Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why does God get mad?

Stupid question;
If God knows all.  If God has written history from the beginning of time until the end of time, why does he get so angry when man screws up?  He already knows that they're going to disappoint him and turn away from him repeatedly.  He made them that way.

Just wondering, so enlighten me!


  1. He may have eternally decided what His response would be to events which happen in time, but those events (and His response) must still take place. My church's confession says that God is "without passions," which means that He is perfectly self-controlled. He is not 'moved' from something outside of Himself. Given that He knows all things, His reactions stem from perfect self-direction. God only 'reacts' (in time) in the way that is (a) consistent with His nature and (b) consistent with His will.

    So the answer (from an orthodox Christian, anyway) is that God still gets mad and expresses Himself in time as a part of His revelation of Himself. If God never expressed anger at sin and evil, humanity would never know that they were acting contrary to God's will and character.

    That's the best I could do without getting annoying and technical.

  2. @Adam,
    Thanks for the reply. But, if he knows that the people are not going to follow him, why does he continue to ask for them to repent? He just sets himself up for a cycle of violence and useless killing followed by I will always love you guys. Why doesn't he just fix the problem by wiring our brains to behave? ;-)
    I hate to be a broken record but it's the classic abusive spouse scenario.

  3. I think, Bruce, that it is problematic for one to think that God would WANT people to follow Him and yet not tell them to follow him. Talk about spousal abuse. Beating the spouse and not even telling them why! (I don't accept the comparison by the way, but I thought I'd play with your terminology.

    If God did not even tell them to repent, He would be like the Neo-Platonic deity who only emanates creation and remains a great distance from the physical world we know.

    Unlike some you speak to on this issue, I take seriously the proposition that God could rewire us so that we "behave" as you put it. However, God created a universe full of sinners as well as sinner-saints for a reason.

    If all of the universe was merely a chess game that God played in His head, that would be okay, because He has the right to do that. He knows all the moves perfectly, and so he might not even bother playing. But that's not what has happened. Instead, He actually made a physical creation and intends to cause His plan to actually unfold within that space/time realm for one primary reason: that all creatures (both angels and men) would see God's glory and then respond to that Glory with worship. We will ultimately see God's glory in a couple of ways (sorry for the mini-sermon, but you did ask):

    1) We will glorify God for His justice. All sin is ultimately the creature saying to the universe that God is not beautiful or valuable or worthy of our affection. Whenever God punishes evildoers (I wouldn't exclude myself from that class of people, by the way) He shows that His name is valuable, that His name is worth defending.

    2) Some of us will glorify God for His mercy. He does not owe anyone salvation. After all, we're all rebels against Him by nature. He could leave us all in that condition and be quite just in doing so. But rather, in our view, Christ took God's wrath for those He would ultimately save upon Himself and is now able to show mercy on any He pleases. He owes no goodness to any of us, and yet He is gracious, for His own reasons, to some of us. (Actually, I don't mean to get technical, but he is actually gracious to all of creation - "he causes the rain to fall on the just as well as the unjust".) This is a miracle in and of itself.

    I have no doubt that this God-centered view of reality is not very appealing to you, Bruce. In fact, there are many Christians who would find what I'm saying here very unacceptable. The truth is, for God to love anything more than Himself and His own name is idolatry, and God is certainly no idolater.

    BTW, I have enjoyed your comments on the Bible as you go through. I can see how confusing, strange, and foreign the Bible must be to someone who doesn't really share much of an... affection for the deity.

    Sorry again for the lengthiness.

  4. This 20-minute talk by one of my favorite theologians may be the best thing, if you're looking for a good explanation of why God does not save everyone even though He could.

    R.C. Sproul on God's Sovereignty

  5. Thanks for the link Adam. I'll check it out.
    One more point. If God acts like you state in your earlier message (knowing all and acting according to the actions of the people) then why does he state that he'll change his mind if they change?

    18:8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.

    This sounds like God does NOT have everything written in stone and that the future is unclear.

  6. It's true that it appears that way, Bruce, I will grant it. However, again, it is impossible for anything to happen in time whatsoever if God does not, as it were, 'condescend' to our level by seeming to undergo the same sort of temporal series of events which we also experience. We call this anthropomorphism. God comes down to our level. As Calvin said, God "lisps" to us as a parent speaks to his child who still learning to speak.

    Consider the flipside. If God reveals Himself in time and yet does not 'repent' or appear to 'change' or seem to experience emotions like we do, then He would simply be a monolithic deity like the Neoplatonists postulated. He could just play the chess game of the universe in His head as it were and not create anything at all, as I pointed out earlier.

    As Christians, however, we believe that God made things real and physical because God actually wills to have His glory seen by not only Himself, but real beings in a real universe. These real beings are finite, limited, in time, and do not possess the same type of eternal knowledge God does. This means that we have to experience a succession of events and learn things one at a time, unlike God. This is necessary to our nature as finite creatures.

    And so since God speaks to His creatures, commands His creatures, and requires things of His creatures, it is necessary that we be able to affirm God's unique nature while at the same time affirming that God interacts with men as if he were 'one of us,' as it were. In other words, God appears to repent, and as far as our temporal knowledge appears, he does, but there is also a sense in which He ultimately does not - this is merely for our benefit, otherwise we could not even speak of or speak to God.

    Much of this comes from our belief that Scripture is consistent with itself. For example, there are scriptures that not only speak of God repenting, but of changing. And yet there are other verses which seem, prima facie, to affirm the opposite - "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6). This is not a contradiction since the change being spoken of in 18:8 is merely from the finite human perspective, though ultimately from the divine perspective, God had always planned to act in the way that He did.

  7. From Genesis:
    3:9 And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?
    3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
    3:11 And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
    3:12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
    3:13 And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
    3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

    This doesn't read like it's a God who knows the beginning and end. First of all, there are only two humans and he loses track of them. Second, He's surprised and needs an explanation. Third, as God, you'd think he could have been a little harsher on the snake considering the snake still seems pretty high up on the pyramid of animals. Dung beetles (or even the mice that snake eat!) must have done something REALLY bad.

    If this is all for our benefit and God knew what would happen, etc why start off this way unless He wants to blame us for what He created? Why talk to individuals instead of everyone (making it seem like Jerry Falwell has more power than God when it comes to talking to people)? It sure seems like my life will be judged mostly on whether I accept Jesus and that has just as much to do with those trying to sell it to me as me accepting it.

    We're not there yet, but I'm guessing the New Testament will be interesting to read if Jesus knows everything that's going to happen (i.e. the part where he knows he's supposed to ask himself why he's being forsaken by himself). But we're not there yet so maybe it will all make more sense reading it that way.

  8. @Adam,
    I listened to the lecture from Dr. Sproul. I've posted a link to it and my initial thoughts.
    Thanks for your insight! As for me, I never liked the argument that we can never truly understand what God does or how he acts. To me it comes off as making excuses for his poor and irrational behavior.