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The wrath of God

the wrath of God was satisfied?

The wrath of God

UPDATED four times
and now with a related post: God’s wrath – satisfied?

At our recent synod meeting, one of the songs was Stuart Townend and Keith Getty’s In Christ alone with the words:

“Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied”

Those words as understood by many (if not most) in that room are heresy. The understanding of those words by many (most) who enthusiastically sing this in services around the planet is heretical.

The understanding is that God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.

This understanding is heresy.

Our diocesan synodical singing of these words comes on the heels of a diocesan-wide study through Lent of a booklet The Praying Life, written by two of the top and most influential theologians in our diocese, Peter Carrell and Lynda Patterson. In this they wrote:

‘This cup’ particularly points to the cross as the place on which the wrath of God against sin was borne by Jesus as the final and full sacrifice for the sin of the world.

And Peter reinforces Lynda’s and his point on his blog:

If Jesus were not raised then we would not know whether God’s wrath was satisfied. That Jesus was raised demonstrated that God’s wrath was satisfied. The cup had been drained by Jesus.

The wrath-of-God-satisfied approach has been canonised as our diocesan soteriology (understanding of how we are saved).

Let me stress I am not saying Lynda and Peter are heretics. I am not taking (what is here called) a “Title D” process against them. Theologians have minds wired so that words for them can mean something quite different to what they appear to mean to the rest (majority) of us.

So here I am dealing with the God-has-anger-management-issues, straightforward understanding of “on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied”.

It is not in the Bible. Show me anywhere in the Bible that explicitly states Jesus’ death satisfies God’s wrath.

God is not divided. There is not some sort of internal battle within God – of His wrath versus His love.

Does God need Jesus’ death in order to love us?


God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”
God loved us and sent his Son.”

Whenever a community is required to sing In Christ alone it needs to be accompanied by teaching that what it seems to say, and what many people think it means, is heresy.

Please go and vote what you think the words of the hymn, and similar words mean.


We have agreements in place not to use uninclusive language. This song could have been put to one side because of that (“no scheme of man”). Other songs and hymns have their language altered. Altering songs and hymns without permission of the copyright holder is another discussion altogether. Some people choose to change the heretical tendency of this song to,

Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The love of God was magnified


We have an incredibly lengthy, complex process for agreeing what words we will say. And none whatsoever for what words we will sing. Other churches have an agreed list of hymns and songs. We do not. If you want to express new or different ideas – sing them. Of interest to me is that it is what we sing that goes in much deeper than what is said. That too is another discussion altogether.


Thankfully, we are saved by God through Jesus Christ our saviour. We are not saved by a theory of salvation.


My friend and fellow blogger Peter Carrell has himself produced four posts on The wrath of God was satisfied.

UPDATE: Peter has now written a blog post in response to this post. It is (unsurprising to me) an orthodox exposition of the lines. If this is how all who sing these lines understand them, then this post has been a waste of time and hot air nonsense. However, the comments below, and here indicate that the interpretation I think many have, in fact is the interpretation that is held. Peter asks for an interpretation of “cup” in Luke 22:42. I quickly reach to the first commentary at hand:

cup is a reference to Jesus’ destiny as described in this Gospel: he will die in Jerusalem because God has sent him to do kingdom ministry for the needy, oppressed, and unfortunate of this world (see 4:43; 9:51; 13:13). Jesus will continue to drink of that cup as he heals a servant (22:51), forgives his enemies (22:34), and promises a place in paradise to a repentant evildoer (23:39-43).


UPDATE #2 & 3 (May 4&5):
Peter has this morning written a second post connected to this one.

I was taken by David Earle’s comment on facebook, particularly as many who would advocate singing “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied” would argue for worship that is immediately accessible to new people:

there is a really important point at the start of Bosco’s post which has got lost in the argument – that the words of songs should be read to mean what they mean in plain English to the person who has just walked in the door and should not require a course in NT theology to explain their deep and hidden meanings.

I also want to stress again his point “that God is beyond our human understanding”.

Others have also joined in the blogging:
Mark Harris The Wrath of God (WOG), and a New Zealand theological debate.
Laura Sykes “The Wrath Of God Was Satisfied?”: The Revd Bosco Peters
David Ould So much anger over the Wrath of God
David Ould on Stand Firm So Much Anger Over the Wrath of God


UPDATE #4 7 August
“The Presbyterian Church (USA) dropped the popular hymn “In Christ Alone” because the song’s authors refused to change a phrase about the wrath of God.”


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113 thoughts on “the wrath of God was satisfied?”

  1. Rachel Firth

    We use “And on the cross as Jesus died, the arms of love were opened wide” – for the same reasons. (Diocese of Wakefield, UK)

  2. Julianne Stewart

    Unfortunate and bizarre. I wonder if that is the same song I heard a couple of years ago at a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory where recent fundamentalist US missionaries had come to share their theology with the local people. In that version, “wrath” rhymed with “math” rather than “cloth”, and little children and young women were unsmilingly doing a stiff dance routine as the words were blared out on a public address system. It was called an “action song”.

    Yes, we do recall words from songs and poems much more than similar segments of regular spoken word, so the heresy is more strongly reinforced.

    1. Yes, Janet, that God is head-over-heels, absolutely nuts, in love with each one of us is good news. And as we share that we can see the difference it makes. Easter Season blessings.

  3. Peter Carrell

    I am very disappointed that you are not taking a Title D action! I suppose I have to live in hope that some other heresy or even one of my many liturgical infringements will help me have my day in court.

    Naturally if you are wrong re heresy here then you may have unintentionally promoted heresy yourself. But, as you know, I am not litigious.

    FWIW I think you need to reflect further on the ‘cup’ imagery in Luke, reading it in association with Revelation etc. I might come up with an ADU post to assist. Also, here, I add the thought that it is not clear to me from your post how the notion of ‘satisfaction’ in the BCP’s Eucharistic prayer is to be explained. Magnification of God’s love does not quite do it … I suggest.

    1. Thanks, Peter.

      If I am, through this post, going down for being heretical, then you are coming with me for yourself mocking “God holding a cricket bat threatening to hit us and Jesus stands between saying, ‘Don’t hit them, hit me.’”

      I look forward to further dialogue on this.

      While (unlike some) I’m not going to hold Cranmer in the same category as our scriptures, I’m not so sure that one can leap that quickly from his use of the word “satysfaccyon” in

      O God heavenly father, which of thy tender mercie diddest geve thine only sonne Jesu Christ to suffre death upon the crosse for our redempcion, who made there (by his one oblacion once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifyce, oblacion, and satysfaccyon, for the sinnes of the whole worlde,…

      in one bound to a full-blown “on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied”.

      Christ is risen.

  4. I am enjoying this website immensely!
    As a Lutheran in Canada, we deal with the same issue (and song) in many of our churches and often the language isn’t changed at all.

    Yet, we have the rich inheritance of Martin Luther’s theology of the cross, which reminds that, indeed, it was not the Father who put Christ to death on cross by way of completing some kind of divine vendetta. It was OUR wrath, or humanity’s rejection of God, that put God on the cross. Jurgen Moltmann speaks of the “Crucified God”, that the whole Trinity was in some way crucified. Our penultimate power of death and rejection of God could not prevent God’s ultimate power of life and God’s acceptance of us.

  5. Meg Underdown

    I agree and sing ‘The love of God is magnified’. It was sung at Justin Welby’s enthronement and the words on the Order of Service were the Townend ones but I heard the Love of God sung! copyright issues probably as Townend won’t agree to change it! Some of his fans are adamant that the theology is OK but I think not!

  6. Thanks so much for this timely critique, Bosco. In place of the sadistic theology you describe I hold as central, as I guess many Christians do, Paul’s insight that “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to [God’s] self, no longer counting people’s sins against them.” (Or, “God was in Christ… depending on your preference). 2 Cor. 5:19. This is my fundamentalism, if you like!

    Also, Paul’s prior words in v 15 are also telling, making it clear that Jesus’ giving away of him life for all was “so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for the one who died and was raised to life for us.” (A kind of first-fruits of self-giving).

    I seriously wonder why anyone could even respect a God who chose to inflict what has been called “Divine child abuse”.

  7. Peter Carrell

    One thought (before I offer a blog post of my own).
    I distinguish between whether it is generally helpful to use the words XYZ and whether the words XYZ are arguably heresy/orthodoxy. (For instance, I think “Holy Ghost” remains an orthodox phrase; but I do not find it helpful these days to use the phrase.) It may be that we could reach universal agreement on not using the words you are objecting to in the song as originally written, even though we will not reach universal agreement on whether or not they constitute heresy.

