Judgment Without Wrath: Christus Victor in “The Servant Parable” -- By: Elaine A. Heath

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 30:0 (NA 1998)
Article: Judgment Without Wrath: Christus Victor in “The Servant Parable”
Author: Elaine A. Heath


Judgment Without Wrath:
Christus Victor in “The Servant Parable”

Elaine A. Heath

Elaine Heath (M.Div. ATS) is a Ph.D. candidate at Duquesne University and a pastor.

The Paradox

The earliest credal statement in the church is clear, simple and uncompromising: “Jesus Christ is Lord.”1 Because “Jesus Christ is Lord” Paul believes the church can and should stand fast against temptation, sin, and all the principalities and powers of evil, even as it rejoices in the sure hope of salvation.2 Persuaded that Christ’s triumph over death is the historical beginning of an eventual and total healing of the cosmos, Paul triumphantly proclaims:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.3

Yet in the same letter Paul warns of condemnation and judgment as real possibilities for people, saying that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.”4 Thus Paul, in keeping with the rest of the New Testament, reflects a mysterious tension, a paradox between the hope of universal redemption and the possibility of hell.

This paradox has been the source of endless debate ever since. The debate is not trivial. Eschatology is the final outworking of the rest of theology. It is, to borrow a concept from the business world, the “vision statement” which charts the theological course for everything from evangelism to ethics to personal piety.

Eschatology which attempts to resolve the biblical paradox between universal redemption and the possibility of hell usually requires a diminishment of either divine mercy or divine justice, or an over-emphasis on human depravity or human innocence.5 To be true to biblical revelation eschatology must maintain the tension of the paradox, exploring the implications with a “both/and” mindset. Thus Berkhouwer, for example, acknowledges the doxolo...

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