My name is Solomon Keal. I am a minister for the General Church of the New Jerusalem, which is a Swedenborgian Christian denomination. These are some of my thoughts about the Lord, the symbolic meanings in the Bible, life after death, faith, charity, usefulness, loving the Lord and one's neighbor, the 2nd Coming, Swedenborg's Writings, and other theological stuff.

Monday, March 7, 2011

God's Anger in the Bible

In the New Church we know that God is never really angry (TCR 650), and that the places in the Bible where it describes the Lord being angry are describing an appearance. The analogy often given is that parents often appear angry to their children, when in fact the parents are acting out of love and a sense of protection. But to the children - from their natural selfish perspective - their parents' actions sometimes seems unfair and cruel.

I've been fortunate enough to grow up in the New Church with a solid sense that God is pure Love itself, as it says in 1 John 4:8,16. And so often times when I'm reading the Bible and I read passages that describe God's anger, I just sort of ignore them, and remind myself that it's just an appearance.

I have children of my own, and lately I was reading a story from the Bible to them. It was the story of the Golden Calf. God wanted to destroy the children of Israel! Moses was trying to intervene for the children of Israel, and to calm God’s anger towards them. (Exodus 32:7-14) I remember - as I was reading the story to them - I was wondering how they were going to take it. We had taught them very clearly that the Lord always loves us, and He never wants anything bad to happen to anyone. So what were they going to think about this?

They didn't bat an eye! Not a single question. And my kids are not afraid to ask questions when they don't understand something. Apparently it made sense to them!

So it got me thinking. It makes sense to children that God would get angry! After all, their parents get angry sometimes. And they themselves certainly get angry a lot of times. It's probably harder for them to grasp the idea of Someone never getting angry. Especially if they are taught that God is Human! I never thought about how important this image of God is for us. God is Somebody that can relate to the anger that we experience in our life.

And not only for children, I think the power in these passages in the literal sense of the Word is important for all of us. We know that we are created in God's image. Well, I experience anger. Where does that come from? As adults it's important for our emotional health to recognize that experiencing anger is a common human feeling. The experience of it is not good or evil in itself, it just is. It's what we do with it that can be good or evil. Maybe these passages about God's anger can remind us, as adults, that the experience of anger is very human. We are not flawed because we experience anger. We just need to learn how to deal with it in a healthy way. Once we do that, we can move away from Hell, and move towards God, who is Love itself.