Essentials of Wesleyan Theology - Lesson 3
Goal of Theology
God wants us to experience his love for us so that our lives and ministry result from the overflow of his love out of our lives to others. Theology is imminently practical and leads to living. Theology should bring us closer in relationship with God resulting in praise, practice and passion. (Ppt 1)
Goal of Theology
I. Introduction to Wesleyan Theology
A. Theology in the Wesleyan Tradition
B. Key Concepts
II. The Goal of Theology
A. The Importance of Holiness
B. Sanctification and Christian Perfection
1. Initial Sanctification
2. Progressive Sanctification
3. Entire Sanctification
III. Practical Implications of Wesleyan Theology
A. Discipleship and Spiritual Growth
B. Social and Ethical Issues
C. The Role of the Church
- By studying the Essentials of Wesleyan theology, you learn about its historical roots, key principles, and the importance of grace, holiness, and Christian perfection in this theological perspective.
- Through this lesson, you gain a thorough understanding of Wesleyan theology, its tasks, key theological perspectives, and distinctives, providing you with a solid foundation for further exploration of the Wesleyan tradition.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into Wesleyan theology's goal of pursuing holiness through sanctification, understanding the three stages and the practical implications for discipleship, spiritual growth, and the church's role.
- In this lesson, you explore the doctrine of God in Wesleyan theology, learning about His attributes, the Trinity, and His relationship with creation.
- Through this lesson, you gain a deep understanding of the Trinity from a Wesleyan perspective, exploring its scriptural basis, historical development, and practical implications for Christian living.
- This lesson deepens your understanding of the Trinity from a Wesleyan perspective, emphasizing its historical development, implications for Christian faith, and the significance of love and relationship within the Godhead.
- Gain insight into Wesleyan theology's Doctrine of Creation, its biblical basis, and the practical implications it has on understanding God's sovereignty, human responsibility, and stewardship of creation.
- Through this lesson, you gain insights into Wesleyan theology's understanding of Christ's person and work, exploring key concepts like the Incarnation, Atonement, and Second Coming.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into the incarnation of Jesus Christ, its dual nature, and its implications in revealing God's nature, redemption, atonement, and modeling holiness.
- In this lesson, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the Cross of Christ in Wesleyan theology, exploring atonement theories, the scope and application of atonement, and its impact on the believer's life.
- By studying the Cross of Christ Part 2, you gain insights into the theological concepts of the cross and the unique features of Wesleyan theology, ultimately learning how to apply these principles in your daily Christian life.
- By examining the significance of the resurrection in Wesleyan theology, you gain insight into its foundational role in Christian faith, its connection to justification and sanctification, and its far-reaching theological implications for believers.
In this class on the Essentials of Wesleyan Theology, you explore the historical background and development of Methodism, its key doctrines, and the unique approach to Scripture that John Wesley promoted. You gain a deeper understanding of prevenient grace, justification, assurance, sanctification, and the concept of Christian perfection. Furthermore, you learn about Wesley's quadrilateral of authority, his emphasis on holiness, and the impact of Wesleyan theology on social reform, evangelism, and contemporary Christian thought and practice.
Dr. Steve Seamands
Essentials of Wesleyan Theology
Goal of Theology
[00:00:23] Our concept of God. Of course. Is much more than just our theology. Of God. But everyone does have a concept of God. A.W. Tozer. In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy. Have you any of you read the knowledge of the Holy? It's a good kind of a devotional book that walks you through the attributes of God. Much more, you might say, accessible to an average person than Thomas Owen's discussion might be. But he says that what comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. We turn by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. Interesting. So, for example, if. Your God is a sort of a perfection, a slave driver. Who demands. Absolute perfection from you. Guess what kind of a parent. You'll probably end up being. Probably one that. Tends to act like that toward your kids. That's what he's talking about. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. A. American Methodist theologian named Edwin Lewis wrote earlier in the 20th century, I did my doctoral dissertation on this guy, so I got to know him pretty well that your your heaven, he says, determines your earth. Your heaven. And by heaven, there he meant really your concept of God. But your heaven determines your earth. So many misconceptions about the Christian life are, of course, rooted in misconceptions of God. My father, David SEAMANS, who some of you may have known through his writings, used to talk a lot about this and teach a lot about misconceptions of God more kind of in the psychological realm. And how they affect it. They affect us. And I, I brought along a copy of a chart that my dad had put together.
