Does God Hate Sinners?
I got into a twitter conversation this afternoon on the subject of whether God hates sinners. The conversation was prompted by this Mark Driscoll video.
Now, what do we make of that?
There are a number of verses in Scripture that seem to indicate that God does hate sin and sinners. For example, Psalm 5:5 says “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” Psalm 11:5 says “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”In Jeremiah 12:8 YHWH says “My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her.” In Hosea 9:15 he says, “Every evil of theirs is in Gilgal; there I began to hate them.” And of course there is the simple but powerful Romans 9:13 – “As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.””
Scripture even has psalms calling on those who love the Lord to hate evil (Psalm 97:10, Psalm 119:104, Psalm 119:113, Psalm 119:128) yet we flinch from ascribing such an emotion to God? Why is this? Is it not enough to see the Scriptures clearly showing God hating sin and sinners to accept that this is true?
Is our problem with this idea that God hates sinners because we have a very negative view of hate from our human experience of it? More often then not, human hate turns into unrighteous anger and the desire for vengeance. But the Biblical picture is very different. Because God is holy and righteous he can both love and hate in a perfect manner. God hates sin and he will judge it because he is holy and righteous. God saves sinners who he loves through the death of his son because he is holy and righteous. The two things, hate and love, are not mutually exclusive – they are the clear good aspects of a holy and righteous God. God is good because he hates sin and will judge it. If it were not so, if sin were not judged, then there would be no justice. God is good because he loves those he saves, who instead of having the wrath that is stored up against them exercised on them, are counted clean and perfect and holy in his sight through no action of their own.
And here’s my last question – if God doesn’t hate sinners, why does he judge them for their sin?
Or have I got it all completely wrong?
I think in more modern times we tend to dissociate ourselves from the harder aspects of God. Concepts like the jealousy of God, the wrath of God, the vengeance of God are hard to put together with the love, mercy and compassion of the same God. We tend to keep and project only half of the reality of God and are guilty of trying to make him in our image. We try out of our sinfulness to mould God into the cuddly grandfather figure sitting in the clouds because then we can in a manner justify the continuance of our sin because we have fashioned our own mental graven image.
Couldn't have put it better myself.
If you ever want to grace Christ Church with your presence one of these Sundays, let me know!
"Concepts like the jealousy of God, the wrath of God, the vengeance of God are hard to put together with the love, mercy and compassion of the same God" – but how does vengeance go together with compassion? And how does (for instance) vengeance go with what Jesus reveals about God – where is there an example of Jesus taking revenge?
"What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.""
I don't think you have this wrong at all, it's a question of understanding what 'hate' is meant in the context of God 'hating' something.
Too often we ascribe our own experience of emotions to God; he doesn't love as we love – his love is perfect; the wrath of God is not wrath as we might feel or understand it – there's no notion of revenge or anger blinded by rage in Gods wrath -which is the way that wrath is felt in a human context.
Just the same for hate. If God’s ‘hate’ is perfect, then this hatred – or extreme aversion to sin, will mean that the sinner is unable to be in the same place face to face with God.
Look at Exodus 33. ‘Show me your glory’ says Moses. ‘You cannot see my face,’ replies God ‘for no one may see me and live’. Even Moses was unable to look on God and live, how much more so would that be true for each of us.
Gods aversion to, or hate for sin and therefore the sinner (and let’s not confuse ourselves with the notion that extreme dislike and love are impossible bedfellows), means that there must be another way for God and mankind to be reconciled together. Enter Jesus and the atonement.
It may be a problem with the use of language, which means we either need to change the words we use when we explain, or reclaim the words themselves and define their meaning more carefully. As Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church is overly fond of banging on about Gods hate, I think I’d rather choose a different set of words when explaining!
But what then of Matthew 5:43-48? Or 1 Peter 2:23? Or 1 John 1:5, or 1 John 2:11? And if Jesus is "the image of the invisible God", and if therefore God is like Jesus, can anybody quote a Gospel text that shows Jesus hating a sinner? Also, if God hates, what of forgiveness?
in friendship, Blair
I don't see any contradiction. God is a God who hates sin and loves the sinners he saves. Hate is not necessarily a bad thing – God's hate of sin is good because it demonstrates his holiness and righteousness. He will not let evil go unpunished. In that sense God's hate and his love are simply the two sides of his holiness.
But Peter – your 'headline' above is, Does God hate sinners? You mention only sin, not sinners in your comment though. Given Romans 3:23, if God does hate sinners, wouldn't that mean God hates all of us?
You also say, "God is a God who hates sin and loves the sinners he saves" – but does this mean to imply that God doesn't love (or indeed hates) the sinners he doesn't save – or am I reading you uncharitably? I.e., does it mean that there's an 'in' group of the saved and an 'out' group…?
