Q&R with Brad – “Can God feel anger even if he’s not an ‘Angry God'”?
I listened to a recent podcast on your thoughts, breaking down the “angry God” worldview. You couched it in the language of “worshiping Molech,” which was a sharp wake-up call to me, even though I have been moving away from the “Angry God” view for some time.
It got me wondering about something and I am hoping that you might be able to provide some context for it. Even though God is not the “Angry God” of modern Evangelicalism … is it still possible for God to have the emotion of anger?
Case in point … the cleansing of the temple. What do Jesus’ actions in the temple reveal to us about the nature of the Father? Was the love of the father, the inclusiveness of the gospel, and the promise of restoration all contained in that seemingly violent event?
The people who like the “angry God” worldview can make much mileage out of this event. I am wondering what it looks like from the perspective that you referenced in the podcast, that God is inclusive, desires restoration, and is forgiving.
That particular feast period was full of intense confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders. Is it reasonable for us to conclude that God can be “angry” without being an “Angry God”?
Wondering what your thoughts on this are.
What an insightful and important question! My thoughts… first, “emotions” is a tricky word. Generally, emotions are intimately connected to both soul and the body, and our experience of them is so intense and varied that it’s hard to project them onto God except by analogy, and literalizing them tends toward idolatry. That said, God enters the human experience of emotions in the incarnation, and somehow, the human emotions of Christ become a portal into the nature of God.
I wrote a brief post about this here: https://bradjersak.com/qr-does-god-have-feelings/
Now back to the cleansing of the temple. I suspect that many Christians have over-imagined that scene as a reactive tantrum rather than a deliberate prophetic-act and typically employed the charged scene as a justification for their own anger and even violence.
But I think it would be wrong to imagine the dramatic act at the Temple through a Stoic lens. Clearly, we see Christ’s grief for the forthcoming destruction of Jerusalem and anger toward those who, in rejecting his way of peace, were dooming many lives to inevitable destruction. But as I see the sinless grief and anger of Christ, I find it very helpful to ask how those human emotions refract the Father’s infinite Love, which is his very nature and the source of the emotions.
In other words, the Triune God IS (in essence and nature) an infinite and constant spring of Love (which is supra-emotional). That is WHO God is. And when refracted through the divine-human person of Jesus Christ into this world (and our varied responses to God’s Love), what might that love look like?
For example, the Father’s love refracted through Christ in light of the corruption of the temple might look like a dramatic prophetic warning, charged with grief and anger. What is crucially (lit.) important is the direction that these ’emotions’ flow. They flow from God through Christ into the world. That is very different than imagining God being subject to (under, controlled by, reacting to) our defiant roller-coasters. God responds (not reacts) to humanity from his own nature, and this we see revealed in Christ, always as love but then refracted by sin, death, darkness, etc. as the other emotions. Dr. Simon Oliver (Durham University) once told me, “The Love of God refracted through human sin looks like the Cross.” That says so much.
This way of describing love, grief and anger is quite natural to any human on our best days. We grieve because we love. We feel anger because we love. We feel joy because we love. So in the best case, the love of Christ (the divine will, perhaps) is transforming us and at the helm of our emotions. This is the kingdom reign of Christ of my inner being. But “Losing it” describes those days when the secondary emotions grab the wheel and want to steer our wills, and this is particularly problematic when my emotional reactivity defies love and turn from God and from others.
I hope this stimulates some fresh clarity.