An Angry God According to the Gospels

Written by:  Robert D Brinsmead

I’m not being Fundamentalist to read that Paul teaches that God made salvation possible through faith in Christ. Since he obviously thinks in terms of one incarnation and one act of opening salvation to all through Christ, then there is obviously no way to be reconciled to God except through embracing his gospel – and the reverse side is bearing the anger of God if that offer of JBF in Christ is not embraced.

Now let’s reason backwards.  Is faith in Paul’s Christ really the only pathway to God? The Fourth Gospel quite blatantly teaches this (“No one comes to the Father but by me”).  You would surely be a Fundamentalist if you claimed that Christians are the only people on earth who could have access to God.  For instance, Gandhi knew all about the Christian gospel of Paul but did not accept this salvation through faith in the mystical Christ.  The great majority of the human race who live on this planet will never really have access to the gospel preached by Paul.  The cultural and religious barriers closing any real access to the NT gospel are far too great and they will never become Christians.  Are these all damned and cut off from God? According to traditional Christian teaching they are, until in this new world of the global village, Christian thinkers have had to re-think all these exclusivist Christian claims.  There is no doubt about it – the NT authors like Paul and the author of the Fourth Gospel were exclusivist – Christ was the one and only path to God and all who did not take this were damned.  Modern thinkers in the Christian movement are of course not willing to be this exclusivist, so there has been a lot of re-interpretation of this arrogant Christian dogma of salvation.  Karl Rahner, the Catholic theologian for instance, began to argue that there were children of God outside the Christian religion, and these he called “anonymous Christians.”  What an arrogant and patronizing assumption this is, and what an insult that would be to tell people of other faiths that if their hearts were right with God, they were really “anonymous Christians.”   It would be like patronizingly calling Christians “anonymous Hindus” or “anonymous Muslims.”  So we are reminded of the old Catholic arrogance that all the children of faith, even the Protestants, really belong to the one true RC church – they just have not realized it yet.

The bottom line is that, Paul to the contrary, the Gospels of the NT to the contrary, access to God is freely open to all, with or without their Christ.  I will use their own words against them on this, namely, since God is love, everyone that loves is born of God.  Everyone who loves lives in God and God lives in him.  That’s a pretty broad church when you think about it.  Of so many noble, mostly humble unknown people, we would have to say, “No one could do such loving works accept God was with them.”

I reject those NT claims and those traditional Christian claims that in some way, Christ by his obedience and suffering made it possible for people to be reconciled to God, saved, forgiven and whatever way you want to express that.  What God has to offer every child of the human family did not have to won, did not have to be purchased, did not have to merited, did not have to brokered or mediated by what Jesus did or suffered.  He did not claim this any more than he claimed to be the Messiah and Saviour of the World.  He did not preach about himself in this way.  But, yes, others wanted to make him king and messiah, others wanted to turn him into a legend and others finally succeeded making him into the mythical figure to be worshipped as the one and only way of salvation for all people on earth. This is simply to state where I would claim that Christianity went wrong.

I can clearly see that Noel is avoiding this issue by finding a red herring in Fundamentalism, and he thinks if only we find a better way to re-interpret Paul or the Gospels, then we can be happy to endorse  their doctrine of Christ as no great departure from the message of the historical Jesus. That is what he was telling us about the book of Revelation – it would be OK to us if only we found a better and more irenic way to read and understand its message. It is a bit like telling me that Karl’s Marx’s Socialist Manifesto would be all right if only we found the key to a better way of interpreting it for today.

James Carrol (Constantine’s Sword) is right when he said that the roots of the Holocaust go right back to the NT claims to have the final, sole and only truth.  This kind of religious monopoly of the one and only truth, this kind of religious exclusivism has always led to persecution of the differing others. It always led to religious bloodshed. It was this that developed into the most intolerant, totalitarian system that the world has ever seen. It sought to control not just what people did but how they thought right down to their most secret doubts and heresies.  The roots of this mistake have never been fully acknowledged, repented of and plucked up by the roots.  When those NT authors begin to make offers difficult to refuse¸ that is, by saying all these supremely good things will happen to you if you believe what we tell you and all this damnable punishments will happen to you if you don’t believe what we tell you,   it surely is not difficult to see that these intellectual thumbscrews would finally end with physical thumbscrews. It is not possible to start out saying that God thinks ill and will punish all those who don’t believe what we believe without ending up wanting to punish and helping God punish those who don’t believe what we believe. so I come back to state my point.  Paul is saying that while all these superlative, theological benefits come through faith in his Christ, he at the same time rattles the dark threats of wrath and punishment upon all who do not obey his gospel.