Quick-blog #12 Westboro Baptist = Ironic Proof We Need a God of Wrath

westboroI generally have avoided discussions of current events on this blog, but Westboro Baptist Church’s most recent antics have provoked me to such indignation that I simply can’t remain silent on this one. Just two days after the atrocity at Sandy Hook, Shirley-Phelps Roper, the spokeswoman for the ridiculous pseudo-church, tweeted that “Westboro will picket Sandy Hook Elementary School to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.” Apparently picketing the funerals of dead soldiers holding up signs saying “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers” isn’t enough, so now the families of the slain children and school teachers have to deal with their grotesque, damnable nonsense. 

And when I say damnable, I mean it in the strict theological sense–because this truly is damnable. A lot of people have trouble with the doctrine of divine judgment, the notion that God has wrath, that he can be provoked to hatred and condemnation, precisely because of charlatans like the Phelps family trifling with the word of God. Ironically, the Bible shows us that it’s precisely because of these lying charlatans that we need to hear of God’s righteous condemnation.

See, the Bible says God doesn’t take lies about his character, about his Name, lightly. At the end of the book of Job, after Job’s friends spoke pious, but rash platitudes about him, ascribing Job’s misfortunes to God’s wrath or Job’s sin, God said to them: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7) In the midst of the comfort for Job’s sorrows, one of the most important things we need to hear is God’s condemnation of their false judgment–we need to him to reject the testimony of lying witnesses. We need to hear God’s ‘No’ of judgment, his indignation against those who falsely represent him, in order that his ‘Yes’ of comfort to the victims might be clearly articulated. If God’s comfort for the community of Newton is to be recognized, so must his anger against false prophets like Westboro.

Basically, Westboro Baptist furnishes ironic evidence that we need a God of wrath.

Update:  This morning my pastor preached on the grace and forgiveness of God offered to all through Jesus Christ, a reconciliation even for the worst enemies. (Rom 5:8-10) As I considered my own offenses and blasphemies, it reminded me of what I forgot in my anger and haste last night when writing. Despite God’s anger, his just wrath against Job’s friends for their lies about him, he goes on to encourage Job’s friends to offer sacrifices and ask Job to pray for them that he might forgive them. (Job 42:8-9) This is the irony of the Gospel–that properly understood, wrath can comfort, and grace can profoundly disturb.  As much as we ought to hate what they say, rightly condemn and stand in opposition to the false message they preach, the shape of the Gospel is one that leads us to do such things with a heart full of prayer that their hearts might be convicted and repent of their wickedness in order that they might receive the grace and mercy of God, walking in the newness of life.

Soli Deo Gloria

Jesus, Our Only Comfort

In the face of the Newton tragedy, we don’t need easy, trite answers, but the deep, bedrock truths that comfort and sustain us through all of life. Thankfully Kevin DeYoung reminds us that we have catechisms for such occasions, especially the Heidelberg:

Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A1. That I am not my own,
but belong–
body and soul,
in life and in death–
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

(The Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 1)

The catechism points us to the only deep comfort we can have in the face of truly horrendous evil: Jesus Christ. I will have some thoughts on this whole thing in a later blog, but for now, I’d like to just offer you a song that’s been of great comfort to me in times of distress. In “Revelator” Josh Garrels gives us John’s vision of comfort to the martyrs in Revelation 5, of the Lamb who was Slain, seated on the throne, the suffering but victorious Lord of history. Take a few minutes to listen, read the lyrics, maybe go read Revelation 5, and look to Jesus.

Had a dream I was alone
A vast expanse of complete unknown
Sea of glass so clear it shone,
Like gold
Then a voice like thunder clapped,
As a dead man I collapsed
I am the first, I am the last,
Now rise my son

Then behold ten thousand kings,
And every creature worshipping
Every eye was on one thing,
One man
He’s like a lion like a lamb,
As though slain he holds the plan
To make war and peace with man,
And reign on earth

Holy, Holy, is the One,
Who was, and is, and is to come
In a robe as red as blood,
He comes forth
Ride like lightning in the sky,
On the war horse he draws nigh,
The same one we crucified,
Will return again

Holy, Holy, is the One,
Who was, and is, and is to come
In a robe as red as blood,
He comes forth
Ride like lightning in the sky,
On the war horse he draws nigh,
The same one we crucified,
Will come again

Soli Deo Gloria