There's never, for me, enough time for this sort of thing. When my daughter asked what I wanted for Christmas, an extra day each week made the list. She said it would be hard to wrap. ;-)
Right now the topic that's front and center in my studies is that of God's Wrath. Yeah, I know, not something that most people would study in their spare time. I'm not most people, though, and as I make "A Careful Turn" in my understanding of the ways of God, I have found that it's really important to get ideas about it at least somewhat clear. I mentioned some of the whys toward the end of yesterday's "What's Wrong with this Picture" post.
So, as I was doing other things yesterday I listened to a sermon on God's Wrath by David Legge (based on Romans 1:18ff).** I started a slow read through a 100 page article on the subject too -- one that I found in The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
I'm focusing on God's Wrath right now because I want to carefully consider whether the way "Trinitarian Theology" deals with the topic is as helpful as seems to be. Last night as I was getting ready for bed the idea occurred to me that perhaps what the Bible describes as God's Wrath (or anger, or punishment) might be more way human beings understand the consequences of turning away from God. Maybe it's not that God actively comes against people when they sin, but, instead, that the "turning away from God" that is a part of sin brings dreadful consequences that are experienced as God's anger. Perhaps it's not that God actively curses or destroys "unrepentant sinners." Perhaps it's just that apart from God there is no blessing.
In An introduction to Trinitarian Theology by Michael Morrison*** (click here to read it -- it's quite long, about 20 pages) the author warns his readers against reading too much into what he calls the "metaphor" of "courtroom terminology" that we find in the Bible. Here's a quotation:
Michael Morrison says:
"...What has happened here is that people have let a legal metaphor, a figure of speech, become the controlling description of what God is doing. Remember, all our words are based on human experiences, and the meaning of our words depends on how they are used in human affairs. And when God sometimes uses courtroom terminology to describe sin and salvation, we should not let our concepts of legal procedure to be the final description of what God is doing. When we say that the penalty of sin is death, we should not think that 'penalty' is an exact description of what is going on, as if God is obligated to inflict punishment for every transgression of his law. No, it seems that 'consequence' would be a more appropriate term. The result of sin is death, even without God having to step in to inflict it..."There's a lot more work I need to do in this time of prayer and study on this topic, but right now I need to put this away. I've got some reading to do for my job (going through the Bus Operators Rule Book and Guide) plus we have friends coming over for the evening.
I'm grateful for the time my so-called part time work gives me to pray and study, but I'm still hoping for that extra day of the week. Maybe for my 60th birthday this May!
* My current M-F schedule takes me to Metro Transit for 3 hours in the morning (beginning at about 5:20) and again for about 5 hours in the afternoon (beginning at about 2:20). Those hours include my 20-minute two round trip commutes. I get about 6 hours 45 minutes of paid work time each day, which is paid right now at a rate that leaves us with more expenses than income, but we're confident that Toni's income from her massage therapy business will be increasing in February and March.
** David Legge's message "The Wrath of God" claims that a person (like me) must understand they are under God's wrath, that is, that God will be inflicting horrible punishment as the just and fair punishment for their sin. His belief is that unless a person understands that, he or she will not understand the good news of Jesus, who saves from that punishment by taking it on himself. I've heard the same belief being stated by many preachers over the years.
*** Michael Morrison is "a Dean of Faculty and Instructor in New Testament for Grace Communion Seminary." At this link you can find a long list of articles he has written, including one entitled "Does God Want to Punish Sinners, or Rescue Them." It's a reflection on the same scripture section David Legge treats in his sermon message mentioned above.