Righteous Anger

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SteveF
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Righteous Anger

Post by SteveF » Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:16 am

I’ve always heard there was place in a Christian’s life for something termed “righteous anger”. This past Sunday I heard a pastor teach, that although righteous anger is part of Christian subculture, there is no biblical support for it in a Christian’s life.

I’ve since attended a home church meeting where we tried to think of every scenario where the pastor’s theory wouldn’t hold water. The only person who thought the pastor was in left field didn’t hear the message. I also think the pastor made a pretty good case.

If any of you have about 45 minutes to listen to the message and would like to comment I’d appreciate it. Even if you entirely agree with what the pastor is saying I’d like to hear what you think are the strongest arguments against what he’s saying.

FYI…the teaching pastor has a congregation of over 4000 and he has taught on things like the three views of hell and the four views of Revelation in a very irenic manner. It seems to me that Steve G has a better handle on the finer points of the various views but it is refreshing to hear someone else encourage unity and love while working through points of theology.

Here’s the link to the message:

http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3 ... sermon.mp3

Here’s the link to the notes

http://www.themeetinghouse.ca/podcast/h ... -notes.pdf

Here’s a link to some quotes that were posted on a screen before the message was given

http://www.themeetinghouse.ca/podcast/h ... quotes.pdf


Thanks
Steve

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mattrose
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Re: Righteous Anger

Post by mattrose » Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:53 am

I don't have time to listen to the sermon, but I did read the notes

I think when people say that there is no place for 'righteous anger' they usually have a pretty particular expression of 'anger' in mind (something lacking self-control). But surely the Bible speaks of a non-sinful and even a righteous expression of anger. After all, the pastor's own notes talk about God's anger. If God has anger then some expressions of anger are righteous by definition. Jesus demonstrated an appropriate use of anger. And several NT passages allude to a proper sense of anger. We are told not to sin in our anger, which implies it's possible to have anger without sin. We are told to be slow to anger which implies that there is a point where we should get angry.

And this is basically common sense. If I hear that a child has been abused, I am angry. It would be inappropriate for me NOT to express that anger. The key is not whether we express anger or not, but HOW we express our anger. If I expressed my anger at that situation by beating up the abuser, that's probably a poor expression of anger. If I express my anger by making the authorities aware of the situation, by passionately praying for justice, etc... that's an obviously sound expression of anger.

Anger is simply an emotion. Like all emotions, it can be a catalyst for sin. But it need not be.

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Homer
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Re: Righteous Anger

Post by Homer » Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:57 am

Hi Steve,

Don't have time right now to look into the sermon, but what did he say about Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple? Was Jesus anger unrighteous or was He only seeming to be angry?

God bless, Homer

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SteveF
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Re: Righteous Anger

Post by SteveF » Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:44 pm

Matt wrote
But surely the Bible speaks of a non-sinful and even a righteous expression of anger. After all, the pastor's own notes talk about God's anger. If God has anger then some expressions of anger are righteous by definition. Jesus demonstrated an appropriate use of anger
Homer wrote
Don't have time right now to look into the sermon, but what did he say about Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple? Was Jesus anger unrighteous or was He only seeming to be angry?
Hi Matt and Homer. I figured without listening to the message it would be difficult to pick up on the nuance of the subject. I hope I can somehow convey what he was trying to say.

The pastor would say only God has what we we term "righteous anger" since he knows everything and is able to judge. He would further say that when a Christian professes to have righteous anger about someone they are putting themselves in the judgment seat and God alone should be there. (There are further points and nuance to this subpoint)
We are told to be slow to anger which implies that there is a point where we should get angry.
I think he would say that rather than the bible telling us we should get angry it's actually dissuading us from anger (including the verse you mentioned). Just wondering, how would you understand the verse right after the one you mentioned?:

Jas 1:20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.
And this is basically common sense. If I hear that a child has been abused, I am angry. It would be inappropriate for me NOT to express that anger. The key is not whether we express anger or not, but HOW we express our anger. If I expressed my anger at that situation by beating up the abuser, that's probably a poor expression of anger. If I express my anger by making the authorities aware of the situation, by passionately praying for justice, etc... that's an obviously sound expression of anger
His response would be to ask why a Christian would need anger to be motivated? Why not grief or sorrow or compassion. These things are clearly taught as motivations for Christians.

He would acknowledge the human tendency to anger (it's inevitable) but doesn't see it as a Christian virtue to be desired or encouraged. Thus the reason we see scriptures seeking to turn us away from anger and an absence of scriptures encouraging us to have "righteous anger".

Hope my post didn't make you angry ;)

Steve

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TK
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Re: Righteous Anger

Post by TK » Wed Oct 07, 2009 1:33 pm

In reading this I thought of Eph. 4:26: "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath

Here is what John Piper says about this passage:
Verses 26–27: "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil." Keep in mind that the general admonition is put off the old nature and put on the new. Now the specific example of that is getting rid of bad anger and only having good anger. In other words, when you are born again, you are given a new nature, you become a new creature; and Paul says here that your newness will show itself in the way you experience anger.

Two Assertions About Anger
Verse 26 makes at least two assertions about anger: 1) There is a time to get angry; 2) the time to stay angry is short. Or: there are good grounds for getting angry, but no grounds for holding grudges. "Do not let the sun go down on your anger," means, "Let the day of your anger be the day of your reconciliation" (Estius). And if reconciliation is impossible, even so, do not stroke your wound, or cherish revenge, or hold a grudge. For Satan seeks a gap called grudge, and if he finds it, he will enter and ruin life with all manner of bitterness.

Let's take these two points one at a time:

There is a time to get angry, and
the time to stay angry is short.
1. There Is a Time to Get Angry

First, there is a time to get angry. "Be angry but do not sin." Not all anger is wrong for man. But some anger is clearly wrong. Verse 31 says, "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger . . . be put away from you." What's the difference between good anger and bad anger?

Two Characteristics of Good Anger

I would suggest two things that characterize good anger:

it is based on God, and
it is mingled with grief.
link to the whole sermon text is here: sermon text

TK

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mattrose
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Re: Righteous Anger

Post by mattrose » Wed Oct 07, 2009 4:23 pm

The pastor would say only God has what we we term "righteous anger" since he knows everything and is able to judge. He would further say that when a Christian professes to have righteous anger about someone they are putting themselves in the judgment seat and God alone should be there. (There are further points and nuance to this subpoint)
This is a subject I've thought a lot about and preached on myself. I guess I just continue to disagree with the pastor (though I know I should listen to the sermon if I'm going to continue much further with this conversation). Certainly only God is capable of making ultimate judgments, but it's just as true that we have been called to judge as well. We aren't to judge by mere appearances, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't judge obvious wickedness (especially such within the church!).
I think he would say that rather than the bible telling us we should get angry it's actually dissuading us from anger (including the verse you mentioned). Just wondering, how would you understand the verse right after the one you mentioned?:

Jas 1:20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.
I would take it to indicate that quick-tempered anger (the anger of the context) doesn't bring about good/godly results.

I still feel that the pastor, before making a statement that there is no such thing as human righteous anger, must be narrowing his definition of anger. But many words are quite elastic. Pride, for example, is a sin. But it can be used in such a way that it isn't a sin. The Bible talks about righteous pride in one's land, one's nation, one's leaders, one's children. Anger is similar. It is usually a sin (because it is usually misused), but that doesn't mean there is a right usage of anger. After all, and I say it again, anger is simply a human emotion. It is, technically, morally neutral. We only train ourselves to get angry at stupid things (and, perhaps, to not get angry at appropriate things).
He would acknowledge the human tendency to anger (it's inevitable) but doesn't see it as a Christian virtue to be desired or encouraged. Thus the reason we see scriptures seeking to turn us away from anger and an absence of scriptures encouraging us to have "righteous anger".
I'm not sure how often it would be necessary to encourage anger (though I can think of a few cases where people should get angry and they are not). The reason we see Scriptures seeking to turn us away from anger is because, like most emotions, it is most often mis-used. And I simply disagree that there's an absence of Scriptures on the topic of righteous anger. The pastor has just laid them aside because they are God/Jesus. And yet God/Jesus is our example!

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SteveF
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Re: Righteous Anger

Post by SteveF » Wed Oct 07, 2009 8:22 pm

Matt wrote:
This is a subject I've thought a lot about and preached on myself.
I wish you were in our discussion group!!
though I know I should listen to the sermon if I'm going to continue much further with this conversation
:)
but it's just as true that we have been called to judge as well. We aren't to judge by mere appearances, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't judge obvious wickedness (especially such within the church!).
As I'm sure you've anticipated, he dealt with this as well. I mentioned he thought righteous anger was based more in culture than scripture. Well, he also feels that our inclination to "mind our own business" and not get involved in each others lives (which would include judging) is culture based as well.
After all, and I say it again, anger is simply a human emotion. It is, technically, morally neutral.
I think he may agree with you there. The question is, is it ever righteous in a Christian's life? Again, the scriptures encourage us to put away anger, not feed it because it's righteous.
I'm not sure how often it would be necessary to encourage anger
Matt, I've actually heard people say that if you don't experience righteous anger then you are spiritually deficient somehow.

Also, if righteous anger is well, righteous, why shouldn't it be encouraged?
The pastor has just laid them aside because they are God/Jesus. And yet God/Jesus is our example!
Are there not some things that are God's prerogative and not ours?.....like vengeance for example. Because, well, He's God.

Are you inclined to think we should be turning over tables or should this kind of wrath/anger be left to God alone. If you think we should be doing things like turning over tables can you think of an example in the bible where a Christian did something similar?

Sorry for all the questions but I found his arguments compelling...as did many others. I'm trying to determine if it's biblically consistent.

Thanks for your consideration Matt!

Steve

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SteveF
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Re: Righteous Anger

Post by SteveF » Wed Oct 07, 2009 9:02 pm

TK wrote:
In reading this I thought of Eph. 4:26: "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath
Hi TK, thanks for bringing this up. After Paul quoted from Psalm 4 (Be angry and do not sin)he immediately instructed us to put away our anger. Was he telling us to "Be angry" or was he simply acknowledging the reality of anger and what we should do about it. In other words, if you've put on the new man then put away your anger don't feed it. It's possible all Paul was doing was quoting Psalm 4 and providing a practical application for Christians.
Here is what John Piper says about this passage:
I read the section in his sermon about anger. What he taught has been, until a few days ago, my default position.

In John Piper's message, he mention grudges and judgment. This pastor would also include anger as a form of judgment. I think he may have a point. I will post John Piper's section on this but put the word "anger" in brackets beside the word "grudge". Of course, the implication is that God alone has righteous anger.
2. To Make Us Act as If We Are Judge, Not God

Satan aims to make us act as if we were judge and not God. Romans 12:19 says, "Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to wrath, for it is written: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. No, if your enemy is hungry feed him." If we hold a grudge (have anger), we act as though God were not a just judge. We act as though we are the moral guardians of the world and if we don't hold this wrong against this person, it's going to slip away into oblivion and a great injustice will go unrequited. But this is sheer unbelief. Vengeance belongs to God. He will repay. It is his business not ours. So again holding a grudge (having anger) puts us in the place of God—just where Satan wants us.
After hearing this pastor's view, I'm thinking I may have been reading into verses like the one you raised and making assumptions that aren't there. That's why I wanted to see this pastor's view challenged by the best arguments. Right now I'm inclined to think he has a point.

Blessings
Steve

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mattrose
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Re: Righteous Anger

Post by mattrose » Thu Oct 08, 2009 8:28 am

I think he may agree with you there. The question is, is it ever righteous in a Christian's life? Again, the scriptures encourage us to put away anger, not feed it because it's righteous.
As I said, emotions (in my opinion) are morally neutral. They are labeled as 'righteous' or 'wicked' not because of what they are, but because of the context involved. Gladness, for example, certainly can be labeled 'righteous.' And yet it's possible for someone to be 'glad' about another person's misfortune. We are supposed to fear God. And yet fear is usually bad (and we can even fear God in the wrong way). Anger, too, is an emotion that can only be labeled as good or bad based on context.

I think you may be missing, by the way, part of the application of 'putting away' anger. In other words, I would completely agree that all anger needs to be put away. But some of it needs to be put away in a positive sense and some in a negative sense. In other words, using the previously mentioned scenario, if I find out a great injustice has been done against a child, my natural (and wholesome) emotion will be anger. But I can 'put away' this anger by contacting the appropriate authorities! What the verses are getting at is not that anger is a sinful thing that needs to be repented of in all cases, but that anger is an emotion that needs to be dealt with in one way or another. You can't hold your anger. Buddha once said, I think rightly, that “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Whether the anger is experienced for righteous reasons or not, it should not be held on to.
Matt, I've actually heard people say that if you don't experience righteous anger then you are spiritually deficient somehow.
I could understand a context in which that quote is correct. A lot of Christians are quite apathetic/indifferent to injustice around them and throughout the world. It is appropriate to be angry about injustice. The key, of course, is what we do with the emotion of anger.
Also, if righteous anger is well, righteous, why shouldn't it be encouraged?
If it is appropriate, it should be. But the encourager would have to be wise enough to lead those he's encouraging into a proper response to the appropriate emotion.
Are you inclined to think we should be turning over tables or should this kind of wrath/anger be left to God alone. If you think we should be doing things like turning over tables can you think of an example in the bible where a Christian did something similar?
Let's be clear about something first. Jesus wasn't just God walking around with skin. He was fully human. And if you're theory of kenosis is anything like mine then what we see during Jesus' 30+ years is perfect humanity. Thus, we have to take Jesus' anger, and his expression of anger, as a very human thing.

That being said, Jesus only expressed anger toward the end of his ministry, it seems to me. He was slow to anger. He flipped over some tables. He called some people some nasty names. But it was appropriate. He had been patient with them. He was defending his Father (not himself). And they needed to hear it.

As I recall, Paul said some pretty nasty things to some of his adversaries as well (and I'm not just talking about the pre-Christian Paul either). "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" You don't think that sounds like Paul is angry at the agitators? God and Moses basically took turns being angry with Israel. David was angry with the rich man in Nathan's parable and it turned out to be appropriate anger against himself!

Just my thoughts

Okay okay, I'll listen to the sermon!

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Michelle
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Re: Righteous Anger

Post by Michelle » Thu Oct 08, 2009 8:59 am

I listened to the sermon and right now don't have a whole lot to say, mostly because I think I agree with the pastor and Steve. I have a comment on this excerpt from Mattrose:
In other words, using the previously mentioned scenario, if I find out a great injustice has been done against a child, my natural (and wholesome) emotion will be anger. But I can 'put away' this anger by contacting the appropriate authorities!
This is where I thought I would disagree with the speaker as well, but as he pointed out, it assumes that anger is the only motivational emotion. As it happens, since I work with children, I have had to call the authorities several times because of child abuse. My emotional state really wasn't rage; it was extreme sadness and compassion. You say that the appropriate reaction to injustice is anger. Why is that assumed?

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