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4th May 2018
Chalk Talk 27 - Anguish is different than Anger

After explaining why God is not angry last week, Steve dives even deeper into what it means for us that God doesn’t just love, but that God is love.

Chalke Talk 27 - Anguish is different than Anger from Open Church network on Vimeo.

Steve looks at some of the apparent contradictions to God being love: if God is love, how does he hurt when people turn against him or when bad things happen in the world? This, Steve argues, is another example of how we have become lost in translation.

Reflecting on conversations he’s had with scholars, such as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Steve argues that the word in Hebrew that has been translated into “wrath” and “anger” actually more closely resembles ”anguish.” This distinction is important because “anguish” comes from a place of love, whereas “wrath” and “anger” tend to originate in vengeance. As Steve puts it, “If God is love, then every action and reaction dealing with humanity flows out of love.”

For example, when we think of what makes a good parent it’s not someone who disciplines their child to seek revenge or for personal retribution. Steve reflects on how, “Love drives parents to serve their children devotedly and unselfishly, to look over and forgive shortcomings, often without any apology, let alone thanks.” In the same way, God’s anguish is a testament to how intrinsic love is to who he is. 

So what do you think? If God is love and Jesus favourite description of him was as a father, do you think that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks definition of God’s response to our self-centeredness and rebellion as anguish rather than wrath makes sense or ducks the issue?

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Thank you for this explanation of God's "wrath". I agree it does make more sense when looking at the character of God. I had always struggled with the passages (mainly at the time of Moses and Joshua) which talk about God demanding that every life of the enemy be taken. Recently (the last year or two) I have changed my thinking, having found the writings of Peter Enns ("The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It" and his other books) very helpful indeed.
Because I'm writing an essay (it might become a book if I can be persuaded) about how I changed my thinking on the LGBT issue, basing my arguments from scripture, I was trying to list as many characteristics of God as I could. I came up with 41, count them! Awesome, Compassionate, Conqueror, Counselor, Creator, Deliverer, Encourager, Eternal, Faithfull, Forgiving, Generous, Gentle, Goodness, Gracious, Helper, Holiness, Immanent/Fully present and accessible, Immutable/Unchanging, Infinitude, Justice, Love, Loyal, Majestic, Mercy, Omnipotent, Omnipresence, Omniscient, Patient, Righteous, Self-existence, Self-sufficient, Sovereignty, Sustainer, Tolerant/Slow to anger, Transcendent , Trinity, Truth, Wisdom, Zealous.
I didn't include wrath or anger in that list because it is implicit in being Tolerant/slow to anger, because there always comes a point where tolerance comes to an end - being exiled to Babylon, after generations of idolatry and rebellion. Now, if the dominant characteristic of God was wrath, how many of those other characteristics would be contradictory or inconsistant with that nature? It seems to me, a debateable 18, though the exact number is immaterial. To see a God who is anguished about his people is very much more positive and consistent with the other elements of His nature, though there will be times when he is angered, just like a parent is angered, but that anger will be constrained by his love, not like a bomb detonating.

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