    1. Let me add to your point, Peter, as you head off to your own site, my emphasis that it is people’s understanding of the words that is heretical. I concur that you and Lynda and the current Archbishop of Canterbury may be able to sing the words with orthodox stuff going on in your heads – but what is then going on in your heads is different, my post is positing, from what is happening in the heads of many, possibly most, at those words. I have been stressing it is not the words per se that are heresy – so I agree we may not reach universal agreement on them – it is how the words are naturally understood. Blessings.

      1. Peter Carrell

        In that case, Bosco, I think your post is missing a key piece of evidence for your concern to be justified. If the understanding is heresy then the concern you have for its canonisation in the diocese rests on certitude that the heretical understanding is the understanding of many (most) in the Synod. You have actually given no evidential basis for such certitude.

        1. How do you think, Peter, that many/most understand these words? I am allowing some wiggle room for those who claim they can do the mental gymnastics to sing this as orthodox, and I accept that a few, including you, have the theological competency to do this. It reminds me of the argument theologians put forward that Jesus’ saying, “drink this all of you” meant only the priest should drink the wine. More common is the understanding akin to “God demanding his son die horribly to serve as an asbestos suit to protect us from God’s white-hot anger.” But if you like, you and I can jointly survey what people understand by the words at our next meeting of synod. Blessings.

          1. Peter Carrell

            I think, Bosco, that a survey would be good. Otherwise your pessimism and my optimism re understanding is simply our preferred opinion on the matter.

            Nevertheless I would be very surprised if our Synod included many whose understanding involved “asbestos”!

  8. I will clearly be in the minority here but I would disagree with the heresy charge. One problem is our notion of “wrath.” We tend to infuse the word with the kind of rage associated with human ire. Hence we get words like God has an “anger management problem” or “divine child abuse.” I think the comparison of our anger to God’s wrath does Him a disservice. When I teach in our congregation on justification, I describe God’s wrath as His settled and consistent opposition to all that diminishes His glory and/or creation. It’s not seething rage, it’s holiness reacting with perfect response to what is unholy. The idea that God is, as you describe, “head over heals in love with us,” is true because God is Love. God is also “Light” and there is no darkness in Him. My understanding of this provides a way to reconcile the idea that we are loved by God and yet enemies of God – that we are called to be sons and daughters even as we are “children of wrath.” God would be inconsistent with His own character to be either one or the other and this is precisely the issue that Paul raises in Romans 3. God doesn’t have an anger problem, he has a justice dilemma. The passage below (you said, show it to me in the Bible! – this is my small effort) states 1) the desire of God – to love sinful people by giving them the gift of right standing with Himself. 2) The reality that in order to be consistent with His own character, He could could not simply ignore sin. Yes, justice had been put “on hold” so to speak but could not simply be waved away. And so 3) God in His grace, incarnate in Christ, lives the life we could not live in perfect obedience and goes to the cross to bear the deserved wrath His own holiness required. The suggestion of “cosmic child abuse” is really an insult to the Trinitarian rescue mission that enabled God to be, as Paul states below, “just and yet the justifier.” At the cross holy wrath and holy love meet in a divine symmetry that makes grace more amazing than can be imagined. God’s wrath “satisfied” is God’s justice answered once for all in the cross of Christ.

    “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

    This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

    1. Thanks, Jeff, for your helpful comment. If I understand what you are saying correctly, you are merely reinforcing my point, that when this song is sung “it needs to be accompanied by teaching that what it seems to say, and what many people think it means, is heresy.” You do this by saying that what we understand by “wrath” is not what is intended by that word. I repeat what I have been saying in the comments to Peter, and in the original post – it is possible for some to sing this with theological mental gymnastics that allows an orthodox interpretation. My concern is for the many (most?) who can’t. Christ is risen.

      1. Thanks for the follow-up Bosco. While I agree that it’s “possible for some to sing this with theological mental gymnastics that allows an orthodox interpretation,” mine is a greater concern that there is a strong effort in these days, as there is in all ages, to diminish the work of Christ and elevate the merits of men. The idea that God is angry with sinners is an entirely Biblical idea just as the truth that God loves sinners with a rescuing passion is as well. The cross is not the expression of a vicious God nor is it merely the sacrificial example of an anointed servant. It is the intersection of the universe where justice and mercy give birth to a new creation. Negate either side of the equation and we run straight off the rails. We try to find ways to do just that by denying God His righteous wrath (angry God, cosmic child abuser) or the Son his salvific mission (“our wrath, our anger put him on the cross.) We diminish either side to our own detriment.

    2. I must thank Jeff Ling for provoking me to consider God’s wrath as described voluminously in the Hebrew Scriptures and numerously in the Christian Scriptures. Jeff thinks we have a “problem is our notion of “wrath.” We tend to infuse the word with the kind of rage associated with human ire.”

      But the prophets and others tells us something less sanitised:

      Isaiah 13.9:

      “See, the day of the Lord comes,
         cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
      to make the earth a desolation,
         and to destroy its sinners from it.”

      Lamentations of Jeremiah 4.11:

      “The Lord gave full vent to his wrath;
         he poured out his hot anger,
      and kindled a fire in Zion
         that consumed its foundations.”

      There are dozens of other examples of God’s ferocity. And if we think that’s just so Old Testament, the promised wrath is referred to in the Gospels and Epistles, and is still spectacularly unexpunged in Revelation:

      [those who receive the mark of the beast]”will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger, and they will be tormented with fire and sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” Rev. 14:10

      And chapter 6 of the same book also refers to “the wrath of the Lamb”.

      So Jeff believes “God’s wrath “satisfied” is God’s justice answered once for all in the cross of Christ.”

      At best one could say that Paul and others believe that Christians have escaped God’s wrath through Christ’s self-giving love, since we are under that same grace:

      “For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law, neither is there violation.”

      God’s wrath satisfied? I don’t buy it.

      1. Thanks for those reflections – I could point to many other passages of the same type but it would not change my firm conviction that we cannot possibly understand the wrath, anger, “white hot fury” of God by human reasoning try as we might. I have never once in my life experienced righteous wrath flowing out of me as a result of perfect holiness offended. Just not possible. I’m not suggesting that the wrath has no frightening violent and intense effect. I am saying that we cannot compare our wrath and God’s anymore than we can compare our jealousy and His – for that matter – our love and His! Our fractured humanity bears pale resemblance to God’s beauty and perfection. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. The glory of God and His wrath against all that stands against His glory is what renders the atonement the astonishing thing that it is. While we were enemies, Christ died for us.

        The comment:
        “At best one could say that Paul and others believe that Christians have escaped God’s wrath through Christ’s self-giving love, since we are under that same grace:”

        is not fully clear but yes, the best thing I can say is:

        Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. – Romans 5:9

        Take it out of the Pauline sphere for a moment and consider Jesus words. That wonderful 3rd chapter of John that carries the good news that God so loved the world, also carries a warning from Jesus:
        “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” – John 3:36

        “God’s wrath satisfied? I don’t buy it.”

        I’ve staked my life on it.

  9. A further reflection, if I may:

    (Disciple, during Jesus’ earthly lifetime, seeks to pray obediently:) “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.”
    (God:) “Sorry mate, can’t forgive you yet as I’m still full of wrath, and someone’s going to pay.”

    When we examine Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels it is clear that forgiveness (even 77 times) is enjoined upon us, and that we are expressly forbidden to make someone pay. If that’s good enough for us feeble humans, why doesn’t it apply to God?

    I believe it was James Alison who pointed out that in a court of (human) law we would hardly consider that justice was served if an innocent party volunteered to undertake the death penalty on (a guilty) someone else’s behalf. How does this idea become just in Christianity?

  10. Brian Poidevin

    when i read such discussions I wonder why I ersist in the Christian church. I suppose it is in a sense of the mystery beyond science and the lives of many professed Christians. I have long found the belief that Jesus died to redeem our shortcomings, as a kind of ransom images a god I find ridiculous. And then a god of love is betrayed every hour by events in the world. I realise this makes me too simplistic for words. Jesus is reported as mentioning the peace the world cannot give and this I struggle with and it somehow sustains me. As for the crucifixion , one of thousands. Perhaps it was for Roman political reasons with some support from a bemused Jewish priesthood and leadership.
    I think I have read all the reasons why my approach is unsupportable and I really should stand with Richard Holloway.

  11. Robert W. M. Greaves

    If the commonly held understanding of these words is wrong/heretical, what do they mean to the theologically more educated?

