If you open up Google or any search engine and type “sinners,” “in the hands of an angry God” pops up to complete that search line.

Little did I know this was one of “the most famous sermons ever preached” and it is why many of us have grown up with a fear based theology ever since.

Jerry Falwell, a widely known televangelist and megachurch pastor with radically conservative ideals (including segregation and many other extremes) cited Jonathan Edwards sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” as one of the “Greatest Sermons Ever Preached.” In this sermon, Edwards painted a picture of a God that is anything BUT the God referenced in Paul Young’s The Shack.

“The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.” (And you think my sentences are long! Whew!)

A synopsis?

“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is an appeal to ‘sinners’ to recognize that they will be judged by God and that this judgment will be more fearful and painful than they can comprehend. Three themes stand out as particularly important for understanding Edwards’s approach to his message:
Corrupt sinners face a fearful judgment.
Time is short for the unrepentant: God’s righteous wrath will come suddenly and unexpectedly.
It is only God’s free choice that extends the ‘day of mercy’ and provides another opportunity to respond to his call.[1]
And guess what – this actually makes sense to us.

If we can conclude that God is an angry God and ready to punish us for all that we do wrong, we can make sense of the tragic suffering that goes on in our lives. We can conclude that we did something to “deserve” that type of punishment.



However, when something devastatingly tragic happens and the pain cuts us to our core, “hell” and “God’s wrath” seems minuscule. For instance, like the death of a child. It would be very hard to love a God that would punish someone by hurting a child.

Edwards’s God is full of wrath, bound by abstract justice. “We have failed. We deserve to suffer. God is angry.” Also, he is aloof, and love is NOT an essential part of his being. He is definitely not for us.

In Young’s depiction of God, and in the way we see Jesus reveal God to us, God is not arbitrary. Nor is God aloof. God is for us, always has been, and always will be.

“The God who is – the I am who I am – cannot act apart from love” (104).

That is the God we know today. What if there could be another Great Awakening, like there was in the 1960s? But instead of this one being centered around hell and the hands of an angry God, what if this would could be centered around the hands of a loving God? For God is love.

Romans 3: 21 – 24

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right forus. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

[1] http://study.com/academy/lesson/sinners-in-the-hands-of-an-angry-god-by-edwards-summary-analysis-metaphors.html, March 7, 2017.