Book Review /// Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd

About Sinner's in the Hands of a Loving God

Does God's Wrath Define Christianity? Or Does God's Love? 
In his famous sermon - Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God - Puritan revivalist Jonathan Edwards shaped predominating American theology with a vision of God as angry, violent, and retributive. Three centuries later, Brian Zahnd was both mesmerized and terrified by Edwards's wrathful God. Haunted by fear that crippled his relationship with God, Zahnd spent years praying for a divine experience of hell. 

What Zahnd experienced instead was the Father's love--revealed perfectly through Jesus Christ--for all prodigal sons and daughters. 

In Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Zahnd asks important questions like Is seeing God primarily as wrathful towards sinners true or biblical? Is fearing God a normal, expected behavior? And where might the natural implications of this theological framework lead us? 

Thoughtfully wrestling with subjects like Old Testament genocide, the crucifixion of Jesus, eternal punishment in hell, and the final judgment in Revelation, Zahnd maintains that the summit of divine revelation for sinners is not God is wrath, but God is love.

My Thoughts On Sinner's in the Hands of a Loving God

I really put this book through a thorough beating with all my highlighting passages and dog-earing so very many pages. This book will be one I keep in my permanent home library, and a read I'll gladly recommend to all of my blog followers + friends + family.

It did take me quite some time to finish reading this book, I'll admit. But it only took a few months because I felt like I had to stop every few pages to sift through the immense glorious weight of the words to be met with a deepening of both heart and wisdom in each chapter. This book really is scandalous, in that it contradicts and tests our previous perceptions of who God is, where heaven will be, and what true love and justice should look like (if you grew up in the same church denominations, with the same or similar biblical teachings that I did, that is, this will be utterly eye-opening for you, too, I imagine.) 

SITHOALG asks us questions such as: Is God really just an angry man in the clouds condemning sinners to hell, or is there more to Him? For some time now I have thought there was much more to God than all of these "anger man - old school uber fundy teachings," even before I read Zahnd's book, but I believe in The God of Gracious Love made perfectly known through Jesus Christ even more so now. God is compassion and grace and love and heaven itself with outstretched hands seeking to comfort and save, not to punish or damn away his children just because. We are not Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God as Puritan Revivalist Jonathan Edwards once taught, NO, instead we are Sinners in the Hands of a LOVING GOD revealed to us through The Son of Man who is Love. 

I could go on and on about this freeing/challenging book, and someday I just might, but for now I'm gonna shut up about the revelatory amazingness that was Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God and just ask you to go pick up a copy and meditate on these words. 

My Favorite Exceedingly-Eye-Opening Lines + Passages from Sinner's in the Hands of a Loving God

"We must constantly resist the temptation to cast ourselves in the role of those who deserve mercy while casting those outside our circle in the role of those who deserve vengeance. Jesus will have no part of that ugly tribalism and triumphalism. Clinging to our lust for vengeance, we lose Jesus. But if we can say amen to Jesus closing the book on vengeance, then Jesus will remain with us to teach us the more excellent way of love." [page 45]

"It's not biblical justice that we pursue but Christlike justice. Biblical justice may call for the punitive measures of stoning sinners and executing idolaters, but Christ clearly calls us to a higher ethic of mercy." [page 59]

"If we claim that it was God who required the crucifixion of Jesus, we seek to clothe with false dignity the very structures of sin that Jesus deliberately stripped bare and put to open shame in his death!" [page 107]

"Revelation isn't about the violent end of the world; it's about the end of the evil of violence. The book of Revelation doesn't anticipate the end of God's good creation; it anticipates the end of death-wielding empire." [page 155]

"The big story the Bible tells doesn't end with people going off to heaven but with heaven coming to earth. The coming of New Jerusalem is celebrated as a great wedding. Just as Jesus began his earthly ministry at the wedding in Cana, now the ascended Christ presides over the marriage of heaven and earth." [pages 186-187]

"God saves the world not through the impatience of violence but through the infinite patience of divine love." [page 206]

Stars In The Vast Sea of Books!? FIVE STAR WONDER! ****

About the Author

Brian Zahnd is the founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. As the lead pastor, he is the primary preacher during our weekend services, and he oversees the direction of the church. Pastor Brian is a passionate reader of theology and philosophy, an avid hiker and mountain climber, and authority on all things Bob Dylan.

He and his wife, Peri, have three adult sons and five grandchildren. He is the author of several books, including Unconditional?, Beauty Will Save the World, A Farewell To Mars, and Water To Wine.

Twitter: @BrianZahnd
Instagram: @brianzahnd

Big shout out to Blogging for Books, as I received this book from them for this review.