Views on God’s Wrath in Romans 1

This week I’m preaching on Romans 1:18-32 – probably one of the most culturally offensive passages of scripture – but also one of the most important for it shows us the reality of God’s wrath against sinful humanity.

One of the more “offensive” parts is that God is a God of wrath. Culture hates this. The general public refuses to see any anger in God and opts instead for a pale-version of love. A love that has no regard for right or wrong or justice. But God’s wrath is certainly in the Bible and its super clear in Romans 1:18. So what is God’s wrath in this verse? Here are a few options:

  • It is God’s handing of people over to the natural outworking of their sinful behavior in the present time. – Moo
  • It is what is revealed in the preaching of the gospel, for the preaching of the cross is what makes know the seriousness of sin that calls for God’s wrath and the grace of God in producing salvation. – Barth
  • It is the future pouring out of God’s wrath.
  • It is both the present outworking and future judgment. – Dunn

Its this last option which the most attractive for it captures the overarching narrative of scripture well and it also takes account of what is presently being revealed (1:18) and the notion that wrath is being stored up for a future day (2:5).

Exploring Christology and Atonement with CMT

In Exploring Christology and Atonement: Conversations with John McLeod Campbell, H.R. Mackintosh and T.F. Torrance Andrew Purves unites two often divided aspects of Christology – the person and work of Christ. Through engagement with the work of Campbell, Mackintosh, and Torrance Purves shows how this Scottish “school” of theology can help shape the practice of our faith. Although Purves is clear that he doesn’t want to separate the person and work of Christ he finds it necessary to divide the book into two sections: Christology and Atonement. Under the rubric of Christology he covers the basic questions of Christology, the hypostatic union, and union with Christ all from the perspective of these three Scottish theologians (CMT). He follows the work of CMT and argues for an a posteriori account of Christology, one which beings with the revelation of God in Christ as opposed to a form of theology which attempts to do Christology by following the logic of already-held-to beliefs about God.

Purves devotes one chapter to each of CMT’s theology of atonement. For each of the three theologians he emphasizes the centrality of filial rather than forensic language in atonement, the character of God, God’s opposition to Sin, the importance of including the life of Jesus into ay atonement theory, the bi-directionality of Christ’s work, and that God is not the object of atonement but rather the subject of atonement.

Rather than focus on Purves’s account of McLeod Campbell or Mackintosh, I will focus the majority of my critique on his account of T.F. Torrance. Purves gets Torrance mostly right. He accurately covers his understanding of the atonement as a “mystery,” he notes Torrance’s hesitations about penal substitution, he emphasizes the bidirectionality of Christ’s work, he makes the hypostatic union a key part of his explanation of Torrance’s atonement theory, he even notes the Torrance’s views on the extent of atonement. All of this is great. But there is a major piece left out of Purves’ account – the role of recapitulation in Torrance’s theory of atonement. While Purves does not that “the whole life of Jesus, including his death, consistutes reconciliation” (227) – He fails to devote any significant discussion to the role that Patristic theology has on his theory of atonement. Torrance says that by “living all of life through the whole course of our human existence (enhypostasis), Jesus Christ achieved within our creaturely being that union between God and man that constitutes the heart of atonement. He explains that his whole life was a redemptive operation because throughout his whole life, the forces of evil waged war against him and against the union between God and man. These forces sought to “divide the human life of the Son on earth from the life of the Father above, to divide the divine and human natures in Christ himself.” In order to be “victorious” against these forces, Christ would need to live the whole human life out (enhypostasis) all the way through death and resurrection maintaining the union between human nature and God. Thus we clearly see Patristic influences upon his theology.

In addition to this major gap in Purves’ coverage of Torrance there are two more general critiques that need to be noted. First it is that Purves overemphasizes the filial-relational aspects of atonement to the complete detriment of any forensic elements that are clearly there. Second, Purves fails to critically engage with any of these theologians in a substantive way. Towards the end of each chapter he brings up a few small issues he has with each theologian, but his critiques seem to be more of an afterthought. In summary – his coverage of each theologian is just a summary. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but its not what you would expect from a book that claims to be a “conversation” with CMT.

Despite these flaws – the readers of this book will certainly come away with a deeper understanding of CMT’s position. That is something which I applaud, not only because it means that Purves represented them faithfully, but because CMT’s theology is a theology which refuses to separate academic theology from piety. Thus the reader will be thrown in to the beauty of the gospel and will (if they take Purves’s words seriously) come away with a deeper appreciation of who Christ is and what he has done for us.

Tolerance is impossible…

To insist that all religions are right, that all the roads are going to the same place, is actually silly… We’d have to be intellectually intolerant.

Hitler, for example, believed he was on a divine mission… Nazism really had very religious roots, and yet the world by consensus has decided that it’s not valid. As soon as you send judgment on that particular religion, then you’re already denying your original principle.

Theological tolerance of religions is absolutely impossible for anybody. When you say to me, “You mustn’t try to convert people to your religion, as if your religion is superior,” what you’re really saying is, “I want you to abandon your inferior view of religious truth and take my superior view”… [saying] that your view of religious truth— that all religion is relative— is superior to my religious truth— that some religious truths are absolute. And so you’re doing the very thing you say I shouldn’t do… What you’re immediately saying is “Your road doesn’t go the same place. You’re actually saying, “My view of religion is superior to your view of religion.”

So to say all religions are relative is a religion… To say you can’t judge between religions is to judge between religions. To say you can’t determine right and wrong beliefs is a determination of right and wrong beliefs… To insist that no religious truth is superior (and by doing that insist that your religious truth is superior) is completely inconsistent.

-Tim Keller from “Authentic Christianity”

Why Do Christology?

