Following up on my last post on the emerging church and some of its leadership not embracing penal substitutionary atonement, I wanted to share the following quote by former Catholic priest Brennan Manning, who has had a major influence on emerging spirituality, from his 2003 book, Above All.

The god whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger… the god who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ.  And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist.

Really?  Some even liken it to divine child abuse.  Manning’s statement is pretty bold.  Here’s my bold response, and it is something I don’t throw around willy nilly – that is heresy.

What do you think?

21 comments
  1. I think it’s a common misconception to think of the OT God and NT being different entities, and the OT one being some childish, petty so-and-so.

    It speaks of a lack of willingness to look at the long view and realize that God’s perspective is infinite, as our his rewards, and whatever we are subjected to down here is nothing in comparison. As such, there’s not much he could do to us here (even if he were slapping us around himself, which he doesn’t…and doesn’t need to) that wouldn’t be utterly washed away by the rewards. As such, it can hardly be called abuse.

    It’s also interesting that people don’t recognize the fact that God’s own view of sin and the law laid down required Him to be a bit harsh in the OT. I think He worked hard and fast to get Jesus on the scene, actually, so that He could stop having to look like a crazy God and get down to the way things were more or less intended (or at least as close as he could get us to the perfect situation that existed before the fall in Eden).

    My thoughts are probably a bit jumbled there, but I hope the essence leaked through. Not at my peak today for writing.

  2. I think it’s a common misconception to think of the OT God and NT being different entities, and the OT one being some childish, petty so-and-so.

    It speaks of a lack of willingness to look at the long view and realize that God’s perspective is infinite, as our his rewards, and whatever we are subjected to down here is nothing in comparison. As such, there’s not much he could do to us here (even if he were slapping us around himself, which he doesn’t…and doesn’t need to) that wouldn’t be utterly washed away by the rewards. As such, it can hardly be called abuse.

    It’s also interesting that people don’t recognize the fact that God’s own view of sin and the law laid down required Him to be a bit harsh in the OT. I think He worked hard and fast to get Jesus on the scene, actually, so that He could stop having to look like a crazy God and get down to the way things were more or less intended (or at least as close as he could get us to the perfect situation that existed before the fall in Eden).

    My thoughts are probably a bit jumbled there, but I hope the essence leaked through. Not at my peak today for writing.

  3. I am tracking with you. Like I mentioned in the post I referenced earlier… we tend to isolate God’s different attributes. God’s holiness requires Him to deal with sin in a just manner. He can only respond to sin with wrath.

    In His love He sent Jesus to pay the penalty of sin for us so that we don’t have to.

    I’m thankful that Jesus went to the cross. If it weren’t for the resurrection it would be bad news, but He is risen so He is victorious over sin and death.

    Also Manning doesn’t address the fact that Jesus went to the cross willingly.

  4. I am tracking with you. Like I mentioned in the post I referenced earlier… we tend to isolate God’s different attributes. God’s holiness requires Him to deal with sin in a just manner. He can only respond to sin with wrath.

    In His love He sent Jesus to pay the penalty of sin for us so that we don’t have to.

    I’m thankful that Jesus went to the cross. If it weren’t for the resurrection it would be bad news, but He is risen so He is victorious over sin and death.

    Also Manning doesn’t address the fact that Jesus went to the cross willingly.

  5. “My God would not do that”. I hate the tone of some people that treat God as if he were a child or worse yet, a pet. Pride is keeping them from accepting who He is, and placing themselves under Him.

    It is very interesting, and I assume intentional, that it is lower cause god in the first two instances, and upper case in the second two. As if He were to do what Brennan Manning wants, He gets promoted to God.

  6. “My God would not do that”. I hate the tone of some people that treat God as if he were a child or worse yet, a pet. Pride is keeping them from accepting who He is, and placing themselves under Him.

    It is very interesting, and I assume intentional, that it is lower cause god in the first two instances, and upper case in the second two. As if He were to do what Brennan Manning wants, He gets promoted to God.

  7. Heresy? Maybe. Arrogance? Definitely. It is pure hubris to assume to know all of God’s ways. They are so far above ours that they are often a mystery. It is even worse to chide God for not behaving in a way one believes is the “right” way. It’s very popular these days, though, to try to make God in our image rather than the reverse.

  8. Heresy? Maybe. Arrogance? Definitely. It is pure hubris to assume to know all of God’s ways. They are so far above ours that they are often a mystery. It is even worse to chide God for not behaving in a way one believes is the “right” way. It’s very popular these days, though, to try to make God in our image rather than the reverse.

  9. I think that the most important part of this post is your own take on it Shane. Heresy? Really?

    God does not respond to sin with wrath, Shane.

    How could God– a god of infinite love, infinite mercy, infinite compassion– be capable of accepting any sacrifice at all, let alone the bloody sacrifice of his own son?

    You say Jesus went to the cross willingly, and perhaps that is true, but bear in mind Jesus never said that he was the son of God.

    Perhaps we might, as a mental exercise, strip all the works of human artifice away from the gospels. Perhaps we might concentrate simply on the words Jesus said himself:
    To love your neighbor as your love yourself. To turn the other cheek.

    In the kingdom of God the wolf dwells with the lamb.

  10. I think that the most important part of this post is your own take on it Shane. Heresy? Really?

    God does not respond to sin with wrath, Shane.

    How could God– a god of infinite love, infinite mercy, infinite compassion– be capable of accepting any sacrifice at all, let alone the bloody sacrifice of his own son?

