Understanding wrath.

Via Jesus Creed, “Four Cringe-worthy Claims of Popular Penal Substitution Theology.” This in particular stood out to me:

The word wrath in Greek is [org?], the root for our word “orgy” in English. When you look at how this word is actually used in the Bible, it’s more mysterious than you might think. It’s not just a synonym for “anger.” Paul tells the Ephesians that they were “formerly by [their] nature children of wrath” (which the NIV theologically edits to say children deserving of wrath). To be a child of wrath according to Paul is to be owned by “the desires of our flesh and senses” (Eph 2:3). It has nothing to do with God being angry.

In Romans 1:18, Paul writes that the “wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness.” If wrath were simply “anger,” we could expect Paul to elaborate on this statement by cataloguing a series of natural disasters with which God responded to punish humanity’s sin. Instead what we find is an account of the degeneration of humanity through the innate consequences of their sinful behavior. God “hands them over” to their lust, idolatry, etc, but He is not actively punitive independent of these innate consequences in His response to sin. This seems to suggest that God’s [org?] is the proliferation of sin itself.

I’m not sure we can separate God’s “emotions” from this entirely (and perhaps the writer doesn’t), but this is a point well worth considering.

7 thoughts on “Understanding wrath.

  1. Toni

    I would also line this thinking up with the judgements of God in the OT, about effects of sin lasting the 3rd and 4th generations. A natural outcome of a child observing wickedness in its parents is to reproduce that wickedness as it grows.

  2. Jeff Wheeldon

    Good quote. In a recent reading of Revelation, even there I couldn’t find much evidence of God actively punishing anyone (with the exception of throwing the Dragon and the Beast into the lake of fire). The plagues might come close. The four horsemen, though, have been loose an awfully long time; even there, there is a strong notion of our sins being their own punishment, a sense of natural consequences.

    Good stuff.

  3. Andrew

    I’m curious how often the NIV translators take liberties as they appeared to do here (“deserving of” appears to go beyond translating into interpretation). Is this frequent?

  4. Marc

    Most translations take interpretive liberties like this one. All translation is interpretation to one degree or another. The nature of languages essentially requires it, particularly when moving from ancient/dead languages to modern ones.

    Take, for instance, Romans 5:9. Almost every major translation (other than the HCSB, which continues to surprise me in a good way) says that we will be saved from “the wrath of God” when the Greek only says “the wrath.” Some (C.H. Dodd) argue that this “wrath” is not “God’s wrath” in some kind of active, punishing sense, but some kind of principle at work in the universe. Most scholars and translators, however, assume (based possibly on Romans 1) that Paul is speaking of God’s wrath and so for the benefit of the lay reader, they add the modifier. (I’d say it probably is God’s wrath, but along the lines described in the quote above. Actually, I wish I had read this when I was writing my major paper.)

    Having said that, the NIV seems to be alone among the popular translations in using the word “deserving” here. I would say though, based on what the rest of the translations have done, that it’s a fairly benign interpolation. One might argue that what Paul says in Romans 1:18 suggests that the wrath is deserved, and a similar theme is carried on here. “Were by nature children of wrath,” the more literal reading, seems to be saying essentially the same thing, though the NIV version is seems more passive on the human side (that is “deserve” might imply receiving something in a way that the writer of the quote is suggesting doesn’t happen).

    And now that I look at it, while the interpretation may not be a bad one (but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise), the bigger problem is that it changes “wrath” from a modifier of “children” to the object of a verb not present in the Greek. Again, this is not necessarily bad translation, but at first blush it seems more fitting of the philosophy behind the NLT than the NIV.

    Sorry… I got a bit carried away there.

  5. Toni

    I just followed up that link & then read the comments.

    Oh Gawd.

    So many people, so many postures, so many poncy technical words to obfuscate simple truths. It made me remember why I was a fundamentalist. This made me want to ask, is the point of being trained in ‘theology’ to enable people to have those kind of discussions, or is it about actually trying to make a difference in the world. And that wasn’t a question.

  6. Marc Post author

    Not sure what to make of your last comment, Toni. Is that a criticism of that other post, the comments there, or the general notion of this kind of post?

    I generally don’t read the comments on the posts I quote here, so I don’t know what went down there. I’m interested in what the writer has to say, not necessarily what every Tom, Dick, and Harry has to say or argue about or disagree with. Sometimes I am, but generally not, especially when I am not part of that blog’s “community.”

  7. Toni

    “Is that a criticism of that other post, the comments there, or the general notion of this kind of post?”

    A bit of ‘all the above’ really.

    I read through the post, thought to myself “he’s setting up straw men here” amongst other things, then went to the comments and came away feeling queasy. I appreciate you linked to the original post; *to me* it felt like he was setting things up to cue the comments that followed.

    There’s a lot I’d like to say about it that would be so much better face to face.

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