[00:03:00] He's with the Lord now, but I thought I'd give you a copy of this. Rob, your wife might find this this kind of interesting, you know, in terms of counseling and. Our biblical concept of God, what you see kind of at the top there, the good news. But because of unhealthy interpersonal relationships, particularly during early developmental years, folks. Don't encode the good news, but they decode this bad news. So for think about God being present and available as Scripture says. And yet they've experienced parents who were absent. When needed. And so their perception of God then is like an absent father or mother, you know? And of course, much of what we do, I think, in working with people. And in terms of what I would call practical sanctification, helping people grow up is helping them unpack and deal with some of the issues in their lives that tend to create these misconceptions of God. Some of these come from. Things that we haven't chosen. That's why my dad's conclusion at the very bottom and his definition of Christian counselor is just a temporary assistant to the Holy Spirit. Why the Holy Spirit sometimes needs a temporary assistant, you know? Anyway, I just thought you might enjoy that, because there's a there's a whole lot here. And if this was a course in counseling or pastoral theology, kind of more, I might. We might focus on that. It's interesting, too, that William Temple. In the mid-twentieth century or so, the Archbishop of Canterbury ahead of the Church of England. It says that if your concept of God is wrong, the more religion you get, the more dangerous you become. Do yourself and everyone else. Interesting. And we know people for whom their religion is part of their pathology.
[00:05:17] I suspect you have to deal with some of that around this church. You know, I mean, it's occasionally you've got folks. Who in a sense their religion and their their pathology gets all mixed up together. All this just to kind of underscore the importance of our understanding of God. And our concept of God. So much to cover. When you think about this. I think Odin does a pretty good job outlining the different attributes of God. And developing them. I'm not going to try to do what he does. What I want to do is, in a sense, to simply focus with you on the first line and the second line of the Apostles Creed. I believe in God, the Father Almighty maker of heaven and earth. I want to begin by focusing on the words. I believe in God, the Father, that word Almighty. That's there in the Apostles Creed. And to talk with you about one of God's omni attributes. We think about those three omni attributes. And I'm asking you actually to write a prayer as for one as one of your assignments that's going to focus on those three attributes, his omnipotence. God Almighty. What? By the way, when you think about the the power of God. And the almighty ness of God. You know, what to you is is the greatest example. Of gods almighty us. The universe. Kind of a Chris Tomlin song. God of wonders beyond our galaxies. Another way of thinking about gods. So is his ability to become small. Well, here's a little question for you two to think about and what I'd like you to do for just maybe the next four or 5 minutes is just I'll let you two guys be a group over here and you three be a group.
[00:07:37] Are there limits? To God's Almighty in us. If so, what are they? The Scripture does say with God, all things are possible. But are there limits to God's Almighty in us? There's different ways of understanding what human freedom consists of. You know, there's different philosophical positions on that, and there's a a compatible list and incompatible but fullest understanding of human freedom. And one of them says that to make a choice freely is to do it willingly, even though you may not have had any other choice. So if I hypnotized you, let's just say Rob and I said, you know, after class today, you're going to go leave class. And as we go downstairs, you're going to say, I really want a cup of coffee. And I'm hypnotizing you to to do that. And sure enough, when we get out, you do you go right over there and you do that very thing. And some would say that you did that freely. Even though there was a sense in which you were programed to do it because you did it willingly, no one stuck a gun to your head. But another would say no, freedom really involves the power of contrary choice. That you could not do that. But so then you get into this whole Calvinist Armenian debate about human freedom and choosing and what that means and salvation. And so in one viewpoint, you can you can square freedom with election and predestination. So even though you were elected and predestined and it was irresistible in that sense, you're still did it freely. You see what I'm saying? And there is that debate, too. But I do think regardless of how you frame it, the point you're making is valid, that it doesn't are freedom at some level limit God, but it's a freely chosen limitation.
[00:09:40] Sometimes the the notion of a kind of an absolute power. A speculative power, an arbitrary power, unrestricted power, the idea that God can do anything. That notion has crept into Christian theology. And actually, that's the view of God's almighty ness that you do find in Islam. Where God actually can turn around and be good today and evil tomorrow. And has that kind of ability to be what we would call capricious. But because he has indiscriminate, absolute power, he can do that. Maybe you've heard that old that old question. Can God make a rock? He can't move. You ever heard that one? Can God make a rock? He can't move. And it's supposed to put you on the horns of a dilemma. Because if God can make Iraq, He can't move. Then there's something he can't move, which means he can't do that. If he can't make Iraq, he can't move. Then there's something he can't make. So either he can't make something or can't move something. And either way, there's something God can't do. Therefore, God's not almighty. That's based on the notion of a kind of an absolute understanding of almighty ness. But I think you all actually have kind of stated what is a more proper conception, which Oden states, they're on page 51. God can do all that God wills to do. The last part of that is important, isn't it? All that God wills to do. And so there's no external force. You might say nothing outside of God that can limit God. No one can put it. To put it crudely, put a gun to God's head and say, Do this or I'll blow your brains out. The Christian tradition has always understood that nothing external. But that doesn't mean that God can't, in a sense, limit himself.
