Friday, January 28, 2011

My Brain Hurts Like Hell!

Do we follow a wrathful God?

Did God crucify his son?

Is God responsible for Hell?

These are just a few of the questions that popped up in a conversation I was having with a friend yesterday. Needless to say, I was struck dumb. But then my brain had some time to catch up and here are a few of my thoughts:

How do you explain God's wrath? He wiped out nations in the OT didn't he? He delivered up his son to the cross with full foreknowledge. His very first Covenant with Abraham involved butchering animals!

To our western modern minds if God doesn't seem evil, he certainly seems to dabble in it with his wrath. I want to take a close look at this suspicion in this short blog and see if I can take a swing at this issue. Forgive me as I may miss the mark completely! I'm wading into some mystery here. I welcome any comments and help you may have.

Let's start with the fall of Adam and Eve. They willfully tried to become like God. There's was a grasping mistrust in the love of God similar to our thoughts today. This mistrust has warped our view of God's good wrath as well. And it's warped my thinking so that many better minds who read this could help me. Help!

Adam and Eve brought the curse into this world. God cursed it, because He's good and they had rejected him. So is God responsible for evil? No. We are. Is he in control, yes. For he cursed creation. I don't believe he cursed like we curse, in some sort of spiteful "curse you" manner. He intervened like a man who sees a woman being beaten on the street. He saw his creation being abused by us since the only order that really is good is centered on him. We attempted to center it on us. So he withdrew some of his goodness that held things together. Obviously he left some of his goodness in that everything didn't go "BOOM!" But it was quite a curse for he is quite good!

Let's look at the cross. Who put Jesus on the cross? For that matter, who invented crucifixion? Humans did. We put him there physically, and we invented the device by which he died.
What did God do in the crucifixion? He was willing to have his son put to death, take on the curse of the fall and to withdraw his presence. The lack of God's presence, the presence without which there is no good, means all that is left is hell. Jesus felt the full rupture of broken relationship for us. He felt the full good wrath of God towards evil. He felt the anger God feels towards our evil.

The biblical pattern seems to be that God turns people over to their own evil desires. This is their punishment. And he turned Jesus over to the world's evil.

Now let's look at Hell. Is it God's invention? I know I'm on tricky ground here, but I don't think Hell is God's invention in that he was sitting around and was thinking, "I'd really like for people to burn in a lake of eternal fire." I believe it's our invention. His wrath is holy and good, he is angry and hates sin. So what does he do? He punishes by withdrawing his presence, protecting all that is good, and we are left with hell. The hell of our own making. His grace is that he puts boundaries on hell. Now I feel like I may be off here, God's wrath is active, but it seems to be active through scripture in order to protect his good creation.

So what does this leave us with? A good God who's interaction with evil is to destroy it. He feels great good wrath towards it. This may be a more helpful paradigm than thinking of God inventing hell, maliciously inventing a curse for mankind, and actively sacrificing his own son. I don't know and welcome your feedback.

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