The Fear of the Lord and Biblical Ethics
at Payton Geneva
Geneva Room, Payton Hall
Many Christians today emphasize the centrality of love in the Bible. Love dominates not only discussions of God’s saving actions but also human responses to God and neighbor. While love certainly is an important biblical idea, the Bible frequently uses a very different emotion in these arenas: fear. Repeatedly, the Bible suggests that fearing God is the appropriate response to God’s saving actions. The biblical text also links the fear of the Lord to a range of praiseworthy human behaviors including worshipping God and caring for vulnerable populations. Drawing on recent research into emotion, this presentation explains why the polysemous expression “the fear of the Lord” proved attractive to biblical writers. Although many modern cultures disdain fear, this emotion closely relates to one’s ultimate allegiances, and it can facilitate attitudes of humility. Properly understood, fearing God can motivate upright living.
Dr. Matthew Schlimm is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and has served churches in Michigan, Minnesota, and North Carolina. He teaches at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. His research interests focus on biblical theology and biblical ethics, from which have arisen three books: From Fratricide to Forgiveness: The Language and Ethics of Anger in Genesis (Eisenbrauns); This Strange and Sacred Scripture: Wrestling with the Old Testament and Its Oddities (Baker), and 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know (Abingdon). Schlimm also served as one of the editors for the CEB Study Bible and has published in a variety of journals.