God Hates the Sin AND Hates the Sinner AND loves the Sinner -D. A. Carson

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

This article is part of a series on the Love of God by D.A. Carson. He originally presented these papers in a lecture series at Dallas Theological Seminary. Part 1 can be found here, part 2 can be found here, and part 3 can be found here.

I recently read an article by D. A. Carson titled “God’s Love and God’s Wrath.” I strongly commend the article to you, especially to those who overemphasize God’s love or God’s wrath. There are many statements in this article that are quote-worthy; they’re too numerous to list. There are many places in Scripture where God says He hates sinners. There are also many places where God says He loves sinners. We must preach both. You can find Carson’s full article here (pdf). I’ve provided a summary below, followed by my response. You can also find Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God here for free (pdf).

Carson, D. A. “God’s Love and God’s Wrath.”  Bibliotheca Sacra 156 (October-December 1999): 387-398.

Summary of Main Points

A common view of God’s love is that He must forgive us because He is good. This lecture will reflect on why this view of God’s love is unbiblical. We will also seek to think more precisely and faithfully about the love of God.

Wrath, like love, includes emotion as a necessary component. Here again, if impassibility is defined in terms of the complete absence of all “passions,” not only will you fly in the face of biblical evidence, but you will tumble into fresh errors that touch the very holiness of God. Wrath, unlike love, is not one of the intrinsic perfections of God. Rather, it is a function of God’s holiness against sin. Where there is no sin, there is no wrath, but there will always be love in God. However, the price of diluting God’s wrath is diminishing God’s holiness. To distance God too greatly from wrath on the ground of a misconceived form of impassibility soon casts shadows back onto His holiness. If God is not really angry at sinners, it is difficult to see the need for propitiation. Furthermore, to retreat to the distinction between the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity in this case would be disastrous. That tactic argues that God as He is in Himself (the immanent Trinity) is immune from wrath, while God as He interacts with rebels (the economic Trinity) displays His wrath. But this leaves us in the dubious position of ascribing to God as He is in Himself less concerned for maintaining His holiness than God as He interacts with the created and fallen order.

How, then, do God’s love and His wrath relate to each other? One evangelical cliché’ has it that God hates sin but loves the sinner. Fourteen times in the first fifty Psalms alone, the psalmists state that God hates the sinner, that His wrath is on the liar, and so forth (Psalms 5:4-5, 11:5; Proverbs 6:16-19). In the Bible the wrath of God rests on both the sin (Rom. 1:18-23) and the sinner (Rom. 1:24-32; 2:5; John 3:36). In God, wrath and love can be directed toward the same individual or people at once, since His love is entirely a reasonable and willed response. God in His perfections must be wrathful against His rebel image-bearers, for they have offended Him; God in His perfections must be loving toward His rebel image-bearers, for He is that kind of God.

Two other misconceptions circulate widely even in circles of confessional Christianity: 1) God’s love is now richer than His wrath was in the Old Testament. 2) God is implacably opposed to us and full of wrath but somehow mollified by Jesus, who loves us. The reality is that God’s love and wrath are both revealed in the cross. Also, God sent His Son because He loved the world meaning that His Son did not win Him over, for God loved the world prior to sending His Son. God provides the propitiating sacrifice (He is the subject), and He Himself is propitiated (He is the object). All of this is implicit in Romans 3:21-26, a great atonement passage.

The label “limited atonement” is singularly unfortunate for two reasons: 1) It is a defensive, restrictive, expression—here is Atonement, then someone wants to limit it. The notion of limiting something as glorious as the Atonement is intrinsically offensive. 2) “Limited atonement” is objectively misleading. Every view of the Atonement “limits” it in some way except for the unqualified universalist.  Arminians limit the Atonement by regarding it as merely potential for everyone. Calvinists regard the Atonement as limited to the elect.  Amyraldians limit the Atonement in much the same way as Arminians, even though the undergirding structures are different.

