Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God!
The above title is the name of a famous sermon given by Jonathan Edwards. Jonathan Edwards has come down to us in history as one of the all-time great men of the Protestant mold. He was a leading player in what came to be known as the "Great Awakening," an American revival of the 18th century. One can hear a copy of his sermon on my audio tape entitled "Sinners in the Hands of a Loving Creator." It has been reported that after he dangled huge audiences over the lake of fire with his polished and extreme language, people would go home and commit suicide. After listening to him, they couldn't bear living any longer.
Jonathan Edward's God was an angry god. He followed the footsteps of his apostle in the faith, John Calvin. John Calvin did not bring people to their own self-destruction. He burned them himself! (Read some books about how he had Michael Servetus burned to death.) John Calvin followed after his apostle in the faith-Augustine. Augustine was perhaps the most influential early church leader in bringing the doctrine of eternal punishment from paganism into Christianity. Prior to Augustine, there were few who held such teaching.
Augustine was in the Persian Manichaean religion for nine years before converting to Christianity. Although he wrote against Manichaeanism as a Christian, it is quite obvious to anyone who has studied Manichaenism that Augustine incorporated some key Manichaeian beliefs into his Christian theology. Manichaeanism derived its foundational beliefs from the Persian religion called Zoroastrianism.
When one studies the basic components of Zoroastrianism, one will become quite uncomfortable in discovering an amazing similarity between modern Christianity and Zoroastrianism.
This article will not go into the doctrines of any of these ancient Persian-Babylonian religions. I hope this brief article will stir you to do some research on your own.
Clearly modern Christendom owes a great deal to the teachings of Zoroastrianism and Manichaeanism. The main feature I want to bring out is that both taught that at the end of time, there would be two separate kingdoms; a kingdom of good and a kingdom of evil. They were both very ascetic religions and they both had an angry god. Calvinism certainly owes its concept of predestination to eternal torment to Zoroastrianism.
It seems most, if not all the early religions, had gods that were easy to anger. They acted very much like earthly leaders who thought nothing about wasting thousands of lives in a fit of anger.
Man, especially powerful men who want to maintain their power, seem to get angry very quickly. I personally know a great deal about anger. The Holy Spirit has tempered it greatly. But there is still work to be done in my life in this area.
I decided to look up the etymology of this word "anger" just for the heck of it. Here is what Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto had to say about its origin:
"The original notion contained in this word was of 'distress' or 'affliction'; 'rage' did not begin to enter the picture until the 13th century. English acquired it from Old Norse angr 'grief,' and it is connected with a group of words which contain connotations of 'constriction': German and Dutch eng (and Old English enge) mean 'narrow,' Greek ankhein meant 'squeeze,' 'strangle' (English gets angina from it), and Latin angustus (source of English anguish) also meant 'narrow.' All these forms point back to an Indo-European base angg-'narrow.'"
So the idea of rage did not enter the picture until the 13th century. Jonathan Edwards, I am sure, used the word in the sense of 'rage' and yet his god was also certainly a 'narrow,' and 'constricted,' god.
Isn't it rather peculiar that those we see exhibiting the most intolerance, anger, and short-temperedness also usually preach a god in their own image? Look to the preacher who spends a great deal of his time and energy raking people over the coals, warning them of the wrath to come and then spend a few days with them observing how they interact with people. You will most likely discover they act just like the god they preach. We do become conformed to the image we worship, don't we?
Those most adamant in their warnings of the "wrath to come" love to quote the scripture, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." Then they usually quote a few strong wrath scriptures and tie it all together with a good dose of hell-fire. They never quote this scripture in context because it would take the wind right out of their sail.
Romans 12:19 (KJV) Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
You see, children of the Beloved, our Father wants to take vengeance away from us because we kill with it, we are unjust with it, we falsely accuse with it. When we kill in the anger of vengeance, we cannot bring that person back to life. But our Father says that He can, "kill and make alive again." (Deut. 32:39)
Our Father says the way to overcome evil is with good. If your enemy is hungry, feed him-don't kill him! If you want to kill him, kill him with kindness. Jesus holds the keys to death and hell. Jesus is able to use death and "hades" for our good, not our ultimate destruction. Even Paul, learned how to use destruction in the proper way. Remember when he turned a member of the Corinthian assembly over to Satan for the "destruction of the flesh" that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord?
So then, those who preach an "angry" god, preach a narrow god, one who can't redeem most of those who he died for. He is either powerless to save, to angry to want to forgive, or too lazy to give a damn.
Within ancient religions, we find such gods. These are the gods today peddled by many preachers who still preach the "angry god." Yes, they even call Him Jesus. But it may be surprising to you that the Manichaeanism Babylonian religion also preached a Father, a Son named Jesus, a Holy Spirit, and a Satan.
In the Zoroastrian religion, the predecessor of Manichaeanism, the two leading gods were Ahura Mazda and Ahriman. Ahriman was also known as Angra Mainyu. The word "Angra" is also found as "Angri" in some dictionaries. "Angri" was the bad god who would eternally have all the bad people in his kingdom when time ceased.
Now it seems our friend Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (a sermon copied by many modern day preachers) has made the God of Christianity an "angry" God. Unbeknownst to him, he has put himself in the hands of the bad god of the religion which is the basis for his theology. How ironic!! Those who want an angry god will get an angry god. But I am afraid they will be surprised to discover on whom the anger will fall. "Judgment will be merciless for the man who acted mercilessly. But mercy can laugh at judgment." (James 2:13, Barclay trans.) Angry people are usually least merciful. Ever notice how angry preachers get when they get into their hell-fire and brimstone routine? They are always pointing their finger at something which is going to be judged without mercy not realizing that when judgment falls, it will fall on their own heads.
I encourage our readership to spend some time in early civilization history books, early church history books, and early religion books dealing with the Roman, Greek, Israeli, Persian, and Babylonian regions. It may be an eye opening experience. Better to discover now whether we are rooted on the Rock of Salvation or whether we are rooted in the sands of Babylon.