From the American pulpit today one might easily conclude that the wrath of God is a fiction. No longer are churches of the land aflame with a lively sense of God’s anger against sin and sinners. Some churchmen still feel called upon to apologize for any stress on divine wrath, and many theologians are inclined to moderate or even to reinterpret it.


The Bible speaks often of God’s intense wrath. If the Book of Revelation is from the pen of John the Evangelist, as evangelical scholarship has contended, then even the “apostle of love” warned of “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15). And Jesus, who had more to say about hell than about heaven, himself declared: “Fear him that hath power to cast into hell” (Luke 12:5). In this respect the Son of God confirms the uniform doctrine of inspired Scripture that God both disapproves sin and threatens sinners with eternal doom.

This doctrine that God’s moral excellence demands punishment supplies the principle on which the Bible doctrines of satisfaction and justification rest. That Christ was set forth as a propitiation in order that God might be righteous in justifying the ungodly (Rom. 3:25 f.) is not only Pauline theology, but the unitary standpoint of the New Testament, which is that redemption from the guilt and power of sin comes through the sacrificial virtue of Christ’s death. The Scriptures connect the salvation of men with the death of Christ, and to his death ascribe expiatory and propitiatory significance (Matt. 26:28; Mark 10:45; John 1:29). If pardon were possible without satisfaction, then Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:21). Mere “forgiveness” would not only leave the death of Christ unsatisfactorily explained but, contrary to a current tendency to regard faith as the ground of forgiveness (rather than the instrument of it), the sinner’s pardon and justification in the absence of propitiation would contravene moral rectitude.


Modern theology has had trouble with the doctrine of the wrath of God ever since Hegelian pantheism spawned the notion of man’s divinity into the Christian movement. Liberal caricatures of an angry God, a “bully,” as some writers have blasphemed, or a bloodthirsty tyrant demanding appeasement by blood, were in no sense proofs of the supposed fictitiousness of God’s wrath, but rationalizations of modernism’s unbelief. For liberal theology had originated a speculative and specious view of God that subordinated his divine justice to his love or benevolence.

Article continues below

Liberalism spurned the doctrine of the wrath of God as nothing but anthropopathy, or the ascription of human emotions and the variableness of them to God (like anthropomorphism, which is the ascription of bodily forms such as the “eyes” and “ears” of God); and the result was that divine wrath was dismissed as wholly figurative. Liberal theologians were hardly aware that they were ascribing a fictitious and sentimental view of love to God. Biblical writers had intended by their inspired statements of both God’s love and wrath to express, after the manner of human analogy, real relations of God to the world, that is, not changes in God’s eternal nature, but changed attitudes toward men conditioned upon their personal relationship to him. And their use of analogy did not imply theological fiction; the doctrine that man bears the image of God, and that God in some respects can be conceived analogously to man, lies at the foundation of theism, especially in its confidence that true reason, morality and spirituality are ultimately of one order.


That the justice of God demands the punishment of the wicked, and that only Jesus Christ’s mediation propitiates the wrath of God toward sinners and secures their forgiveness, was a great theme of Jonathan Edwards, whose 200th anniversary is being observed this year. His clear exposition of the fact of divine wrath and the indispensable sacrifice of the Cross supplies an indirect warning that the ministry today, even when speaking of the forgiveness of sins, may obscure the justice of God and deprive anxious souls of the merits and comforts of the Cross.

In his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Edwards spoke unhesitatingly of “the wrath of the infinite God” and of “the vengeance of God on the wicked.” He spoke of unrepentant sinners as exposed to destruction: “Thus are all you that have never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls.” Edwards’ preaching might not prove “popular” today, nor was it in his day; indeed, the biblical doctrines of human corruption and supernatural redemption have never been welcomed by the natural man. But that is all the more reason for proclaiming them faithfully and zealously.

