Thursday, August 21, 2014

Flooded with Anger

Is anger a sin?

This is not as easy a question as it looks, especially as we know that anger is very much a human emotion that just is what it is. Of course, it's what we do with it that matters. 

Many folk outside the Church look to God as being a very angry God, especially in the Old Testament. They will also say that he has clearly calmed down in the New Testament, that is if they believe that the God in the Old Testament is the same as the God in the New. 

Attributing any emotion to God can only ever be a human attribution. The Divine Nature is not Human Nature even though they were both combined in the Second Person of the Trinity. We cannot really say that God has emotions, at  least not as we would understand them. We attribute emotions to Him as we try to understand His actions in Creation. 

If we look at the passages in which it is said that God is angry, we find at the very source of that anger an expression of divine Love, a Love that seeks to give what the beloved wants. We could look at the story of Noah:
"And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said , I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." (Genesis vi.5-9)
This always looks as if God has thrown a wobbler because humanity is not being obedient. Certainly, this is a difficult passage to reconcile with the God of Love who willeth not the death of a sinner but rather that he should repent and live. It is easier for thos who believe that Genesis is not a book of History but a book of etiology - a parable that says why things are the way they are from a spiritual and philosophical point of view. If Genesis were to be an historic account of the way things were, then we do have things to explain, especially God's capricious nature. How can a capricious God be eternal? Can He truly regret making Humanity, especially one that is free to chose to walk away from Him and whom He allows to resist His Grace?

The text is there and, whether historical fact or allegorical statement, it has been inspired by the Holy Ghost for our learning and edification. So what is it doing?

I think that this text is an invitation to see things outside our human lives. How would we react if our creation was running amok? Let's just consider the situation more carefully.

1) God has created all things.
2) God says that all He has created is very good.
3) God loves His Creation.
4) Because He loves mankind, He desires Man to love Him freely.
5) Man fails to love God.
6) Man worships himself or created things because he does not love God.
7) In loving created things instead of God, Man corrupts created things.

This seems to be the scenario that we come to at the begining of the Noah narrative. We can certainly see the ravages of pollution around us, see the cruelty that we inflict on animals and watch as the forests and greenery are being cut down, species wiped out, other human beings exploited.

If we put ourselves in God's shoes a moment, looking with our eyes and emotions, then we certainly can see the point of view as written in the account from Genesis. With creation a mess, we may seek to wipe the slate clean and start again. Would we have the right to do so?

Let us consider ourselves as creators in the miniature. If we draw a picture and it all goes well and we make a mess, do we have the right to screw up the paper, throw it away and start again? Or if we're making a sculpture of a dove out of clay and it ends up looking like a vulture with acromegaly, do we have the right to smoosh the clay down back to make it afresh? Surely we do have that right!

Perhaps that's something that unnerves us about God. If He created us, then actually He has every right to do with us what He will. He can give us life, and He can take it away again, and He can give it back to us.
"These wait all upon thee : that thou mayest give them meat in due season. When thou givest it them they gather it : and when thou openest thy hand they are filled with good. When thou hidest thy face they are troubled : when thou takest away their breath they die, and are turned again to their dust. When thou lettest thy breath go forth they shall be made : and thou shalt renew the face of the earth. " (Psalm civ.27-30)
It is that fear with which we try to hold God to the same moral standards that He has imposed on us. We are not allowed to murder, so God is not allowed murder. Thus we find ourselves repulsed by the way that God's attitude is represented in Holy Scripture. We look at the murder of the Holy Innocents after the Magi deceived king Herod, and ask God why He didn't prevent this! We find ourselves angry with God because He seems inconsistent.

Let's just look carefully here. Murder is unlawful killing. So which law is binding on God that makes killing unlawful?

Killing is actually rather irrelevant from God's perspective. If we think about it, then whatever life God takes away, He can give back if He desires. We know that God cares for the dead because He allows people to exist after death.
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient , when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing , wherein few, that is , eight souls were saved by water. " (1 Peter iii.18-20)
If God is free to do whatsoever He likes without any repercussions, then this makes Him a truly terrifying individual. This may make us choose to disbelieve in Him, or even believe in Him and hate Him! Well, what effect does that have on Him? None at all!


Here is then, another need for Faith. We not only believe in God, but we also trust in Him!

Remember that this is just us trying to be in God's shoes. We're still looking at things from a human perspective and attributing human capriciousness to God's view.  God is the Eternal being and thus changeless. We may have the mystery as to how an eternal God can become incarnate - perhaps that was the way He managed to build Himself into His own Creation. The text of Genesis is merely an invitation to consider God's position, though we must know that whatever view we may have, it is only Human. Holy Scripture is inspired by God and thus contains all things necessary for our salvation, but it cannot answer all questions, because it can only ever speak in Human terms. One day we will not have a need for Holy Scripture because we will see the Word in His resurrection flesh and through Him will w see the Father.

The characteristics of God that have been revealed to us are that He created us, that He loves us, and that He wants us to be free to choose Him or not. He gives us grace to be saved which we can refuse if we desire. Saved from what? From the desolate corruption that we see all around us as we misuse the creation around us. If we choose, we can remain in this completely corrupt and revolting product of our own sin for Eternity. We call this Hell.

When we read this passage, we see our own perspective from God's viewpoint. It is therefore incomplete, but we must trust that God has morally sufficient reasons to allow suffering and death even if we don't know what they are.

We started off by looking at anger, but we seem to have got side-tracked. Thanks for bearing with me, because there is an important point here. Many of us get angry with God because of the apparently unjustifiable suffering in the world. We hate the fact that He is completely inscrutable and cannot be held to account for His actions. Where did this anger come from?

It came from our sense of justice which is itself a product of our care for others. It comes from our sense of love, indeed from the very image of God that He bestowed on us at our creation. We can be sure that if we see injustice and feel so strongly about it, then we are experiencing something of God's rejection of all that is Evil.

If we are angry with God, then we can be sure that He understands this, but we have to allow Him to deal with it from His perspective. Be angry but do not sin. It is the unexamined and unchecked anger that leads us into sin. It is the reckless disregard for the complexity of existence an the dignity of humanity that leads one consumed with selfish anger to hurt and crush. We cannot undo our actions. We cannot give back any life we take. Anger all too easily descends into a primitive and primeval urge to explode, and explosions cause damage. Anger that is examined carefully can put things right. Examined anger is that which carefully weeds the flower bed: unexamined anger napalms the whole garden. Perhaps that's why we weren't allowed to stay in Eden.

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