“People have never seen God until they see Jesus.” This is the primary assertion of Brian Zahnd in his book, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. The subtitle is “The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News,” which sums up the tone of this wonderful book very nicely. Zahnd directly and poetically attacks the glorification of divine violence and the “weaponization” of scripture that have been the hallmarks of much of modern Christianity. As a cultural touchstone, Zahnd offers Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” If this sermon is at the heart of American revivalism, then should we be surprised at our current theological state, what Zahnd calls a “good cop/bad cop” view of God?
This book is very theological and well-reasoned. It has to be. Zahnd is sacrificing some very sacred cows, dealing with topics such as the reality of hell, the interpretation of Revelation, the wrath of God, non-violence, and penal substitutionary atonement theory. This are hot topics, and Zahnd speaks with a measured, loving, firm, and redemptive tone. A discussion of any one of these topics could fill multiple books—and those books are available—but Zahnd keeps things concise. This book reads like a manifesto, meant to break us out of our stupor and send us in new directions, thinking differently than we did before. We are forced to confront ideas that we have long held sacred.
Zahnd breaks into poetic verse, and builds beautiful metaphors. He restores the sense of subversive worship to the book of Revelation. He reminds us why the cross is such as powerful symbol of love. Zahnd’s view of God is uncomfortable—not because of his wrath, but because of the distressing depths of his love. One lucid statement lands like a punch to the gut: “Jesus didn’t die on the cross to change God’s mind about us; Jesus died on the cross to change our minds about God.”
This book is a must-read for every Christian. Even if someone disagrees with Zahnd’s conclusions and assertions, this book will still hold value. Its value is in the way it causes the reader to be doubtful of easy answers to complex questions, the way it questions our traditional approaches to evangelism (which have become ineffective), and the way it sends the reader, unsatisfied, on a journey for more understanding. I am truly grateful for this book.
Please Note: This book was gifted as a part of the Blogging for Books Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review of this work.