old Testament records of judgment and destruction portray a God bent on wrathful destruction not loving embrace. In the New Testament, grotesque apocalyptic images from Revelation are enough to scare anyone away from God.

In today’s world, as much as love is a common reason to accept God, judgment and destruction are common reasons to reject God. How do biblical texts about wrath and judgment fit with the message love? This is a common objection to Christianity. “God is love” is seen as a facade, hiding the real God - a wrathful, destructive, judging ruler of the universe.

As Christians, how we respond to this objection is crucial, especially if we want to hold onto the view that the Bible is still authoritative in matters of life and faith. Dealing with destruction is no small task.

But Christians often quickly leap to answering the how and why of God’s judgment as we find it in the Bible, without taking time to pause. And be honest.

Christians are allowed to struggle with God’s judgment too.

Already in my early tenure as a pastor, I’ve had three sermons I didn’t particularly enjoy. God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18-19), David defeating the Amalakites (1 Sam. 30), and God enacting various forms of judgment on the world (Rev. 8-9). On the surface, there are very few, if any, redeeming features in these biblical texts. If anything, they just confirm the negative image of a mean God held by so many people. And so for each sermon I’ve started out by admitting my hesitation to speak of God’s judgment. I don’t like it.

And only then do I go about dealing with destruction. Answers come, for sure. Perhaps another post is warranted. But before answers comes honesty: I don’t like wrath and judgment. Considering God’s intention for humanity (Gen. 1-2, Rev. 21-22), I don’t think I’m supposed to.


Bob said...

Your final comment is probably the best starting point. Hadn't really though of it in exactly those terms before. Will look forward as you continue to unpack this.

David Warkentin said...

Thanks Bob - it's too easy to forget God's ultimate intention - shalom - when we analyze judgment.

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