With Rob Bell (towards whom I am deeply sympathetic) producing a DVD called The Gods Are Not Angry and Transfarmer (with whom I am truly in love [C.S. Lewis style]) questioning the wrath of God, I was reminded of the words of Miroslav Volf (of whom I aspire to be like) by Halden over at Inhabitatio Dei (of whom I know nothing…).
In Exclusion and Embrace (the single most important book of theology *I* have yet read) Volf argues that Christian pacifism must be grounded in a belief in the vengeance of God (I am a pacifist by nature, if not yet theologically convinced).
My thesis that the practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many Christians, especially theologian in the West. To the person who is inclined to dismiss it, I suggest imagining that you are delivering a lecture in a war zone (which is where a paper that underlies this chapter was originally delivered). Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit. The topic of the lecture: a Christian attitude toward violence. The thesis: we should not retaliate since God is perfect noncoercive love. Soon you would discover that it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human nonviolence corresponds to God’s refusal to judge. In a scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die. And as one watches it die, one will do well to reflect about many other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.
God is love (but his love needs to be expressed as anger in some cases).
Then over at another great theology blog from a book editor, Dan Reid’s Addenda & Errata (his company used to send me bags of books every quarter- oh the good old days) we read of Karl Barth’s partial pessimism in the face of an intransigent church. Barth never really expected the church to listen to a theologian’s answer as to why we baptise babies (and earlier this week I had that debate once again with church leaders who were unwilling to even listen to my assumptions):
Enough of this tiresome matter! Theology can and should do no more than advise the Church. It would be as well for the Church, of course, if it would occasionally ask seriously for the advice of theologians, and if it would then listen to it no less seriously. In this matter of infant baptism, our advice has not been sought, and there is only the faintest hope that it will be heeded.
I love how Barth grounds his calling to theology in terms of the church, not as some stupid “free” intellectual exercise (that takes place in a lecture theatre) but obviously still perceives the role of the theologian as someone who can upset and disrupt the church’s thinking (and maybe even cause them to have heart-attacks).
Your Correspondent, Makes the speed of light seem slow