Trying to broaden this a bit – if God hates sin/sinners, how is this to be applied? Am I right to hate – my own sins, myself, or others? Am thinking that if God hates, and we are called to imitate God thru' imitating Jesus, then it must in some way be a good thing for us to hate (even if that means having our hatred 'purified' in some way so that it more closely comes to resemble God's righteous hate over time)…..?
I think Romans 9 answers most of those questions doesn't it?
I think you are right to hate the sin that you do and to recognise that God hates it and is rightly due to judge that sin (and the sinner) which he hates. Of course, he has sent his son Jesus to die for sinners, so if you accept you are a sinner in need of salvation and accept that Jesus is that salvation you should have no problem.
Unless of course you think it's unfair that God should judge you?
Some if not all of those questions maybe – though my knowledge of most of Romans isn't good so I need to take more time to read it.
"Unless of course you think it’s unfair that God should judge you?"
Am hoping it's been clear from what I've posted that that isn't where I'm coming from on this thread. I'm trying to suggest that there are multiple objections to saying that 'God hates sinners' or indeed to saying that 'God hates…' at all, and that those objections come from (among other things) Biblical texts, and looking at what the wider effects of saying 'God hates…' might be on how we imagine, and witness to, God.
in friendship, blair
Well, one of the clear objections to "God hates sinners" is if the Gospel then stops there. But if the Gospel continues with "…but despite your rejection of Him he has sent his Son to die for your sin and to give you new life – what do you want to do in response", then we have a much more realistic proposition don't we? From an Electionist point of view this is the moment when the Elect reveal themselves, for they respond to the truth of their sin and God's salvation. Those who are not elect reject the truth of God because they are not regenerate and the idea that everything that they are is offensive to God (because of their sin) offends them. They then, as Driscoll rightly points out, get EVERYTHING they want.
Not at all wishing to disagree that Jesus is the image of the invisible God or that his compassion defies all our expectations, but just from five minutes browsing …. what about Mt. 7:23; 23:33; Mk 8:15; 13:6; Jn 8:44; Rev. 2:6?
at strong risk of simply being argumentative… some of those texts don't seem to fit that closely. The passages from Mark don't mention nor seem to imply anything about hate (they seem to be warnings), and neither does the text from John (naming the paternity of the group of Jews Jesus is speaking to, "who had believed in him" as v31 says). The verses from Matthew are about the possibility of hell but am hoping there are others apart from me who don't read them as Jesus hating those he's speaking to (if indeed that's what you were thinking…). The text from Revelation speaks of hating "the works" but not the people themselves.
I find it hard to get hung up on a word. I wouldn't ascribe a passionate irrationality to God, if that's what we mean by hate. All I'd say is that God appears to have an implacable opposition to certain human actions and, in some sense, those who perform them. I take those verses to indicate such opposition and therefore 'hate', I'm making qualifications because of the Gospel of Grace. The single line 'God hates sinners' may be true, but if it is it's only part of the truth. I wonder if what is needed is to say more than one thing if we are to give a true picture of God: Law and Gospel might be a helpful way of doing it. Of course, you can flip that on its head and talk about the one thing – God's love – which demands opposition ('hate') to sin because sin is opposition to love. For us though, living in this world and living in our own sin, the prophetic word of condemnation is sometimes, I think, a necessary precursor to the comforting words of the Gospel.
Well, there was a lot of 'smiting' in the Old Testament, with orders to smite coming directly from God, for those who sinned or angered God. But then in the New Testament, there is Jesus, the lamb of God, sent to intercede on behalf of all sinners to His Father. Jesus got angry, but I never read that Jesus hated anyone, period. Without sinners, there would be no need for churches. If you want to get technical about it, we were cursed as 'sinners,' after the fall of Adam and Eve, right at birth. If Jesus died on the cross for my sins, how could anyone say that God 'hates' anyone? The same Jesus that died for me, died for each of us and we are all sinners. The problem comes when we decide to put a degree on sin, or we decide what our finite minds conclude is 'sin.' But look through the Bible, God used some of the biggest 'sinners' to do His work. I don't think God has a MS Word table with "Not a Big Deal sin" "Big Sin" "Do not Pass the Pearly Gates go Directly to Hell Sin." I think God believes all sin is evil, whether you stole a pack of M&Ms at the grocery store, or you are Charles Manson or Hitler, I'm not sure that God puts a 'degree' on sin. Sin is Sin. And the reference to Moses: Yes, at that time, nobody could see the face of God, without perishing, because of sin. Thus, came God's Son, Jesus, to be the 'face' of God here on earth, and be the ultimate sacrifice for all of our sins past, present and future.
"The same Jesus that died for me, died for each of us and we are all sinners."
