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Can God Possibly be Angry?

May 22, 2015

I’m about to finish Jesus Against Christianity: Reclaiming the Missing Jesus by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. Incredible book! (More coming on that later.) His central point about the nonviolent God revealed by the nonviolent Jesus is absolutely crucial for a healthy faith both personally and on a community, societal or global level.

The point for today’s post is that God can be totally nonviolent (against the “common sense” of most people) if God is unthreatened and loves unconditionally (as “orthodoxy” and most Christians state).

So earlier today I saw that Kathy Escobar’s latest blog post, “Underneath Anger”, here, is closely related to nonviolence.   It’s part of a “synchroblog” and links to another great post by Michael Roden titled “Anger is not a Godly Emotion”, here.  By the title Michael means God does not have such an emotion, not that we should expect ourselves never to have it.

The logic is very tight.  He is correct.

However, this raises major issues for most Christians, which I address in the comment I posted on the thread as follows:

Great article! Important insights on the source and control of anger. And I fully agree: God has no occasion for either fear or anger.

But, for “believers” and all readers of Scripture this immediately raises the question, “What about all the passages in which God IS angry, jealous, punishing, vengeful?” Either one must jettison the kind of God you rightly describe or acknowledge that Scripture writers often projected HUMAN emotions and traits onto God… created God in our image.

Even the way Jesus is sometimes “quoted” and portrayed in the Gospels and in Revelation shows this same distortion. It creates irreconcilable contradictions in what he said and was. It really leaves us no choice than to recognize the human flaws in the Bible; and to do the emotionally and intellectually HARD WORK of “critical reading” of the Bible. Only then can we have intellectual integrity in discerning that the “revelation” in it is of the truly unconditional, unthreatened love that is God’s nature… which precludes ANY anger, wrath, punishment, coercion, etc.

How do you deal with the biblical passages and the common conception of most that God is often angry, either with us personally or with our society, our world? 

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2015 1:47 pm

    Very well said Howard. I read Nelson-Palmeyer’s book several years ago, and still consult it. Another excellent book that covers similar themes is John Philip Newell’s “The Rebirthing of God,” which I just finished reading.

    • May 22, 2015 9:38 pm

      Thanks much! Good to hear you liked and still consult the book (review coming eventually). Also good to know of Newell’s book… not encountered it yet, but now I expect to. Just when I think things can’t be stated much better than I’ve already read, or more of the Bible “decoded” than what my decades of study have uncovered, yet another book proves me quite wrong…. BTW, did you notice my review of “Integral Christianity” on the blog? Have you read that one, by Paul Smith? Profound and important!

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