    You say Jesus went to the cross willingly, and perhaps that is true, but bear in mind Jesus never said that he was the son of God.

    Perhaps we might, as a mental exercise, strip all the works of human artifice away from the gospels. Perhaps we might concentrate simply on the words Jesus said himself:
    To love your neighbor as your love yourself. To turn the other cheek.

    In the kingdom of God the wolf dwells with the lamb.

  11. YHC – what is hell?

    Jesus commands are for us. We are not the judge. We are to love.

    You are right that God is love, mercy and compassion. He is also holy and just.

    Romans 6:23 – the wages of sin is death.

    Even Jesus spoke of hell.

    What I’m not saying is that we can show wrath, so I’m not so sure what the logic is in bringing up those commands. Could you explain that further?

  12. YHC – what is hell?

    Jesus commands are for us. We are not the judge. We are to love.

    You are right that God is love, mercy and compassion. He is also holy and just.

    Romans 6:23 – the wages of sin is death.

    Even Jesus spoke of hell.

    What I’m not saying is that we can show wrath, so I’m not so sure what the logic is in bringing up those commands. Could you explain that further?

  13. God will always be real but a mystery. No way will my little mind ever embrace knowledge of God and His purpose. I need only two guidelines:
    Love God with all my heart and my
    neighbor as ourself. After that insight and knowledge will come as grace, a gift of God and exactly what I need for a holy) lifestyle.

  14. God will always be real but a mystery. No way will my little mind ever embrace knowledge of God and His purpose. I need only two guidelines:
    Love God with all my heart and my
    neighbor as ourself. After that insight and knowledge will come as grace, a gift of God and exactly what I need for a holy) lifestyle.

  15. It’s a very interesting quote and an interesting paradox. I would be very interested in seeing the context of the quote and what point he was trying to make as well as the resolution of the paradox.

    Taking on faith that our brother Brennan Manning is a believer and seeks to know God better, what in the Bible would lead him to this statement and how is this resolved?

  16. It’s a very interesting quote and an interesting paradox. I would be very interested in seeing the context of the quote and what point he was trying to make as well as the resolution of the paradox.

    Taking on faith that our brother Brennan Manning is a believer and seeks to know God better, what in the Bible would lead him to this statement and how is this resolved?

  17. It might be useful to note that the Jewish people had a notion of God’s justice and his mercy as a scale. When dealing with humanity, since he hated sin, God had to either be just/right in giving people the punishment they deserved OR show them mercy and act out of the loving portion of his nature. There was a dichotomy (they would call it a tension) between justice and mercy and he could not simultaneously give both. His nature was not integrated (where we get our word “integrity”). The interesting thing about Romans 3:26 is that God acted with “integrity” by satisfying both his wrath and his grace, becoming “both just[righteous] and justifier[grace]”

    Perhaps Manning is stuck in this dichotomy and chooses (as did the Jews) to believe that God’s grace wins out over his justice. Perhaps he does believe in the substitutionary atonement, but is still troubled by the paradox of a just and gracious God. I’m not sure I would call such confusion or weighing of virtues “heresy”, but I can say that you’ve helped clarify why I’m unsatisfied with his books, namely that he is all about grace and it seems to offend against God’s justice.

  18. It might be useful to note that the Jewish people had a notion of God’s justice and his mercy as a scale. When dealing with humanity, since he hated sin, God had to either be just/right in giving people the punishment they deserved OR show them mercy and act out of the loving portion of his nature. There was a dichotomy (they would call it a tension) between justice and mercy and he could not simultaneously give both. His nature was not integrated (where we get our word “integrity”). The interesting thing about Romans 3:26 is that God acted with “integrity” by satisfying both his wrath and his grace, becoming “both just[righteous] and justifier[grace]”

    Perhaps Manning is stuck in this dichotomy and chooses (as did the Jews) to believe that God’s grace wins out over his justice. Perhaps he does believe in the substitutionary atonement, but is still troubled by the paradox of a just and gracious God. I’m not sure I would call such confusion or weighing of virtues “heresy”, but I can say that you’ve helped clarify why I’m unsatisfied with his books, namely that he is all about grace and it seems to offend against God’s justice.

  19. Shane, Hell is the alienation of oneself from God. It isn’t a “punishment” where God condemns the guilty; it is a choice we make ourselves to reject God, and He weeps when someone make that choice to turn away from Him.

    The wages of sin are indeed death, but no matter your crime if you come to God with a sincere heart He will forgive you. There is no need to any propitiatory sacrifice.

    I despise the word “heresy” because it implies only a rejection of some particular man-made dogma. Jesus didn’t come to teach us the unquestionable doctrine of the substitutionary atonement, He came to teach us to love one another.

  20. Shane, Hell is the alienation of oneself from God. It isn’t a “punishment” where God condemns the guilty; it is a choice we make ourselves to reject God, and He weeps when someone make that choice to turn away from Him.

    The wages of sin are indeed death, but no matter your crime if you come to God with a sincere heart He will forgive you. There is no need to any propitiatory sacrifice.

    I despise the word “heresy” because it implies only a rejection of some particular man-made dogma. Jesus didn’t come to teach us the unquestionable doctrine of the substitutionary atonement, He came to teach us to love one another.

  21. For God his wrath and love are connected. Jesus motivated by love a took a whip to clear the temple. God love us so much He hates anything that separates us from himself. The temple was a place of connection with God, a house of prayer. That same anger was pored out on Jesus towards the sin that separated humanity from God.

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