Let us grant for a moment the truth of election. The definiteness of the Atonement turns more on God’s intent in Christ’s work on the cross than on the mere extent of its significance. Those who defend definite Atonement cite several verses for support (Matt 1:21; Titus 2:14; Rom. 5:6-10; Eph. 2:15-16; Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; Isaiah 53:10-12; Eph. 5:25). Others, however, respond that there are too many texts on the other side of the issue: God so loved the world (John 3:16) and Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Consider the five ways the Bible speaks about the love of God: 1) God’s intra-Trinitarian love, 2) God’s love displayed in His providential care, 3) God’s yearning warning and invitation to all human beings as He invites and commands them to repent and believe, 4) God’s special love toward the elect, and 5) God’s conditional love toward His covenant people as He speaks in the language of discipline. If one of these is absolutized, a false system is generated that distorts God’s love. Instead, we must affirm that the Atonement is sufficient for all and effective for the elect, for only then are both texts accommodated. The context of 1 John 2:2 helps us understand that the Atonement was potentially for all without distinction rather than effectively for all without exception. There is a real sense where Christ died for the world, while also a real sense where Christ died effectively for the elect alone. The Bible speaks of both God’s love for the world and special selecting love for the elect. Preachers in the Reformed tradition should not hesitate for an instant to declare the love of God for a lost world, for lost individuals.

Furthermore, God’s love for the world is commendable because it manifests itself in awesome self-sacrifice; our love for the world is repulsive when it lusts for evil participation. We must not love the world in a sinful way (1 John 2:15), but instead, we must love the world by taking the gospel to every creature.

In conclusion, here are three reflections to consider: 1) The love of God for people is sometimes likened to the love of a parent for a child (Heb. 12:4-11; Prov. 14:26). Believers must never forget to keep themselves in the love of God (Jude 1:21). In this way, we imitate Jesus (John 15:9-11). 2) The love of God is not merely to be analyzed, understood, and adopted into wholistic categories of integrated theological thought. It is to be received, absorbed, felt. In Ephesians 3:14-15, Paul connects such Christian experience of the love of God with Christian maturity. 3) Christians should never underestimate the power of the love of God to break down and transform the most amazingly hard individuals. We love because He first loved us; we forgive because we stand forgiven. Understanding God’s love as displayed in the aforementioned five categories will cause us to love God and others in such a way as to glorify the Lord. We must love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27).


I appreciate Carson’s dedication to “the Scriptures alone” beyond classical Christian tradition and evangelical clichés. He expresses accurately what the Bible says concerning God’s love for sinners and the elect, along with His wrath towards sinners and the elect. God’s love is reasonable, passionate, and coextensive with His holiness and will. God does hate sinners while also loving them. Christians must believe and preach both. All God does is righteous, as are all His relational expressions of His being: love, wrath, etc.

What are your thoughts?

This article was originally posted at my site. I’m married with three children, an SBC pastor, a PhD student at SBTS, and an average Southern Baptist. I’ve authored two books. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.


  1. Christiane says

    Luke 6:32 “For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.” ‘

    We read the same truth in Matthew 5:46
    “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?”

  2. Christiane says

    The question of God’s attributes of ‘love’ and ‘hate’ are confusing.

    If we speak about God, must we not use this kind of wording?
    ‘God IS love’

    I do not believe we can say ‘God IS hate’ in the same way . . . and there is a profound reason for this truth.

    ‘love’ and ‘hate’ are interesting concepts in their relationship to one another, but we must remember that God cannot contradict Himself.

    • Dave Miller says

      The problem with your comment is that the scripture does not support it.

      God says, “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.” Granted, there is a lot of theological content there. But to use the love of God to deny his wrath, his holiness or his glory is simply contrary to the Word of God.

      Good theology does not pick and choose those verses we like. It takes all scripture seriously.

  3. says


    Good post. Carson has such a good way of getting at the truth.

    Question: He says, “A common view of God’s love is that He must forgive us because He is good.”

    In your experience, how common is this notion? I’ve never really heard anyone say that. For those who espouse that, how far does it extend? “Must” forgive who? The elect? Everyone?

    Also, love this statement by Carson, “If God is not really angry at sinners, it is difficult to see the need for propitiation.”

    So true!

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.


