God’s Love and God’s Wrath -- By: D. A. Carson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 156:624 (Oct 1999)
Article: God’s Love and God’s Wrath
Author: D. A. Carson

God’s Love and God’s Wrath *

D. A. Carson

Many think it is easy for God to forgive. I recall meeting a young and articulate French West African when I was studying in Germany more than twenty years ago. We were both working diligently to improve our German, but once a week or so we had had enough, so we went out for a meal together and retreated to French, a language we both knew well. In the course of those meals we got to know each other. I learned that his wife was in London, training to be a medical doctor. He himself was an engineer who needed fluency in German in order to pursue doctoral studies in engineering in Germany.

I soon discovered that once or twice a week he disappeared into the red-light district of town. Obviously he went to pay his money and have his woman. Eventually I got to know him well enough that I asked him what he would do if he discovered that his wife was doing something similar in London.

“Oh,” he said, “I’d kill her.”

“That’s a bit of a double standard, isn’t it?” I asked.

“You don’t understand. Where I come from in Africa, the husband has the right to sleep with many women, but if a wife is unfaithful to her husband she must be killed.”

“But you told me that you were raised in a mission school. You know that the God of the Bible does not have double standards like that.”

He gave me a bright smile, and replied, “Ah, le bon Dieu, il doit nous pardonner; c’est son métier [Ah, God is good, He’s bound to forgive us; that’s His job].”

* This is article four in a four-part series, “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God,” delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 3-6, 1998.

D. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

It is a common view, is it not? I do not know if my African friend knew that the same words are ascribed to Catherine the Great; he may have been consciously quoting her, for he was well read. But even when people do not put things quite so bluntly, the idea is popular, not least because some ill-defined notions of the love of God run abroad in the land. But they have been sadly sentimentalized and horribly stripped of all the complementary things the Bible has to say.

This address reflects on a few of these other things, with the aim of thinking more precisely and faithfully about the love of God.

The Love of God and the Wrath of God

The Bible speaks of the wrath of God in high...

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