[00:11:49] And God has chosen, in a sense, to limit himself. We have to use that word limit. You might say in an appropriate way to God. But Odin says the freedom of God has no limit except whatever limit God chooses freely to permit. No limit from something outside of God, but God himself can't choose to permit a limitation. And in the last resort, why has God chosen to limit himself? An interesting question. Why does God do that? I think, Rob, you were you were trying to get in, get at something, you know, and you were talking about, well, that that freedom to receive that free will, that's that's important. And I think, though, even more ultimate than that and I think Emil Brunner is right when he says in the last resort, this limitation springs from the love of God. Because for there to be love, there has to be reciprocity, doesn't there? There has to be some freedom. And in choosing, as it were. So that we're not just puppets on a string. I think ultimately he's right that what drives this is the is the love of God. You say maybe you don't understand, though. Maybe. Maybe that's confusing to you. What what does his love have to do with his self limitation? What does his love have to do with his self limitation? Well, if you think about it, it's the nature of love to go out of itself. It's the nature of love to go out of itself. To be other centered rather than self-centered. To be selfless, to be other centered. God so loved the world that he gave, right? That that's the nature of love. So when we say God is love, we're saying from all eternity, self communicating, sharing love has been the essence of the divine being.
[00:13:55] And even the doctrine. The Trinity helps us to understand that when we say God is love. Christians are saying more than God does love. Love is not just a function. God loves the world. He loves toward the world. But when we say God is love, what we're saying is that Father, Son and Holy Spirit from all eternity, there's been this love. The circle of love, right? Within the very being of God. You don't have to, in a sense, go outside of God and have an object to love before there can be love. God is love. But because that's the case, God has desired not only himself, but the world as well. There's something about love that seeks to go out of itself. So this is why we say that God's self limitation flows out of his love. Because in choosing to create that which is other than himself, God limits himself. He's not all there is now. I can put it crudely. And in making room for creation. We'll talk more about this when we talk about Maker of Heaven and Earth, that in a sense, God makes room for creation. He gives creation a place to be. In a sense he withdraws his all plunging plenitude. If the fullness of God's presence. Came into this room right now. I mean, who could stand? You remember that old Indiana Jones and the. The first movie Raiders of the Lost Ark were in the presence of the Ark. Toward the end of the movie, everyone starts just kind of disintegrating. There's a sense in which God draws back so we can actually be here today. Right. Di Giannis Allen puts it like this. When God creates it means that he allows something to exist, which is not himself.
[00:16:06] This requires an act of profound renunciation. He chooses out of love to permit something else to exist. Something created to be itself and to exist by virtue of its own interest and value. God renounces his status as the only existent. He pulls himself back, so to speak, in order to give his creation room to exist for its own sake. But let me underscore this. And you you all, I think, stated this well. God's limiting himself was a freely chosen limitation. It flowed out of his essential nature. It's the nature of love. To be that way, right? He's just being who he is. So since it flows out of his essential nature, it's no threat to his omnipotence. It's no threat to his omnipotence to say he's limited himself. So go back to the question, can God make a rock? He can't move. Well, I think the answer to the question is yes, if he chooses to. He can make a rock. He can't move if if that's consistent with his character. You have to ask the question, what is that consistent with his character, you know? So that's what we mean by omnipotence. And I think Odin is right when he says in representing the Christian tradition that omnipotence may be defined as the perfect ability of God to do all things that are consistent with his character. The perfect ability to do all things consistent with his character. So Omnipotence almighty genius must not be defined in terms of some abstract philosophical notion of power. But in terms of God's character and particularly in terms of God's love. It's not just power. It's the power of love, isn't it? That we're talking about. And I think this is what Paul has in mind when in first Corinthians he says that we preach Christ crucified the power of God.
[00:18:36] We don't usually put those two things together, do we? Christ crucified the but he says the power of God. And what John is getting at in Revelation chapter five. Interesting. I'm talking about this connection between power and love. See? Christ crucified the power of God. The power of God and the love of God come together, don't they, at Calvary? Herein is love. Says John. Not that we loved him, but he loved us and gave his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. He. He. That's the greatest demonstration of the love of God. But we preach Christ, crucified the power of God. So it's not just power, but it's the power of love. Omnipotence needs to be defined in terms of love ultimately, not in terms of an absolute notion of what power means and power is. When John and the Book of Revelation in Revelation Chapter five raises the question, or the question gets raised Who is worthy to break the SEALs? You remember that? And no one speaks. It's quiet and heaven. And then there's the question that the elders say Weep not the lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered. Now, think about that lion. Conquered. This is power, right? But when he looks, does John see a lion? Now he sees a lamb, doesn't he? As though it had been slain. Interesting. What's going on here? Taking two metaphors. Put them together. And he's saying that's the Christian vision of of of power right there. So when I asked you all earlier, you know, what comes to your mind when you think of God's almighty us? You know, Rob, you talked about, you know, creation and. God saying, let there be light. And then then over here starts talking about God's ability to become small.
