Monday, November 28, 2005

God is not Wrathful?

"We are not saved from God's wrath, we are saved from sin and death..."


How do Orthodox define God's wrath and his anger? How do we deal with the many passages in the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Fathers, which describe God as being angry with us for our sins and wrathful?

The common Orthodox response is that described above with the contrast against the wrathful God of the West, as described in Kalomiros' "River of Fire", but where in the Fathers is this "wrath" and "anger" described as simply a manner of speech, an anthropomorphism, or as our experience of God as wrathful due to our sin?

I have had a difficult time finding patristic references to this effect, but have found many which speak quite literally about God's wrath and its appeasement. Could anyone help? A Lutheran is questioning whether this is simply a modernist Orthodox revision of the Scriptures and the Fathers since the wrath of God at our sin, his Justice, and his work to meet that Justice for us are central- in his mind- to Christianity.

How does Orthodoxy and the Fathers view God's wrath and anger in light of our need for salvation?


Blogger aaronandbrighid said...

My understanding of this issue is that it's simply a matter of interpreting the references to God's 'wrath' in a way consonant with the oft-stated patristic maxim that God is unchanging. So the grace of God, which is given alike to all men, takes a different aspect based on our use of free will (another patristic constant): it is mercy or wrath, comforting light or tormenting fire, according to our response to Him. Thus, in his 'First Century on Theology' St Maximos the Confessor writes, 'God , it is said, is the Sun of righteousness (cf. Mal. 4:2), and the rays of His supernal goodness shine down on all men alike. The soul is wax if it cleaves to God, but clay if it cleaves to matter. Which it does depends upon its own will and purpose. Clay hardens in the sun, while wax grows soft. Similarly, every soul that, despite God's admonitions, deliberately cleaves to the material world, hardens like clay and drives itself to destruction, just as Pharaoh did (cf. Exod. 7:13). But every soul that cleaves to God is softened like wax and, receiving the impress and stamp of divine realities, it becomes "in spirit the dwelling-place of God" (Eph. 2:22)'. It's for this reason that in the 'Third Century of Various Texts', St Maximos defines the 'wrath' of God as 'the painful sensation we experience when we are being trained by Him'. It is not a change that has occurred in God, but literally our 'passion' that produces the perception of 'wrath'. I hope that helps for now. It's a little late for me! Maybe I can find something else tomorrow.

11:40 PM EST  
Blogger aaronandbrighid said...

P.S. The exact reference is in the Philokalia, Vol. II, p. 211: '9. The wrath of God is the painful sensation we experience when we are being trained by Him.' The 'Third Century of Various Texts' elaborates on this a little. Oh yeah, and I just found this in St Theognostos (same volume, p. 370): 'Only through repentance shall we receive God's mercy, and not its opposite, His passionate anger. Not that God is angry with us: He is angry with evil. Indeed, the divine is beyond passion and vengefulness, though we speak of it as reflecting, like a mirror, our actions and dispositions, giving to each of us whatever we deserve.'

11:48 PM EST  

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