Editor’s note: This column is reprinted with permission from www.dennyburk.com.
After the Presbyterian Church U.S.A decided to drop the hymn “In Christ Alone” from their hymnbook, I posted a note about the decision on my blog. Reports say that the song’s reference to “the wrath of God” was just too much for those making the decision. The songwriters refused to give permission to amend the language, so the PCUSA decided to leave it out.
I have to say that I have been quite surprised at the response to this short post – a response that is still ongoing. I am not surprised, however, that the topic still provokes strong responses from people – strong reactions on both sides of the issue.
In some ways, how one feels about the wrath of God reveals almost everything that’s most important about a person. How one feels about God’s wrath defines a person’s view of hell, of the nature of God, and even of the meaning of the cross itself. Thus to get God’s wrath wrong means to get almost everything else wrong as well.
On Sunday, I preached a sermon in my church about hell and the wrath of God. In this message, I make the case that every true Christian will one day lift up his voice in celebration when God bares His arm in judgment against His enemies (Rev. 18:20). In other words, your ability to rejoice in God’s wrath will one day define whether or not you know Him at all.
What we believe about God and about His Son Jesus is the most important thing about us. And yet countless people recoil at the God of the Bible and turn instead to a god of their own imagination. Any formulation of deity that excludes God’s justice and wrath against sin is not the God of the Bible.
A wrathless god shorn of His justice is no god worth worshipping. Nor is he a god able to convict and save sinners. When wrath is taken away, so is the gospel. And that is why this discussion matters.
Denny Burk is associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Listen to his message on the wrath of God at www.kenwoodbaptistchurch.com.