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Reclaiming Divine Wrath

A History of a Christian Doctrine and Its Interpretation


Stephen Butler Murray

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, there was prolific misuse and abuse of the concept of divine wrath in church pulpits. In pursuit of a faithful understanding of what he calls a «lost doctrine,» the author of this study investigates the substantial history of how «the wrath of God» has been interpreted in Christian theology and preaching. Starting with the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and moving historically through Christianity’s most important theologians and societal changes, several models of divine wrath are identified. The author argues for the reclamation of a theological paradigm of divine wrath that approaches God’s love and God’s wrath as intrinsically enjoined in a dynamic tension. Without such a commitment to this paradigm, this important biblical aspect of God is in danger of suffering two possible outcomes. Firstly, it may suffer rejection, through conscious avoidance of the narrow misinterpretations of divine wrath that dominate contemporary theology and preaching. Secondly, irresponsible applications of divine wrath may occur when we neglect to engage and understand the wrath of God as inseparable from God’s justice and love in Christian theology and proclamation.


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Acknowledgements ix Introduction 1 Chapter One The Biblical Accounts Concerning Divine Wrath: The Old Testament, the Inter-Testamental Period, and the New Testament 9 Chapter Two The Development of a Christian Theology of Divine Wrath: From Early Christian Apologists to the Medieval Theologians 47 Chapter Three The Development of Protestant Considerations of Divine Wrath: The Era of the Reformations 105 Chapter Four Divine Wrath Amidst the Rise of Evangelicalism and Liberal Theology: From Wesley to Ritschl 151 Chapter Five Divine Wrath in the Twentieth Century: Theological Proponents and Opponents to the Wrath of God 181 viii Chapter Six Reclaiming Divine Wrath: An Apologetics for Contemporary Christian Theology and Preaching 253 Bibliography 271 Index 297

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