  12. “Show me anywhere in the Bible that explicitly states Jesus’ death satisfies God’s wrath.” Or, show me anywhere in the Bible where it explicitly states there is a Trinity. Both of these come from deep study of Scripture over centuries. The wrath/death approach is merely one of several attempts to understand exactly why Jesus died on the cross and what it achieved. It happens to be one that’s commonly used at present, but of course there are others. But you know all this, Bosco! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Mike.

      As to “a Trinity” in the scriptures – Matthew 28:19 εἰς τὸ ὄνομα (singular) τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος. Et al.

      Christ is risen!

  13. The article itself doesn’t adequately address all the images of “angry God” in the Old Testament, and even implicit in Acts in one instance.
    I had a recent experience in a church that values the ‘angry God appeased by Jesus’ sacrifice’ theology highly, wouldn’t ever question it, at least not publically, served Communion in the most trite manner possible, clearly subservient to maintenance of its idol, sung worship. We sure do need to evaluate what we sing.

  14. In my last parish, we used to sing, “… the love of God was glorified…”. A very Johannine response 🙂

  15. Bosco,

    Three things:
    1. To object to Penal Substitutionary Atonement due to God being divided I think is very strange. (God is divided, because one member of the Trinity is doing something to another member of the Trinity???)
    The Father sends the Son, the other way around. The Father and the Son, send the Spirit. The Spirit does not send the Father. It is not unbiblical for one person of the Trinity to perform an action on another, no division is entailed.

    2.Article XXXI. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross is clear on this issue?

    “The Offering of Christ once made is the perfect redemption, propitiation , and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone.

    Three very powerful terms: redemption, propitiation, satisfaction.

    Terms that (with the article) are strongly supported by Holy Scripture. (Rom 3:23-25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). The word propitiation is used in these verses and it deals with the penalty for sin.

    Someone once said to me in response:
    “Do you really think that God’s wrath at human kind could only be satisfied by planning the brutal murder of his son?”

    Apart from the false presupp that Jesus was a passive victim,
    Honestly, I can see no other way that God’s wrath could be satisfied. The passage that comes to mind most strongly is Luke 22:39-42 (see also Matt.26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42). Particularly v.42.

    I think it is very clear from the OT that the cup is God’s wrath and there are many references (Isa 51:17, 22; Jer.25:15,17, 28; 49:12; Lam.4:21; Ezek.23:31-33, just to name some. Thus the cup that Jesus is referring to is the spiritual agony of bearing the sins of the world and the wrath which those sins deserved.
    The fact that Jesus went to the cross and that God’s will was for him to go to the cross reveals that God the Father knew that there was no other way. It was not (and is not) possible for God to saves sinners without the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

    3. I find it quite sad that an Anglican cleric would label heresy what our historic Anglican formularies are crystal clear about; that God’s wrath on sin was propitiated by the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction the Son of God willingly made on the Cross for the redemption of the world.

    1. Your wrath, Joshua, appears to be being satisfied on me for things that I am not saying.

      There is too much to focus a response to. But please take greater care in suddenly creating a straw man argument as if my issue with this line in a song is suddenly a denial of salvation.

      You say “The word propitiation is used” in Rom 3:25 etc. Well the word is actually ἱλαστήριον – and to translate that as “propitiation” is debatable.

      I take very seriously your implication (3) that I am breaking my solemn vow to set forth the doctrines of the faith as this Church has received them. If you are really convinced of this then I think you are bound to follow the processes in our church to have me disciplined.

      Until then I will hold that I am faithfully setting forth the doctrines of the faith as this Church has received them. My duty and my joy is to witness to Christ crucified and risen.

      Christ is risen.

      1. Bosco,

        I am not angry. I just disagree with your implication(or did you say it straight up?) that those who believe in PSA are heretics.

        You wrote:

        Thankfully, we are saved by God through Jesus Christ our saviour. We are not saved by a theory of salvation”

        True, Jesus death is not a theory, but the question I think your post raises is this?
        What actually does Jesus Christ save us from?

        He has risen indeed.

        1. Joshua, it is you, not I, who introduced the term “PSA” into this thread, so if you are asking now “did I say this straight up?” the answer is pretty obvious.

          I must say, Joshua, your having posted so condemnatory on this thread you will understand that your questions have the tone of the Grand Inquisitor for me, rather than genuine interest in a conversation. What we are saved from is not really tweet (140 character) stuff, but with those two circumscriptions in mind I will give the tweet answer: sin and death.


        2. “True, Jesus’ death is not a theory, but the question I think your post raises is this?What actually does Jesus Christ save us from?”
          – Joshua Bovis –

          One pretty good answer to this must be the fact that Jesus saves us from the need to judge other people.

          Another might be to see the wrath of God as much less important than the outrageous and unremitting Love of God for human beings. This is the more Gospel-driven heart of soteriology

          God is Love! At least, this is what Jesus implied in his instruction that “They’ll know you’re my disciples by your Love” – like Father, like Son, like Holy Spirit.

          Jesus was not put to death by God the Father. That task was achieved by sinful people who misunderstood the mission of Jesus – which was to save us from the consequences of our sins, and to prove God’s love for us – despite them.

          The implicit wrath that Jesus exercised was most generally against the Law-keepers, who were so obsessed with the penalties of the Law, they seemed unaware of the purpose of God in Christ as bringing redemption through grace!

          The cost of this redemption was not attributable to us, but to God. That is proof positive that God is LOVE.

          1. Ron, we are not saved from our sins because Jesus was convicted in a Kangaroo court by Jewish religious leaders. Neither are we saved from our sins because Roman soldiers thrust nails into his hands and feet.

            Ron do you really think false judgement of people who misunderstood Jesus would pay the debt for all the sin of humanity? As I said to Bosco earlier, Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is very telling. The reason Jesus was in such agony and pain was that all God’s perfect and holy wrath and hatred towards sin, is about to be poured out on him. At risk of repeating David Ould, Isaiah 53 makes is very clear that it was all part of God’s plan for Jesus to suffer and die in our place, taking the punishment that our sin deserves and satisfying God’s just demands. The Apostle Peter also refers to in 1 Peter 2:21-25.

  16. I think part of the issue is the ability of lay people without theological training to grasp the details of the doctrines you’re discussing.
    I consider myself a mature, experienced Christian, who has benefitted from a great number of sermons from respected and well qualified theologians. However I still sometimes struggle to fully comprehend exactly what went on at the crucifixion. I tend to give up after a while and brush it all into an uncomprehensible divine mystery. I don’t think I lack intelligence, I just have not had a theological training.
    I suspect Bosco’s point is that Christians like myself are at risk of misunderstanding the hymn in question. I do wonder how theologically trained the author of the hymn was and what his own understanding of the doctrine was when he wrote those lines. [Claudia sent this comment to the wrong post & has given me permission to move it – so that’s not her photo on the avatar. Bosco]

    1. Yes, Claudia, you are a mature, experienced Christian, and in the opinion of this (Melbourne College of Divinity 5 year theology degree after graduating a Bachelor with philosophy & logic, and teaching diploma etc.) blogger, your struggle to fully comprehend exactly what went on at the crucifixion and seeing it all as an uncomprehensible divine mystery is spot on. Christ is risen.

  17. Isaiah 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

    Bosco, is that about Jesus or not?

    1. The identity, David, as I’m sure you know, of the servant in the Servant Poems first isolated by Duhm, is disputed. Israel, Israel under the name of Jacob, the prophet and his disciples, as contemplated by other Israelites or foreigners, or by the foreigner Cyrus,… Christ is risen.

      1. except, of course, the NT clearly identifies that one not least as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

        1Pet. 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

        The Apostle Peter thinks it refers to Jesus. What say you, Bosco?

          1. which wasn’t the question. For clarity Peter:

            Do you think Peter in 1Peter 2:24 intends us to understand that Isa 53:5 refers to Jesus?

            It’s a really simple yes/no question but I understand that having to answer it clearly might undermine your position.

            Answering it clearly would help us all understand your position.

          2. The author at 1 Peter 2:22 quotes the Septuagint version of Isaiah 53:9b. I cannot answer your questions about the intentions of either of the authors of Isaiah or 1 Peter. I can only read the texts we have received. I would appreciate it if you just wrote for yourself and your own positions rather than speaking for “us all” in the community that gathers around this site, David. Blessings.

          3. OK. I have to say you give every impression of wanting to avoid answering questions that would expose what you know are weaknesses in your argument.

            But that could just be me so let me ask some further clarifying questions. I, for one, would love to actually understand your position better and, despite your protestations, it will help all of us reading – we will all be able to see more clearly what you think.


