December 29, 2011

Randall Balmer: Thy Kingdom Come

 Thy Kingdom Come - An Evangelical's Lament: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America by Randall Balmer (2006) - 2 out of 5 stars

If this were a different book, I think I might have liked it. There is a genuine concern in the unholy alliance of many professing evangelicals with the Republican Party, and a good case can be made that the Republican Party has not served as much of a standard bearer for the values that conservative, biblically-minded evangelicals hold (or should hold) dear. A thoughtful discussion of these issues would be welcome. Likewise, a substantive treatment of major public policy issues (in particular, those that often divide left and right) from a distinctly Christian perspective is beneficial and would help move the conversation forward. This book is neither of those things.

As the title says, this is Balmer's lament at the hijacking of Christianity by the Religious Right to do their political bidding (which he sees as generally coinciding with that of the Republican Party). According to Balmer, the Religious Right, defined as "politically conservative evangelicals who, since the late 1970's, have sought to exert their influence in political, cultural, and legal matters," does not represent the views of biblical Christianity and even those of earlier generations of Christians. He regrets the fact that among most outsiders, the term evangelical carries with it connotations of "right-wing," "Republican," and this group known as "the Religious Right." This is indeed true, and regrettable. In mainstream thought, the idea of a bible-believing Christian almost necessitates wholesale approval of George W. Bush and a daily recitation of the pledge of allegiance. This is not true to reality, as Balmer rightly argues, since there are many evangelicals who hold liberal political views and do not find themselves represented by the Religious Right.

While Balmer's characterization in the book suggests that the stereotype is true to reality for those within the Religious Right (as defined above), I would contend that even here it is incorrect. "Politically conservative evangelical" no more equates to "Republican Party" than "evangelical" equates to "Religious Right." In fact, as a politically conservative evangelical, I found myself agreeing with Balmer in lamenting the treatment of "evangelical" and "Republican" as synonymous. Balmer makes the book a broad assault on "politically conservative evangelicals" which he equates to the "Religious Right," but the only punches he ever lands are on those closely aligned with the Republican Party establishment.

Semantics aside, this book is not Balmer's version of "Why I am a liberal," or an evangelical defense of liberal political thought. Neither is it a substantive critique of conservative political thought. Rather, it is an attempt to debunk the conservative evangelical viewpoint in six key areas, mainly through anecdotal accounts and ad hominem attacks. Where there is an argument presented on an issue, it rarely diverges from the standard Democratic Party line of reasoning, although there is usually an appeal to Christian belief as the basis. The six key areas are:

  1. Abortion
  2. Homosexuality
  3. Separation of Church and State
  4. Public Education
  5. Intelligent Design/Creationism
  6. The Environment
The book does a great job of pointing out much hypocrisy and even more inconsistent application of professed principles by leaders in the conservative movement. It also demonstrates ways that the Republican establishment has done a good job talking the talk on many issues which conservative evangelicals are genuinely concerned about, but have used those issues to gain votes and advance a different agenda. However, it does little to move the discussion forward with regards to evangelicals and their political positions. After reading the book, I got the impression that Balmer was not really lamenting that most of evangelicalism was aligned with a political party and had used the Bible and Christian values to promote a political agenda, but that it was aligned with the Republican party (as opposed to the Democratic party) and was promoting the wrong agenda. In other words, if the Evangelical Right became the Evangelical Left, there wouldn't really be an issue.

December 26, 2011

Arthur Hunt: The Vanishing Word

the_vanishing_word  The Vanishing Word: The Veneration of Visual Imagery in the Postmodern World by Arthur W. Hunt III (2003) – 4 out of 5 Stars

This is a difficult book to categorize because it is a many things – part history, part cultural critique, and part prophetic warning. Drawing on the thought of well-known names in media ecology such as Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, and Jack Goody,  influential Christians like Francis Schaeffer, David Wells, and Gene Edward Veith, and numerous voices on each era of history, Hunt paints an intriguing and insightful (though at times questionable) picture of the ongoing tension throughout history between the image and the word (the Word, in particular). He argues that when the image dominates a culture, a thoughtless paganism rules as the norm (either explicitly as in ancient Rome, or implicitly as in Medieval Rome) and the people open themselves up to tyranny. Biblical Christianity is a victim of the preference of images over the word, and the impact on the society at large is profound.

