Tag Archives: dualism

Is God a “God of wrath”? Several reasons why He isn’t.

A rather interesting discussion on Facebook began when a friend of mine posted the following:

The Prince of Peace also is the holy, righteous, and just God of wrath.

Justice is the reason for wrath

Justice, not wrath. In order for God to be a “God of wrath” there would need to be something for God to display his wrath to for eternity, making sin a necessity, which would entail dualism.

Peace and wrath are incompatible as eternal states of being. Wrath may be displayed in order to bring about peace, but in that case it is merely a means to an end, namely a just or peaceful state of affairs.

Further, wrath, like hatred, is nowhere stated as being a part of God’s character. Presumably because before God chose to create, when there was naught but the trinity in a state of complete perfection, there was no need for God to hate or display his wrath to bring about a just state of peace.

But doesn’t the Bible say that God is also wrathful?

Hebrews 1:9 says, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.” God’s attributes are perfectly balanced in His divine perfection. The wrath of God is always perfect just as is His love, always. Man has a hard time understanding this because man’s wrath is almost always compromised by the presence of sin, therefore they cannot place that attribute upon God. The word says, and I believe it.

This is not something you can make an appeal to mystery for and then just walk away and pretend as if you’ve avoided the issue. The fact remains that if wrath is a part of God’s character as opposed to merely something God employed in time in regards to finite beings, there would need to be a timeless, infinite object of God’s wrath. That would raise such an object of wrath to a position of sharing other attributes God alone possesses. Namely being a necessary as opposed to contingent being.

So just as wickedness is not eternal, neither is the need to punish it. Justice, and love, however, are.

Let’s approach this from another angle: If wrath is a part of God’s character, who was God displaying wrath to for eternity past? Sinners? Are we willing to say that men and angles are uncreated eternal beings?

There is a difference between God’s actions in time vs. character traits that are a part of God’s nature. So no, God is not jealous in that He was jealous before time began since that would also require there to be something God is jealous of.

I suppose a point of difficulty for us1 is our notion of time and God’s relation to it. I would maintain that God is not immutable in the sense that most reformed people view Him as (which would also make it impossible for God to think, act, speak, etc.) but that God entered into time when He decided to create so that there are some tensed truths we can say of God now that have not always been and will not always be true. Being wrathful is one of those truths, as is being jealous.

And as fine a point as it may be2, I believe it is important to make a distinction between the means and the ends. God’s wrath is not an end in itself but rather a means to an end. The same goes for God’s jealousy.

Isn’t wrath an integral part of justice? Who did God display justice to before man was created?

Wes, your first response to the “God of wrath” statement was, “Justice, not wrath. In order for God to be a “God of wrath” there would need to be something for God to display his wrath to for eternity, making sin a necessity, which would entail dualism.”

Under your hypothesis, Wes, how could He be a God of justice, because as you later stated, “Let’s approach this from another angle: If wrath is a part of God’s character, who was God displaying wrath to for eternity past? Sinners?”

Let’s approach it from your angle, Wes. If you deny the God of wrath because there were no sinners in eternity past for His wrath to be displayed upon, why can you freely accept the God of justice prior to the need for justice under the same conditions? Who would He need to display justice to? (emphasis mine)

Himself.

Justice is indeed needed, but there can be a just state of affairs without the need for anything to be done to maintain that state of affairs.

God is wholly just and therefore complete in Himself. The question of God’s character including wrath has a direct bearing on His aseity or completeness within Himself.

The key here in my estimation is to remove man from the equation completely lest we get sidetracked by immaterial issues when discussing what constitutes the character of God.

So in the case of wrath, we should ask how that character trait was expressed before man was ever created. When we talk to others about God being a God of love, for example, we gain a distinct advantage over those who also claim God is love but do not accept the trinity (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, etc.). In this case we can say that God was, in eternity past, in a loving relationship in the trinity so that love and community itself become necessary character traits of God and not merely derived character traits that only come into existence after other agents were created.

Conclusion

I’ve found that people who are intent on portraying God as a “God of wrath” are bad philosophers who are often unaware of the problems, the mental time bombs, they create for others. Many times I’ve found people who adopt a view of wrath being a part of God’s character are, themselves, quite bitter and otherwise unpleasant people. In those cases it appears that the attribution of wrath to God is little more than a projection of themselves.

However we must, if we are serious about maturing and become approved workmen in the Kingdom of God, examine this issue carefully. We must pay close attention to the implications of our assertions.

God does display his wrath to sinners. But that wrath is not an end in itself. Wrath is something God uses in relation to the justice and holiness that make up God’s character.

  1. By “us”, I mean those who prefer to picture God as being eternally wrathful. []
  2. At this point, some were whining about this being a pointless argument. A tactic that is taken by those who wish not to think too deeply about an issue. []
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Implications of a pattern matching mind

I recently wrote a post on the pattern matching ability of the human mind, here I want to explore the implications of that pattern-matching ability a bit more.

My contention with the mind being a pattern matching machine is that in order to match for patterns, we must first be aware of a pattern to match for in the first place. So it is incumbent on every worldview, theist and atheist alike, to come up with a reasonable explanation for why this is.

According to Darwinism, natural selection operates according to random mutations. Now I realize that modern naturalistic apologists like to object and say that its not random but rather directed by forces of some kind or another. But that only pushes the problem back one step (where did these forces come from and why do they bear the marks of intelligence?) and it still fails to demonstrate why men in particular have an innate desire to match for metaphysical realities like the existence of moral patterns.

My observation above is made against the backdrop of the argument for God based on consciousness (more info here and here).

I’m not sure if you ever answered my question about the mind earlier, but the question about whether we are merely a collection of molecules in motion, animated for a brief time and then transferred to some other part of the universe, has a significant bearing on how we live our lives, how we view the world, and how we interact with others.

So we have at least two good reasons to believe in the existence of an intelligent designer, who at this point we haven’t said much about. As for who that intelligent agent is, we would need something more than the general characteristics we are able to discover from their handiwork (an agent’s creation can’t, by definition, be on par with itself). We would need special revelation if we were to know who that designer is. That means that

  1. the agent would have to want to be known and
  2. that the agent desires some sort of relationship with us since communication implies a relationship of some sort

Now as for sources of revelation, not all are created equally or with the same intents and purposes in mind. Like the transmission of objective truth claims regarding reality. In Hinduism, what we observe around is us known as Maya, or merely an illusion. How we would know that to be the case is unclear. Actually, because of such a view of reality Hindus are wholly unconcerned with whether the propositional statements made by their texts actually conform with reality (ie are true) or not. After all, if its all an illusion, why bother with the particulars of such an illusion.

Likewise, the central thrust of Buddhism is towards nothingness. Its a lot like atheism in that regard. And since nothing is the universal aim of life, it makes little sense to consider the particulars.

Contrasted to all of this is monotheistic belief in a personal God where in an intelligent agent designed the universe and us, has endowed us with epistemic resources that are well suited for the environment in which we find ourselves, and who encourages us to know

  1. Him
  2. Ourselves
  3. The environment

Its out of this worldview that science emerged, and its out of this worldview we’ve made much progress by way of understanding our surroundings.

Where we begin our epistemic journey of discovery of the world around us matters. It matters whether we will even begin the journey in the first place. And it matters whether we can trust the data our epistemic resources like our mind and senses, provide us.

So, the questions for us to consider are:

  1. What is the mind?
  2. How did it come about?
  3. How do we know we can trust it?