            1 Do you think (the author of 1) Peter intends us to understand 1Peter 2:24 to refer to Jesus?

            2 Since he refers to LXX Isa 53:9b/MT Isa 53:5, do you agree that he (the author of 1Peter) thinks Isa 53:5 is, amongst other things, about Jesus?

            You’ve made some very big claims which stand contrary to how the majority of the Church has understood these issues through history. You might very well be right but we’ll only know if you’re able to help us understand you. And I, for one, will understand you better by asking direct questions about the texts that apply directly to the claims you are making.

            I’m actually not sure why it’s so hard for you to give plain responses to plain questions.

          4. David, let me be clearer. Ad hominems are not acceptable on this site; nor are straw man arguments.

            Just make your point, plainly if you can, and move on. If you do not receive the answer to a question in the form you are anticipating then that does not mean that I am giving every impression of wanting to avoid answering questions that would expose what I know are weaknesses in my argument. It just means that I approach those questions differently to you.

            You are not asking “some further clarifying questions”. As far as I can see you are asking the same questions.

            IMO I am not making “some very big claims which stand contrary to how the majority of the Church has understood these issues through history.”

            If you cannot make whatever points you want to make on 1 Peter and Isaiah without my answering the questions in the manner you anticipate, then I guess this particular conversation has concluded.


  18. Elaine Hood Culver

    I turned the paper face down and refused to sing these words at a past Diocesan Convention.

  19. Dear Bosco
    You are certainly not alone in these thoughts!

    However, if there is controversy on this point amongst clerics, it is perhaps not surprising that the laity are by now thoroughly confused.

    At confirmation, I thought I understand the received doctrine. Now I have no longer any idea what Anglicans are supposed to believe on this point. For this, I do not take all the blame – there are so many versions out there!

    But it is an important – central! – part of our faith, so I am grateful to you for giving this an airing.

    Re-blogged (just a taster introduction) at Lay Anglicana

  20. mike greenslade

    Great blog post Bosco, but you are moving into dangerous territory!
    Remember the advice given by the wise one…

    Saavik: Any suggestions, Admiral?
    Kirk: Prayer, Mr. Saavik. The Klingons don’t take prisoners.

    Or, as Ian Anderson put it…
    “If Jesus saves – well, He’d better save Himself
    from the gory glory seekers who use His name in death.
    Oh Jesus save me!”

      1. Mike Greenslade

        Yes! Pop culture references can be as obscure in their meanings as scriptural ones! If you need assistance with deciphering them, I will oblige.

  21. Richard Holloway may currently be an atheist- but his attempts to protect and defend the downtrodden may make him a devout ‘Christian’ according to Matthew 25.

    Heresy comes from the Greek verb ‘to choose’ ie against an established culture or belief system. Choice to believe in the established reigious format or what seems ‘right’…

  22. The great heresies all took some aspect of truth and emphasized it to the exclusion of other aspects of truth. The Incarnation heresies either overemphasize Christ’s divinity at the expense of his humanity or overemphasize his humanity at the expense of his divinity. The Trinitarian heresies either emphasized the three persons at the expense of divine unity or emphasized divine unity at the expense of either absorbing or denigrating two of the persons.

    I think that’s where we’re at with Penal Substitutionary Atonement – and in particular with this somewhat grotesque expression of it. The salvific event of Christ’s sacrificial death is layered with meaning. I’m content that the idea of Christ as the substitute accepting our earned punishment is perfectly reasonable.

    But to suggest that bthis is the only – or even the principal – understanding of the Cross is, at the very least, prone to heresy. But the words here go beyond mere PSA and seem to replace God’s justice (which requires satisfaction) with God’s inchoate rage.

    1. which particular part of the phrase “till on the cross when Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied” replaces God’s justice (which, as others have demonstrated on this thread, is regularly described in the Scriptures using the language of God’s wrath against sin) with “God’s inchoate rage”.

      Where is it either “inchoate” or simply “rage”?

  23. Thanks for this post Bosco. I have struggled with those very lines. My local church sings it sometimes and I was unable to sign it. I use British Sign Language rather than singing and that means I am always translating songs and I don’t know how to translate it and I don’t like the text in English. We sang it at a conference last week too. The alternative words that some people suggest in this thread are helpful. I do wonder how many people sing this without thinking about what the words mean. I say this because so many of our songs are not easy when you start to think about what they actually mean! And if I ask a hearing person they don’t know how to answer the question. I think when many people sing they are enjoying the music and not necessarily worrying about what the words mean that they sing. So I wonder how many people actually think about the meaning of these lines?

  24. There’s no ad hominem, Bosco – I’m commenting directly upon your obvious avoidance of the question.

    however, I note that others commenting here do engage in ad hominem, implying that conservatives are “Klingons” and calling them “gory glory seekers”from which Jesus must save them and yet you have no problems at all with such insults. Others with make of that what they will. I know the conclusions I reach from it.

    The argument that you are striving hard to avoid conceding is that the New Testament’s clear position is that Isaiah 53 refers not least to Jesus. 1Peter 2:24, as was no doubt obvious to you, applies Isa 53:5 to Jesus. Thus it is entirely right and proper to argue that Jesus is the obvious Christian understanding of the object of Isa 53:5.

    It was not that you didn’t “answer the question in the way that I anticipated” but, quite obviously, that you knew the implications of answering them clearly and so obfuscated. It’s a common liberal tactic and it’s also common that liberals starting protesting vehemently when they get called out on it. You didn’t “approach the question in a different way” since the question was a very simple one – you just fudged it.

    And at the end of it all you act surprised that you’re expected to defend yourself when you call those who believe in PSA heretics. Some of us, quite rightly, get a bit worked up when you brand so many Christians through history in that manner. Have the integrity to defend your enormous claim robustly.

    1. David, just look at the language you use:

      …your obvious avoidance …you are striving hard to avoid …as was no doubt obvious to you…It was …quite obviously, that you knew the implications of answering them clearly and so obfuscated. It’s a common liberal tactic and it’s also common that liberals starting protesting vehemently when they get called out on it. You didn’t “approach the question in a different way” since the question was a very simple one – you just fudged it…

      And you say “There’s no ad hominem”!

      So far, I still cannot see anything you write of substance.

      Do you accept that that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us? Since you are into simple yes/no answers – all other options being, as you say, obfuscation, I await your answer to my question: yes, or no? Don’t obfuscate!


      1. I still cannot see anything you write of substance

        Apart from, of course, showing quite clearly that the New Testament applies the penal substitutionary words of Isaiah 53 directly to Jesus – I note how you simply avoided dealing with that. Oh well.

        Do you accept that that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us.

        No, and neither does any serious advocate of PSA. It’s a straw man and demonstrates only that you either don’t understand what you’re criticising or, even worse, can’t be bothered to fairly represent it. Rather the doctrine of PSA holds that the Son is a willing party (by his own words (John 10 etc.), that God’s wrath is entirely justified and righteous (Eph 2:1 etc.) and yet that it is love that motivates this extraordinary act of giving on the part of Father and Son.

        instead you have turned it into a bit of vicious lashing out. But it’s always easier to knock down a straw man.

        It’s a particularly egregious mistake given that evangelicalism has had a serious debate over this very issue in the last few years. Sach & Jeffrey’s “Pierced for Our Transgressions” is one example of a major contribution to the debate which would more than adequately show you how your canard does not stand. Even a brief read through Stott’s classic “The Cross of Christ” would dismiss any silly notion of “Cosmic Child Abuse”.

        So, those of us who defend the doctrine are not “Klingons” or “gory glory

        1. David, far from “showing quite clearly that the New Testament applies the penal substitutionary words of Isaiah 53 directly to Jesus”, you have not even mentioned the words “penal substitutionary words” until now.

          I have been clear from the very start, including the title, this post is about the words

          Till on that cross as Jesus died,
          The wrath of God was satisfied

          and that for many when they sing these words

          The understanding is that God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.

          and that

          This understanding is heresy.

          You have done little more than present ad hominem attacks on me and unjustified criticisms of my honest attempts to answer your questions, and you continue to do this in this latest comment. If you fail, from my previous comment, to understand what is objectionable in your comment, it includes your persistence in using language like “…demonstrates only that you either don’t understand what you’re criticising or, even worse, can’t be bothered to fairly represent it…you have turned it into a bit of vicious lashing out…particularly egregious…your canard…” My hospitality to you here has been stretched. This is your final warning.

