REFLECTION by Tom
Anger in God
Julian says about ‘no anger in
God’, however the difference between Julian’s theology and
(for example) Calvin is
Julian’s theology arises from her
personal spiritual direction ministry aimed at helping
individuals cope in a context of plague and natural
disasters which have driven people to despair (giving rise
to the Peasant’s Revolt and its terrible consequences).
God is not angry with those traumatised people who
came to her (there is no anger in God).
Calvin’s is political and about
establishing order and stability in a world which has been
torn apart by the Reformation. His theology is national
(even international). In a corporate context of disorder,
injustice, vengeful war and oppression God is angry. For
Calvinists in his time it was retributive anger. I see it
as restorative anger (Volf).
This different take on theology is needed to
sustains the faith of those oppressed and persecuted.
There is lots of this in the Psalms (78.38, 85.5,
88. & & 16,
89. 38 & 46).
Theology arises from context. In
the above the first is personal directed to a hurting
individual; the second is corporate and political.
It is complicated in addition by the gender issues
which further shape the interpretation.
The letter to the Philippians, once described as ‘a
document on martydom’, has a theological perspective of
‘cross’ rather than ‘glory’. The letter celebrates the
joyful relationship which Paul has with the church because
of their partnership in suffering. He makes many
references to ‘mind’ (1.7; 2.2; 3;15, 3;19, 4.2). This is
not simply an exhortation to be humble but of the
necessity of being inhabited by the mind of Christ through
sacrificial obedience to him.
Jesus spoke with authority and not as the scribes
(Mk.1.22). The Greek word for authority ‘exousia’ comes
from the verb ‘exesti’ which means ‘it is possible’ and
‘it is permitted’. It describes power but has a different
take on it. ‘Exousia’ is not about a person’s status,
position or authority within a structure, or an ability to
coerce, manipulate or control. ‘Exousia’ is a gift of
grace centred not on the person but on God who inhabits
and exercises ‘possibility’ within that person. Paul had
that sort of authority. That was what made him an apostle.