[00:21:12] So I think you're both right. That it's this lion lamb thing. That. Ultimately defines. Almighty us for us as Christians. Brian Blount, a New Testament scholar, speaks about this. And he says that the lion slams God's opposition. He's talking about, though, John's lion is a powerful conqueror. It would not be right to say that this lion hunts its prey. The more appropriate language would be something like this. Lion slaughtered lambs its prey. Slam. So he kind of invents a word there. The weak lamb then does not subvert the powerful lion. The lamb's weakness. It's slaughter. Is precisely the way the lion works out its power. The lion slams God's opposition. I think that this is what Jesus meant when he kept referring to himself, when he kept calling himself the son of man. You know, that title in the Synoptic Gospels is the main way that he references himself. Biblical scholars have. You know, I thought long and hard about the meaning of this phrase. Our general first sort of conventional wisdom thinking is, Oh, son of man, son of God. So son of man emphasizes humanity. Son of God emphasizes divinity. But that's really not. What Jesus was trying to do when he uses that phrase in the Gospels primarily. Oscar Kuhlman, a New Testament scholar in his Christology of the New Testament, looks back at the Old Testament and the use of this phrase, the son of man. You know, you have that showing up in Daniel chapter seven. What you find here is a figure of an apocalyptic son of man. And there before me was one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power. So this is this is not a meek and mild, just a human figure at all.
[00:23:39] This is a divine figure, right? You've got this powerful son of man tradition in the Old Testament. But then think about the way that phrase shows up in the book of Ezekiel. Son of man. Can these dry bonds live? Yahweh speaks to Ezekiel and calls him refers to him as son of man. And here it's more of a of a a title of weakness. And just sort of humanity and cool minds suggests that there's there's a what you might call a more suffering servant son of man tradition in the Old Testament out of the book of his skill. And of course, we think of Isaiah and the and the different servant passages there. And here you have this week son of man who's led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her share is silent. So he did not open his mouth. And his suggestion is that what Jesus is doing by referring to himself as the son of man. As he's laying that out there and it takes a person with spiritual vision. To be able to understand that, in effect, he has those two things come together. And of course, that's not the kind of messiah they were. They were looking for the Daniel seven. Type Messiah, weren't they? But remember his conversation with the two men on the road to a mass. How foolish you are. Didn't. Didn't you know that the Messiah had to suffer and die? And it was that part. But Jesus is saying when he uses that, he's actually suggesting that he's both of these. Isn't he? And one day we know he's going to come with the clouds of heaven. Do you see how, in a sense, Jesus is kind of holding together this lion lamb thing again? Both wedded together here.
[00:25:54] So we've got, you might say, in the Christian understanding of God's Almighty in us, that Almighty in us is actually seen. When you think about this lamb who's led to a slaughter? Who can be so weak and so small, you might say, Oh, mighty ness. In the New Testament is understood as the power of self surrender. Going back to what you said, Dan, you know, this ability to become small, Hans Von, both a Roman Catholic theologian, picks up on this and says, one, The New Testament refers to God in many passages as Almighty. It becomes evident from these that this Almighty, this can be none other than that of a surrender, which is limited by nothing. It is therefore essential in the first instance to see the unimaginable power of the father in the force of his self surrender. That is of his love and not, for example, in his being able to do this or that as he chooses. But we tend to think of as power, you know. The power to go low. You talk about adoring here. We tend to adore the God of wonders beyond our galaxies. And, you know, we. But. But what we ought to adore is this almighty ness that can give itself away like this. Actually, we need to adore both, don't we? They somehow come together. This has implications, doesn't it, for servant leadership and how we ought to go about exerting power in the world and and even within the church and in relationships? God is both lion like and lamb like. And somehow. It's this paradoxical notion. Now. I don't know about you. I'd rather be the lion than the lamb, you know. But it seems like that we're called to be both somehow.
[00:28:13] And that actually sometimes when we're being most. LAMB Like we're being Muslim, like. In a sense that that's the real power, the power to be able to give your life away. Like Jesus says, Nope, no pilot. You don't really have power over me. I'm doing this. That's power of surrender. The power of a surrender which is limited by nothing. I think this has implications here for us and in Christian ministry and discipleship. And in the way we go about trying to change a culture and relate to a community. And I think that whenever the church tries to exercise power the way the world. She has power. We get ourselves into trouble. And yet it's hard to walk this out, isn't it? And you know what this what this lion lamb thing looks like. You know, in a fallen, broken, evil world. You know, how does this look like in an issue like capital punishment for you know, for, you know. That paradoxical thing is right there, isn't it? I mean, you know, how. How does that look? What does that look like? So we've got in a sense, someone has called God, got his got right handed power. And that's the power we tend to think of. But there is the left handed power of God. Leslie. Chad. Speaks about gods left handed power. At the center of it is a baby in a makeshift cot in a mucky stable. Before whom? The Kings, Symbols of the world's righthanded wisdom and power. Bend the knee. He's the king who could call an army of angels to his aid. But he refuses the help of Peter's sword bearing right arm. He's the God who will not slay his enemies with his strong right arm. But who says instead, if there's any killing to be done, it will be done to me, not by me.
