A great deal of the Christian story is about God’s anger and the plan to escape it. Many accept that God’s anger was the only reason for Jesus to come and die. No anger, no pending hellfire, no Savior needed. Some preachers have emphatically stated that without Hell as a threat the church is out of business.
Anyone with a passing knowledge of religious history will recognize that gods upset with men is basic to almost all ancient religions. Men experienced calamity which meant that the gods were angry because men had failed to show proper respect ritually or otherwise. Do something to appease them and future calamity will be avoided. To a great many humans in the very beginning of civilization that was assumed to be obvious. Many churchmen feel the same way still today. How many times have we heard that God is upset with Americans?
For the ancients when the wind blew their house down, the gods were angry. If God devised the winds, then in the Judaic and Christian story, the destruction of the wind can be metaphorically attributed to God’s anger, because He is the first cause. That is true of every evil if we follow that logic through all aspects of creation. So what anyone should assume and therefore conclude about the Bible accounts of divine wrath is an open question for me.
So what happens to the Bible if I reject the idea of an angry God? Do I just throw it away as a pack of lie? Not necessarily. There are obviously parts of the Bible that describe false gods, gods which men thought were real but were mistaken about. A necessary part of Bible analysis is trying to separate truth from misconception.
Jesus, came along centuries later in human and Judaic history and immediately began to challenge Jewish and by extension all religious thinking to date. Jesus may have been Jewish by lineage but he was not Judaic in his thinking. That is the reason Jesus was always in trouble with Jewish religious leaders and why he was eventually killed. He was a bad Jew as far as they were concerned.
Intriguingly this “bad Jew” was the first one apparently to paint a new graphic picture of the eternal fate of all those with whom God was angry- fiery torment. So Jesus is supposed to be the messenger who acquainted Jews in particular and mankind in general to a new level of divine hatred. But then paradoxically, Jesus spends a great deal of effort in instructions and personal example to address proper human to human conduct and intimately connect that conduct to our God relationship. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that if God is upset, it will be because we ignored one another, not Him.
From a purely logical viewpoint, the Bible story does not present a good reason for God to be upset about Adam and his descendants. If as the Bible states the plan of salvation was known before Creation, then God knowingly created that which he then became upset about and already had a plan to address. He knew he would be angry so he devised ahead of time the process by which to appease himself. A truly bizarre story!
The above conundrum dissolves if we conclude that the plan before the foundations of the world was the complete and only plan from day one. The Fall, as we refer to it, was God’s plan and not Adam’s mistake. Sin, suffering, conflict, self delusion were woven into Creation for a divine reason and not because of satanic influence. And God was not surprised, upset, or angry because the divine process was working just fine.
It is perfectly understandable that the contributors to the Bible narrative thought otherwise and blamed earthly woes on divine anger. That was the only possible explanation they could have imagined in that day. The God or gods are obviously angry so how do we deal with that. Appease them. Buy them off. The only question is how. Thus every religious tradition begins, in trying to figure out the how.