In his most recent blog post, Roger Olson asks whether we can dispense of the “wrath of God” from our theology, sermons, and hymns. Remember the dust-up in the PCUSA regarding “In Christ Alone”? Olson, of course, doesn’t believe we can or should but notices that even most evangelicals seem to be doing so. Here, Olson makes a startling but insightful connection between the infamous “Jefferson Bible” and what many contemporary Christians are doing with the concept of God’s wrath.
When was the last time you heard a sermon in a non-fundamentalist context about the wrath of God? I haven’t heard the wrath of God mentioned in church in a very long time. Very few theology books discuss the theme of God’s wrath. I would argue that it is gradually becoming otiose if not dying out completely (outside of fundamentalist circles).
There’s only one problem with that (assuming it is happening): the Bible, which most Christians claim as their main source for faith and life, contains a great deal about the wrath of God. Are we perhaps joining Thomas Jefferson in excising Scripture of all that we find unreasonable or offensive?
That last question should give us pause.
One of Olson’s main points—which I’ve preached many times—is that God’s wrath must be a necessary consequence of God’s love.
I also found these words from Olson about atonement, from the comments section, very helpful. God the Father, to say the least, was not committing “cosmic child abuse” on the cross:
I do not know of any serious historical-theological theory of atonement that says God violently punished Jesus without adding immediately that Jesus was God voluntarily suffering God’s own wrath. Both the satisfaction theory of Anselm and the penal substitution theory of Calvin (as opposed to caricatures of both) emphasize the triunity of God and deity of Christ. He was not just a man picked up by God to be made a victim for us; he was God himself voluntarily suffering the consequence of sin in order justly to forgive us.