Modern men need to hear again the echo of Edwards’ message, for in it they will detect the warnings and pleadings of the holy prophets and apostles: “Nothing … keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the (sovereign) pleasure of God.… They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice … calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins.… They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell.… The devil stands ready to … seize them.… Natural men are held in the hand of God over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fury pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger towards them is as great as towards those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell.… O sinner!… it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell: you hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it … and you have no interest in any Mediator.…”

Article continues below

These are strong words, but they reflect the biblical teaching of man’s precarious position outside of Christ, and the fervent utterance of this warning will stir some to repentance as no other appeal does.

Jonathan Edwards also stressed that justification is not the bare remission of sins and acquittal from wrath, but freedom from guilt and desert of punishment rooted in the substitutionary and propitiatory work of “a mediator that has purchased justification.” He stresses: “If Christ had not come into the world and died to purchase justification, no qualification in us could render it a meet or fit thing that we should be justified: but … Christ has actually purchased justification by his own blood for infinitely unworthy creatures.… It is not … on account of any excellency or value that there is in faith … that he that believes should have this benefit of Christ assigned to him, but purely from the relation faith has to the person in whom this benefit is to be had, or as it unites to that mediator, in and by whom we are “justified” (from Edwards’ sermon on “Justification by Faith Alone”).


The Protestant pulpit today is tending to evade the subjects of human guilt and penalty, while concentrating on the depravity of man. Hence, in expounding the cure for man’s illness, it emphasizes the forgiveness of sins, the new birth and sanctification. But because it ignores guilt and penalty, it ignores also the corollary doctrines of justification and imputation. Yet God does not regard the act of faith and man’s submission to obedience as sufficient basis of forgiveness, for that leaves man’s guilty past uncovered. Whoever ignores man’s guilt and exposure to punishment must reckon further with Jonathan Edwards’ still angry God.

Article continues below

Much of the preaching on the Cross today modifies and even twists the biblical plan of salvation. For it implicitly denies that Christ vicariously bore the penalty for the broken law of God as the sinner’s substitute, that the Mediator’s righteousness is imputed to the believer as the ground of his justification, and that saving grace involves the justified sinner’s resting in the person and work of Christ alone.


Neo-orthodox theology has been somewhat more deferential to the reality of the wrath of God than classic liberalism, but the difference is largely a relative one. Emphasizing the wrath of God as it does, in view of man’s sinfulness and God’s righteousness, neo-orthodoxy nonetheless subordinates God’s anger to his love in refusing to make any ultimate distinction between God’s wrath and his benevolence. That is why Karl Barth’s doctrine of last things veers toward universalism, and Emil Brunner’s toward conditional immortality. And that is why neither can admit the doctrine of propitiatory atonement (which Barth dismisses as pagan); for were God’s wrath but a corollary of his love, there would be no necessity for propitiation antecedent to his forgiveness of sinners.

Modern philosophers may give sophisticated respectability to these mollifications of divine wrath. God is always subject, never object, some would say, and hence the Father cannot be an object of the Son’s work upon the Cross. The essence of Christ’s atonement, others would affirm, is his victory over evil powers, into which he incorporates those who put their trust in him. Hence incorporation, not substitution, is considered the key to the meaning of atonement.

But the witness of Scripture still stands. Righteousness and love are perfections, equally ultimate in the Godhead. The wrath of God, mediation, atonement, sacrifice, propitiation, are part of the biblical doctrine of redemption. Sinners with hearts uncleansed by the purifying blood of Christ will discover polluted blood unwashed from their guilty hands. Jonathan Edwards’ God is still angry.

Article continues below


Inflation And The Breakdown Of Trust

Inflation has become almost a modern way of life. Only a few years ago Greek money dropped in purchasing power until the American dollar exchanged for 30,000 drachma. For less than thirty-five dollars any American tourist could be a millionaire. The American dollar is a victim of creeping inflation also, and its value in terms of purchasing power continues to decline.

Every one of the larger countries in Europe, Africa and America has suffered seriously from inflation. In the last ten years, the purchasing power in these countries has declined all the way from 19 per cent in the case of Switzerland to 95 per cent in Chile.

The problem of inflation is not an economic problem alone, it is also a political and moral problem. The ills of inflation are reaching epidemic proportions in modern society. West Germany, where sobering memories remain of the dreadful consequences of the inflation of the mark after World War I, is making a heroic effort to avoid the temptations of a further unsound monetary policy. This self-imposed monetary discipline is earning West Germany world respect.