[00:30:38] There's a sense in which. God's Almighty in us. Takes our notions of power. And just turns it all upside down, turns it on its head. And. Causes me to get lost in wonder, love and praise in the presence of this. I don't know about you, but I don't know what to do. With power that will well surrender itself like this. I want to focus with you a little bit on God's holy love. According to Oden, these two holiness and love are the primary moral attributes of God, the primary moral attributes of God, in a sense. This morning we looked at one of God's Omnia attributes, and those are not those are what theologians call God's communicable attributes, but they're not moral attributes. Omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence. Well, holy love, holiness and love, according to Odin, are God's primary moral attributes. And he says it's only by keeping these two primary moral at qualities of the divine being closely related that we might we may rightly behold the character of God. It's important that we hold these two together, because what happens whenever God's love gets separated from God's holiness? It always generates into sentimentality. Love will always generate degenerate into sentimentality, what someone has called sloppy agape. You know. So to say that God is holy love guards against an over sentimentalized understanding of love. W.H. Auden the The British 20th century author, writer, poet in his Christmas oratorio, has a prayer that I think is a poignant reminder of what happens when the two do get separated. Here's the prayer. Oh, God. Put away justice and truth for we cannot understand them and do not want them. Eternity with Boris dreadfully. Leave thy heaven and come down to our earth of water, clocks and hedges.
[00:33:14] Become our uncle. Look after baby, amuse grandfather. Escort madam to the opera. Help Willy with his homework. Introduce many to a handsome naval officer. Be interesting, and we'd like us. And we will love you as we love ourselves. I think a good reminder of what happens when holiness and love. Get separated from each other. A number of years ago, there was a newspaper columnist, columnist Nicholas von Hoffman. He was attending one of our presidential prayer breakfasts that are generally held every year. And he wrote a column after attending that prayer breakfast about the mush God. Who he felt was kind of being. Worshiped and celebrated at that presidential prayer breakfast. You know. I want to just read a little bit of this column, because I think, again, it makes this point about how when you separate holiness and love, you kind of tend to get a mushy. Over sentimentalized. Understanding of God. The mascot, he says, has been known to appear to millionaires on golf courses, to politicians at ribbon cutting services and to clergy speaking the invocation on national television at either the Democratic or Republican conventions. The much God's presence is felt during Brotherhood week, and when Rotarians come together, the mascot has no theology to speak of being a cream of wheat divinity. The mascot has no particular credo, no tenets of faith, nothing that would make it difficult for believer and nonbeliever alike to lower one's head. When the temporary chairman tells us that Reverend Rabbi, father, mufti, or so-and-so will lead us in a perfectly innocuous prayer for this God of public occasions, there's not a jealous God. You can even invoke him to start a hookers convention and he or she, or it won't be offended. God of the Rotary, God of the Optimist, Club Protector, the buddy system, the mush God is the Lord of secular ritual.
[00:35:45] Of the necessary but hypocritical forms and formalities that hush the divisive and the derisive. The mush God is a serviceable God whose lives are chiseled, chiseled on tablets, but written on sand and amenable to amendment, qualification and erasure. This is a God that will compromise with you, make allowances and declare all world wars. Wholly all peace is sacrosanct. Separating these two things leads to a kind of a god of civil religion. You know, that we end up we end up kind of making in our own image. Be interesting and weak like us. And we will love you as we love ourselves. That's the danger. God is love. Yes, but his love exists in the context of His Holiness and is informed by His Holiness. So better than to say that God is love. Is to say that God is holy love. I'm stressing this in our context. I suppose if I was teaching this course in colonial New England. Shortly after. Jonathan Edwards said, preached his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an angry God. I might have to. You know, focus this a little bit more on love and less on holiness. But I think that's the context that we live in today. There is a tendency. To focus on God's love at the expense of God's holiness. And so I'm emphasizing the other part of this to try to bring balance to that, according to Emil Bruner, about this connection. Between holiness and love is the characteristic and decisive element in the Christian idea of God. It's the holding of these two things together. The two are bound up with each other. And the point is there is, as Paul says in Romans 11, both a kindness. And a severity and God.
[00:38:03] Neither must be emphasized, I think, to the detriment of the other. God's steadfast love the Scripture says, endures forever. And yet. It endures as a consuming fire. Yes, our God is a consuming fire, but his fire is the fire of love. These elements are distinct but inseparable. And one of the things that amazes me about the scriptures is the way these two elements that are distinct and you can kind of. Point them out as being distinct and yet how inseparable they are in the same passage of Scripture. Think, for example, about two of the great kind of visions. Recorded in Scripture. Think of Isaiah's vision in the temple and Isaiah six. In the year that King as I had died, I saw the Lord High and lifted up. Strong emphasis in that passage on God's otherness. I mean, when he describes what he saw. What does he see? See God's face? Absolutely not. He seized the train of his robe. This emphasis on transcendence and otherness. And then of course, he cries out, Woe is me for I'm undone because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts, and you know. So the strong emphasis, you might say, on the holiness of God. And yet, isn't it amazing? But then the sheriff takes the call from the altar. And touches his lips and says, Your guilt is atoned for, your sin is taken away. All of a sudden, the nearness of God. You know, it's right there in the same passage. Transcendence. Eminence. Gods, otherness, distance, appropriate distance. And yet God's nearness. Or think about Revelation Chapter one Another vision. This time the vision that John has of the exalted Christ. His eyes were a flame of fire. His hair was like wool.
