Reviewed by Chad Mcdaniel | November 14, 2018
Recently someone asked me, “Why don’t you preach more about the wrath of God?” It threw me off. Why don’t I preach more about the wrath of God?
I realized it’s because I’ve been formed in the Evangelical Covenant Church! Historically, we Covenanters have tended to emphasize that God, motivated by his love for humanity, made the move toward us and for us that makes reconciliation and redemption possible. We don’t deny the reality of God’s wrath, but we don’t imagine that God’s anger was the motivation for Jesus’s death.
The brand of theology that overemphasizes the need to appease God’s wrath is exactly what Brian Zahnd is speaking against in his book Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. Zahnd is pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri, which he founded more than thirty-five years ago. As a young church leader, Zahnd was obsessed with Jonathan Edwards’s famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” His obsession led him to preach and teach so that people would avoid hell, wrath, and torment.
But that image of God, Zahnd writes, imagines a God from whom we need to be saved, and, ultimately, this is not the God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is the revelation of God—if, as Zahnd states, Jesus is what God has to say—then God is forgiveness, grace, love incarnate.
Zahnd writes, “The apostle Paul tells us that ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself.’ This should not be misunderstood as God reconciling himself to the world. It wasn’t God who was alienated toward the world; it was the world that was alienated toward God.” Zahnd provides both biblical and historic examples of the ways God’s love is the prime motivation for the redemption and salvation of all things.
To further unpack his argument, Zahnd dives into the book of Revelation, offering a fresh perspective on this often misappropriated and misinterpreted book of the Bible. If you’ve ever struggled through the book of Revelation or were puzzled as to how one reconciles the violence and judgment with images of salvation and eternal peace, you will find Zahnd’s work refreshing.
Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God is a wonderful dive into understanding God’s redemptive plan for the whole world; it helps shape an understanding and picture of the God who is Love. This book gives readers language for telling others about the God of love and mercy who is revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Anyone seeking to sharpen their ability to share the good news that is truly good will discover ample language that is relatable, practical, and enriching.