The economic problem is apparent enough. Once national currency loses its fixed purchasing power, the ensuing breakdown of public trust contributes swiftly to an undermining of confidence in national policy and integrity. It may take more than a sound monetary policy to assure a nation’s survival, but that survival is not long possible in the absence of such a policy. Historians will find little difficulty in tracing a connection between inflation and the fall of ancient Greece, of Crete, and of Rome. The day came inevitably in these countries when the effects of inflation were obvious; then the masses lost confidence in the currency, considered savings futile, and stopped work. Even in our day people cease to save dollars with which to purchase insurance and bonds as soon as inflation eats away their equity at a rate approaching their returns of interest or payments. The link between a sound monetary policy and public confidence, industry and thrift is undeniable.

In the days of Greece and Rome, inflation was accomplished by “clipping the coins.” This was done by taking the coins then in circulation, reminting them so that they contained less gold or silver, and alleging that they had the same nominal value as theretofore.

Article continues below

Many centuries later, with the advent of the printing press, kings and dictators, desirous of obtaining a larger income than they could conveniently acquire by taxation, resorted to the simple process of printing more paper money, alleging that this money had the same nominal value as did the lesser amount of money which previously existed.

A number of years ago our government compelled the American people to give up their gold in exchange for a piece of paper having an alleged value equal to the gold. Today credit is used largely in place of money, and the government, through bank control of credit, can and does increase the supply of credit at will.

Thus we see that all down through the corridors of time inflation has been due to the increase in the quantity of money; first by clipping coins, then by the use of the printing press, and finally by governments using banks for increasing money and credit.

It is commonly thought that anything that raises prices is inflation, but this is simply not true. High prices are no more the cause of inflation than wet streets are the cause of rain. High prices may be the result of inflation, just as wet streets may be the result of rain. There are, however, many factors which affect price, but there is only one economic cause for inflation—that cause is the increase in the quantity of money and credit.

What of the spiral of wage-cost-price-inflation which now seems to loom as a permanent feature of American life? Many people believe that inflation results when industry is compelled to raise its prices in order to meet its increased labor costs. But such is not the case. If wages and prices are increased excessively and are not accompanied by an increase in the money supply, then the supply of money will be insufficient to make possible the payment of these higher costs, and unemployment will ensue. Obviously at this point the process must be reversed if unemployment is to be stopped. This is accomplished by reducing wages, then costs, and finally prices. It now becomes clear that government must be held strictly accountable for inflation, because government, and government only, is responsible for the money supply.

What really concerns us is not the wage-cost-price-spiral, but the wage-cost-price-money increase-spiral. This spiral has been repeated many times, and will continue to be repeated unless and until the government takes a firm action designed to stop the increase in the money supply. Unless this is done, the dollar will become worthless and anarchy will stalk the land. Thus far the productive efficiency of American industry has, by expanding the volume of goods produced per worker, kept prices far below what they would have been had they been influenced solely by inflation.

Article continues below

When gold is the basis of our money, inflation becomes impossible, except only in so far as the quantity of gold increases. When the United States government in 1934 decreed that gold was no longer to be the basis of our money, then inflation became subject to the whims and foibles of our politicians.

Inflation is primarily a moral problem, in that the increase in the quantity of money and expanding of credit makes it possible for the government to meet its expenditures with money of a constantly decreasing nominal value. Coveting is also involved, because the politicians covet the wealth in the country and use inflation as a means of acquiring it for the development of an ever-increasing bureaucracy. Inflation is also bearing false witness. Those who are responsible for it claim that paper is money when it is not money. It is simply not true to say that a piece of paper backed by nothing is worth as much as a piece of paper backed by gold. Plainly stated, inflation involves an element of lying, coveting and stealing. Under it government reaches into the safe deposit box of every individual and reduces the value of that which is within the box.

