God’s Wrath is a question that often comes up when people talk about the attributes of God. But What About God’s Wrath? by Kevin Kinghorn with Stephen Travis attempts to address many of the issues related to God’s wrath and Christian life, as well as several questions about interpretation and reconciling various passages in the Bible.
Kinghorn begins by highlighting some key questions and answers related to God’s wrath. These include pointing towards God’s intentional action in the world. He argues that God’s wrath “typically involves a pattern of action” (19). Such patterns of action typically are related to goals and purposes, and so the question of why God should act in wrath is intricately woven into the question of why God acts in such a way. God’s wrath, he argues, is focused on accomplishing certain purposes within individuals’ lives.
A central aspect of rightly understanding wrath is to see its place in the overall picture of divine act and character. As such, Kinghorn argues that there is a difference between essential attributes of God which entail necessary acts and facts and contingent attributes or acts of God (23-24). The Trinity is essentially love/loving, and this essential attribute can lead to patterns of action that express themselves in different ways (38-39).
God, argues Kinghorn, is committed to the well-being of God’s people, which also means that God will act with benevolence towards all people, having a commitment to seeking human flourishing. This doesn’t cancel all other commitments (eg, to justice), but it does say much about how God acts towards us. But Kinghorn further argues that these other commitments don’t compete with or cancel the commitment to benevolence, they are instead subsumed under that broader category (79-80). God’s wrath, on this view, is a kind of last resort that is intended to press truths about ourselves on us from God (98-99, see also 117ff).
Ultimately, Kinghorn’s conclusion is that while God is a God of love and wrath, God is not such in a “sense that God’s wrath could ever compete with God’s love. God’s wrath and God’s love are not twin, equal pillars…” (154). Using wrath to trump God’s love is moving in the wrong direction.
But What About God’s Wrath? provides thoughtful, challenging arguments to commonly held conceptions about the wrath of God and its important for Christian living and biblical interpretation. Kinghorn argues against many common assumptions related to God’s wrath and shows that there are deeper considerations to be made before making blithe assertions about the wrath of God. Recommended.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.
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