Is God Angry at Sin?
"So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horseâ€™s bridle, for 1,600 stadia." Revelation 14:19-20
"He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." Revelation 19:15-16
For those few of you not familiar with him, Rob Bell is one of the leading spokesmen of the emerging (t) church and was featured in a recent Time magazine article. He prides himself on teaching a God of love and not one of condemnation. But his recent â€œThe Gods Are Not Angryâ€ tour, as one blogger pointed out, sounded more like Oprah's god than any semblance of one which represented Christ. Unlike Oprah, whose followers are mostly women over 50, Bells' disciples are predominately young 20-something males.
One of the main messages that Bell is communicating to his audience, for which he gets standing ovations, is that 'God is not angry because God is love'. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It should because it is the vision of god which we hear from pop-culture every day. So from all appearances, Bell is essentially saying is that we should abandon the God of the Bible for a more user-friendly version. How is this different than the anti-doctrinal tactic already used by today's mega-churches? Well, not much except that it is dressed in postmodern garb. It avoids doctrine and goes straight for practice (not orthodoxy but orthopraxy). In other words, it is just 19th & 20th century liberalism refashioned for the current age. Jesus without content and thus Jesus without grace.
It is not Christianity. How do I know? Consider the following question:
Do you believe you justly deserve the wrath of God save for Christ's mercy alone?
Can someone even be a Christian if they cannot unhesitatingly affirm this?
This is and has been a historic confession of the church (based on no small number of Scriptures) for those who come to faith in Christ. Anyone who cannot affirm this, we must boldly affirm, has not even understood the most basic truth about Jesus and the gospel. Fact is, a person cannot truly know themselves unless they have encountered the majesty of God Almighty. If His holiness, sovereignty, and wrath are not preached together with His mercy, and love then the true God has not been preached at all. Bell and others appear to be merely adjusting their idea of god to their their desires and perceived needs.
Perhaps they are worried that many are preaching in a way that will offend especially if we speak of God's wrath. But if we have a robust gospel which includes ourselves among those who have worshipped false gods and continue to fall short, and if we affirm that we are no better ... and but for the grace of God we would be worse, then there is little to no danger of a message that unnecessarily offends. If we are fellow beggars just pointing the way to bread then it is the opposite of self-righteousness. This means we need to take our cue, not from fundamentalists or from the purpose driven movement, but from the Reformed tradition. Many in the emergent movement are reacting to an Arminian or semi-pelagian fundamentalist preaching of the wrath of God, not a Christ-centered, gospel-driven one. I would agree that they re right to react against what they were taught in legalistic, fundamentalistic churches, but rejecting the plain Text of Scripture is not the answer. A robust understanding of the sovereign grace of God is the answer.
When we teach the gospel, if we do not point out sin, our idolatry and moral rebellion against a holy God then we are not doing anyone a favor, but are harming them and ourselves. Christ is the remedy for sin, and if we merely preach him as a nice example who teaches us to do nice things to others then we misrepresent him and, in fact, teach legalism again. A true Christian is one who has â€œno confidence in the fleshâ€. This means a person who has utterly despaired of themselves. When the Holy Spirit does a work of grace in someone in the hearing of the Law, He convicts them of their sin. Not just sins, but convicts of the fact that they are sinners by nature and can do nothing to save themselves. There is no pride in physical decent or in natural abilities. This means one who is brought to faith, repents of both their good works and their evil works. Both are equally worthless to God. False teaching, on on the other hand, glories in something other than in Christ alone, always pointing to something that we can do; a resumÃ© we can bring before God to curry His favor, not realizing that He has already adopted us as sons. Not unlike the older brother in the Prodigal son who glories that he has worked for his father all his life, not realizing that God does not first ask us to meet conditions to obtain his love. Those who have confidence in the flesh also tend to believe in Christ PLUS this or that. That Christ saved them, but they must maintain their justification before God by doing something. Glorying in Christ is the antithesis of glorying in the flesh. Pharisees boast before God of what they have done for him. The Christian is one who has empty hands every day and can only thank God for His mercy. He thus relies solely on the righteousness of Christ and realized they would be dead but for HIs mercy.
Again, in light of revelation, can someone even be a Christian if they cannot affirm that they justly deserve the wrath of God save for Christ's mercy alone? I would love to hear your response.
For Further Reading
5 Puritan Evangelism Lessons For Todays Churches by Joel Beeke