Using Hunt’s one-sentence summary of each chapter, the book can be outlined like this:

  1. Introduction – Although our communication technologies dazzle us, they also have the potential to unravel us, and to make us a bewitched people.
  2. Tables of Stone – There exists a long-standing and irreconcilable tension between the word and the image.
  3. When night fell – Pagan idolatry is biblicism’s chief competitor because one thrives in the absence of the written word and the other cannot exist without it.
  4. The Fiery Word – America was born out of a print-oriented culture.
  5. Something in the Air – As the industrial revolution transformed agricultural societies into urban ones, old social norms, habits, and customs, which traditionally held sway since the beginning of civilization, gave way to the rhythms of the concrete city.
  6. The Machines of Show Business – While middle-class America hardly ventures into the seedy section of the big city anymore, the red-light district has now been conveniently piped directly into the living room.
  7. The Image – The dominating components of today’s media content – sex, violence, and celebrity – conform to a pagan ideal.
  8. On Begin Postmodern – Postmodernism is a turning from rationality, and at the same time an embracing of spectacle.
  9. Formula for a Fuhrer – A dangerous soup is cooking.
  10. Conclusion – If we know what lies behind a particular medium, are able to point out how it works and why it sways people the way it does, then we can lessen its power over us.

There is much to appreciate in this book. This is a relatively new area of study for me personally, though many of the underlying assumptions and ideas find expression and thoughtful discussion in two other books I’ve recently read, From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology by John Dyer and The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies. Unique to this books is the thesis that the turn towards predominantly visual media is nothing short of a resurgence of ancient paganism.

The bulk of the book consists in painting a historical portrait of the conflict between the word and the image. The result is a fascinating (at times disturbing) tour through Western civilization from the perspective of an image-centered paganism and a word-centered Judaism/Christianity. Following this, he analyzes today’s culture in the same terms and the parallels are striking. For example, comparing the ancient polytheistic tendency to self-worship with our own, he writes:

A pagan, then, is someone who has engaged in a substitution process for the purpose of suppressing the true God. As a religious creature, one must have a worldview that somewhat rings true and provides a framework for being. Therefore, people create religious systems that allow for the pursuit of their own selfish desires. Ignoring God as revealed in nature’s design and inward conscience, they turn to experiential or bodily awareness, that which is found in the self. Meaning is then transferred to real or created objects in the world. Pagan happiness is found in honoring earthly objects through ritual.

When I said in Chapter One that visual media have the potential to paganize us, I simply meant that in a culture where it is difficult to escape the pervasiveness of images, the devotion that we put into the ritual of watching television, going to movies, attending rock concerts, or devouring the latest People magazine approaches the same level of devotion that the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans had for their deities. It meets the same need, and quite remarkably, the images are all too familiar. The cult of celebrity fills a religious hole dug by modernism. William Blake once said that all deities reside in the human breast (all but one, of course). So it was for the Greeks, and so it is for us. The machines of show business brought the gods back to life.

The ancient Greeks and Romans practiced their devotion to the gods within their particular cults. Cults were local in nature; the gods were woven into a pagan’s sense of place, work, or ancestry. Pagan piety has never been the same type of piety one expects or sees in Christian orthodoxy. The Oxford History of the Classical World tells us that pagan piety was not a matter of inward reflection or intense private communion with God. For example, no Greek would have ever written in a spiritual journal. The relationship between man and his gods was a casual one:

“It discouraged individualism, a preoccupation with inner states and the belief that intentions matter more than actions…Man was not for Greeks a sinful being in need of redemption; piety was not a matter of perpetual moral endeavor under the watchful eye of conscience. The gods excelled in strength and skill more often than in the quieter virtues. Indeed their behavior in myth was often scandalous: There might you see the gods in sundry shapes, committing heady riots, incest, rapes.”