    • says

      Les, I’m not sure how common it is for someone to think that God must forgive since He is good, but I imagine that it’s a common view of our culture. Think of how God is portrayed in the media. There’s rarely a sense that God might not forgive someone or that He might actually send someone to Hell.

      • says

        Jared, I see. Of course you’re probably right about the general cultural view. I must have been thinking he was saying there are believers who hold that view. That would have been shocking to say the least. I just mis-read.


  4. Truth Unites... and Divides says


    I enjoyed the title of your post. Did you happen to read the post by Justin Taylor about Peter Kreeft’s exchange with a gay activist about the slogan of “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner”?

  5. Jim G. says

    Hi Jared,

    I appreciate the series you have been doing to bring Carson to general readership. I think we all benefit from reading the writings of folks like Carson, even if we disagree with them.

    I think Christiane above makes a good point. Whatever we say about God’s hate in Scripture cannot be said in exactly the same way we describe his love. I would think “hate” is not the right word to use in our context most of the time. I notice that Carson’s unnamed texts for the “hate” of God comes from the Psalms and others from the prophets. We must take great care in interpreting these texts at face value because of the constant employment of figurative language in such texts. That is, does the presence of the word “hate” in the text mean “hatred” or is it there to make a point of emphasis or contrast? To say that God “hates” a human being without so nuancing the statement confuses the way in which we explain God’s “passions” toward us.

    Also, please note that wrath is not the same as hate. Love and hate are emotionally exclusive. Love and wrath are not. God’s wrath can be upon those whom he loves (Israel for example), while I fail to see how God can hate and love simultaneously (that is, with true love and true hatred). Perhaps a more consistent message to the sinner would be “God loves you but his wrath is upon you due to your sin” instead of “God loves you and God hates you.”

    Just one more thing…Carson is not working from Scripture alone. He is operating in a tradition (an interpretive framework) as are you and I. We cannot avoid it and neither can Carson. The moment he grants the truth of “election” (which for him means unconditional, personal election) he tips his hand to his tradition, and it is that tradition through which he reads Scripture.

    Jim G.

      • Jim G. says

        Hi Jared,

        No, I’m saying that we have to handle the word “hate” carefully.

        I have no problem saying God hates sin, because sin is not his creation. I think that when describing Satan and people, then we have to be careful. God created them, even though they both fell. I’m not aware of any Scripture that says God hates Satan, even though he is the enemy of God’s people. I think we need to qualify “hate” with the created order.

        Jim G.

    • says

      Problem is that we tend to view love and hate as emotional words. They seem to be more words that are descriptive of God’s actions. Jacob I loved, God says. It doesn’t so much mean that he had warm fuzzies for Jacob in some way. God chose Jacob as the path for his blessing to flow. In the same way, God’s hate is not an emotional thing. He hated Esau – he did not choose him for the Messianic line.

      But whether we like it or not, the Bible does say that God “hates.”

      • Frank L. says

        David, I think you point out an important aspect of this issue. Words are what humans use to communicate with other humans. Words are not spiritual (except for The Word).

        Saying I hate, is as different from saying God hates, as a grasshopper is different from a man. They simply do not–cannot–mean the same thing.

        Whatever God does, he does perfectly; including love and hate.

        Whatever God does if filled with ultimate, necessary meaning. Everything a man does is contingent.

        I think we get into much trouble when we do not measure the distance between God and His creation.

        • Christiane says

          Hi FRANK L.

          God is never far from us.

          When our human words can’t convey our need to God,
          “. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
          For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,
          but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
          with groanings too deep for words. ”
          (Romans 8:26)

  6. Kyle Bridgman says

    God’s relationship with us is altered when we sin. Because of his holiness, our sin causes the two-way relationship to be broken. But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. It seems God who loves us, would hate the sin that separates us from Him. That separation is describes as death, sin, hell and more throughout scripture. A relationship that contains that separation where no love can be exchanged could be called hate.

    Also, a relationship that is below the level of God’s love has been called hate. Jesus said that we are to be willing to hate our family if we are to be his disciple. I don’t think that he meant we are to get angry at them and
    despise all that they are. Like all words, their context and situation lend to their meaning, as well as the changing from one language to another. I believe we should not take a word and adjust our understanding to go against the rest of scripture.