[00:40:22] We're like blazing bronze. His voice was like. You know, these these images that he's pulling out of the Old Testament, mostly. But this incredible vision of the vision of the exalted Christ. And John says, When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though Dad. The otherness of being in the presence of a holy God. And yet then I love this. But his latest hand, his right hand upon me saying, Fear not. The nearness, the closeness, the intimacy. See that all that just kind of packed into the same place in Scripture. Holding these two together. I don't know if you've noticed it, but sometimes the images of Scripture in Scripture of God the lover are almost violent images. He chases those whom he loves. Right. He chases those whom he loves. He is a potter who smashes the clay. Sometimes to start over again. He is a pruner. He is a refiner. He is a relentless lover. So God's holy love then, is not weak or indulgent or permissive. As a Donald Bush says, it contains the severity. That is totally foreign to the popular understanding of God. Its method is to uproot and to attack. All that is not of God. It is a judging as well as a redeeming love. It entails the disciplining and the chastening of the children of God. It evokes adoration, not admiration. It elicits are not pity. God's holy love. Closely related to God's holy love. Is the the concept of the wrath of God. I wonder, have you ever thought much about the wrath of God? What is the wrath of God? Here's a question for you to reflect upon a little bit in your groups here. If you were to preach a sermon or teach a Bible study on the wrath of God, what would you say? One of the things that I think both of you have said this, you've used word like response or reaction.
[00:43:01] First of all, you know, a lot of folks have caricatures of wrath of of a person, you know, losing their temper and just kind of. Going around smashing things, that sort of thing. Kind of a primitive, pagan notion of of a wrathful God. That's not what we're talking about at all here. Is it a sort of an indiscriminate, out of control God? What I would submit to you is that the wrath of God is actually a an aspect of his holy love. You know, it's an aspect of his love. Brenner says, Be cut because God takes himself. His love infinitely seriously, and in so doing takes human beings infinitely seriously. He cannot do otherwise than be angry, although really he has only love. His wrath is simply the result of the infinitely serious love of God. We don't tend to put these two things in the same. Category or we don't we don't want them together. We think of wrath as sort of the opposite of love. And. But you said, Art, you know. No, this is always in the context of redemption. Right. Which that's something we associate with love now. But wrath is in the context of love. It's a form of his holy love. He loves her so much that he takes our sins seriously. What our sin can do to us, what it can do to the world. And he takes himself seriously. Any good. Psychologists will tell you that the opposite of love. Is not hate or wrath. What's the opposite of love? Indifference. So I'm a marriage counselor. I would much rather be dealing with a couple who are at each other's throats. To rip each other's eyes out and kill each other. Then I am a couple that comes in and I feel like, Oh, we've just opened up a big freezer.
[00:45:25] It's just absolutely cold and they're indifferent. They don't care anymore. I said that marriage is in a lot worse shape than the one where they're passionately engaged with each other. Because you see if you can take that passion and channel it. What's the opposite of love? It's not. What we would call hate or wrath. It's indifference, isn't it? God is not indifferent. He's a god of pathos. He feels when we sin. He doesn't say, Oh, you didn't mean it. That's okay. I forgive you. You don't even have to ask. You know, I just kind of. He cares. He cares deeply. And our resistance to God's will. This is the point here. It's really God's unswerving opposition to that which is against his will. It evokes a reaction or response from God. We had Miroslav Volf on our campus a few years ago. Maybe you've read his book or are familiar with him. His book, Exclusion and Embrace. If you know anything about his own story, He he's from Eastern Europe in Croatia, and he had relatives that were killed in some of the ethnic cleansing. Stuff that went on, I guess in the in the early 1990s, that period of time, the things that were going on over there and he was writing a book on forgiveness at the time. I think it's out there now and I don't know what the title is, but we were getting a little bit of some of his early drafts and his lectures to us. He made the statement in our chapel and I wrote it down. He said, God isn't wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because he is love. In the face of evil and injustice and treachery. God doesn't just sort of ignore it or is indifferent about it.
[00:47:33] He is. He responds. He reacts. An interesting this commercial for parents for a drug free America a couple of years ago, I think captures it captures the same thing when it she doesn't love being tough it says. She's tough because she loves. God's basic posture toward us, toward his creation, is not one of wrath as it. When I say his basic posture. What's his basic posture? I think his basic posture is one of blessing. One of mercy. One of embrace. If you then being able know how to give good gifts, how much more does your father in heaven give good gifts to them that ask him? That's God's basic posture toward us. But God's wrath is invoked when we stand against God's will. Martin Luther used to talk about the two works of God. There's he said God's strange work and God's proper work. God both kills and makes alive God wounds and heals. God destroys and helps. And God's proper work is what? What we might call His basic posture toward us. His proper work is to bless. It's to make alive. It's to heal. It's to help. But we might say that his wrath is his strange work toward us. It's how we experience God's love when we stand in opposition to it. It's how we experience God's love when we resist God's will. A good example of what I'm trying to talk about and convey here is think about if you've ever been in a canoe. And you're paddling downstream with the current. How do you experience the current? Well, the current. You experienced this blessing, don't you? Because it makes your life and your work easier. It's pushing you along. You're going with the stream. But what happens when you turn your canoe around and you go against the stream? Now, the current doesn't really change, does it? But now you experience that same current not as blessing, but as resistance.
