In this article, I will attempt to creatively apply George Grant’s theology of the Cross or ‘divine consent’ towards a metaphorical reading of wrath back into those Scriptures that so repulsed him and Simone Weil. If God operates in the world by consent, they might have seen wrath, not as the retribution of a wilful God, but as a metaphor (as they saw power) for the consequences of God’s consent to our non-consent. That is, I will appropriate Grantean consent to ‘demetaphorise’ wrath.
Said another way, I intend to apply Simone Weil’s ‘cosmology of consent’ to the problem of how we read ‘wrath’ in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. The texts where God intervenes with smoldering vengeance were an offense to Grant and Weil as they portray a God of personal wrath through violent force—the willful uber-Gott (my term) they rejected. Grant and Weil warn us not to literalize metaphors or personalize anthropomorphisms, only to dismiss many of those passages for speaking metaphorically. Why not apply their theology of the Cross and cosmology of consent as a hermeneutical lens for demetaphorising the Bible’s judgment narratives, and so retrieving them?
And so, in the Bible, where we see or hear of God’s wrath, we are usually, actually seeing God’s nonviolent consent to the natural and supernatural forces of the world and of human freedom. God’s wrath is consent to allowing, and not sparing, the powerful consequences of these forces to take their course. We say natural and supernatural, because (a) God’s order of secondary causes extends beyond our empirical or rational categories, and (b) the natural and supernatural interrelate beyond observation or comprehension. And they mysteriously inter-relate with our own power of consent to ‘bind and loose’ (Matt. 16:19) through love and prayer, to intercede in ways that might spare someone the consequences of these ‘laws.’
The following is a Grantean attempt to do so, specifically as I would address it sermonically to Evangelicals, who tend to be most entangled in literalism, though it might also be beneficial to skeptics who, like Grant and Weil, find the Bible repulsive because they too read it overly literally. I will also apply Grantean consent to model how one might preach a love above and beyond wrath, where “mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2:13).
God is good.
God is love.
God is not violent, because he never does violence directly.
In His love, God will not bring about his ends through directly violent means. But in refusing to exercise such violence, God consents to our violence. His love consents to our violence against each other. And against God. God’s consent is not complicity.
But God appears complicit in our violence because God allows it. That is, when God refuses to apply force, might, and violence but instead, consents to our free rebellion and its bitter and violent fruit, God seems violent in His consent.
In love, God consents to our wrath on the Cross.
He consents to our wrath against ‘Rome.’
He consents to Rome’s wrath against us.
His consent is wrath.
His consent is love.
Second, yes. These were acts of God’s wrath in that God consented to allow natural and supernatural destruction to take its course through events set in motion by human decisions. In that sense, we read that God is seen to have ‘sent’ the destroyer and ‘sent’ the destruction—God is perceived as commissioning the destruction or even as the destroyer (Exod. 12:29; Gen. 19:14; Num. 21:6).
By way of explanation, Grant and Weil are right in seeing many hegemonic descriptions of the Kingdom of God in the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., examples of the violent and willful God of wrath). Instead of dismissing them immediately, as Weil often does, a Grantean hermeneutic invites investigation into three broad possibilities. I will illustrate these with the phrase, “God, the king who is angry” and comment on each approach.