  7. says

    I don’t understand why it would be wrong to say that God has a holy hatred toward sin and sinners, yet due to His love for Himself and sinners, He poured out His hatred on Christ on the cross toward sin and sinners so that those who repent and believe in Christ are redeemed. If we agree with Scripture that God loves all His creation, we can also say that He hates it as well due to their rebellion. That seems to be the clear reading of Scripture. I don’t think saying, “God has a holy hatred toward sin and sinners,” calls into question any of God’s other perfections.

  8. Jim G. says

    Hi Jared,

    Let me help you understand why it is wrong to say that God hates sinners in the same way he hates sin.

    First, “sinner” is not the deepest truth of who we are ontologically. “Sinner” may describe our present condition but it is not fundamentally who we are. Fundamentally, we are the creation of God and are the bearers of his image. We are so valuable to God the Father that he sent the Son to become one of us for all eternity. Moreover, the same Son died, rose again, and ascended on high, to become the head of the new redeemed human race that is united with him in its sonship to the Father. All human beings are called to be a part of this new, re-created race. Anyone who carries such a high calling (whether that call is responded to or not) cannot be a subject of God’s hatred.

    Second, in the incarnation, we see the exact opposite of hatred of God toward sinners. Jesus shared table fellowship (the closest kind of communion in that culture) with the untouchable. Lepers, tax collectors, and prostitutes shared table with him. In the life of Jesus, God is showing his love toward sinners, not hatred. Even in moments of Jesus’ holy wrath, what he is displaying is far, far from hatred. The key thing to remember here is the person of Jesus Christ is the eternal Son. So it is really God who is acting in love in Christ.

    Third, your statement leads to some real theological and explanatory minefields. “God poured out his hatred on Christ on the cross toward sin and sinners.” Excuse me? The Father poured out hatred on the Son? Where do you find such a sentiment in the Bible or the tradition? You’re a ThM student, Jared, and you should be beyond such sloppy wording. What you are positing is a schizophrenic Father who loves the Son until the cross, hates him while he is on it, and then goes back to loving him again. The most fundamental truth in the universe (not to mention the gospels) is the love that is shared between the Father and the Son. There is no way that love, which sustains all the visible and invisible created world, could be interrupted for six measly hours – no way. Moreover, as far as we are concerned, such a God can hate us one day and love us the next. Can we be really sure that such a hatred won’t return? After all, if the Father hated the Son, how can we be sure we can be safe in his love? What about lapses into sin that we all face? Does that bring the hatred back? Surely you can see that using the word “hate” is not fitting for the “sinner.” Wrath (along with Scripture and Carson), yes; hate, no.

    Finally, there exists an analogous correspondence between earthly fathers and children and the Father and his creation. Now, I realize the correspondence is not exact but there is enough of a correspondence there so that God felt comfortable revealing himself as Father and Son (and Spirit). My three children disobey their mother and me frequently. Do I hate them for it? Do I classify them ontologically as “little reprobates” rather than my beloved children? Must I have an outlet for my righteous hatred before I can accept them in love? (You know the answers to these questions) They do come under my wrath on occasion, but even in that, it is a corrective act of love, rather than one of hate. There is absolutely nothing on the face of this earth that could make me hate one of my children. How much more, then, is the Father’s love than mine? I fail to see how the Father could hate those whom he has called to be his eternal children. Such a love is fully expressed in the great commission.

    I have no problem saying God hates sin. For the above reasons, I have a real problem saying God hates sinners in the same way. Thus, “hate” is not the right word to use.

    Jim G.

    • parsonsmike says

      Jim G.,

      Then the question becomes:
      What about those that God knew would never become His beloved children?

      And, depending on your theological view, that He either could not [due to their unwillingness] or would not [due to His election] save?

      And yet He created the world knowing their destiny, so how can we say He loves them?

      • Jim G. says

        Hi Mike,

        I don’t think that is what the question becomes. God loves because that is who God is. The rich young ruler’s rejection of Jesus’ call did not stop Jesus’ love for him. So God loves regardless of our response to his call.

        Jim G.

