Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God: The Scandalous Truth of the Very Good News (Paperback)
God is wrath? Or God is 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, Zanhd maintains that the summit of divine revelation for sinners is not God is wrath, but God is love.
About the Author
Brian Zahnd founded Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri over 35 years ago, and he still serves as lead pastor to a congregation committed to authentic expression of Jesus Christ in the twenty-first century. He’s also the author of Water to Wine, A Farewell to Mars, Beauty Will Save the World, Unconditional?, and What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life.
"Pastor Brian Zahnd once had a framed copy of Jonathan Edwards’ 1741 sermon 'Sinners in the Hands of a Angry God'—which helped spark a Great Awakening in America—in his office. But since then, he’s begun to question the theology of a wrathful God who delights in punishing sinners, and has started to explore the real nature of Jesus and His Father. The book isn’t only an interesting look at the context of some modern theological ideas; it’s also offers some profound insight into God’s love and eternal plan." —RELEVANT MAGAZINE (Named one of the Top 10 Books of 2017)
"I thoroughly enjoyed Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. It will stir your mind, heart and soul and cause you to wrestle with your beliefs. I found myself challenged and stretched by this vital book. It is important for the Church to counter inaccurate portrayals of God, for believers and non-believers alike. As Zahnd's book shows, we are not sinners in the hands of an angry God, we are forgiven sinners in the hands of a loving God."
"With the heart of a pastor and the skill of a poet, Brian Zahnd cuts through all the fear and fundamentalism to reveal a gospel that is indeed good news. Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God is a beautifully written, pointed, and prophetic tribute to the love of God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. As Zahnd shows us, this love is not weak; it’s not a safe, feel-good cop-out. Rather, it’s the very revelation of God, the force that changes the world."
—Rachel Held Evans, author of Searching for Sunday
"The same attributes that make Brian Zahnd a great pastor make him a gifted author: he’s honest, humble, willing to change his mind, and unfailingly centered on Christ. For him to reconsider his view of God took study and prayer, and we benefit. Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God will be an extraordinary gift to many, for it clearly and compellingly teaches God’s love. This is the book that the evangelical church needs."
—Tony Jones, author of Did God Kill Jesus?
“Brian Zahnd walks boldly into the violent propensity of so much Christian theology and preaching that has wounded so many people, a propensity in which he himself has participated. He not only shows what bad, irresponsible theology this is, pervasive as it continues to be; he exposes the ‘hackneyed trope of dispensationalism’ that feeds so much worldly violence and that authorizes so much wounding. But more than that, in his poetic mode, Zahnd invites to an alternative that is grounded not in ‘Biblicism’ but in the reality of Jesus who embodies the inexplicable love of God that passes all human understanding. Zahnd writes as one emancipated to evangelical joy. He invites his readers to walk with him into such a God-given vocation that honors the God of love and that loves the neighbor.”
—Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
“I know we’re a bit too quick to say things like ‘This will change your life!’ these days, but seriously: this book will change your life. For too long, too many of us have wondered if God is angry or disappointed or frustrated or disgusted with us: you don’t need to wonder anymore. Brian’s new book is one of the most beautiful, truthful, and compelling visions of God as revealed by Jesus I have ever read. I can’t shut up about this glorious, necessary, healing book: it is a must-read for every Christian.”
—Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith
“I can’t count the times I felt like standing and cheering while reading this book. Brian Zahnd knows his material extremely well. He speaks from a blend of study and experience, with the authority of a theologian, the care of a shepherd, and the inspiring beauty of a poet. From Genesis to Revelation, Brian helps us identify, expose, and oppose the weaponization of Scripture and instead embrace Jesus as the Bible’s central theme and God’s ultimate self-disclosure. If you read one book about Jesus this year…buy mine. But if you read two, this one will do just nicely.”
—Bruxy Cavey, teaching pastor at the Meeting House, and author of The End of Religion and (re)union: the Good News of Jesus for Seekers, Saints, and Sinners
“With too many American Christian leaders echoing the angry, arrogant, vindictive, and violent rhetoric of our political culture, it’s hard to imagine a book more relevant and needed than Brian Zahnd’s Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God. Zahnd rightly helps us see that for better or worse, we reflect the image of the God we believe in. Zahnd’s insights into Scripture are rich and deep, making clear that if we want a less violent future, we need a vision of a nonviolent God.”
—Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration
“I have come to love Brian Zahnd and his writings. They are deep, reflective, authentic, and inspiring. Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God is a brilliant and important book that every Christian should read. If you’ve ever struggled with the violence attributed to God in Scripture, or the angry and vengeful images of God sometimes taught in Christian circles, this book will speak to you.”
—Adam Hamilton, pastor and author of Making Sense of the Bible
“Without overstatement, I believe we are living in the midst of a seismic, apocalyptic shift in how we understand the character of God. There is a widescreen revelation of God’s heart unfolding, shaking the very foundations of the Church. This revelation of the tenderness of God is so vast and pervasive that all kinds of former assumptions must be called into question—demanding that violent ‘texts of terror,’ in Phyllis Trible’s phrase, be revisited. Brian Zahnd is the most lucid, crisp, prophetic articulator of this revelation/revolution, and Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God is him at his incisive best. It is masterfully written, illuminating both the Jesus of Scripture and the violence of the world that rejected him. At the intersection of John the Baptist and Bob Dylan, Brian Zahnd prepares the way for us to behold and see that the God we heard was a lion, was actually a lamb all along. This is startling, revelatory reading.”
—Jonathan Martin, author of How to Survive a Shipwreck and Prototype