The Grace of Wrath

In her excellent (and brief) Christianity Today article, titled The Grace of Wrath, Carolyn Arends paints a picture of wrath being an expression of God's love. Here are a few excerpts from it:

When Evan Almighty hit theaters last summer, some evangelicals worried that elements of the movie were sacrilegious. One of their particular objections got me thinking.

In the film, God (played by Morgan Freeman) claims that people miss the point of the story of Noah's Ark because they think it's about God's anger, when really it's a "love story." Some Christians saw that statement as an offensive distortion of the Genesis account of God's wrath. Their protest left me pondering what I suspect is a fundamentally important question: Is there any story about God that isn't a love story?
God is love, BUT God hates sin. How does one hold those two realities in tension? I unconsciously developed a theology that intermittently had God the Son and God the Father in a good cop, bad cop routine, with the Holy Spirit stepping in as a sympathetic parole officer.
My understanding began to change when I read Baxter Kruger's depiction of God's wrath as his love in action his emphatic "No!" to anything that leads to our destruction. That perspective flipped a switch for my husband and me. If our daughter stepped into oncoming traffic, she might perceive our reaction (screaming "No!" and yanking her out of harm's way) to be harsh and unloving. But in reality it would be an expression of our fiercest and purest love. Is that how it is with God?

What if God's wrath is not a caveat, qualification, or even a counterpoint to his love, but an expression of it? What if God grieves sin less because it offends his sensibilities, and more because he hates the way it distorts our perceptions and separates us from him?
There are some pretty hard bits in Scripture. It is difficult to frame, say, the saga of Sodom and Gomorrah as a love story. But if we truly believe that God not only loves, but is love, we must believe there is no action he can take that is not animated by love.
God is love, SO God hates sin. We are loved with a holy love that cries "No!" again and again to the things that destroy us. We are part of an epic love story, and what we all need desperately is to know the Author better.

Read the two page article here.


  1. i find this somewhat troubling... She says that God grieves sin more because it distorts our perceptions than because it offends his sensibilities. I think that flies in the face of the Bible. that may be a secondary issue, but God primarily punishes sin because it insults his holiness.

    it may seem subtle, but it is monstrously important.

    also, she fails to define what wrath is and from a study of the Bible, wrath is that which is reserved for eternity for those that reject Christ as Savior. It isn't about a temporal course correction for humanity, but about an eternal punishment for sin.

  2. I can see where you are coming from Tim.. it is what many questioned about the Evan Almighty movie.

    She did speak to the verse where John says God is love.. it seems that is her focus - God's nature.

    For me God's holiness speaks to God being seperate from His creation. I think that holiness is 3 faceted: He is good, He is just and He is love. I don't see hell as punishment for sinning but as justice which is accord with His goodness and His love.

    What do you think?

  3. Hell is God's ultimate honoring of our free will: those who are there are eternally separated from Him because they did not desire His Mercy and could therefore "avoid" it, but there will be no avoiding His Judgment.

  4. I find a lot of scripture, particularly the Old Testament, difficult but have been working through aspects of it on by blog, with the help of Walter Brueggemann.

    I am increasingly of the opinion that all is not as it appears.


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