The dominant tone of ritual was one of festivity rather than somber sanctimony. The gods delighted in seeing humans enjoying themselves. Therefore, singing, dancing, athletics, crude jokes, obscene gestures, and the occasional orgy accompanied the blood sacrifice. This spirit of festivity is captured in the New Testament when the apostle Paul describes the idolatry of the children of Israel during the wilderness wanderings: “Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play’” (1 Corinthians 10:7). The enormous amount of time, energy, and devotion that swirls around electronically-produced images constitutes a kind of ritual in itself. Images are pervasive, emotionally captivating, and…dare I say it? Sacred. They are not sacred because we associate the true and living God with them. Just the opposite. We associate ourselves with them. This is what it means to be pagan. Our images are sacred because we pour meaning into them and receive meaning back. We follow the sordid lives of celebrities both on and off the screen, bestow more honor on them than we do actual historical figures, develop “personal relationships” with them (even though we have never met them in person), buy their products as if they were relics, and make pilgrimages to their shrines (e.g., Elvis, Princess Di). To have the fortune to actually become a celebrity, says Neal Gabler in Life: The Movie, How Entertainment Conquered Reality, “is widely regarded as the most exalted state of human existence.” It is dying and going to heaven – that lucky someone’s inauguration to the modern version of Mount Olympus. To beat the insurmountable odds by becoming a “star” is to be cast into orbit with the other gods floating around in the celestial celebrity universe. Our association with electronic images helps us sustain a certain way of life and a certain way of looking at the world while we run away from God. We enjoy looking at ourselves. Our polytheism is not directed at stone idols or marble statues. Our polytheism resides in a house of mirrors.

Following a demonstration of the postmodern turn towards irrationality and spectacle, and how that plays itself out today, Hunt argues from parallels with Nazi Germany that this is nothing less than a recipe for tyranny and leaves us venerable to those who would exercise the will to power. With the safeguards of an active literacy and a biblical worldview removed, the eerie result could be best described as 1984 meets A Brave New World.

He concludes with a note of optimism, calling for action on an individual, family, church, and school level. His suggestions call for awareness and intentionality with regard to our use of technology, a resistance to the idols of our age, and an intentional effort to maintain the Word-centeredness of our worship and teaching. His final recommendation is to make media ecology a key component of our curriculum, forcing us to not only ask what technology can do for us, but what it does to us.

There are a few things about this book that I did not like. Most of the concerns relate to the fact that this is a popularization of a school of thought, and anytime that happens there is a necessary tendency towards reduction and little engagement with alternate views to argue the case. In addition, some of the historical portraits are painted with very broad brush strokes, and I’m curious whether the thesis would hold up under a more rigorous historical scrutiny.

In spite of these concerns, I recommend this book to all thinking Christians. It will force you to look at the world around you in different (and perhaps more biblical) terms, and will ask questions that you might not ever be forced to answer in our day. Also, if you’re new to the area of media ecology, I recommend taking up this book along with John Dyer’s book mentioned above.

December 19, 2011

Alistair Begg: Pathway to Freedom

  Pathway to Freedom: How God’s Laws Guide Our Lives by Alistair Begg (2003) - 5 out of 5 Stars

I’ve benefited from the work of many Christian authors and preachers in my life, but Alistair Begg has a special place in my heart. It was through listening to his sermons, podcasted through Truth For Life, that I discovered a whole new world of expository preaching. For the first time that I can remember, I was listening to the Bible taught and applied on its own terms rather than marshaled to make someone else’s point. I had developed somewhat of a mistrust for most contemporary preachers, but Alistair Begg taught me that there were still some men preaching in churches who considered it their duty to remain faithful to proclaim what the Bible says. For that I am grateful.

This book, Pathway to Freedom, is an exposition of the Ten Commandments and an attempt to show their importance to the Christian life. Since it is based on a series of sermons he preached, it might be surprising that I didn’t rush to read through this book when I first received it. Ultimately, I guess I had concluded that I already knew what he was going to say, so there wasn’t much more to be gained from reading it. I’m glad to say that I was mistaken. Having read through it now, I can say this is an excellent book and one that I’d recommend heartily.

