Can God be wrathful? What is the wrath of God?

October 31, 2018

Can God be wrathful? The Old Testament regularly speaks about God being angry with evil. Even the New Testament occasionally refers to God’s wrath. What is this wrath? Can God really be angry? Does God have emotions? First, we have to understand that the Bible is a divine message given to humanity. So Scripture is written in humanity’s own language. It attempts to describe the Indescribable, who is God, in a simplified format for our understanding and therefore it uses words that are common to us to relay a certain message. But some of these messages cannot be taken literally. Specially, some of the messages that attempt to describe God’s nature. God’s nature is indescribable in human terms. For example, St. Gregory the Theologian says: “God always was and always is, and always will be; or rather, God always Is. For Was and Will Be are fragments of our time, and of changeable nature. But He is [an] Eternal Being; and this is the Name He gives Himself when giving the Oracles to Moses in the Mount.” What St. Gregory the Theologian is saying here is that since God is above time, He is unchangeable. He does not have emotions. He is dispassionate. God always Is. He is active and dynamic but His nature does not change. St. John Chrysostom confirms this, he says: “For if the wrath of God were a passion, one might well despair as being unable to quench the flame which he [a wicked man] had kindled by so many evil doings; but since the Divine nature is passionless, even if He punishes, even if He takes vengeance, He does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving-kindness; wherefore it behooves us to be of much good courage, and to trust in the power of repentance.” Again, Scripture uses this human language to relay to us that God strongly disagrees with our actions. We have to recognise that God cannot be sad and later become happy or vice-versa. He is not happy when I pray and sad when I sin. God simply Is. He says “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Unfortunately, we often tell our children or youths how their actions make God happy or sad. Although some Church Fathers did use these terms for pastoral reasons in the past, we currently live in very different times and therefore these terms should be used very wisely. Children and youth need to learn that we do not hurt God when we sin, we hurt ourselves. In the same way that God does not profit when we go to liturgy or read our Bibles, but we profit from connecting with the Source of Life.  



So what is God’s wrath? There are 2 meanings to God’s wrath—there’s an earthly meaning and an eternal one. This video is concerned with the earthly meaning since we are discussing violence in the Old Testament. God’s wrath on earth is a description of how God deals with us when go astray. I’ll let St. John Chrysostom clarify what is meant by God’s wrath since he puts it so well; he says: “For even those who have sinned against Him He is not in the habit of visiting with punishment for His own sake; for no harm can traverse that Divine nature; but He acts with a view to our advantage, and to prevent our perverseness becoming worse by our making a practice of despising and neglecting Him. For even as one who places himself outside the light inflicts no loss on the light, but the greatest upon himself being shut up in darkness; even so he who has become accustomed to despise that almighty power, does no injury to the power, but inflicts the greatest possible injury upon himself. And for this reason God threatens us with punishments, and often inflicts them, not as avenging Himself, but by way of attracting us to Himself. For a physician also is not distressed or vexed at the insults of those who are out of their minds, but yet does and contrives everything for the purpose of stopping those who do such unseemly acts, not looking to his own interests but to their profit; and if they manifest some small degree of self-control and sobriety he rejoices and is glad, and applies his remedies much more earnestly, not as revenging himself upon them for their former conduct, but as wishing to increase their advantage, and to bring them back to a purely sound state of health.” In short, St. John is saying that God punishes on earth out of love and for the sake of our salvation. Punishment is not done out of retribution because nothing can hurt God’s nature. God’s entire focus is on us and our salvation. Remember know your faith, live your faith and teach your faith and glory be to God forever, amen. 

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