Reconciling God’s Love with God’s Wrath

Wrath is an aspect of God’s nature that every Christian should understand, but we tend to shy away from. Justin Taylor looks at the Old Testament fire-and-brimstone God from a New Testament perspective, asking “How could God command genocide in the Old Testament?

It is commonplace in our culture to ask whether this or that was fair or just for God to do. But if you stop to think about it, the question itself is actually illegitimate. Merely asking it presupposes that we are the judge; we will put “God in the dock” and examine him; God must conform to our sense of fairness and rightness and justice—if God passes the test, well and good, but if he doesn’t, we’ll be upset and become the accuser. Perish the thought. As Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “all God’s ways are justice”—by definition. If God does it, it is just. (And since the triune God is inherently relational, the Bible says that God is love—and therefore all of his justice is ultimately born from and aiming toward love.) To think otherwise is the ultimate act of arrogance, putting your own mind and opinions and conceptions as the ultimate standard of the universe. 

This does not, however, preclude humble questioning and seeking in order to gain greater understanding. While it is ultimately illegitimate to ask if God’s ways are just in securing the Promised Land, it is perfectly appropriate and edifying to seek understanding on how God’s ways are just—whether in commissioning the destruction of the Canaanites or in any other action. This is the task of theology—seeing how various aspects of God’s truth and revelation cohere.

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