On Tuesday I posted a critique of David Platt’s sermon on why God hates sinners. (Mark Driscoll recently said much the same thing.) I contended that God does not hate sinners, a position I still hold.
This post generated, by far, the most conversation I’ve ever had on this blog. Many folks with a Calvinist/Reformed/neo-Reformed perspective brought some great questions and challenges to what I wrote in that and the two subsequent posts. I did my best to answer those questions and challenges within the comments, and in the course of the conversation, some questions began to formulate in my mind that I would like to ask of Calvinists. What follows is a series of questions and challenges for any Calvinist/Reformed readers related to the discussion at hand. Please feel free to post your replies in the comments on this post, and please also use the numbering convention I use here so that we can keep track of the discussion.
It seemed to me that, in the challenges I received to my post, God’s hatred of sinners was equated with his judgment of sinners. Is this true? If so, why must God hate sinners in order to judge them? And I know this sounds sarcastic but it’s not meant to be, but do you really believe that God hates people? Do you believe that God is actively, objectively, and fully (with all divine power) antagonistic and oppressive toward those who have not put their faith in Christ?
If God hates sinners, as Platt (and Mark Driscoll) argues, does he hate you? 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” We all have sin, and we are all, therefore, sinners in a very real sense. Does that mean that God hates even those who have put their faith in Christ? Please bear in mind the words of Paul, written at the end of his life, to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:15, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (Note the present tense.) Did God hate Paul?
It is often said that hate is not the opposite of love. Perhaps it’s not, but they are certainly on the same plane–of the same order, or belonging in the same category. Is it possible for God to both love and hate an individual? Can love and hatred exist within God’s heart for the same person at the same time? At the risk of leading the witness, it may be helpful to reflect on what Paul writes in Ephesians 3:16-19.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The verse from Romans 9 came up in the discussion: “Jacob have I loved, Esau have I hated.” This is a quote from Malachi 1. I’d like to put a few of the relevant verses together and have you give your comments on them, please.
Genesis 27:19 • Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”
Psalm 5:5b-6 • You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, LORD, detest.
Malachi 1:2b-3a • “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.”
Jacob lied to get Isaac’s blessing. God hates liars. God loved Jacob. How do you explain this series of verses?
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the conversation we’ve been having is that nobody took the time to address the New Testament passages I mentioned, and how they were relevant to the discussion, and how they should have influenced Platt’s exegesis. I’ll repost the verses here for your reflection.
Romans 5:8 • But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16-17 • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
1 John 4:10 • This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1 John 4:19 • We love because he first loved us.
So, does God hate sinners, or does he love them?
If God is love, how can there be any hate within him? Keep in mind, I’m not talking about judgment. I’m not talking about wrath against sin. I’m talking about hatred, the passionate disliking of someone to the point of active oppression and antagonism.
Jesus says, in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” If the world recognizes the disciples of Jesus by their love, what does that say about Jesus? What does that say about the Father, the one about whom he said in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
There are probably other questions that have been floating around in my mind this past week, but this will do for now. Some of these are meant to clarify, some are meant to challenge. Perhaps they won’t do either, I don’t know. But I would like hear from you.
One final note, which may explain, a bit further, why I’ve written what I have.
I think it’s important to point out that, when you or David Platt or Mark Driscoll or whomever says “God hates sinners”, you’re not saying, “God judges sinners apart from Christ.” You may think you’re saying that, but you’re not. Judgment and hatred are not the same thing. So even if what all this boils down to is semantics, the semantics are crucial, particularly for an unbelieving world that already believes God hates them because the Church has done a terrible job of loving them. If it’s just semantics, then to say, “God hates sinners” so smugly as Platt said it is pastorally irresponsible.