          1. Perhaps Bosco we could bi-pass the emotion, the perjorative adjectives (ie.
            “Grand Inquisitor”
            “Your wrath, Joshua, appears to be…”
            and that I am not interested genuine conversation.”

            I re-read your post and you did actually say:
            The understanding is that God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.
            This understanding is heresy.

            I am not sure if you realised this, but you appear to have taken PSA (I know you did not use the actual words), and you have re-presented PSA into a caricature and used that as your basis for calling the line of the song (which is about the atonement), so for Reformed Anglican clergy who believe that this understanding of the atonement is what the Bible teaches (and is stated in the Anglican formularies) this is why I was concerned and rather surprised.

            I am interested in having a conversation with you. Sadly this fora leaves no room for nuance and tone so it is hard to convey feeling. But can I assure you that I was not (and I am not now) writing in a spirit of anger. I enjoy your blog and many times I have engaged with you.(As you know I too share your love of liturgy!)

            For the record my understanding of what you wrote is as follows:
            The understanding that God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness.
            Yes but his anger is not like human fly off the handle rage, it is holy perfect righteous anger against sin and sinners.

            And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us.
            Again, God’s rage is not like human rage, God does not have cosmic-tantrums)and Jesus is not the unwilling passive victim. I read a quote recently which says:
            “To construct a doctrine of the atonement without taking account of the fact that God is angry would be like building an aeroplane without reference to gravity.

            And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.
            Absolutely not!God punishing Jesus in our place was driven by love (Rom 5:8; 1 John 4:10;and of course John 3:16.) It was love that motivated God to send his Son to die.

            I hope that what I wrote makes sense. I don’t believe the line of the song is heretical. I think it sums up very well what the Bible teaches, however if people think the lines describe a ogre God who is having a rage, and takes out his rage on an unwilling innocent passive victim in his son, I can see why this line would cause problems. However this is not the Biblical teaching of the atonement, nor is it what is described in the BCP or the articles.

            As for David Ould, I don’t think he was doing the Ad hominem thing. I think he is just calling you out on what your take is. I think like me, as someone who is a Reformed Anglican minister, he too is concerned. Can I suggest (humbly), play the ball, not the man. And I ask your forgiveness if I have not done the same.

            in Christ

          2. Joshua, much as I genuinely appreciate the tone in your comment, your ripping a section out of the context of my post and making it mean the opposite of what I actually say is unhelpful. You are actually agreeing with me that this understanding is heretical. I have dealt with this here; and you are doing exactly what I stated there:

            starting with something like “wrath” does not mean “wrath” in the way we normally use “wrath”.

            As an aside, not all advocates of PSA would follow your approach of “God punishing Jesus in our place”. Pointing to 2 Cor 5:20 (and surrounding verses) means, they would say, it is not right to say “God punishing Jesus in our place”. Rather, they would say, the idea is “God in Jesus took on himself the punishment for our sins, substituting himself for us.”

            We will just have to agree to disagree about ad hominems. Even others who agree with David Ould’s theological position, acknowledge the language he uses is heat-generating. I have established and seek to maintain a culture in this community where people can talk to each other, including disagreeing, with more light than heat.

            Christ is risen.

  25. When the penal substitutionary aspect of the atonement is priorized in an unbalanced way, it seems to me that a heretical teaching of God the untreated anger addict is the inevitable result.

    That is not to say that Penal Substitutionary Atonement necessarily leads to that, nor even that evangelicals who priorize PSA necessarily fall into such an heretical view. It is merely the end-result when that particular aspect of truth is emphasized above all else in an unbalanced way.

    If I might offer an example of comparable (though perhaps less central) imbalance from “the other side” of Anglicanism. The invocation of the prayers of the saints asks those who have gone before us in faith to pray for us. Some catholics hold to a popular misconception that we therefore pray to Mary and to the saints. The latter is clearly a heresy. But it does not therefore follow that every Hail Mary is an heretical act.

  26. It seems to me that if “wrath” is taken in the strongest sense then “heresy” is also a step too far. Although I do not myself subscribe to the “substitutionary” model as the best descriptor for the mystery of the Atonement, I recognize it does have strong support in various strands of the tradition; and it does make sense of some — though not all — Scriptural witness. In its crudest form (the “cricket bat”) I think it fails on Trinitarian grounds as it appears to wander into a kind of modalism in which the persons of the Trinity are divided against themselves, as well as raising some very serious questions about the nature of the Will of God.

    That being said, I find the “wrath” text unfortunate due to the word “wrath” being given more human attributes than I think the doctrine requires. If understood as the consequence of Perfect Righteousness encountering Fallen Humanity, rather than as a raging and sadistic murderer, that somewhat takes the edge off. Still, it seems an unnecessary doctrine, or explanation of a doctrine, when other explanations or understandings are available which full account for the Atonement, without dividing the persons of the Trinity more than is needed, as if there is a separate psychology in each Person. I fall back on the old doctrine that whenever a Person of the Trinity acts, it is God who acts. Thus, _God in Christ_ was reconciling the whole world to himself. That reconciliation required incarnation, suffering, death and resurrection of human nature itself.

    That’s my take on it, anyway…

  27. Bosco, the hymn you mention is not in the 1982 hymnal of the Episcopal Church in the US. In all good conscience, I could not sing the words about God’s wrath being satisfied by Jesus’ death on the cross.

    What an interesting discussion. I’m reminded of my words to a friend who is in deep depression. I doubt whether my friend is able to take hold of the idea in a way that will help lift the depression, but, after I read my words over, I thought to myself that they express well my living experience of God’s salvation day by day. So. The words may or may not have been helpful to my friend, but they were helpful to me.

    “Do you have inside yourself a sense that you are a person of worth? You are, if for no other reason than you are God’s wonderful creation, and God declared you to be good – not for your accomplishments, nor for the work you do, nor whether you’re crazy or sane, but simply for who you are before God, who loves you. I know I’m sermonizing, and maybe because of depression, or for some other reason, what I say doesn’t seem right, and you can’t or won’t take hold of the concept, but I believe it to be true, and it’s what gives meaning to my life. When there seems to be nothing left, I hang on to the knowledge of God’s abiding love, which rescues me time after time and is my salvation.”

    My theological starting point is God is love. God loves God’s own creation unconditionally. God created us with the gift to choose, which means we can choose good, or evil, or make choices that are neutral – like what color clothing to wear. When God gave us the ability to chose, did God not know that we humans would make wrong choices? The allegory of Adam and Eve tells us God knew. Humans did sin, and God sent the Beloved Son to save us by his Incarnation, the example of his life, his teachings, his crucifixion, his death, and his Resurrection. God came down and became incarnate, fully human, like us in every way. By doing so, through all of his life on earth until after the Resurrection, Jesus’s words and actions, his whole life, are efficacious in drawing us into the very life of the Trinity and saving us.

    God’s will cannot be divided. Jesus freely chose to become one with us and do the Father’s will here on earth. He was obedient to the Father in the manner in which he lived his life and in what he taught his followers, with the result that the powers of the day feared insurrection, and eventually put him to death. Jesus did not need to die the horrible death to satisfy the wrath of God for our sins to be forgiven. Humans put Jesus to death, not the Father.

    There is no wrath in God’s love for us. God loves us without conditions.

    Peter, you say, “God’s love is God’s wrath: in God’s love for us God cannot bear the imperfection of sin marring the image of God and so God’s wrath is God working to eradicate that imperfection. God’s wrath is satisfied when sin is dealt with and expunged. God’s love is, indeed, magnified, when we understand that love to go to any length required in order to deal fully and completely with sin.”

    I would be horrified by the idea that God’s wrath would make it imperative that Jesus suffer and die for my sins in order for me to be forgiven. The very thought seems monstrous to me. Jesus made the free choice to become one of us to save us from our sins, but I don’t believe Jesus had to be put to a cruel death to satisfy God’s wrath. What kind of loving God is it who would send the Beloved Son to suffer for the sins of others?

    The Incarnation is the biggie for me, that God came down to be one of us to catch us up in the life of the Trinity. I was taught that the greatest feast of the life of Jesus is the Resurrection, but I’m now inclined to think the children had it right all along to see Christmas as the great feast.

    Let me add that I think we all make up our own theology, to one degree or another, after reading and prayerful reflection on the Scriptures, the writings of the Fathers of the church, and the writings of all the great Christian theologians and philosophers throughout the history of Christianity. Now my idea may, in itself, be considered heretical, but there it is.

    June Butler

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful points, June! I think we have lenses through which we read the scriptures, and with you I share the primary lens that God is love. Christ is risen.