Decrying the lack of a sense of Christian duty among modern evangelicals, Begg traces our “moral flabbiness” to a neglect of God’s law. This neglect represents a clear departure from the pattern found throughout historical Christianity. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that, far from being irrelevant or legalistic, the moral law of God as expressed in the Ten Commandments is foundational to living out our freedom in Christ.

When dealing with the topic of the law in the Bible, we must avoid the dangers of both legalism and license. We must also recognize the proper place of the law in the Christian life, and understand how we should and should not use the law. Building on Romans 6:14, he explains the ways that a Christian is not under the law, and then goes on to expound the classic Reformed view of the threefold use of the law.

The next 10 chapters work one by one through the 10 commandments, explaining and applying them to contemporary issues in manner that is both interesting and convicting. In each chapter I found myself challenged and convicted, and the mirror of God’s law was turned towards me. Underlying his exposition are these 3 principles of interpretation:

  1. The commandments are spiritual and require that we obey from the heart. A mere outward conformity to the commandments does not constitute obedience.
  2. There is a positive and negative aspect to each commandment. Where a sin is forbidden, a duty is commanded. In other words, the “thou shalt not” implies a contrary “thou shalt.” For example, the command against bearing false witness implies a command to uphold the truth.
  3. Each commandment forbids not only the act but also the desires and inclinations which lead to the act. Not only is adultery forbidden, but also the lust that precedes it (Matt. 5:27-30)

Following the exposition, Begg concludes with a chapter on the good news for all lawbreakers – that in the death of Jesus Christ the penalty for disobedience has been paid for whoever will put their trust in him, that his righteous obedience is counted as our righteous obedience, and that his resurrection to life is counted as our resurrection to life, and that through the Holy Spirit which he gives we have been filled with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and are free to begin walking in ever increasing obedience to him.

Cleaning out my library in 2012–Or, “Please, make it stop!”

These are the books on the chopping block

Over the past few years, I’ve managed to acquire a large stack of books that I have yet to read. Most of these arrive through free giveaways (which I simply refuse to turn down)  or from the clearance shelf of the used bookstore. It’s amazing how much more interesting a book looks for $1.00 than for the retail price. I generally won’t buy a book unless I have some interest in reading it, but many of the clearance items fall much lower on my priority list and usually get pushed aside for books that are of more immediate interest.

However, I want to avoid being a hoarder of books (even marginally good ones!) and I want to keep my marriage healthy. Laura is very gracious and certainly knows the joy of a good bargain, but she is rightly frustrated with the growing  number of unread books while I continue to acquire others and read them instead. I’ve always argued that there is a benefit to having books at home and encouraging reading in our family, but we should probably be intentional about the books that we hang onto and ensure that we’re encouraging the reading of worthwhile books. Let’s face it, though. Many of these books, even the good ones, do not need to be kept around. It would be better to read them, gain what can be gained, and pass them on to someone else. This is what I’ve decided to do.

Over the next year, my plan is to read the unread and then, with the exception of books that I deem as truly useful for future reference, I’m going to pass them on. I’ll be giving some of them away on this blog, some to my brother (a fellow bibliophile), and some to whomever else wants them. I also plan to post some kind of review of each of them, the substance of which will vary depending on how thorough a read the book gets. The main point of this blog is to keep me accountable to follow through with the plan, which at this point involves reading and disposing of 63 books.

December 14, 2011

A Response to a Friend

This post is in response to my friend Andy's questions over on his blog. You can read the original post with questions here.

In response, I have a few preliminary things. First of all, I’m not a follower of Platt or Driscoll so I can’t speak for them or their views. However, I do consider myself theologically Reformed (or Calvinist – in the historic 5 Solas sense), probably more so than Driscoll (not sure about Platt).

With regards to your final note, if you had simply characterized Platt’s presentation as “pastorally irresponsible” then you probably wouldn’t have received anywhere near the responses you did, and I know I wouldn’t have objected to it. Whether it’s pastorally responsible is a discussion worth having, but let’s face it, you argued for bad exegesis and bad theology, so your objection is not merely pastoral responsibility.

