Divine violence?

Recently in these pages I made the following claim: "A God of most radical grace must be a God of wrath—not the kind of wrath that burns against evildoers until they prove worthy of being loved, but the kind that resists evildoers because they are unconditionally loved" ("Washing away, washing up," Aug. 25-Sept. 1). A reader was puzzled. Instead of affirming God's wrath, redefining it and making God's own self the primary target of it, as I did in that text, he thought I should have uncompromisingly rejected all notions of God's wrath. He wrote, "The word wrath is an action word that represents a violent action imposed on another. . . . I believe at all costs we must try to develop a picture of God that does not encompass wrath. . . . It is more fruitful for us to have a tougher understanding of love, love that confronts and opposes without resorting to violence, but which has power to persuade and change others and the world."

 

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