  28. Here’s the perspective from my particular pew:

    1. Most parishioners are not theologians, and would find most of this discussion beyond them.

    2. I suspect most hymn writers are not theologians either, and probably take some poetic licence with what theology they do understand.

    3. I think the words we sing do matter just as much as the words we pray. The lines from a hymn are more likely to come to mind in later reflections that details from the sermon.

  29. Bosco,

    your hypocrisy is impressive.

    You begin a debate by calling two of our most respected theologians heretics, a calculated tactic to create heat rather than light.

    Such accusations against those who have to live and work in this Diocese are serious. And they are ad hominem.

    Yet you do not make them seriously.

    You begin with your own straw-man, a laughable caricature of what most Roman, Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed theologians have believed regarding penal substitutionary atonement.

    No conservative evangelical I know or have read believes the caricature you present. Nor is this just a case of “mental gymnastics.” It IS a case of taking all of Scripture seriously, and being willing to challenge our own limited and cultural assumptions, and take the weight of catholic tradition seriously as well.

    Penal Substitutionary atonement is not, nor ever has been, and is not now, heresy or the minority view. It is Anglican teaching, part of our Formularies.

    So you begin a debate by calling two of your co-workers heretics, which is ad hominem.

    You base this on a dishonest straw-man caricature of what Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed theologians actually teach and believe on the subject, using emotive one liners rather than serious theological critique.

    A straw-man argument is also an ad hominem by the way.

    You ignore contrary arguments, again, with emotive one liners rather than civil or serious debate of theological and Biblical issues.

    In fact, you refuse to debate Scripture or theology at all.

    You then simply accuse anyone who disagrees with you of, and this is the impressive part, ad hominem and straw-man arguments.

    Magnificent hypocrisy!

    1. It would help, Shawn, if you actually read my post, and responded to what it really says.

      Contrary to your twice-made obviously false claim, I explicitly state, “Let me stress I am not saying Lynda and Peter are heretics.”

      What I did call heresy is

      The understanding that God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.

      If no one has that understanding as they sing “Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied” then I am delighted.

      Christ is risen.

      1. Peter Carrell

        Hi Bosco,
        I suggest you reflect carefully on your post. In your comment immediately above, and in one or two parts of the post, you clearly take aim at a particular understanding of ‘wrath/satisfied’.

        But the fact is you are also taking aim at the phrasing itself. For example when you write “The wrath-of-God-satisfied approach has been canonised as our diocesan soteriology (understanding of how we are saved),” you are taking the actual phrasing itself to task, not just a particular understanding.

        I do not want to enter into discussion as to whether heresy (or heretics) are involved in these matters. But I am wondering if you are misunderstanding the force of some of the criticism in several comments above because you believe you are only critiquing an understanding and not the phrasing itself. Whereas I suggest there is a quite justified case for reading your post as criticising the phrasing as well.

  30. Thanks, Peter, for your helpful invitation to clarify any misunderstandings.

    As I explicitly stated, there are orthodox ways of understanding

    “Till on that cross as Jesus died,
    The wrath of God was satisfied”

    Theologians have worked at this; from the start my post linked to your four posts on this, and I have updated my post to include links to your recent two posts. Here is another such reflection:

    There is at least one legitimate sense of the phrase “the wrath of God was satisfied” that I can think of which is that the death of Christ brought to a culmination all of God’s purposes in creation. It was the enactment in history of the full measure of God’s love, the full giving of himself to us in redemption and reconciliation. If we approach that truth with a unified understanding of God’s attributes, then we can say that Christ was the fulfillment of God’s love, righteousness, glory, judgment, mercy, wrath, forgiveness – everything. The death of Christ on the cross was the decisive moment of God being God among us, fulfilling his eternal purpose for creation. In that sense we can say that the death of Christ satisfied, as in fulfilled rather than quenched, the intentions of God and thus satisfied his love and so also his wrath. Not that these are then rendered inactive but that they are once and for all fully enacted.

    My post is explicit, “Let me stress I am not saying Lynda and Peter are heretics.”

    It seems to me that you agree with me that your cricket bat interpretation (“God holding a cricket bat threatening to hit us and Jesus stands between saying, ‘Don’t hit them, hit me.’”) and my

    The understanding is that God (The Father) was angry at us in our sinfulness. And that God took out this rage on Christ instead of on us. And that this now enables God (The Father) to love us.

    fall short. I have called that understanding heretical.

    The problem with the words

    “Till on that cross as Jesus died,
    The wrath of God was satisfied”

    and other similar words, is that IMO there are many who do just that: understand them and interpret those words precisely as “God holding a cricket bat threatening to hit us and Jesus stands between saying, ‘Don’t hit them, hit me.’” And there have been numerous people who have agreed that this is what they understand the words to mean and/or this is what they hear preached.

    Hence my conclusion

    Whenever a community is required to sing In Christ alone it needs to be accompanied by teaching that what it seems to say, and what many people think it means, is heresy.

    I notice that as people come to the defence of the song’s line, or any God’s wrath material, they regularly start with something like “wrath” does not mean “wrath” in the way we normally use “wrath”.

    So yes, in some sense I am “taking the actual phrasing itself to task”. If for some/many it is understood as the opposite of what you intend it to mean then, knowing that, I think we are unwise to use it without accompanying explanation.

    I hope that helps some more.

    Christ is risen.

  31. Peter Carrell

    Thanks, Bosco, I think you have tied the issues together (understanding of the words, actual words) clearly.

  32. So – a post on the wrath of God, followed by 76 comments.

    And not one mention of hell.


  33. John-Julian, OJN

    I surely do need to quote here our Blessed Dame Julian’s “Revelations of Divine Love” (Chapter 48): “I saw no wrath except on man’s part, and that He forgives in us. For wrath is nothing else but a departure from and an opposition to peace and to love, and either it comes from the failure of power or from the failure of wisdom, or from the failure of goodness (which failure is not in God but it is on our part — for we, because of sin and miserableness, have in us a wrath and a continuing opposition to peace and to love — and that He showed very often in His loving demeanor of compassion and pity).”

  34. In all of this correspondence, one wonders which of the divine attributes is more indicative of God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. Is it the wrath of God, or is it the love of God?

    God no doubt has very good reasons to be annoyed with most of us – in the ways in which we cripple the Good News of the Gospel by over-emphasising God’s righteous indignation.

    However, one of the reasons God sent His Son into the world was to show forth in a human being the possibilities of redemption through loving-kindness – as opposed to that obtainable by adherence to The Law. Saint Paul emphasised this importance aspect of soteriology.

    God the Father did not crucify Jesus. This horrendous task was attributable to sinful human beings – who mistook the redemptive mission of Jesus as being heretical, and contrary to what they perceived to be God’s Law.

    It was the loving actions of Jesus towards known sinners that gave rise to his trial and death. He had rescued people from the due penalty of the Law, and for that he was crucified!

    Now, what does that have to say about God’s wrath that speaks louder than the amazing grace of God’s unremitting Love for sinners – all of us?

  35. As a songwriter myself, I would take a very dim view of other people choosing to correct the theology I express in my songs by changing the words without my permission.

    A couple of years ago, a fellow musician (and friend) asked if he could record one of my songs, which of course pleased me very much. I did not discover until the last minute in the recording process that he had changed all my God-pronouns to avoid describing God as ‘he’, and had not thought this important enough to ask my permission firstt. At that point in time the recording process was so far gone that I chose not to make an issue of it, but it bothered me nonetheless.

    I’m entiredly okay with the fact that some people choose to avoid calling God ‘he’. I’m not one of those people, and it was my song.

    If you don’t like the way ‘In Chirst Alone’ is worded, don’t sing it. If you’re at an event where it’s sung and you don’t like those words, don’t join in. But I strongly object to a living author’s words being changed in public worship without the permission of that author.

    1. Thanks, Tim. As I said in the post, “Altering songs and hymns without permission of the copyright holder is another discussion altogether.” It is good that you emphasise this on this thread. It really needs its own thread. Including some people (loudly) altering the words (God’s gender being an example – individuals changing all the “he”s to “God”; “Lord” to… etc.) Easter Season greetings.

      1. Bosco, I did note those words in your post. I also noted in the comments that you gave encouragement to those who had changed the words of the hymn (including in some instances, if I read the comments right, occasions where the words must have been ‘officially’ changed on a hymn sheet, screen, or order of service). So I’m not altogether clear what your view is.

        I’m not familiar with New Zealand copyright law, but I know for sure that in Canada this is not only unethical but also actually illegal. When words are in the public domain it is, of course, a different matter (although I would still feel a sense of obligation to respect the original author’s intention).

