The nature of God is an unsettling thing (@TheAlethiophile)

Bible Study

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You’ve read Nahum, right? It’s not exactly the cheeriest of books. It’s also not the longest, so if you have 10 minutes you could read it now. It’s not  exactly the sort of book that the average person would choose to have a reading from at a wedding or a funeral.

Every disciple is, at some point, faced with a three-way choice:

1) Change your belief based on the God you read about in the bible.

2) Change your God based on your beliefs about the bible

3) Change your bible based on your beliefs about God

Option 2 is the one chosen by the early church theologian, Marcion. He posited that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God of the New Testament. For doing so (and potentially a few other reasons), he was later declared a heretic. In Nahum, you can see where the temptation came from. If one clings so firmly to a particular idea of what goodness means or what love is, and having identified God as a god of love and goodness, then this god of wrath may seem like a contradictory entity.

Option 3 may be taken more subtly, where we don’t propose changing the generally accepted canon, but where Nahum may be pushed to the margins and referred to less frequently than other, more readily palatable books of the bible.

Option 2 can have added impetus when fellow christians have a misplaced emphasis. At the fundamentalist end of the spectrum, God is portrayed as little but vengeful. Here, Nahum may be referred with greater frequency, putting off moderates and liberals who wish to distance themselves from their conservative brethren. Here, if one attempts an all-encompassing compromise (as per 1 Corinthians 12), then disputes can still break out as to who is the “weaker” sibling.

God’s nature is a vast and complicated thing. The God of wrath and judgement is no different from the God of love and grace. One of the great challenges that has faced the Church for centuries has been how to balance these seemingly contradictory facets of God’s nature.

Even in the book of Nahum, we have

“Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like a fire, and by him the rocks are broken into pieces.”

Yet in the very next verse:

“The Lord is good, a stronghold on a day of trouble; he protects those who take refuge in him, even in a rushing flood.”

It is something to ponder, to wrestle with. But let us not look only on the more pleasing face of God and speak only of his mercy. To do so is to worship an idol, a parody of God, one who is not just. Slow to wrath, God may be, but wrathful he still is. Let’s not abandon that and allow the fundamentalists to wrest this important doctrine out of our hands.

About TheAlethiophile

The Alethiophile is a blogger, bibliophile and accountant. Constantly looking for truth, he is quite often wrong. Having grown up in an evangelical baptist church in Bedfordshire, he is currently part of an Ichthus church in London. He is also fond of wearing stripey socks.