A calvinist approach to scripture suggests that we are subject to something called "limited atonement" (which is the "L" of TULIP). It means roughly that Christ died to redeem only those who would accept his atonement. Therefore, someone who refuses that Christ needed to die for them will suffer God's wrath. Because if Christ atoned for them, then God would not regard them as objects of wrath but as adopted children.
Therefore, the suggestion is that Christ's atonement was sufficient for the whole world, should the whole world have accepted it. But since God already knew who would accept Christ, and who would not (because he is sovereign) the atonement was "limited" to apply to the former group.
I offer this as an aside, I don't know if it's helpful for building up a framework by which you can understand this issue.
Regarding your comment about God putting "degrees" on sin, this is not quite right. He does regard certain sins as more grievous or abominable than others, just like we do. The legal framework of the Pentateuch supports the idea that not all sins are the same, or deserve the same punishment. But from God's perspective it is the core sinfulness of man from which all these sins erupt which is the main issue. Sin is like cancer. Someone with a small melanoma needs to be treated for cancer just as someone with a massive tumour, though no-one would be likely to say the first person is, at that point, in just as bad a state as the second. With both situations left unadressed, though, the end result of death is the same. So when you see a child steal another child's toy, you witness a snapshot of a dangerous trajectory, the end of which is death.
In the Pentateuch, God gave provision for a sinful people by giving them laws. He showed them how to "manage" their sickness and pursue this state he called them to, called Holiness. He also gave them a foretaste of the grace of Christ when he introduced the sacrificial system, which clearly demonstrated how sin and unholiness equates with death for any person who lives amongst God's people.
So what Christ did on the cross was he delivered a cure for the cancer of sin. He provided a way by which people infected by sin could become holy, and free from its inevitable trajectory. Therefore, sin remains in us even after we have taken our first of many steps towards this holiness, but its power to kill us has been taken away. Satan has been de-fanged. There is a new force growing within us which is the holy spirit of God (who is a person, not an impersonal force, BTW!). We are called as Christians to be humbled by this gift of righteousness and holiness which has been offered to us, and to work WITH the holy spirit in bringing forth new fruit, which is only possible because Christ's death has made it possible for God's spirit to enter into us and lead us in the everlasting way.
I'm not a trained theologian, so I'm just offering these ideas to see if they are useful in understanding the context of what Driscoll is saying.
I didn't hear anything in what he said which was wrong or unbiblical. But MD often makes bold statements that are easy to misunderstand in order to be provocative, and cause discussions such as this one. Jesus used the same tactic on many occasions. When he taught his disciples the meaning of the parables, he was helping them to have a framework or lens by which the whole of scripture, including Jesus' words, could be understood. If you look at the book of Acts, you will see how the Apostles' teaching ministry involved helping people to understand the scriptures as they related to Christ. It was a kind of cross between systematic and biblical theology.
Hope this helps. And I hope this finds you well Peter!
But if this is so, in what sense then is God omnipotent? The "limited atonement" scenario you're sketching suggests that there are creatures God's created whom he can't control, since they can (if you'll excuse the phrasing) 'overrule' him. But in this case God wouldn't be omnipotent – although thinking of a line of Herbert McCabe's, "God cannot make things that he subsequently cannot control", because this is logically impossible. "The phrase 'creature outside the control of an omnipotent God' is self-cancelling, like the phrase 'square circle'" (Faith within reason, p72-73). So how does "limited atonement" work?
in friendship, Blair
I don't understand what you mean here by "not control". If God is sovereign in election to salvation, how is he not in control? Is is more to do with the issue that if God is sovereign in salvation, YOU are not in control?
my comment was partly prompted by these words from Beat Attitude:
"But since God already knew who would accept Christ, and who would not (because he is sovereign) the atonement was “limited” to apply to the former group". I was suggesting that this would mean that God isn't omnipotent since, if there are people who 'can't be saved' as this implies, then there are people who can in a sense overrule God – if so and if some creatures can do this, God wouldn't be omnipotent. (Or am I misreading and starting a futile argument…?)
in friendship, Blair
Well that quote doesn't really lay out the electionist position. God's sovereign election is NOT based on foreknowledge of right or wrong actions, it is REGARDLESS of man'a actions. This is the argument made by Paul in Romans 9 re Jacob and Esau.
I think you are one of the very few people who get this right!
Wow! Loved this post Peter. Preach that…
If God hates sinners we should have bumper stickers that say "Jesus Hates You". Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery. She didnt even ask for forgivenes, He said He did not condem her. He did tell her to go and sin no more. If you are doing something wrong, stop doing it and follow the Lord Jesus. The main thing is love the Lord with all your heart, soul and might and love your neighbor as yourself. If your neighbor is in sin than should you hate them? Of course not. If you hate your neighbor you probably hate yourself and God. It seems senseable to me that you cannot love and hate someone at the same time. However you can hate what they do and love them at the same time.