Steven Nichols over at the Reformation21 Blog shared a passage from Leo Tolstoy in which Tolstoy said Christians can not believe in the Christ who preached the Sermon on the Mount and the Christ of the Creeds.
Tolstoy wrote in The Kingdom of God is Within You:
People who believe in a wicked and senseless God– who has cursed the human race and devoted his own Son to sacrifice, and a part of mankind to eternal torment–cannot believe in the God of love. The man who believes in a God, in a Christ coming again in glory to judge and to punish the quick and the dead, cannot believe in the Christ who bade us turn the left cheek, judge not, forgive these that wrong us, and love our enemies.
Tolstoy wrote that in 1894 and you’d think it had been written today by someone within the emergent church movement…. oh there is nothing new under the sun. Obviously this is a false dichotomy. How is it that we know how to love?
Jesus. How? By His example on the cross. We can love because Christ first loved us, (1 John 4:19). Just looking at 1 John closely we can see that only through the cross can we really understand what true love is.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers,’ (1 John 3:16, ESV).
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” (1 John 4:9-10, ESV).
If God was not a God of wrath why would propitiation for our sins be needed? God’s wrath needed to be satisfied, Jesus is the only One who could do it completely. Thereby satisfying wrath by an act of love. Without justice how we can experience mercy?
Tolstoy (and others like him) seem to forget also Romans 5:8 which says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (ESV).
Tolstoy’s argument is senseless. He wants to put God in a box and ascribe to Him our characteristics. We certainly can’t pour out wrath and love at the same time. Why? Because we are not holy. God is.
I’m thankful for the Christ of the Creeds who came in the form of a baby fashioned for a Roman cross.