Why do Christology? Mackintosh suggests that four motives may be found in the New Testament itself:

  1. It was believed that Jesus was the fulfillment of OT prophecy, and that God’s revelation ended with him. If so, who was/is he?
  2. Jesus exaltation and his gift of the Spirit mean that he is Lord, begetting in believers as a transcendent life and a hope in his coming again to be revealed as central and omnipotent. If so, who was/is he?
  3. The apostolic church, extending the mission beyond the Jewish circle, discovered that Jesus was for the whole world. His significance was universal. If so, who was/is he?
  4. The self-witness of Jesus quickened the thought of his awareness of a unique sonship, which raised all manner of questions concerning his relationship to God. If so, who was/is he?
In Andrew Purves - Exploring Christology and Atonement - pg. 76

Thomas F. Torrance and the Problem of Universalism

If you have access to the Scottish Journal of Theology (probably through your school library) and are into T.F. Torrance then I recommend that you take a look at Paul Molnar’s article Thomas F. Torrance and the problem of universalism.

You can find it in the May 2015 issue. Here’s the abstract:

While Karl Barth and Thomas F. Torrance both believed in the possibility of universal salvation, they also rejected the idea that we could make a final determination about this possibility prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Hence, both theologians rejected what may be called a doctrine of universal salvation in the interest of respecting God’s freedom to determine the outcome of salvation history in accordance with the love which was revealed in and through the death and resurrection of Jesus himself. This article explores Torrance’s reasons for holding that ‘the voice of the Catholic Church . . . throughout all ages has consistently judged universalism a heresy for faith and a menace to the Gospel’. Torrance expressly believed in the ‘universality of Christ’s saving work’ but rejected ‘universalism’ and any idea of ‘limited atonement’. He considered both of these views to be rationalistic approaches which ignore the need for eschatological reserve when thinking about what happens at the end when Christ comes again and consequently tend to read back logical necessities into the gospel of free grace. Whenever this happens, Torrance held that the true meaning of election as the basis for Christian hope is lost and some version of limited atonement or determinism invariably follows. The ultimate problem with universalism then, from Torrance’s perspective, can be traced to a form of Nestorian thinking with respect to christology and to a theoretical and practical separation of the person of Christ from his atoning work for us. What I hope to show in this article is that those who advance a ‘doctrine of universalism’ as opposed to its possibility also have an inadequate understanding of the Trinity. Interestingly, Torrance objected to the thinking of John A. T. Robinson and Rudolf Bultmann because both theologians, in their own way, separated knowledge of God for us from knowledge of who God is ‘in himself’. Any such thinking transfers our knowledge of God and of salvation from the objective knowledge of God given in revelation to a type of symbolic, mythological or existential knowledge projected from one’s experience of faith and this once again opens the door to both limited atonement and to universalism. Against this Torrance insisted that we cannot speak objectively about what God is doing for us unless we can speak analogically about who God is in himself.


The Story That Chooses Us (Themelios)

The new issue of Themelios is now out – you can download it for free as a pdf or (for a short time) free for Logos. In this issue you will find a lot of engagement with Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin. You will also find reviews of some interesting books like Thomas F. Torrance and the Church Fathers: A Reformed, Evangelical and Ecumenical Reconstruction of the Patristic Tradition and Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics and of course my review of George Hunsberger’s The Story that Chooses Us: A Tapestry of Missional Vision.

Here is an excerpt but you can read the rest on the Themelios website:

“The Chinese character for crisis, we are told, is a combination of the characters for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’” (p. 118). Many missiologists would agree that the church is currently presented with both. It will have to decide how it will face those dangers and opportunities. Over the last several decades missiologist George The Story that Chooses UsHunsberger has written many essays in order to help the church face this crisis of missional identity and practice. The Story that Chooses Us collects some of these. Covering topics like calling, community, and formation, these essays contain a number of reoccurring themes that weave cohesively into what Hunsberger calls “a tapestry of missional-ecclesial vision” (p. ix). The overall scope of this project is wide and the topics addressed are diverse, yet these reoccurring themes bring a sense of cohesion. Instead of addressing individual chapters in this review, I will cover some of these themes (the current crisis of the church, the current shape of the church, the identity of the church, the mission of the church) and offer some critical thoughts about this collection of essays…..

Ed Catumll – Creativity Inc: Interview – GLS15

Brian Catmull is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Ed has been honored with five Academy Awards, including a Technical Achievement Award, two Scientific and Engineering Awards, and one Academy Award of Merit for his work. In 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Catmull with the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for his lifetime of technical contributions and leadership in the field of computer graphics for the motion picture industry.

He he was also interviewed by Bill Hybels at the 2015 Global Leadership Summit. Here are some highlights!

Global Leadership Summit


One of the great misconceptions of our time is that art and science are incongruous – but creativity is the same on both sides.

A lot of people misconceive stories… they think of them as entertainment a way to wind down etc. but stories are the way we communicate with eachother. i.e. parent to child, in school, etc.

The Good stories are the ones that connect with the emotions.

You aren’t going to tell a good story till you learn to communicate with people on a deeper level.

The Braintrust

  • Peers talking to peers
  • In that room – there is no power structure (people already feel vulnerable if they feel like someone is already going to override them they won’t expose themselves.)
  • They have a vested interest in eachother’s success

Creativity is about solving problems. Coming up with solutions is a creative act.

Fail early, fail fast, it’s a part of the creative process. (We aren’t saying you NEED to fail, just that we need to make it safe to fail – because in doing this you will progress faster.)

Stories are what going to be what change our world. (Education, Marketing, Movies, etc.) You can abuse it but you can also use it for good.


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