This week I have been inundated with evangelicals on my Facebook feed, on television and in the news blaming God for the tragedy in Newtown — or should I say crediting Him. They have said things such as:
“I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences, too.”
“And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the scripture and on God almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.” —Dr. James Dobson
“I thought God cared about the little children. God protects the little children. Where was God when all this went down. Here’s the bottom line, God is not going to go where he is not wanted.”
“In 1962 we kicked prayer out of the schools. In 1963 we kicked God’s word out of ours schools. In 1980 we kicked the Ten Commandments out of our schools. We’ve kicked God out of our public school system. And I think God would say to us, ‘Hey, I’ll be glad to protect your children, but you’ve got to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentlemen.” —Bryan Fischer, American Family Association
“What are we going to teach you about in school?” inquired Morris. “We can teach you about sex, we can teach you how to rebel to your parents, we can teach you how to be a homo!…What’s behind this shooting that we saw on Dec. 14 in Newtown, Connecticut? Well, number one, deception: When you kicked God out of schools, you’re going to be judged for that.” –Pastor Sam Morris
Well, you know, it’s an interesting thing. When we ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools have become a place for carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability? That we’re not just going to have to be accountable to the police, if they catch us. But one day, we will stand in judgment before a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, we don’t fear that.
God wasn’t armed. He didn’t go to the school, but God will be there in the form of a lot of people with hugs and with therapy and a whole lot of ways. … Maybe we oughta let him in on the front and we wouldn’t have to call him when it’s all said and done on the back end. –Mike Huckabee
If what these men and many others are saying is true, tell me, why was God mad in 1927? After all, he must have been even more wrathful than he was this past Friday. He had to have been. On May 8th of 1927 thirty-eight children were blown up (yes my lovelies I said, “BLOWN UP!”) as they sat in their classrooms at school. In case you are keeping track that is almost twice as many as those whose lives were taken in Newtown. Could it be that God was almost twice as mad at them? How else would the aforementioned men explain the actions of Andrew Kehoe who killed his wife, set fire to their home and barns killing all the livestock (which he had tied into their stalls), blew up the Bath Consolidated School and detonated a homemade car bomb killing 48 people (including 38 children between 7 and 14) and injuring 58 more? There must have been some horrible things going on in the good old USA back then. Maybe it was the gays. Maybe they couldn’t pray in school. Maybe there were too many abortions. Roe v Wade? Maybe too much demon alcohol?
In 1927, sodomy was illegal in all 50 states and no one was trying to redefine marriage.
In 1927, prayer was still legal in schools; in fact it was encouraged.
In 1927, abortion was illegal in all 50 states.
In 1927, the consumption of alcohol was illegal as it was the height of prohibition.
In 1927 firearms were sold over the counter with very few restrictions.
Hmmmmm. Maybe not. So what is the answer then? Why was God angry? Was he angry at all? Was Jesus enough or must we still appease an angry God? I don’t know about you but these are the questions I ask.
These men would have you believe that God’s justice demands these acts of judgment. That they are actually acts of mercy designed to bring about repentance. That we, as the famous sermon goes, are Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God; that God is angry and that right now as we speak he is burning with anger toward those who are not saved. I (and the others like me) would have you believe something a bit different — that we are sinners in the hands of a God who loves us infinitely and in order to show us his great love he became one of us and gave his life as a ransom to buy us out of the bonds of the slavery of sin and set us free to live life as we were always designed to. One in which we love each other and lay down our lives for each other. That he is a God who is burning with passion for each person and wants ALL of us to experience this life of freedom. That sure sounds more like Jesus to me.
The view these folks hold of the work of Jesus is called penal substitutionary atonement (God’s judgment and wrath were satisfied by Christ‘s death on the cross) as the well known song In Christ Alone says, “till on the cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied”. If you share this view the statements above should disturb you. I mean, was God’s wrath satisfied or not? Was Jesus death enough or must God’s wrath be satisfied again and again? I always understood Jesus satisfaction of God’s wrath to be “once for all”. In 1 Peter 3:18 it says:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit
Personally, I subscribe to the theology of Christus Victor which is defined on Wikipedia as:
A Christian understanding of the atonement which views Christ’s death as the means by which the powers of evil, which held humankind under their dominion, were defeated.
Joshua Tongol puts it this way:
“Jesus didn’t lay down His life so that an angry God could change His mind about you. No, the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ was a revelation of God’s love so you that you could change your mind about Him. The only wrath that was appeased at the cross was man’s, not God’s. Man’s “justice” is violent and retributive. God’s justice is non-violent and restorative (look at the life of Jesus). Man unleashed violence at the cross. Jesus absorbed it. THIS. IS. GRACE.”
For the gentlemen above, it seems their God is a God who shows his love by becoming one of us and absorbing his own wrath, who then shows it further by sacrificing small children for the sins of the State in order to bring people to repentance so they can be in his presence. My God is a God who shows his love by sending his son to become one of us, feel our pain and absorb our wrath, take our sin upon him and pay the ransom for our sins; even the sins of those who crucified him and even those of Adam Lanza. He doesn’t wait for us to be able to come into his presence, he comes into ours. He takes our swords and makes plowshares. He bears our sins and our sorrows and is acquainted with our grief. He pays our ransom and gives us freedom. He takes our death and gives us life.
There are many significant differences between these two views of Jesus. You can read more about them in Alexander Renault’s article Orthodox Problems with Penal Substitution and here.
The Callous Theology of James Dobson
For more on the Bath School Massacre:
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