As Big As God’s Anger

This week sees the publication of King’s Cross, Tim Keller’s take on Mark’s Gospel. I’ve been reading an advance copy this past week, and it’s outstanding.

Although I’ve spent a lot of time poring over Mark, Keller – together with content developers Sam Shammas and Scott Kauffmann – frequently conjure beautiful insights that give a sense of seeing the landscape for the first time. It’s a reminder that Jesus Christ is incomparable, uncontainable; that his gospel is ever-stunning and never-safe.

And happily, there’s an honest smattering of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Here’s a brief snippet from the book on the subject of God’s anger.

“A correspondence between C. S. Lewis and a man named Malcolm has been collected in a book called Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. In one letter, Malcolm said that he was uncomfortable with the idea that God gets angry. He found it more helpful to think of God’s power and justice like a live electrical wire. He said, ‘The live wire doesn’t feel angry with us, but if we blunder against it we get a shock.’ Lewis replied:

My dear Malcolm: What do you suppose you have gained by substituting the image of a live wire for that of angered majesty? You have shut us up all in despair, for the angry can forgive, but electricity can’t… Turn God’s wrath into mere enlightened disapproval and you turn his love into mere humanitarianism. The ‘consuming fire’ and the ‘perfect beauty’ both vanish. We have, instead, a judicious headmistress or a conscientious magistrate. It comes of being high-minded… Liberalizing and civilizing analogies can only lead us astray.

Your conception of God’s love – and of your value in his sight – will only be as big your understanding of his wrath.”

[King’s Cross, p178]

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