[00:50:12] It's working against you now. And I think we need to see the wrath of God like that. This is how you experience God's love. And the point, of course, as you said, Art, it's always with a with a view to redemption. It's to try to get you to turn your canoe around. You know, it's saying, wake up. Turn your canoe around and go with the flow. So when we go against the flow, we experience God's love as wrath. Just as as a parent might have to do with a kid, you know, who perhaps is engaging in addictive behavior. Where you're going to have to come down and kick them out of the house. You're actually trying to express love to them because you want them to be held, held accountable for the consequences of their behavior. Hard thing to do. But it's a form of love, isn't it? That's a form of halt. That's, that's, that's, that's a form that love takes in in the face of resistance. So I think if I were preaching. On the wrath of God. I want to frame it in terms of God's holy love. Not the way most people oftentimes tend to think of it. You guys used the word. Sort of like to protect, you know, in the case of. The guy that got fried because he grabbed the tap, you know, But that's there to kind of protect some. Divine you might say structures and that are that are really there for blessing, aren't they? The interesting thing. And in Hebrew, the word for for Nazareth is the same word for nose. Because this nose gets red. When he gets angry, you know, he's a red nosed God. You know, he it's cut. And so it does it does produce a real reaction because God God is a god of pathos.
[00:52:31] He feels deeply. Now, maybe for some of us, just the very fact that God would actually even experience that kind of it's like, Oh, no, you shouldn't even be angry. Or, you know. That's I don't know if that's if that's biblical as much as it is stoical. You know. Even even actually, Paul doesn't doesn't tell us and officials for not to be angry. He does he says be angry but don't sin. Right. You know, sometimes it's like a more a kind of a broken hearted, I've got to do this because I love you, you know, versus at times just really. Expressing that kind of anger in a righteous way, right? Not not uncontrolled. Well, I would say I suspect that maybe both of those actually. Are appropriate expressions of the wrath of God. And sometimes, you know, I think that that kid. Of yours maybe need you to get angry. I mean, they need to see more than just. Oh, how sad you are. You know, they need to see that you're rising up and saying, I, you know, I hate that. And it's cause I hate what it's doing to you and cause, you know, I mean, it's not I hate that because you're making my life miserable. It's more, you know, But still, that's a valid, I think, expression of God's wrath. Anger is a dangerous emotion, isn't it? And most and many of us have experienced people who are out of control with their anger. And we've we know what that can be even in our own lives. And, you know, things can get broken and smashed and words can get spoken. And I actually believe that in the process of becoming Christ like, relating this now to that, Jesus wants my emotions and He wants to be Lord of those, and He wants to bring those under his control.
[00:54:45] And anger is not an easy one, but I think he wants that too, because there's times when appropriate anger needs to be expressed. I think that probably by and large. We ere on the side of not expressing appropriate anger enough. Don't you think? Over the last 20 years, I've learned some things about God in my spiritual journey. And I would say. He has a whole lot. More tender. Than I ever thought he was. On the one hand. But I've also discovered his a lot is a whole lot tougher. Then I ever thought he was. And again, it's that paradoxical kind of just when we looked at Almighty this week, we had that paradox of power and weakness. Lion lamb thing coming together. And we sort of have that here, don't we, as we think of holiness and love coming together. We could go on here to talk about the jealousy of God as another kind of aspect of God's holy love. Have you heard any good sermons lately on the jealousy of God? And again, when we think of human jealousy, oftentimes we think of somebody who is overbearing. Over suspicious, envious. This sort of thing. There is obviously a central kind of jealousy that flows out of anxiety and fear. God's jealousy is more about his omnipotent zeal. And again, it's passion, isn't it? Passion. To protect and preserve that which is most precious to his heart. If you look at scripture, it seems like you find that that God is jealous for his glory. The fame of his name and all the earth. A couple of instances of real tragedy when a Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel four. Gets up and looks out over the city of Babylon and. Sort of things. Look, look, Look at what I did.
