Christopher Ash and Steve Midgley’s new book, The Heart of Anger: How the Bible Transforms Anger in Our Understanding and Experience, has just been published.
We asked Steve to tell us about it.
The clue’s in the title, but can you tell us a little of what the book is about?
Yes, the title does give a pretty good clue… The heart of the book, actually, is a comprehensive overview of all the different ways the bible engages with anger. Christopher, in only the way Christopher can, surveyed the Bible from Genesis to Revelation looking out not just for the more obvious descriptions of anger, but the more subtle ones as well. That meant seeking out both the narrative accounts of anger as well those places where anger is referred to more specifically. What we did after that was to work outwards from that material in order to engage with lived experience. We wanted to help people notice anger both in our own lives and in the lives of those around them. And then we wanted to let the biblical accounts help us all to work out what was driving our anger.
How did the book come to be written?
It actually came out of one of Biblical Counselling UK’s national conferences. Christopher gave four brilliant talks which provided a biblical survey and it was clear to us that if we could combine Christopher’s biblical material with a more substantial pastoral reflection (which there wasn’t time for at the conference) then it would give us what we hoped would be a really helpful biblical and pastoral resource.
Why do you think it’s such an important topic to be tackling in 2021?
Once we notice how irritation, frustration and complaining are all aspects of anger, it’s easy to see how this past year has been filled with anger. Some of that anger has found a target: we’ve seen anger directed at people who have broken lockdown rules and we’ve also seen it expressed at the people who imposed those rules in the first place. People have been angry when the goalposts have been changed; angry when social events have been cancelled; angry at lost businesses, lost relationships and lost jobs. And, perhaps most tragically of all, we have seen climbing rates of anger expressed in the many expressions of domestic abuse. But there is a kind of anger that doesn’t find an obvious target. The feelings of frustration therefore float free and can leave us somehow globally irritable, which isn’t good.
How is this book going to help us think about and address that anger?
Addressing anger is never simple. Not least because anger is such a varied phenomenon. The red-faced fury of someone blowing their top is all too easy to see, but anger is so much broader than that. We find it in irritation and sulkiness; it’s there in bitterness and scorn; even frustration, impatience and complaints are a form of anger. And behind all those different expressions of anger there are often other emotions lurking unseen. Anger, in some senses, is an easy emotion to express and that’s why it can sometimes serve as cloak for other feelings that we don’t find it so easy to engage with. Getting beneath the surface and seeing what lies at the heart of anger is often the first step to making important progress with God.
The Heart of Anger: How the Bible Transforms Anger in Our Understanding and Experience is published by Crossway