Greg Koukl - Does God Hate?

Greg answers the question, "Does God Hate?"

There’s a whole class of sayings or slogans that Christians use that can be helpful in certain circumstances. I call them “pastorisms” because though they’re helpful for teaching and pastors use them, sometimes there's a side to them that's not accurate and could create confusion. We have to be careful of that.

One of them is the phrase that God loves the sinner but He hates the sin. Therefore, we should love the sinner and hate the sin, not hate the sinner. There is certainly something valuable in that. That is, though we are sinners and God does hate the sin, He does extend love towards us and for us. With regards to other people, that’s a good idea. But, it's not entirely accurate with regards to God because it is not the case that God simply loves the sinner and just hates the sin. Scripture teaches otherwise.

You can look at Psalm 5, for example. There, David says, “You hate all who do iniquity,” speaking here of God. Psalm 10 has another statement like it. These are called the deprecatory Psalms. This is where David gets down on people, but you can't just dismiss it that way. He’s saying something true about God. 

There is a sense in which God hates sinners. When you look in the book of Proverbs, it talks about different things that God hates - feet that run quickly towards evil, tongues that speak lies, etc. All these body parts are mentioned. There again, it’s a figure of speech, but notice that the animosity of God is not directed at the abstract thing – the lie or the evil sin – it's really directed at the person. Indeed, when God judges sin, that itself is a figure of speech because what He judges is human beings in virtue of their sin. The humans get the judgment, not the sin, because God's animosity is towards the human.

I understand this raises some questions, “So you’re saying God hates us? But I thought God love us,” and my answer is both are true. You might be thinking, “How could God hate and love at the same time?” In one sense, I think most parents can understand this. They consistently love their children, but there are moments where they feel animosity so strong that they might call it hatred. So there's nothing unusual about a human having kind of conflicting emotions.

I think that problem with God is different because I don't think God experiences emotions the way we do. Classically, God has been characterized as without passion. That is, without the kind of emotions we feel because this suggests change from one feeling to another, i.e. God’s happy, then He’s sad. James says in chapter 1 that there is no shifting of shadow with God. There is no change. 

The way that Christian thinkers have reconciled this is when God’s characteristics are described in Scripture, they are described in language that we understand and for which we have analogies. Human emotions are an analogy, but it isn’t a crystal-clear absolute kind of description or a direct description of what's really going on with God.

Does God hate human beings? Yeah, kind of. Does God love human beings? Yeah. In a way, it’s analogous to our own experience, but different still. God does hate, and He loves at the same time. The important thing is that His hatred is in virtue man's rebellion. His love is gratuitous. It’s in virtue of His favor and His grace. He is willing to apply the love against the hatred so that the justice that is the foundation for the hatred for sinners is satisfied by the self-sacrificial love that God provides through the work of the cross. This brings both together and keeps a balance.

Yes, God hates the sin and He loves the sinner, but He’s really mad at the sinner too. Yet, he reconciles that for the believer through the cross of Christ. For the unbeliever, they experience the wrath and hatred they deserve when God finally judges them on the last day.

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Greg Koukl

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