        1. I would have to check, Tim, but off the top of my head I would suspect that the law is no different here. But I would be happy if someone with more legal know-how clarified that.

          Coming up with alternative words is one thing. The process of altering the words is another. I’m sorry if I seemed to be encouraging the one with the other. There is another discussion alongside copyright that this thread illustrates well. Imagine the process and effect of changing words that clearly many love just as they are. As I said – this is a whole other thread. But I’m pleased you remind us that that issue lies alongside this one.

          Easter Season blessings.

  36. Penal substitution as a doctrine central to the atonement may be distasteful, it may be wrong, but it is not heretical. The problem for those of us who don’t like it; who can’t reconcile it with everything else that we believe about God is a) that it is easily articulated and almost as easily understood; b) that alternatives are not as easily articulated or understood and invariably end up in wishy washy religious speak.

    1. Thanks, Richard. You make a fascinating, important point.

      My original post was not whether or not Penal Substitution (as articulated by eminent theologians in lengthy tomes) is heretical or not. My original post was about the (mis)understanding of some lines. I continue to hold that this (mis)understanding is heretical. Penal substitution, in fact, requires lengthy, careful explanation in order to stay orthodox and not lurch into heresy. The comments, linked posts, and lists of erudite tomes bear clear evidence to that. I’m not too concerned that God’s good news is not easily articulated or understood. That’s why I’m not surprised there are four gospels, rather than a simple tweet, 27 New Testament works, a larger Bible, and if all that Jesus does were to be written down I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. There’s a lifetime and an eternity to explore God’s love. Maybe it’s our instant culture that struggles with (against) that. … Sorry, I got distracted into wishy washy religious speak 😉 Christ is risen.

  37. I found all the above fascinating. After over fifty years of subscribing to the penal substitution theory of atonement while becoming more and more uncomfortable with it, I finally decided to try and get to the truth of it all. The results (and they were far-reaching in their repercussions for my faith) can be found in my book Too Bad To Be True – http://amzn.to/RDJULm

  38. Kaehu Rowing

    “It is not in the Bible. Show me anywhere in the Bible that explicitly states Jesus’ death satisfies God’s wrath.”

    Isaiah 53:4-6, 10, 11
    Romans 3:23-26
    2 Corinthians 5:21
    Galatians 3:10, 13
    1 Peter 2:24
    1 Peter 3:18

    Also see Article XXXI of the Articles of Religion of the Anglican Church (“Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross”). As the Apostle Paul says, if Jesus did not die for our sins and then was raised from the dead, our faith is in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:12-17

    1. Thanks, Kaehu. You seem to be providing a list of texts that state, as you conclude, that Jesus died for our sins. That’s not the discussion here. Which of your texts “explicitly states Jesus’ death satisfies God’s wrath.”? I started with your Romans text, the first to explicitly mention Jesus – I cannot even locate the word “wrath” in it. Christ is risen.

  39. Father B, I am just catching up with this topic as it took awhile (yesterday & today) to read and digest all that has been written in the comments. I am sad to see that the usual suspects are here generating more heat than light arguing against something that you did not say in your primary thoughts.

    But I am not surprised. It is why I am so burned out by the lot of them and the topics about which they roam the interwebs seeking to do battle with and to slay dragons*.

    *Mythical creatures that do not and never have existed.

    1. Yes, Br David, it seems much easier than actually conversing positively. I am consoled by the many responses I have had that have found encouragement in the midst of all this. Christ is risen.

  40. Stephen Hofmeyr

    What did Jesus say? Moments before his arrest, Jesus said to Peter: “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” Jesus knew that he would not bring liberation by political or military power, but by “drinking the cup” given to him by his Father.

    Jesus and his Jewish hearers were familiar with the idea of drinking the cup given by the Father. In the Psalms it is refers to the cup of God’s blessing and God’s salvation. Elsewhere in the Psalms and in the Prophets, it refers to the cup of God’s wrath. “Drinking the cup” served as a metaphor for death and symbolised God’s wrath.

  41. Derek Gaubatz

    As for me, I joyfully and wholeheartedly sing, affirm, and delight in the truth that God’s wrath against me was satisfied by the death of the perfect Passover Lamb Jesus on the cross. I was brought forth in inquity and in sin did my mother conceive me. Like the rest, I was dead in my transgressions and sins. I was by nature an object of God’s wrath. I have fallen short of the glory of God. But praise be to God that God’s just wrath against me was fully satisfied by Christ becoming a curse for me, that Christ died for my sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that by his wounds, I have been healed.
    And I also give praise and honor to God who exercises wrath against sin as one of his perfect attributes–He loves righteousness and justice; he does not leave the guilty unpunished.
    Mr. Peters, I pray that the Spirit would bring you to the point of humbly rejoicing in these truths as well. I would not want you, or anyone else on this list, to miss out on the fullness of God’s glory displayed in the gospel of Jesus Christ!

    1. I think that in your prideful boast you fail at reading comprehension. You have failed miserably to come even close to understanding what it is that Father Bosco believes with regard to salvation and God’s righteous satisfaction. As are a number who have posted here in haste, you are blinded by your faulty conclusions. Let the one with eyes to see and ears to hear understand.

      1. Derek Gaubatz

        No prideful boast was intended. I am a new creation by God’s grace from first to last, so nothing was said out of pride. My desire is simply for others to joyfully experience the full measure of grace that God the Father has extended to us through sending His Son to appease the wrath that is justly stored up against rebels like us. Instead of another flood as in the times of Noah, we have in Christ experienced a flood of mercy and grace.
        The day is coming “when the Lord Jesus will be “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” 2 Thes. 2:7-10” To quote a recent song by Jordan Kauflin, I thank Jesus every day that he “bore the wrath reserved for me; now all I know is grace.” As I think of the extent of God’s wrath that I am preserved from, I think even more of the Savior who has rescued me!
        I sincerely pray for you, Mr. David, and for Mr. Peters as Paul prayed there in 2 Thessalonians: “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen!

        1. So it is your testimony here before these witnesses that “Jesus’ death satisfies God’s wrath?” That “God need’s Jesus’ death in order to love us?” That “ a wrath-filled God stands holding a cricket/baseball bat threatening to hit us and Jesus stands between saying, ‘Don’t hit them, hit me.””

          1. Derek Gaubatz

            Dear Mr. David,
            Well I wouldn’t presume to say it is “my testimony” that Jesus’ death satisfies God’s wrath. My testimony counts for nothing. But I will affirm that the counsel of God as revealed in Scripture teaches that God’s wrath and mercy meet at the cross. There, God’s just wrath against sinners like you and sinners like me was fully satisfied by Jesus, the Passover Lamb. For the joy set before him—Jesus endured the cross and drank to the last drop the bitter cup, God’s wrath against our sin so that we were redeemed, washed cleaned, freed of our infirmities!

            Does that mean that God “needed Jesus’ death in order to love us?” No! A thousand times no! The Bible never teaches that the Son somehow manipulated the Father into loving us. God wasn’t forced to love us because Jesus assuaged the Father’s wrath against sin. No, the Bible teaches that the Father sent His Son and the Son willingly came and laid down His life because of God’s sovereign electing love of His people. Sovereign, electing love came first. Indeed it came before the dawn of time as Paul puts it in his beautiful prayer of adoration in Ephesians: “3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

            God obtains maximum glory for himself in salvation by being both just and the one who justifies. He is just—he does not leave the guilty unpunished; the just wrath that a holy God has for sin is not overlooked; the price is paid. And how is it paid? It is paid not through our works but by God himself. He is the solution to our great problem of being by nature an object of wrath because of our sin. He is the one who justifies us by being pierced for our transgressions, by becoming sin for us. Praise God for the cross, where wrath and mercy meet.

            The psalmist invites you and me to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” God’s just wrath against our sin is part of his goodness, just as much as his perfect mercy, born out of his sovereign electing love, in fully assuaging that wrath on the cross in the death of the Lamb of God.

            In Christ’s love,

  42. For some reason this thread reminds me of a Wendy Cope poem-response to someone’s comment on her writing ( & writing in general ):
    ‘Write to amuse? What an appalling suggestion! I write to make people anxious and miserable and to worsen their indigestion.’

