Is wrath and attribute of God?

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Puritan Board Junior
I was listening to a lecture on the Revelation by D.A. Carson the other day and he says in there that wrath is not an attribute of God like love. Wrath, he says, is an outworking of God's holiness rather than an attribute of God like love (ref. 1 John 4:8). This wasn't shocking to me, but slightly interesting simply because I had always thought that wrath was an eternal attribute of God. I got this, I believe, from Jonathan Edwards' The End For Which God Created The World, where in, I believe, he says that God created the world to manifest the full display of his attributes, including the reprobate for his wrath and the elect for his mercy and grace. Can you guys help me out here? Thanks!


Puritan Board Senior
I consider wrath an outworking of both His justice and His love. He is wrathful at injustice on all levels, and He is wrathful at the horrible toll sin takes on His beloved creation; Tim Keller makes the argument that without wrath God could not be loving.

But I agree with Joshua, it's probably a semantics issue...


Puritanboard Botanist
You can use that substitution trick. Start with God is holy. Then try to see if everything else fits as an adjective of holy. God's love is holy, God's mercy is holy, God's jealousy is holy, God's wrath is holy, God's justice is holy, and they all make sense.

Now try it with something else. God's wrath is love, God's justice is love etc.. Or, God's mercy is jealous, God's mercy is wrath etc.. and they don't make much sense.

So you could say God is holy, and all those other things are ways in which God is holy, and so you could use the word attribute.


Puritan Board Sophomore
:book2: Wrath is a noun. Wouldn't attributes of God need to be adjectives? I think wrath would be an outcome of His being just.


Puritanboard Botanist
You're right about the grammar, I typed faster than I thought!

Still, if God's wrath, mercy, love, justice, patience, kindness, anger are all holy, they're all attributes of God.


Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
That substitution trick is an excellent way to make that point, Tim.

Here is a little tidbit from Heppe that reminds us not to hypostasize the attributes:
Hottinger: "The attributes are distinguished neither from the essence nor from each other but only by our conceiving".—Hence, since every attribute is a manifestation of the same absolutely simple essentiality of God, it may justifiably be said (Braun, I, ii, 2, 19) that "God's righteousness is His goodness, is His knowledge, is His will; or His mercy is His righteousness, etc. But it would be wrong for me to say that the concept I have of the righteousness is the same concept which I have of the deity, mercy or eternity."


Puritan Board Professor
I got this, I believe, from Jonathan Edwards' The End For Which God Created The World, where in, I believe, he says that God created the world to manifest the full display of his attributes, including the reprobate for his wrath and the elect for his mercy and grace. Can you guys help me out here? Thanks!

Is D.A. Carson a 5-point Calvinist? I honestly have no clue...

Be that as it may, our God is a consuming fire. That's a term of vengence and wrath. Although the attribute to which God is slow, it is an attribute of God to be angry with the wicked every day. I could not say it better than Nahum:

Nahum 1:1 The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite. 2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. 3 The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

Nahum classes God being jealous, and furious with slow to anger and great in power. All, to me, appear to be attributes of God: furious and jealous, as well as slow to anger.




Puritanboard Commissioner
[5]"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
[6] For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:"
Colossians 3:5-6


The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
I have a question. The Wrath of God is attributed to God. But is wrath an attribute or Characteristic of God? Is Wrath a result because of His Character and attributes? I guess one needs to determine if we are going to define an attribute as a noun, adjective, or verb. Sounds like we need to understand things from a grammatical distinction. The attributes of God are usually referred to as nouns or adjectives as I understood them. He is Holy. He is Righteous. He is Love. He is Good. He is Perfect. He is Just. He is Omniscient. He is Omnipresent. He is omnipotent.

It seems we make a shift when we start to describe him by his actions. He is wrathful. He is merciful. He is Loving. He is Long Suffering. He is Returning.

Am I making sense.

How are we defining attribute?


Puritan Board Freshman
I like A.W. Pink's definition, which I quoted in last week's sermon. "It [God's wrath] is His holiness stirred into activity against sin."

Rev. Todd Ruddell

Puritan Board Junior
Exodus 34.6: The LORD, the LORD merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in covenant fidelity and truth.

This verse seems to set forth, from God's own proclamation of His Name, that His attribute is slowness to wrath, which I would agree works out from His justice, as an act of His will.

That He is slow to wrath is loudly proclaimed by the continuance of the creation as it now stands, for He bears long with our sins.

Also, as was said above, all of God's attributes interpenetrate one another so that while we may classify them for our understanding, they are subsumed under His simplicity--that is, He is numerically One and undivided. His attributes are related to one another in such a way as God reveals Himself, that to understand any of His attributes in isolation is to fail to understand Him rightly.


Obi Wan Kenobi
I would tend to think that God's wrath is the outworking of His attribute of Justice, so it's probably a semantical difference.

I agree with Joshua.

I agree as well, but not that it's a semantical difference. Not only is wrath a result of God's justice, it's a good and necessary result of God's good and perfect justice. Without wrath God could not be just. And if God was not wrathful against all that attempted to rise above His perfect will and glory, then He would be guilty of idolatry. Therefore, it wouldn't be an attribute of God, but a good and necessary result of God's attributes in light of the horror of sin.
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