Thursday, September 08, 2011

A Biblical View of God

In June 2000 at my 20-year high school reunion I asked my good friend, Steve Moroney, who was instrumental in my baptism into Christ in 1983 and who went on to become a professor of theology, if he was working on any books. I knew that professors are expected to write books as part of their work and I knew he was due for one. He told me that he was interested in the subject of God’s judgment. As part of his research he was reading through the Bible and carefully making notes on every scripture that mentioned God’s judgment. He felt, and still does as do I, that contemporary American Christians pay far more attention to God’s grace, mercy and love than to his righteousness and holiness, from which judgment issues.

Nine years later the book came out but it was titled “God of Love and God of Judgment” (Wipf & Stock, 2009). I quickly purchased it, read it thoroughly, and even got Steve to sign it for me at our 30-year reunion! In the preface to the book he explained how he had finished the original manuscript years earlier but had two main reservations. First, it was depressing! Even as he understood that the truth about God’s judgment can be deflating but ultimately is good for us to realize, he still wasn’t inspired to publish it. Second, it was unbalanced. He realized that “A book about God’s judgment that does not include God’s love is just as lacking as a book about God’s love that does not include God’s judgment.”

So he started a new phase of research, this time reading through the entire Bible and noting every scripture that mentioned love. Here is what he found in his Bible reading through The One Year Bible, which arranges Scripture into 365 daily readings:
352 out of the 365 daily readings (95%) dealt with some aspect of judgment.
336 out of the 365 daily readings (92%) dealt with some aspect of love.

63 out of the 66 books of the Bible (95%) reference judgment in some way.
63 out of the 66 books of the Bible (95%) reference love in some way.

Moroney notes that, “Many people have a one-sided view of God as only judgment or only love. In response to these recurring problems, I propose a solution that sounds simple but is challenging to achieve – developing a theology that joins love and judgment together.” And that is what he does in his book, which I highly recommend.

Reading Moroney’s book, and later following the controversy emanating from Rob Bell’s provocative book “Love Wins” in which he takes issue with historical Christian understandings of judgment, and after reading several books written in response to Bell, I became inspired to tackle this from the pulpit. Today and for the next five weeks we will focus on what is a healthy, biblical view of God which includes both his love and his judgment. How are we to understand such disparate scriptures as Hebrews 10:32 (“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”) and I John 4:16 (“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God”). Each is part of God’s self-revelation through the scriptures!

God is neither a police officer with a radar gun nor an indulgent grandparent. He is righteous and loving, holy and merciful, demanding and forgiving. We will start the series today by looking at God’s character as he declares himself to Moses in Exodus 34:5-8. Get ready for a great journey in the Scriptures together.