The planetary model of the atom is wrong. All scientific models are, but we still need something to visualize.
The image of God-as-legal-judge or God-with-a-carrot-and-a-stick is the same way. It’s a ‘scientific model’ that we need, but it isn’t the full truth. The wrath of God and the love of God are the same thing, truly. It is the same whirlwind, and God’s laws are not so much a set of rules as they are the safety manual to a nuclear power plant–because anything truly beautiful is going to be dangerous, like the foaming white glacier stream. If it drowns you, it isn’t because it is punishing you for breaking a rule. There is a way of things, and ancient law isn’t so much a law, as it is the instructions to navigate the river with all its rocks and foaming currents.
The full truth is that God’s love is unconditional.
Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.
Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, and set my spirit free.
I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.
I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.