Read an outside view on Calvinists or Calvinism, and you are sure to read something about God’s wrath. Every time. The God of Calvinism is a wrathful, vengeful God, boiling over in anger against any part of creation that has turned against him. He is no God of love, this. Sure, he may have some love for his elect, but to the rest of the world he is this angry, brooding presence eagerly awaiting the day of judgment in which he will cast the rest of humanity into the flames of hell.
I suppose Calvinists have sometimes given others reason to think that this is what we believe to be true of God. Perhaps Calvinists have at times erred by over-emphasizing God’s wrath and have done so at the expense of his love. But this angry, vengeful God is not the true God of the Calvinist.
It is good and useful to consider the relationship of God’s love to his wrath. Are they equal characteristics or is one greater than the other? How can God both love and hate? Michael Wittmer’s book Don’t Stop Believing is a very good, popular-level look at some of the hard questions facing Christians today and it offers a powerful response. One of those questions concerns the cross and whether, as some have suggested, a traditional Christian understanding of the cross is tantamount to cosmic child abuse.
In this chapter Wittmer explains how we can (and must) reconcile God’s wrath with his love. “Scripture says that God is love and that he has wrath. This means that love lies deeper than wrath in the character of God. Love is his essential perfection, without which he would not be who he is. Wrath is love’s response to sin. It is God’s voluntary gag reflex at anything that destroys his good creation. God is against sin because he is for us, and he will vent his fury on everything that damages us.”