Second, I’m not sure why you addressed this post to Calvinists as if this were a Calvinist vs. arminian issue. In fact, I know many evangelical arminians who would have taken no exception with the things David Platt said in the video (leaving aside for now the issue of pastoral responsibility). I’d love to engage you on your views of Calvinism and actually address the substance of what we believe. The only thing you said in your response to the video that would seem to be directed to Calvinists was the insinuation that Calvinists either don’t believe that God is loving or have a deficient view of the love of God, which is risible. The reformers have proclaimed the true love and beneficence of the Father as revealed in Christ more than any other group in history of theology. The rest of the criticisms would have landed much wider than Calvinists.

You dismissed the doctrine of Total Depravity, and in doing so you left behind not only Calvinists but most historic Protestants. With that move you have gone beyond well-beyond arminianism into some form of semi-pelagianism. Unfortunately, you’ve seem to have done so with a caricature of the doctrine. This is another area where discussion may be fruitful.

Thirdly, the line of questioning below hangs on the supposition that God’s hatred and his wrath against sin are not synonymous (or at least very closely related). This is an assertion which you have made but not demonstrated, but as you’ll see from my answers below, I do not grant the premises.

Finally, before answering the questions, I’d like to share with you a dialogue between Charles Simeon (18th Century Calvinist) and John Wesley (the original ‘Wesleyan’ Arminian):

SIMEON: Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

WESLEY: Yes, I do indeed.

SIMEON: And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

WESLEY: Yes, solely through Christ.

SIMEON: But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

WESLEY: No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

SIMEON: Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

WESLEY: No.

SIMEON: What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother's arms?

WESLEY: Yes, altogether.

SIMEON: And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

WESLEY: Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

SIMEON: Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree.


Question 1 

I believe it’s important to let the Bible define the words it uses. In the Psalm, David expresses that God:
- Does not approve of evil
- Does not have evil people dwell with him
- Does not have boastful people stand in his presence
- Hates all who behave wickedly
- Destroys liars
- Despises violent and deceitful people
However you want to define the words ‘hate’ and ‘despise’ here, it must be compatible with the notions that he disapproves of this class of people, removes them from his presence, and destroys them. Certainly the words convey the sense of active opposition and an unfavorable disposition. If you think the translation of ‘hate’ and ‘despise (or abhor)’ carries the wrong connotation in our context, then propose an alternate. However, even if you replace the word ‘hates’ with ‘rejects’ and the word ‘despises’ with ‘looks away in saddened disgust,’ I’m guessing that you will do nothing to remove the stumbling block and offense to our modern sensibilities. There’s no need to import 21st century notions of seething resentment, disproportionate anger, and sinful malice into the word to make it offensive – the concept expressed in the passage is offensive, no matter how you translate it.

There are two types of people in Psalm 5, the wicked and the righteous. These are not defined as those who are morally deficient and those who are morally upstanding. Rather, the wicked are described as those who oppose God and are actively opposed by him. The righteous are those who call upon the Lord, who rely on his steadfast love for entrance into his presence, and most importantly those who take refuge in him. That phrase “take refuge in him” is almost certainly intended to allude back to the Lord’s Anointed in Psalm 2:12, where we are warned to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” I would suggest that the concepts expressed here are very “New Testament” and that Psalm 5 is hardly an isolated occurrence. The risk in 2:12 is that King will become angry, and you will perish in the way because of his wrath. This motif is not swept under the rug in the New Covenant – the Messiah who sits enthroned at the Father’s right hand (Ps 110:1) and who intercedes as an eternal high priest (Ps 110:4) is also the one who will shatter kings on the day of his wrath (Ps 110:5) and will execute judgment among the nations filling them with corpses (Ps 110:6).

So what about David? Did he speak lies and act treacherously? Was he a man of bloodshed? Most definitely. So how is that he could enter the Lord’s house, boast in his name, be blessed and covered with the Lord’s favor rather than disapproved, cast out of his presence, and destroyed? How else, other than approaching him with an acceptable sacrifice and taking refuge in him? David’s case helps us to better define the classes here. The righteous are positively defined as those who fear the Lord and take refuge in him. The wicked then are those who are not righteous, and who are enemies of the righteous. It is against these enemies of the righteous that (post-Calvary, mind you) “God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints” (1 Th 1:7-10).

