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Monday, November 02, 2009 

Youth And Uneasiness With God’s Wrath And Judgement

As we move through our study on how God uses water to create and destroy and to kill and bring to life in Scripture; one thing has become crystal clear: kids in high school absolutely love the “athletic” parts of the Bible.

Nothing gets my students “animated” like death and destruction by plagues, famine, and of course by means of our current study: water. Given the chance to draw a picture, a couple of the kids stepped up to the plate and sketched out a not so happy rendition of Noah’s ark floating on the water of a condemned earth. Departing from the cute motifs often seen taped up on nurseries and Sunday school classrooms, my students drew an ark floating on a world flooded by God’s righteous and holy wrath which included people drowning and drowned outside and beneath the ark. When the picture was done all were happy and justifiably proud of their work. Yep, they loves them some destruction and mayhem.

But guess what happened when someone added babies, pregnant women, and the elderly to those who had come under God’s righteous judgment on sinful mankind? Can you guess the class’s mood when they saw those who they are told always help and protect are also condemned to drown outside the safety of the ark along with the most vile murders and thieves?

I’ll admit that I was a bit taken aback with just how uncomfortable some in the class became with all of the human race falling under God’s judgment. More than one student explained that it just made them uneasy to see the “innocent” or weak drowned with the dregs of society. Some of the kids even had difficulty making eye contact during this part of the class. I guess cheering for babies drowning just ain’t as cool cheering for murderers getting their comeuppance.

It would’ve been all too easy for me to slam the kids, as so many often do (especially many in youth leadership positions within our own beloved synod who talk of community built on service in soup kitchens and such and coffee shop emoting apart from the community we are when we go to Church to hear His Word preached and receive His gifts in the Sacraments administered rightly), with a lecture on the keeping of the Law so that they can live transformed lives. It would be easy to tell them they just need to do better to live more sanctified lives so that they may have the assurance that they never will suffer the wrath that they deserve as they have inherited Adam’s curse. There was a time when I would’ve piled on with more and more law as so many did with me in my own youth. But, that was in the before times, in the long, long ago.

Living sanctified and good lives may be called for in Scripture but such is a result or an effect of the Gospel but not the Gospel proper. The Gospel is that Jesus took all the wrath that we, if we are honest here, so justly deserve upon himself and made satisfaction on the cursed tree at Golgotha. (John 1:29, and also Romans 3:21–26 and 4:5)

In our baptism, our old sinful selves are drowned and we are recreated as new creatures and brought into the ark of God’s one holy and Church catholic by the water and His Word. (Romans 6:4 and Titus 3:4–7)! Those kids shamed with the understanding that they along with all of humanity are under the curse of the law knew that they deserved to be drowned but they didn’t completely understand when they came out of the water of their baptism they were just as safe as Noah in the ark.

The rest of the class was all Gospel in that we were assured, not by Mr. Gillespie’s word but by God’s Holy Word that God saves His people not on account of their own righteousness but the account of His only begotten Son’s work at the cross. I assured them that through Baptism the Lord made them heirs of heaven itself and as heirs they could be assured that were baptized into the ark eternal; Christ’s Church now and forever.

It was good to see that they understood that they were poor sinful creature deserving of God’s wrath. It was even better seeing the little light bulbs go off over their heads when they understood that they did rise out of the water of their baptism a new creation and placed aboard the ark of the Church. It was good to see that they understood sacramental nature of Noah’s story. It was good to see that they were able to join with Saint Peter and say in confidence that “Baptism saves.” Amen!

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Cool picture, it was a little shocking to hear some of them complain and erase the picture several times.

Valerie, the coolest thing is that they grasped that they were poor miserable sinners in need of God's grace. There are a bunch of adults (and family members of my own) that can't grasp that. How anyone can say they understand Christ's work on the cross which brings us into the ark of His Church without understanding how much under wrath we would be without the cross is beyond me. Usually one side of the equation is understood to the exclusion of the other but our kids get both which is awesome!

You mentioned before that you are studying water in the bible. Are you writing your own material or are you using a study guide?

There is no proof for Noah's Ark or the Bible. Why do you teach children these horrifying stories as fact? A baby drowning because of God's wrath and judgement. I was a Christan until recently. As an informed adult, I have finally come to question what I was brainwashed into believing. You'll probably delete or not post this, but I'm trying to make you think about what harm you're doing to these kids. They should not accept such wrath as love. Consider the fear you're instilling in them, for no reason than your own blind faith in a book you have no proof is more than a myth.

Anonymous, I don’t delete comments that are on topic for the same reason I’m not afraid to use my real name, I’m not afraid of engaging a critic in a debate.

The account of Noah’s ark is not just about God’s wrath but one of his mercy as well. It is God’s love and mercy that we see as Noah and his family climb aboard the ark just as it is God’s love and mercy that we see as a child (or adult) rise out of the waters of holy Baptism and welcomed into the ark of Christ’s Church.

If you reread the post you’ll see that law or wrath is only half the post and I specifically said that I did NOT pile on with the wrath and the death. I did say that I spent the majority of the class talking about the Gospel and how God saves us through Christ.

The remarkable thing is that the kids I teach understand human nature better than most adults do. They understand that they are born sinful and that there needs to be a “fix” for that. There are a goodly number of adults that say we are all just good people trying to get by doing good works and changing the world. If that is the case, they really don’t need a Jesus for anything more than a life coach or cheerleader do they? Why is it that children and young adults have a better understanding of Scripture and the nature of sin than adults do?

I’m curious though, what information do you have (that I don’t) that the Bible is a myth? If you wish to go the science route (I do happen to like the) I would be happy to supply with oodles of information from real live archeologists that can at least substantiate the claims of the writers of Scripture so that you have a better understanding of the historicity of both the Old and New Testaments.

As an atheist for over 15 years one of the things that always bothered me was the science. There is a vast amount of archeological evidence and more and more things are being uncovered every day. Recently King David’s palace was discovered and the neat thing is that the majority of textual and historical critics chalked the story of David up to Jewish tribal myths. The site was found when an archeologist read her bible and noticed that David’s palce sat on top of a hill. Where did she dig? That’s right, on top of a hill in proximity to other sites noted in the Biblical accounts.

There are also historical records that are extra biblical written by folks who are not Christian that actually validate the very thing that they are writing against. I would be happy to discuss that as well… if you wish to have a conversation.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
  • Confessional Lutheran
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