[00:57:08] And the next thing you know, he's. He's eating grass like a cow. You know that story? And then there's a case in chapter 12 where I think one of the Herod kings is God smite him over his taking the glory. People are calling him God. God is as jealous for His glory as. Most of all, though, in Scripture you find references to gods jealousy in relationship to the to the devotion and whole heartedness of his people. The passage there from Exodus chapter 20. That's right. In the Decalogue, isn't it? That's right. In the Ten Commandments. For I the Lord, I am a jealous God. He talks there about the sin of idolatry, making graven images. And other passages in Deuteronomy God is jealous for the whole, the devotion and whole heartedness of his people. He does not like spiritual adultery. And he doesn't want to share you and me. With other gods, does he? I think a good human marriage needs to have. A jealousy factor in it. You want your partner sleeping around with other people. Is that cool? There's there's there's, there's there's this exclusivity factor. You know to me a healthy. Human marriage. God says, I'm. I'm one. And I want you to be related to me and no other gods. You shall have no other gods. And so this. This creates a response, doesn't it? So he's jealous for the devotion and whole heartedness of his people. But again, I would submit to you this is an aspect of this holy love. Close Out of out of love. Hannah Bernard and her spiritual. Allegory. Classic crimes Fit on high Places says Love is beautiful. But it's also terrible. Terrible in its determination to allow nothing. Blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.
[01:00:01] You know, God's on a mission to make you, you and me like Jesus, isn't he? He's relentless. And going after that. Because he's jealous. He's a jealous lover. There's a Russian proverb that says jealousy and love are sisters. Jealousy and love or sisters. And I think that's kind of what what we've been alluding to in here. God is holy love and. You have to come back to this. When you talk about the death of Christ, don't you? Holy love. Odin puts it like this and material that I. I think you probably haven't gotten to yet. The cross uniquely joins holiness and love. God's holiness, without God's love would be unbearable. God's love without God's holiness would be unjust. God's wisdom found a way to bring them concurrently together. It involved a cross. So think about how judgment and mercy come together. At the cross. Think about how how holiness and love. How. How wrath and love. Come together on the cut on the cross. He bears his own wrath, doesn't he? In the person of his son. But RATH is there. And yet here in his love. Here is love. What? As the ocean. Damn writers, you know. Isn't it amazing how both of these are both there come together. You guys kind of said this and, you know, and you look at these different accounts, the account of Noah, it's both mercy and and and wrath at the same time, isn't it? What is it? Somebody said the same son that. Melts the snow, hardens the clay. I think C.S. Lewis is a wonderful theologian. And one of the things he does in The Chronicles of Narnia to me is is, you know, functions as a good theologian and conveying and bringing these these things together without necessarily using any of the theological language.
[01:02:49] He's telling a story. I think that's good theology. You know, when you can kind of lay it on somebody without them even knowing that you've done it. I suspect. Allen that's what a good writer does to write. In The Chronicles of Narnia the first time that the children meet Aslan. You know, they've been hearing about him from the Beavers. And yet they haven't met him yet. In the Chronicles of Narnia. I think he does a wonderful job of trying to convey what it's like to be in the presence of Holy Love. Let me read this to you. But as for Aslan himself. The beavers and the children didn't know what to do or say when they saw him. People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible. At the same time. If the children had ever thought so. They were cured of it now. For one, they tried to look at Ashland's face. They just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great royal solemn, overwhelming eyes. And then they found they couldn't look at him and went all trembling. Go on, whispered Mr. Beaver. No, Peter, you first. Now, Sons of Adam, before animals, whispered Mr. Beaver back again. Susan Westford. Peter, what about you? Ladies first. No, you're the eldest, whispered Susan. And of course, the longer they went on doing this, the more awkward they felt. Then at last, Peter realized that it was up to him. He drew his sword and raised it to the salute and hastily saying to the others, Come on, pull yourself together. He advanced to the lion and said. We have come, Aslan. Welcome, Peter, son of Adam Saad Aslan. Welcome, Susan and Lucy, Daughters of Eve.
[01:05:04] His voice was deep and rich and somehow took the fidgets out of them. They now felt glad and quiet. And it didn't seem awkward to them to stand and say nothing. I just think that's beautiful. Good and terrible. At the same time. Glad and quiet. At the same time. In the presence of a holy God, a God of holy love. I think that's what he's trying to help us get there later on. You remember when Aslan comes back? After he's been killed by the white witch. And she, of course, didn't know about the deeper magic. From the dawn of time. Susan and Lucy are there, and they ride on his man. You remember that? Lewis describes it like this. It was such a romp as no one had ever had except in Narnia, and whether it was more like playing with a thunderstorm. Or playing with a kitten. Leslie could never make up her mind. Holy love, huh? I don't know about you, but in the presence of that kind of holy love that evokes a different kind of response from me and a different kind of an adoration. Then a kind of sloppy a. Almost like, Well, God, you ought to you ought to love me. How wonderful. Don't you know how wonderful I am? You know? A.W. Tozer speaks about this and he says sums it up like this The love of Christ, both ones and heals that fascinates and frightens. It kills and makes a life. It draws and repulses. There can be nothing more terrible or wonderful. Than to be stricken with love for Christ so deeply that the whole being goes out in a pained adoration of his person. An adoration that disturbs and disconcert while it purges and satisfies and relaxes the deep part.