Saturday, July 8, 2017
Book Review: Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God by Brian Zahnd
Edwards' sermon was called evangelism by terrorism by Brian Zahnd, in his book Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God. Zahnd's book attempts to set out what to undone what Edwards portrayed in the sermon. That being God as a wrath, vengeful Person who dangles spiders in hell. Zahnd wants to show his readers that God is love. Does the Bible say God is love? Yes, it does. Does the Bible says that God does not want anyone to perish? Yes, it does. Does the Bible even say that Jesus died on the cross without facing the wrath of God? No.
Zahnd's book introduces his readers to a Christianity that is unbiblical. Zahud's wants to show that Jesus did die but God did not do it. That is was not God's will for Jesus to perish yet the Bible says it was the will of God to crush him (Isaiah 53:10). Zahnd also takes a page from Andy Stanley's book (thankfully, he has not written one yet) of separating the Bible from Jesus. He said Jesus is the Word, which the Bible does says He is the Word (John 1:1) yet Zahnd also says the Bible is not perfect, which means the Bible is in error. Zahnd goes even further to say that when we think about the word of God we should think of Jesus first and the Bible second. The Bible is God's Word. The writers of Scripture believe what they were writing was scripture. Jesus did teach that the scriptures point to him (John 5:39), however, the Bible is living and active shaper than any double-edges sword (Hebrew 4:12).
Going back to the cross, Zahnd does state the cross is the universal symbol of Christianity because of what Jesus did, which he is not far off on that point. However, Zahnd does say that Jesus did not save us from God. We see God as Savior. What does the Bible say? "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God" (Romans 5:8-9). Christ died for sinners to save us from the wrath of God meaning He saved us from God Himself.
Christianity has taught that there had to be a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins to satisfy the righteousness of God. Zahnd wrote, "It wasn't God who required the death of Jesus; it was humanity that cried, 'Crucify him! Crucify him!'" So humanity decided it was in their best interest for Jesus to die. Yes, the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead, but they were not aware they were fulfilling God's predetermined plan. Zahnd does not believe that this was a plan, "God's foreknowledge of this killing doesn't mean that it was God's will for Jesus to be murdered." Go back to Isaiah 53:10. It was God's will for Jesus to be crushed. God knew what suitable sacrifice had to be performed for the forgiveness of sin and the satisfaction of the righteousness of God. As I continued to read on, it is clear that Zahnd does not believe in penal substitutionary atonement since it teaches that Jesus took our place to take on the wrath of God and pay for our sins.
Zahnd goes on to say that "the cross was not a picture of payment; the cross is a picture of forgiveness." Half true. The cross is where forgiveness of sins have been given, but it was also the payment was received. The Bible says, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). 1 Peter 3:18 says that Christ suffered to bring us to God. Christ even said that he came to die as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). My question is, how can Jesus be a ransom if that is not what the cross was all about. Why did Jesus have to go through what He went through. I don't it was just to hang around and just take it from sinful man that would not satisfy the righteousness of God. Zahnd even takes it a step further to say that "the cross is no the place where God vents his wrath on Jesus. The cross is the place where human fear and anger are absorbed into God's eternal love and recycled into the saving mercy of Christ." This is starting to sound like liberal Christianity with little bit of prosperity gospel.
Wait, there's more. You can't talk about the love of God without a little bit of hell. Zahnd thinks that the Bible does not talk about the afterlife as we have imagined. Jesus talked more about hell than anyone in the Bible. Want to argue that point, but then again, I know where he is probably going with this. Zahnd says that Jesus never said non-Christians go to hell. Well, Jesus never used the word "Christian" in anything he said. The "Christian" is what the people of Antioch associated those who followed Jesus (Acts 11:26). Jesus did say those who do not believe in the Son stand condemned already (John 3:18).
Zahnd talks about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus which he seems to think the rich man is not in hell. The rich man is in torment because of how he treated Lazarus and that is how followers of Jesus are suppose to be. He goes on to say that "if you refuse to love, you cannot enter the kingdom of God and will end up a lonely. tormented soul." I thought you have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, which is what Jesus said in John 3:3.
It gets worse, Zahnd believes that Christians should not hold to the doctrine of hell, especially when non-Christians who do good are bound to go there. Bible says, all who believe in Jesus which is a continuing faith that goes with repentance are bound for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus even warned us in Matthew 7:21-23 that those who do good even in Jesus name will not enter the kingdom of God. It seems to me that Zahnd is not teaching about universalism, which is something William Paul Young wrote about in his non-fiction work Lies We Believe About God, which Young wrote the forward to this book. Unfortunately, I was unable to read it because the book I received from the publisher is an uncorrected proof.
What shall I say about Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God? It is as dangerous as Rob Bell's Love Wins and any of Andy Stanley's sermons. Avoid this book.
I received this book from Waterbrook for the purpose of review.