Monday, September 05, 2011

Regarding The Wrath of God

I passed by this church the other day (identifying marks removed from the photo to protect the guilty). In case you haven't clicked on the image to read the sign, it says "911 Destruction - Forecast of a Greater Wrath Predicted."

Now, I expect that a great many churches will choose to recognize the 10-year anniversary of the tragic events in New York and elsewhere. It's become so much a part of our cultural fabric that it's hard to imagine not saying something about it. Even so, surely this is not the way to go about it!

Now, I have to admit, there's the side of me that wants to put my initial impulse in check. The side that acknowledges that the Bible does indeed have plenty to say about the wrath of God, and that knows that these passages should be taken seriously. But even so, I find that I simply cannot justify this attempt to use the anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies our country has ever faced and use it to promote a thoroughly warped (in my opinion) sense of eschatology.

I'm not trying to suggest some variation of universal-salvation theology that suggests that predictions of "greater wrath" are unimportant. There is plenty of room to discuss how God might use warnings of wrath to teach God's people the consequences of ungodly behavior. But a sign like this isn't used purely to teach followers of Christ about Christian theology (and even to the extent it might serve this purpose, it's a pretty blunt instrument), or even exclusively to tell church members what the next sermon will be about. It also serves as an introduction to Christianity for anyone who might happen to pass by. As such, the church sign represents an opportunity to share the gospel with outsiders in a basic form. So, if you only had such a limited space with which to share the gospel with someone, what would you tell them?

Of course, I don't think the gospel really can be shared in the span of a line or two. It takes time spent developing one's relationship with God. Time spent in conversation with believers. Time spent reading the Bible. Time spent in prayer. Not necessarily in that order.

At best, such a sign-message can only get things started. But if the gospel must be reduced to a single sentence, I remain adamant that warning people about an even greater wrath than 9/11 is most assuredly not the way to do it. If this was all there were to God, God wouldn't be worthy of our worship. Such a God should be opposed (however futile this opposition might ultimately be), not followed.

Thankfully, there's much more to our God than that.

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