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(RNS) A dispute over a hymn has Presbyterians and Baptists tussling over the Christian doctrines of the atonement, which explain why Jesus died and whether his death satisfies God’s wrath over humankind’s sinfulness.


  1. you ARE kidding me, right? “God’s wrath over humankind’s sinfulness”

    You or anyone who has this thought process going on needs God in their life.

    God is never angry! He is all loving…..REMEMBER??!?!??

    • Marty – it is obvious that you, other commenters and the Presbyterian church either have not read or do not believe the Bible. Read both the old and new testaments – for example – John 3:36.

    • I was with you until you said “never”. Being all loving does not negate the possibility of being angry, in fact it often opens the door wide open for it.

  2. Daniel Berry, NYC

    Seems to me that Jesus bent over backwards (in his parables at least) to convey a different idea about his god – particularly,for example, in the parable of the prodigal son. But that message isn’t even original with Jesus. Plenty of the prophetic literature is abounding in the idea of the unconditional love of the god of the Hebrew people, who, presumably, Jesus believed in. But many, many so-called Christians just can’t bring themselves to believe in a god who isn’t as mean-spirited as themselves. One of the perennial temptations of the conventionally religious is to create a god in their own image and likeness. But think of the logic of the conventional creation/redemption myth: the god creates the crucially defective human race, and then threatens to throw the whole race into hell forever for being defective. It’s amazing to me how few people still don’t examine this quaint little detail about the god they say they believe in.

  3. God’s all loving and not wrathful? Tell that to the sinful people he drowned with the Great Flood. If someone believes God is all loving and not wrathful, they have serious holes in their theology. There is a penalty for sin. The body will die. The soul will be judged. Jesus offers to take that judgement away from you, if only you accept. A perfect God must punish sin. If you’ve accepted Christ, then your sin has already be punished.

    • Daniel Berry, NYC

      i don’t quite understand the logic of “a perfect God must punish sin”. Says who? Logically, the sinfulness of humankind is the god’s own doing–the result of either the god’s incompetence or his sadism. So either he’s not taking responsibility for creating defective creatures, choosing instead to punish them for *his* poor workmanship, OR he deliberately made them defective so he could punish them for being what he created them to be. Horribly sadistic–and certainly not the god Jesus seemed to believe in of the Gospel is to be believed. As for your concern that “God is all loving and not wrathful,” that doesn’t seem to be the message of the fourth chapter of the First Epistle of John.I’m not saying your way of believing is unusual, but it’s horribly un-christian.

      • Kevin Kragenbrink

        Daniel, you miss a key element here. God, or in your usage “the god,” did not create so much a defective being but rather one with free will. The theological necessity of wrath stems from this element. Many believe that the “image of God in humanity” exists in the capacity of humans to choose to do right or not. Given that capacity, wrongdoing must also be punishable. God does not, then, punish unjustly. He punishes because of freely chosen acts of sin. If there is no punishment, where then would be the incentive to accept and follow Christ. There is much theology to be unpacked here, and no space to do it. But the central truths are there. God’s wrath is not inconsistent with God’s love. It is essential to it, for love without free will is not love at all.

    • Not to mention all the ones he killed in fits of pique during the supposed 40 years of wandering. Jehovah would throw a hissy fit and start slaughtering, then Moses would calm him down. Then another fit with the attendant calming. Finally Jehovah pays Moses for this by keeping him out of the “Promised Land”.

      • Danny Berry, NYC

        I’m quite sure that in those stories as in all stories about competing gods, the meaning and motivation behind the stories is the desire to maintain the priests’ revenue stream.

  4. Mr.Berry:I’m not sure what your field of expertise is,but since it’s obviously not Biblical Theology,your remarks must be viewed as(1) extremely ill-informed,(2) astoundingly ignorant,or(3) just plain asinine.So…?

  5. Whew! all this hissing and hairing up over a work of fiction. I agree with Danny Berry’s posts, and if I’m going to worship anything, it would probably be Bastet. She doesn’t make impossible demands on her herd.

  6. God used slaughter to punish in the pld testament. It isn’t until the new testament that hell is introduced. Weird huh? Could it be the heirarchy of the church introduced hell in the new testament to frighten people into keeping the faith, and thus guarantee their power and wealth would last forever, but could not add it to the old testament because that is the book of the jews and they would have objected to this lie being introduced into their book?

  7. It is both funny and disturbing that here in the 21st century that otherwise intelligent adults would have to have a serious debate over the character of a being that doesn’t even exist! And if he does exist, chances are excellent that his character is not at all what any religion believes it to be.