Thursday, June 11, 2009

Imagery and the Gospel: Edwards’ “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”

Michael Spencer wrote the following in a article on teaching Jonathan Edward's sermon “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God” to a high school American literature class:

While teaching my students about spiders hanging over flame, flood waters about to crash over them and arrows aimed right at their heart- all images for the wrath of God in that famous sermon- I wondered if it ever occurred to Edwards to take those intense and disturbing images and turn them into descriptions of what Christ did for us on the cross? The hell, the flood, the arrow- they all were his, for my sake. When Edwards says that God “abhors” sinners, I wonder why he didn’t make the cross the measurement of that abhorrence, so that the love of God for sinners could shine through?

The balance of the Reformation Gospel is this: we see God best in Jesus. Not in speculations, relentless logic or metaphorical bombshells. God revealed himself in Jesus. It is the kindness of God that appears and saves us when we cannot save ourselves. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. It was the Gospel story of the crucifixion, not of sinners in the hands of an angry God, that caused 3,000 to be “cut to the heart.”

I remember reading that sermon in 10th grade lit class. I was at a Christian school at the time, but our teacher did not bring out the gospel either, but only focused on Edward's imagery.

We must never forget the Gospel. Everything goes back to the Gospel.