When God’s Anger Isn’t Like Yours (or Mine)

The Bible talks about God being angry. We get angry. A connection!

And yet we know that our anger is very often sinful. But God can’t sin. Thus there must be some difference–at least much of the time–between our anger and God’s. So what does the anger of God and godly anger really look like?

Augustine deals with this issue in his comments on Psalm 2:5: “Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (KJV–after all, if it was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for Augustine).

Here is the Hoopoe of Hippo, heralding some Big Truth:

Tunc loquetur ad eos in ira sua, et in furore suo conturbabit eos: planius enim ostendens quomodo ad eos loquetur, dixit, conturbabit eos; ut in ira sua, hoc sit, in furore suo. Iram autem et furorem Domini Dei non perturbationem mentis oportet intellegi, sed vim qua iustissime vindicat, subiecta sibi ad ministerium universa creatura. Praecipue namque pervidendum est et tenendum illud quod scriptum est in Salomone: Tu autem, Domine virtutis, cum tranquillitate iudicas, et cum magna reverentia disponis nos. Ira ergo Dei est motus qui fit in anima quae legem Dei novit, cum eamdem legem videt a peccatore praeteriri; per hunc enim motum iustarum animarum multa vindicantur. Quamquam possit ira Dei recte intellegi etiam ipsa mentis obscuratio, quae consequitur eos qui legem Dei transgrediuntur.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and disturb them in his rage: For showing more plainly how he will speak to them, he said, He will disturb them in his rage, so that in his wrath is taken as meaning the same thing as in his rage. The wrath and rage of the Lord God, however, should not be understood as a disturbance of the mind,[1] but as a force by which he takes vengeance most righteously, with all creation subjected to him to serve him. Indeed, we must examine and hold fast to what Solomon has written: But you, O Lord of power, judge with calmness, and you set us in order with great awe. The wrath of God, therefore, is a motion that comes about in a soul which knows the law of God when it sees the same law to be disregarded by a sinner; for through this motion of just souls many transgressions are avenged–although the wrath of God can also be rightly understood as the very darkening of the mind that overtakes those who transgress the law of God.

The translation is my own.


1 Compare the Stoic account of the passions.


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