    In this hymn ‘wrath of God’ to me would make more sense as ‘plan of God’ since the hymn explains/depicts the life and sacrifice of Jesus, which would be unconscionable for a loving God ( or a loving human to accept as wisdom ) except as part of a bigger picture? ( of which wrath may or may not be a part- but it’s not anywhere near the big picture )

    History and inspiration is not a matter of copy-rights. Neither is wisdom. Nothing’s set in tablets of stone on a mountain-top. Even the greatest hymn-writers and imparters of knowledge will necessarily find their works both altered and re-interpreted over time as paradigms shift and human beings mature ( or sometimes regress- but hopefully religious people are spiritually inspired to *progress*! )

    How many of us would send out a copy of Wesley’s sermon on earthquakes as God’s greatest punishment to earthquake victims today? Not the more educated, enlightened or compassionate I would hope.

    Many verses have been omitted, words changed, of the most talented hymn-writers and preachers as they become socially irrelevant or offensive or encompassed by new learning.

    It’s a tribute to those writers and thinkers as pioneers, that people remember them anyway and use their work.

    Only that which is strong enough to adapt survives!

    1. Tracy, that may be true, but nowadays we have copyright law, so we are not in the same situation as some of the old hymn writers were. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it is there, whether we find it convenient or not. And one of the rights given to an author under most jurisdictions is the moral right to have the integrity of their work protected from distortion or mutilation.

      Works that are in the public domain are different (and as a singer of traditional folk songs, I’ve done my share of mutilation there!). But as a songwriter myself, I appreciate the legal protection that copyright law gives me.

  43. Mark Tolodziecki

    We often forget the purpose of Christ’s WILLING sacrifice. Christ chose to suffer God’s wrath against us as the Lamb of God and suffering servant. Attend to the words of the prophet

    Isai 53:10 (NASB) But the Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting [Him] to grief; If He would render Himself [as] a guilt offering, He will see [His] offspring, He will prolong [His] days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see [it] and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

    The OT sacrifices pointed to the full payment willing substitutionary atonement and fulfillment of God’s wrath against our sin. By His one sacrifice all sins are effectively atoned for (appropriated only to those who believe), and by Gods’ mercy and grace we have justification, and ture eternal life again through trust in Jesus, Gods’ provision. I am not afraid of saying thank you for the wrath of God, it has set me free! Praise God!

  44. Michael Andrews

    It is my personal conviction that the Bible is abundantly clear that God shows wrath to those who are sinful – that is all of us. The Bible uses the word ‘wrath’ or ‘anger’ almost 200 times. Thankfully, as James puts it, ‘mercy triumphs over justice’, so God puts into place an amazing reconciliation plan. Love is mentioned around 700 times: clearly the central focus of God’s mission among us. To remove wrath is to remove the whole point of Christ dying on the cross. Why else did he die? He died in my place, bore the wrath, took the shame: isn’t that the measure of God’s love? That he would die in my place, even though I deserve it? How do you make sense of the OT ‘hilasterion’/the mercy seat? The way in which you explain the ‘cup’ which Jesus drinks, is completely ignorant of all the OT connotations – ones which Jesus clearly draws on from the scriptures he quotes alongside mention of the cup in the NT. I will carry on loving my Lord for the great mercy and love he showers upon us. This is so dear to me: Christ effectively jumped in front of the firing squad which was lined up, quite rightly, against me. His love triumphs!

    1. “Christ effectively jumped in front of the firing squad which was lined up, quite rightly, against me”. Is God the Father holding the guns, as your comment appears to have, Michael? Blessings.

      1. Michael Andrews

        Well, that is an interesting question, isn’t it! I guess this comes down to how we view God and Christ in passages such as Isaiah 53 and Romans 8. ‘Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’ The text says ‘punished by God’ – he takes that punishment in our place. You may wish to read this in another way, but it seems that the NT clearly relates this text to Christ: see Acts 8, Luke 22, John 12:38, 1 Peter 2:22-24. Bosco, please tell me what happens to God’s anger against sin? Does God just suddenly treat people post-Christ a different way to the way in which he treated the people of the OT? God suddenly changes his mind? Doesn’t this mess with the text of Hebrews, e.g. where Abraham has faith in Christ all those centuries before? It seems as though what happens on the cross affects all of time, all people – God opens up his arms and says I will provide a way for you to be in relationship for me. Amazing undeserving grace! Incredible! Peace, brother.

  45. This doctrine can only be understood in view of WHO GOD IS. The bible is the word of God. It provides us with a glimpse of God-reality. But the reality of God is expressed through the person of Jesus. Outside of Jesus Christ, we cannot know God. Neither can we fully understand the bible unless Christ is at it center and everything in it, revolves around, and points to Him. Jesus Christ reveals God to humans.

    Salvation is not found through quoting scriptures. It is found through Jesus Christ who is Salvation personified. We cannot understand what Christ did on the cross by just pulling a few scriptures here and there and trying to paint a picture which fits our pre-convictions. To do so is to assume that we can know God through the application of our own wisdom and understanding to the written words of God. The bible is the written words of God… but, it is not God.

    If we believe that the Holy Spirit is at work today, then we must allow Him to do his work in us. Christians are being transformed into the image of Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit. This is a process we have to learn to appreciate. None of us have all the answers to the Mystery of God. We cannot fully understand the message of the bible unless the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives. This means that as Christians we must be humble and teachable. We cannot represent love through hostility and disrespect.

    As a Christian, I am more interested on ones’ posture and attitude over the strength or weakness of their personalized theology, no matter how sound it is. I am not impressed by Christians who will say just about anything to try to win an argument. The Spirit of 1 Cor.13 tells me otherwise.

    That aside, let me get back to the point at hand. Where is the focus here? Is it what Christ did on the Cross? or is it WHO died on the cross? We will never appreciate what Christ did on the cross until we come to know WHO died on the cross? We can quote as much scripture as we want, but unless we deal with who Christ is, we will continue to grope in the dark trying to understand what He did on the cross. The “what” cannot superseded the “WHO”. Jesus Christ asked the question “WHO DO YOU SAY I AM”. He did not ask “What have I done” The people saw what he did but they did not see who he was. As such, they were blinded.

    So WHO is God? And how does knowing Who is God illuminates and informs our understanding of what He did on the Cross?
    We know that God is perfect. He needs nothing. He is complete in Himself(Father, Son and Spirit). God cannot be improved or be transformed. He is perfect in Love, light and Love. There is no reality outside of God. There is nothing greater than God. GOD IS PERFECT. My argument is this: If God is perfect and in need of nothing, is there something that God does not have? Is there something that God needs outside of Himself that will provide for Him some kind of missing satisfaction? If God is already perfect, why does he need something to satisfy Him? Are we to assume that man’s sin generated the wrath of God which became a need in God to be satisfied? I think not. God does not need justice. He is justice. Sinners, however needs the justice that God provides in His Son Jesus because of who He is… the justice of God. It is the Justice of God that paves the way for salvation. The Justice of God is not something outside of WHO He is” It is Christ who destroyed sin and gave us life. Christ is God’s justice freely rendered to sinners.

    Noticed that before God created us, before the foundation of the world he willed that we will be righteous, Holy, and blameless before Him. Before the foundation of the world, Christ was crucified.He paid the penalty of our sins before we actually sinned. The enemy here is sin. God’s wrath is against sin. That is:- anything that is against God perfect will for His creation.
    This leaves me to conclude that through the personhood of Jesus Christ God destroyed the treat of sin that stands against His will for all of his creation(including the physical universe). What Christ did on the cross was to accomplish the will of His Father. What he did was to destroyed Sin, death and the grave and bought Light, life and love to humanity by uniting with us and shared our place so that we can share His place at the communion Table of the Father forever. What Christ did on the cross was to express who God is… A God of love and glory. Jesus died to vindicate God as the God of truth. A God who promised salvation by becoming salvation in the flesh. Jesus did not die to satisfy the father’s wrath but to Glorify and vindicate God who cannot lie(Eph. 4: 1-6) Jesus died to demonstrate that God is indeed Love and salvation to all who will believe in Who Christ is. Christ died so that we can benefit from knowing God. Christ died so that God remains the only reality through the death and destruction of sin itself.
    Some people may tend to focus on the wrath of God being satisfied when they think of the death of Jesus Christ. If that works for them, God be praised. I personally think about Christ’s death as God loves being demonstrated and profoundly displayed by His Son Jesus Christ.That works for me. But, I am willing to learn more.

    All I know is that whatever God did on the cross was for His glory, not mine. Because God is glorious He created me for His glory and has blessed me in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. I received sins forgiven; eternal life; the Holy Spirit; participation in Jesus’ mission on earth now; the ability to love as God loves; rest in the body of Christ and a hope of God’s presence eternal. If this is what the wrath of God is then Hallelujah! All I know it is all because of WHO JESUS IS.

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