The existence of unsound money is one of the socially demoralizing factors in any civilization. It deprives the aged who have long practiced the virtues of industry and thrift, of their proper reward. It discourages the young from exercising their ingenuity, resourcefulness and industry, because they see no way by which they can be rewarded for their efforts. Once it is clear that the intrinsic value of money is compromised, men will turn from savings and insurance and other provision for the future, in order to spend the earnings before purchasing power further declines. The people lose hope in their future. Moral deterioration follows the debasement of the dollar. The government’s weakening of faith in honest currency exacts the costly toll of encouraging a wider range of dishonesty in economic affairs. The moral law flouted at one level weakens regard for the moral law at other levels. Trusted money is a critical concern for any nation that marks its currency, “In God we trust.” For the distrust of such currency will surely lead to a distrust of God, the end of representative government, and enslavement of people.

Article continues below

Technicality A Vicious Device For Outwitting The Law

Many people are becoming increasingly disturbed by the frequency with which known criminals are going free on technicalities of one kind or the other. Admitted Communists, convicted of plots to overthrow our government, go free. A confessed rapist walks out of a Washington jail on a technicality. Legally secured evidence against gangsters and racketeers is being thrown out of court on very questionable grounds.

This situation is causing law enforcement officers to express dismay. Some police officials have openly spoken of the frustration of men working under them who have spent long and dangerous hours prior to the arrest of a master criminal, only to have him escape sentence by some legal hocus-pocus.

The immediate question is whether these technicalities guard basic rights, the denial of which would be detrimental to all of us? The answer is that laws originally devised to protect the innocent are now being invoked to protect those actually proven to be guilty.

The Supreme Court of the United States is a symbol of fairness and protection guaranteed to all Americans and for it we should always be thankful. To it any citizen may go and appeal for justice. As such it is an agency which is unknown where totalitarian justice holds sway. It would seem obvious that membership in this tribunal should always be reserved for those versed by long experience in judicial matters.

When therefore the Supreme Court renders decisions based on social concepts rather than law, or on technicalities which inevitably play into the hands of known criminals, national dismay is fully justified. Set up to pass on the validity and constitutionality of laws, it should do just that; it should not be a debating ground where the personal opinions of its members compete with the law.

A point in question is the recent decision of the Court, outlawing the use of wire-tapping evidence secured in accord with state law. In a recent editorial the Washington Star characterized this as “monumental nonsense,” and went on to say:

The effect of this, we think, adds up to monumental nonsense. The original intent of Congress, we believe, was to protect decent people from the evils of wire tapping. We do not think that Congress ever dreamed that it was converting the telephone into an inviolable criminal tool. But the effect of Section 605 of the Federal Communications Act, as interpreted by the courts over a long period of time, has been to make it easier for murderers, dope peddlers, racketeers and what not to laugh at the old dictum that crime does not pay. It pays when they use the telephone, and the criminals have a foot-dragging Congress to thank for it. We hope an indignant public will put the heat on the legislators next year and that Congress will adopt a sensible and adequately safeguarded revision of Section 605.

Article continues below

Some 30 years ago Justice Holmes remarked that wire tapping is a “dirty business” and his opinion seems to have carried over without adequate justification. Blackmail is also a dirty business. So is crime in general. Of course indiscriminate wire tapping should be forbidden and severely punished. But where safeguards placed there by the law are used it is as wise and necessary as the issuing of a warrant to search a man’s home. In fact it is denying to our scientific age one of the useful methods of crime detection.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to convict criminals in America. We are confronted with flagrant flouting of the law, the freedom of known underworld characters, repeated failures to convict, use of the Fifth Amendment for purposes for which it was never intended, “suspended sentences” and indefinite appeals that thwart justice, and hung juries—all multiplied by the hundreds, these add up to a staggering failure of American courts to apprehend and punish professional criminals.

An aroused public opinion is a necessary beginning. Some laws may need revamping. Certainly there is needed a new sense of the dignity and purpose of law itself. Fairness and justice to all demands that proven criminals be treated as such; that penalties be rigidly and honestly enforced and that technicalities shall be for the protection of freedoms, but not of hoodlums.

If this requires action then let us have it.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.