So does God hate (in the sense above) the wicked? The answer would be yes, both in this passage and elsewhere in the Scripture. And it would also be true that the way this hatred is defined is very closely associated with his judgment and his wrath. If we can agree that the psalmist’s use of hatred is dependent upon the notion of God’s wrath and righteous judgment, then this discussion will be much easier.


Question 2

In this case, you’re equivocating on the word ‘sinner.’ The way it’s being used by Platt (and presumably Driscoll, though I haven’t heard him) is the way psalmist uses it – i.e. ‘sinner’ = ‘the wicked as opposed to the righteous’ (as defined above). You are using it in the sense of ‘sinner’ = ‘those who have sin.’ So my answer, and I only speak for myself, is no – God does not hate those who put their faith in Christ. Again, this underscores the key relationship between the concepts of wrath and hatred with God. In Christ, God’s wrath is removed and therefore it cannot be said that he hates someone in Christ.

By the way, your exegesis of 1 Tim 1:15 is suspect. In the context of 1:12-15, Paul is not saying that he is presently the worst of all sinners in the sense that he sins as bad as anyone else, but that his former role as blasphemer, persecutor, and opponent of the church makes him the worst of all sinners and therefore the biggest display of God’s perfect patience and mercy towards sinners.

So, did God hate (as defined above) Paul when he was a persecutor of the church? Yes. Did God love Paul and send Christ into the world to save Paul? Yes.


Question 3

First, we must remember that when we are speaking of God, we’re speaking analogically because that’s the way that he has revealed himself to us.

When speaking of God, hate is not the opposite of love. Neither is it on the same plane or in the same category. God’s love is essential to who he is. Our God is loving Father, beloved Son, and loving Spirit. His love is perfect beauty, perfect goodness, and perfect holiness. If God had never created, he would still be loving, gracious, and holy. The Father and the Son have always existed in loving communion by the Spirit.

God’s hatred is the manifestation of his pure love in the face of evil (which is another reason it is close synonym to wrath). True love must hate evil. That’s why the mark of genuine Christian love includes an abhorrence or evil (Rom. 12:9; Heb 1:9). So, remembering that we’re speaking analogically, it is absolutely possible for God to both love and hate an individual. While we were yet sinners…while we were enemies…Christ died for the ungodly. Those who were objects of his wrath, those who were his enemies – it is those on whom he set his love and for whom he sent his Son to die. Furthermore, in this sense, his beloved Son did at the same time experience both love and hatred as he bore our sins in himself on the tree.

Question 4

This is pure sophistry. But I may post some additional thoughts on Romans 9 at another point.

Question 5

This is a ridiculous either/or. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world because the world is already condemned. The wrath of God is already kindled. He sent his Son into the world to save them from the coming wrath. I disagree with the person that said God can love us because Christ died for us - absolutely not! Christ died for us because He loves us. But neither is it true that the wrath of God is no longer a reality after the cross. Why else is it significant that we who are justified will be 'saved from the wrath to come.' Whatever way you want to interpret the symbolism of Revelation 14:9-10 or texts like Matthew 13:41-50 and 2 Th 1:8-9, this much is clear - there is a "wrath to come" and the Lord is very much an active agent in it.

The flood of God's wrath is coming on the earth, and it already came upon Jesus, and he came out the other side into the new creation. Those who are united to Christ by faith have already passed through wrath and entered the new creation with him as well. However, for those not on the ark the flood waters are still a real and present threat.

The apostolic preaching contains both elements - Good News, the Messiah has come, atoned for sin and conquered death, and taken his seat at the right hand of God! The Holy Spirit has come and the new age dawned! The exile is over! Yet they also warn that the Messiah has been appointed judge of the living and the dead - and God commands all people everywhere to repent because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness.

Question 6

As I argue above, I don’t think you can make such a distinction between wrath against sin and hatred when speaking of God.

Question 7

As I said above, our God is love.