Wednesday, April 14, 2010

John R. W. Stott on the Wrath of God

I find this book to be so incredibly quotable and deeply spiritual - worthy of meditation. Surely this is what St. Benedict meant by the "spiritual reading" he prescribed for his monks. I haven't read it in over twenty years and I'm finding it full of rich and beautiful theology written at a level that approaches poetry at times.

Here is Stott on how different is the wrath of God from our wrath:
"What provokes our anger (injured vanity) never provokes his; what provokes his anger (evil) seldom provokes our's." (p. 173)
This is a pithy commentary on the contemporary Church that is devastating it its simplicity and profundity. Stott elaborates further:
"To speak of God's anger is a legitimate anthropomorphism, provided that we recognize it as no more than a rough and ready parallel, since God's anger is absolutely pure, and uncontaminated by those elements which render human anger sinful. Human anger is usually arbitrary and uninhibited; divine anger is always principled and controlled. Our anger tends to be a spasmodic outburst, aroused by pique and seeking revenge; God's is a continuous, settled antagonism, aroused only by evil, and expressed in its condemnation. God is entirely free from personal animosity or vindictiveness; indeed, he is sustained simultaneously with undiminished love for the offender." (p. 106)
And then there is this longer quote on the source of God's wrath:
"Closely related to God's holiness is his wrath, which is in fact his holy reaction to evil." (p. 103)
That phrase describing God's wrath as "a continuous, settled antagonism, aroused only by evil" is a hauntingly beautiful one. It lifts the mind up to the contemplation of the greatest power in the universe and bids us bow in silence.

And then to think of this wrath as existing in God simultaneously with "undiminished love for the offender" is almost beyond the power of the mind even to grasp, let alone comprehend.

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