Thursday, April 11, 2013

J: Judgment


 
Often we hear various attributes of God compared and contrasted, such as holiness vs. grace, transcendence vs. immanence, judgment vs. love, etc. But recently I have come across theology books that don’t contrast so much as try to articulate a little better how seemingly disparate attributes work together with each other. I find this particularly interesting in regard to God’s love and His judgment. For instance, in his book God the Almighty Donald Bloesch says, “We know God to be love in His innermost nature, and this means that His wrath and judgment are not another side of God but actually expressions of His love.” I’m pretty sure he deduces this from the fact that Scripture explicitly says, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) but nowhere does it say, “God is justice” or “God is judgment” or “God is wrath” (as in, equating the centrality of His being with the concept of judgment itself).  

But how can this be? Can a judgment for someone's destruction be borne out of love?

In order for wrath/judgment to be an expression of love, the intended result would have to be a loving one. In other words, God’s hope in judgment must be for repentance or change. And perhaps in some way love could be the motivation simply for setting things right (vengeance)? But I think God has love not only for victims but for transgressors as well. So if His love is at work on both sides of the equation, I think mere vengeance is a stretch for love (though, admittedly, I could be wrong – God’s concept of love could be much more comprehensive than I understand…and indeed it is).  

Perhaps it goes back to the truth that God corrects those He loves, much like parents correct their children (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6). So here again, the intended outcome of correction seems to be change for the better.  

Perhaps there is a difference between judgment and wrath. Judgment is punishment/correction, while wrath is emotional anger. But even then, dare we accuse God of acting in anger without control? I can’t believe He would willingly “wipe anyone out” without a thought to the eternal consequences for them of such an act. He cares too much, and He is too wise. He is not human, that He should give in so helplessly to nothing more than emotion. As further proof of this, even in the Old Testament, before God would bring doom or judgment on a nation, He always warned them and gave them a chance to change first. 

So there – perhaps the kind of judgment that love permits for a reason other than the hope of change is when the hope for change no longer exists; perhaps final judgment comes when someone (individual or corporate group, like a nation) makes a final, no-turning-back decision to resist the change God has called for. In this sense, that someone is in fact knowingly choosing his or her own fate. 

Do you think this theology that God’s judgment is an expression of His love is accurate? Or are these attributes really antithetical or unrelated to each other?

1 comment:

  1. A fine example of the word Judgement. most enlightening to read.

    Yvonne.

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