Sinners In The Hand Of A Loving God: The Scandalous Truth Of The Very Good News, by Brian Zahnd
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Waterbrook. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
The title of this book is a deliberate riff on the unrepresentative sermon Sinners In The Hand Of An Angry God, a sermon that the author once had a strange and even disturbing fascination with but has now decisively rejected. Although I have a deep urge to rip into this book for its many flaws, I think that it is necessary to at least acknowledge its virtues in pointing out that the Bible does not speak a great deal about hell, at least in the way that many professed Christians do. The author also does a good job at pointing out areas that others need to work on, such as the need to avoid civic religion and the idolatry of worshiping the power of empire. These are worthwhile points and while they are not the central part of the book they demonstrate that even a deeply flawed book like this one can manage to succeed in some of its points. If the author is unable to properly interpret scripture and has bought into some unfortunate views about the authorship of Revelation, which he belatedly acknowledges. If the author scores some points about those who seek to scare others through prophetic speculation , the author shows himself as biased in his misunderstanding of scripture as those he criticizes.
In about two hundred pages the author attempts to engage in some deceptive biblical interpretation to pit a harsh view of God against the loving Jesus Christ–totally neglecting Jesus Christ as a conquering king. The elements of this book’s approach are a combination of various mistaken approaches–choosing post-millennial optimism without the usual Calvinist judgment or desire to restore biblical law and punishment, trying to resolve the apparent dilemma between God’s justice and God’s love and mercy and grace by engaging in fallacious tiebreaker arguments and by claiming that God’s nature had been misunderstood by early Israelites who assumed he was a violent god like those around them. For every time the author actually makes a good point there are at least two or three times where the author shows himself to be completely clueless in interpreting scripture correctly in a way that would be suitable for the times in which we live in.
Nevertheless, although this is not a very good book, it is not a worthless book because it reveals how a belief in progressive revelation and constructing an image of God and Jesus Christ that are devoid of judgment and fear and reverence make it possible to entirely neglect the reality of corporate judgment of a society’s sins by God consistently throughout the course of biblical history. For the most part, our generation does not need to be lulled into sleep with the thoughts of a God who is a permissive parent without any inclination to punish the rebellious and unregenerate. Our generation first needs to be prompted to repent, and then to be reminded of God’s love in the midst of painful reflection about how we have departed God’s ways by living according to the heathen practices of the world around us. This author does a great disservice to readers by refusing to honestly reflect upon why there is a need to honestly acknowledge the judgment of God in both the Old and New Testaments without passing it off as something that is a relic of the bad old days of previous barbarism. We need to know that God and Jesus Christ do not desire to destroy the wicked, but have immensely high ethical and moral demands that are more than mere wuv.
 See, for example: