Brian Zahnd is an intriguing individual. In Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Zahnd writes to readers who have been taught or told theological concepts that he used to teach himself, including fundamentalist-type ideas of God’s wrath. Throughout the book, he engages different aspects of Christian fundamentalism that have contributed to the notion that God is exceptionally angry at humans. He refutes many of these ideas by presenting alternative views of things like hell and eternal damnation, and interpretations for apocalyptic prophesies in the Bible. Zahnd advocates that God is wholly love and nothing less. Jesus was crucified as the mark of God’s love, not His wrath. Thus, Christian hope is about eternal love and redemption, not just a fear of wrath and condemnation.
Overall, I appreciate that Zahnd made me think more deeply about some things I haven’t thought to challenge. Honestly, I’ve never really read Jonathan Edwards’ sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and certainly haven’t much considered the need to critique it. I also don’t think a whole lot about hell anymore, but Zahnd’s views have challenged me to study more in these type of areas, so I can better think through and articulate what I believe. Perhaps my greatest appreciation for this book, however, is Zahnd’s personal stories of how he developed in his theological perspective. I deeply admire his commitment to grow himself by staying open to new ideas and honestly engaging things that challenge his current perspective.
This is a solid book that I’d gladly recommend to people. My primary critique is two-fold. First, Zahnd’s content is quite compelling, but some of his views seem a bit incomplete in this book. I think this is a strong starting point for exploring deeper theological concepts (like crucifixion motifs, apocalyptic literature, hell, etc), but I would still like a bit more nuance. Second, Zahnd is a good writer, but I often found my mind wandering after a few pages and had to work to keep focus. Each chapter looks almost like a novel, with no sub-sections or headers, and reads kind of like a sermon (which I’m guessing each chapter was adapted from). Personally, I think this style made it harder for me to engage–even though the content is interesting.
I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.
* A special thanks to Waterbrook publishers for providing a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.