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We need to keep in mind that whenever scripture speaks about God as being offended, as getting angry, as wanting to wreak vengeance on his enemies, or as demanding that we kill somebody in his name, it is speaking anthropomorphically, that is, it is taking our own thoughts, feelings, and reactions and projecting them into God.

We get angry, God doesn’t. Our hearts crave vengeance, God’s heart doesn’t. We demand that murderers be executed, God doesn’t. Scripture contains a lot of anthropomorphisms that make for a bad and a dangerous theology if read and understood literally.

When scripture says that we experience God’s wrath when we sin, it doesn’t want us to believe that God actually gets angry and punishes us. There’s no need. The punishment is innate, inherent in the sin itself. When we sin, it is our own actions that punish us. We may feel that the punishment as coming from God, from God’s anger, from God’s wrath, but it is nature’s wrath and our own that we are feeling. God has no need to extrinsically punish sin because sin already punishes itself. Nature is so constructed. There is a law of karma. Sin is its own punishment.

But at the level of feeling, this is felt as if God is punishing us. However, as Jesus shows in forgiving his own killers and forgiving everyone who betrayed him, God forgives sin. God has no need for vengeance or for a justice that extracts a pound of flesh for a pound of sin. Nature already does that. Indeed, given a proper understanding of God’s nature and transcendence, it is presumptuous on our part to even believe that we can “offend” God. To read more about how scripture texts that attribute violence to God are also archetypal, click here or copy this address into your browser

Ron Rolheiser, OMI.

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