A History of a Christian Doctrine and Its Interpretation
Chapter Four Divine Wrath Amidst the Rise of Evangelicalism and Liberal Theology: From Wesley to Ritschl 151
Chapter Four Divine Wrath Amidst the Rise of Evangelicalism and Liberal Theology: From Wesley to Ritschl There is no question that the Enlightenment ushered in an abrupt change in the way that Christian theology dealt with the issue of divine wrath. While the centrality of the human agent was uplifted, the role of God was downgraded to a secondary role at best, often characterized in the terms of a presence, rather than as a first agent and primary cause who superceded and upended all other agencies. Indeed, the Christian doctrine of provi- dence, upon which any enactment of divine wrath is founded, was found utterly intolerable by the Enlightenment thinkers. This led to a paucity in theological treatments of divine providence generally, and of the wrath of God in particular. To speak of divine wrath would be to embrace a con- cept of God that seemed outmoded, increasingly foreign to a congrega- tion who identified themselves as the central players in their own moral universe. This was a personal and social universe that withdrew from the chaos of the conf licts and wars demanded and implemented by religious authorities, seeking instead a solidarity and assurance of existence through scientific and philosophical reason.1 Indeed, the rational method was seen as a remedy to the violence that had overtaken Europe internally, and in its external forays into Africa and Asia. Immanuel Kant, who served as a 1 Miroslav Volf of fers a compelling discussion with regard to the Enlightenment’s claims for reason’s...
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