Beautifully tortured? The problem of divine wrath in the atoning work of Christ

  • Danielle Jansen

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Divine wrath is a polarizing and perpetual topic of discussion. Thinkers since the beginnings of the Christian faith have debated the fittingness of attributing wrath to the Christian God, either justifying, qualifying or doing away with the concept altogether. Although the wrathful God trope fell out of vogue with the rise of liberal Protestantism, there was a pendulum swing of conservative North American Protestants who aggressively defended the idea that God is angry and staked their particular claim in the doctrine of the atonement. This project’s primary aim is to show that the way in which divine wrath is understood in particular variations of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) literature is problematic and perhaps incoherent altogether. Thus, this thesis will focus on three specific claims made by influential scholars who defend the doctrine and seek to examine the intelligibility of such claims: (1) divine wrath is manifested in bodily and/or psychological torture, (2) divine wrath is the execution of or is synonymous with the retributive justice of God, and (3) divine wrath is an emotional state within the life of God. I will ultimately argue that God’s wrath is none of these things. I will argue that divine wrath is not analogous to any metaphysical claim about the divine essence, but that divine wrath is analogously predicated of God according to psychological and emotive language. As such, we can say that God’s wrath in the biblical text communicates God’s moral evaluative judgment of sin, which communicates to victims and their communities that their suffering is a result of those who have sinned against God. The consequence of these findings is that according to particular accounts of PSA doctrine, the manifestation of divine wrath in the context of the cross is incoherent.
Date of Award11 Jun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorStephen Ralph Holmes (Supervisor)


  • Divine wrath
  • Atonement
  • Penal substitutionary atonement
  • Cognitive theories of emotion
  • Retributive punishment
  • Retributive justice

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 2 May 2029

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