Book Review: Jeremy Lundmark’s “The Fury of God”

fury of god

fury-of-god-cover-lundmarkJeremy Lundmark’s book, The Fury of God, represents a much-needed and overdue corrective to so much of the recent Christian nice-guy-God books regarding the character of God. Lundmark challenges the current view that sees God as the warm and fuzzy, always tolerant grandfather, rather than the holy and righteous Father of Jesus Christ portrayed in the Bible.

Lundmark refutes the cliché that the God of the Old Testament is not the same as the God of the New (angry God/loving God), pointing out that there is as much grace in the Old as there is wrath in the New (pp. 10-11). He also opposes that odd view that it’s God’s angel, rather than God himself, who brings judgment upon evil, as if that gets God off the hook.

He sheds light on the faulty notion that God was always trying something new to get people saved, trying but often failing to accomplish his purpose. He asks, “Who wants a trying and failing God?”

Lundmark strives to maintain a clear balance between the characters of the Father and the Son, for there can be no moral division possible between God and Jesus, the one being wrathful and the other loving (pp. 13-14).

Moreover, if we don’t know what makes God angry, we have no motivation to fear him—and a never-angry God appears to be merely another church idol made in our own image. He reminds us that the death of humans is the symbol of God’s ongoing hatred of sin, and that a God who can’t be angry is at the same time a God who doesn’t think that sin is all that bad (p. 19-22).

The author stands firmly against misguided theology that eliminates all anger from the Father’s and the Son’s character, then proceeds to get rid of all anger from Christians. He argues that anger in human beings, although too often sinful, is essentially part of the image of God stamped upon us. This theme is picked up later (pp. 182-183) to ask the critical question, What does it really mean to be “like Christ”? The What-Would-Jesus-Do wristband crowd imagines that it always implies something nice and loving, but why wouldn’t it in some cases imply anger at some evil or injustice?

It may be that an angry Jesus is not much welcomed in today’s church, but it’s impossible to subtract this aspect of his character from the New Testament. Even John the Baptist predicted that the coming of Jesus would mean the radical separation of people. And Jesus himself said that he did not come to bring peace on earth, but rather a sword of division (Mt. 10:34).

When we see God as only and always “loving,” then when tragedy strikes we may judge him unloving. But a God angry at sin and who brings judgment as a consequence is not synonymous with a mean God—God’s fury is a deliberate compassionate action on the part of a loving and gracious Father. A point that Lundmark makes clear throughout the book. Also, the biblical concept of “passive wrath” (God stepping back and letting people taste the natural—bad—fruit of their sin, or no longer protecting them from evil or attack) would go a long way to help people understand the nature of God’s wrath.

These and other similar points overturn a sloppy, sentimental, and dangerous theology that removes any severity on the part of God.

The reader may misunderstand a few points in the book—for example, whether tragedy is always directly connected to someone’s sin, or if God still loves people when they are sinning. Also, the reason for the introduction of the husband’s authority in the home may seem out of place in the light of the book’s main thrust regarding God’s wrath (pp. 133-135).

Additionally, Lundmark might attract some debate by his comparison in Chapter 5 of Korah’s rebellion against Moses with our modern resistance to the authority of church leaders. Over the years, many corrupt church leaders have used this view to beat down legitimate resistance to power over their congregations. Today’s ordination to church service is not the same as Moses’ ordination to liberate the people of God.

But such minor points do not take away from his powerful message that God must be understood within the biblical context, not within the context of the always easygoing God of today’s folk-religion Christianity.

The Fury of God is one of the best new books on the subject I’ve read. I very much like Lundmark’s theme that God must be God, and that we cannot reconstruct the nature of God with the flimsy materials derived from today’s culture, even today’s Christian culture. The book might prove too offensive to many of our churchgoers who don’t like to hear that God can be wrathful toward sin and evil, or that on occasion God does bring pain, but it does accurately reflect the biblical portrait of God. To replace the traditional view of God with the now popular view shaped by a leveling secular culture will certainly guarantee the continued impoverishment of the church.

Lundmark is an urgent voice crying in the Christian-publication wilderness with a message that we have deliberately chosen not to hear. But isn’t it time for our pulpits to regain the central themes that made preaching so powerful in previous generations? The lack of them is now made abundantly manifest in the weak and innocuous church life that has so little measureable impact upon our world. We may only hope that the church will listen to him.

Photo by MattysFlicks via Flickr

John I. Snyder
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