        • parsonsmike says

          Jim G.,
          Maybe we are talking past each other.
          What is your definition of love?

          Is it love that saves or something else?

          Does God love those He created and sends to everlasting torment?

        • Jim G. says

          We are talking past each other, Mike.

          A word like love is hard to define, but a stab at it off the top of my head would be a disposition of deep affection where the other’s best interest is elevated above one’s own in a relationship of mutual enjoyment and compassion for the other. I know it is incomplete, but it is off the top of my head.

          Love originates in the relationship between the Father and the Son. Love is the purpose behind creation and making humanity in the image of God. The image at least contains the idea of mutually giving and receiving love to and from both God and humanity. Originally, humanity was created very good and was the unhindered recipient of the love of God. So at one point in time, all humanity was fully loved by God, and if you buy into the entire human race united in Adam, then all humanity from all time was truly loved by God, whether saved or not.

          I’d caution you, Mike, that dividing up humanity into two camps – the saved and the reprobate – with the latter unable to receive the love of God is historically a Manichean position that was roundly condemned by Patristic Christianity. Great pitfalls lie if one takes such a belief to its logical conclusion.

          Jim G.

          • parsonsmike says

            Jim G.,
            I agree with your definition of love:
            a disposition of deep affection where the other’s best interest is elevated above one’s own in a relationship of mutual enjoyment and compassion for the other.

            And for the most part, i agree with your second paragraph.

            And as per your caution, I will look into the condemned Manichean position.

          • parsonsmike says

            Jim G.,
            The Manicheans believed in a gnostic type dualism that divided the world into spiritual good versus physical evil. I fail to see how what I am advocating falls into that line. It is not the flesh itself that is evil for Christ became a real human.

            Nothing I found pointed to the church condemning the Manichean cult/religion due to the idea that there is the elect and the reprobate.

            Do you have any links that might flesh out your objection more fully?

          • Jim G. says

            Hi Mike,

            Look into the writings of the 5th century Gallic monks (John Cassian among them) who accused Augustine of latent Manichaeism on the point of unconditional election. Moreover, Manichaeism had elements of cosmological dualism in it, but it is more nuanced than a simple spirit-matter split between good and evil.

            If one approaches humanity from a nominalistic standpoint, it might be possible to so portion God’s love to only those he saves, but such a nominalism was unknown to the biblical world. Moreover, if all humanity is present in Adam and God’s love for Adam pre-fall is genuine, then so is his love for all humanity pre-fall. It would then follow that God loves those who will eventually turn from him.

            Jim G.

          • Christiane says

            the concept of ‘steadfast love’ which is sometimes also called God’s mercy is something that applies in this instance:
            We learn of God’s steadfast love to those created in His image, when it is said in Psalm 136 about Him, this:

            ” . . . gives bread to all flesh,
            for His mercy endures forever”

          • parsonsmike says

            Jim G.,
            I could see how those who oppose unconditional election would like to link the supporters of it with Manicheanism.

            But as to a nominalistic viewpoint, that is my objection. For it seems that you have God loving in name only the perishing who will perish.

            Again let me point out that God KNEW they would perish and end up in everlasting torment and created the world anyway. How does that square up with your definition of love: a deep affection where the other’s best interest is elevated above one’s own in a relationship of mutual enjoyment and compassion for the other?

            As to God loving Adam and thus must love all people, it doesn’t follow. The Bible, over and over, tells us that it is individuals that earn their own condemnation and that it is individuals that profess the Lord and are saved. That is not nominalistic in the least.

          • Jim G. says

            Thanks for the conversation, Mike. I don’t think we are going to make any sort of headway on a blog. I think we could make some hay face to face, but the time and distance gap in this mode of conversation isn’t working. There are too many variables in how we see things to go into all of them. If you really believe that God does not love those who do not return his love, I don’t think I can change your mind.

            Jim G.

    • says

      Jim, that’s an interesting position. Here’s some questions:

      1) If humans carry the high-calling that you describe, and “cannot be a subject of God’s hatred,” then can they be subject to God’s eternal judgment forever? If not, why? Also, what do you do with the many verses that speak of God’s hatred for sinful humans?

      2) I don’t deny anything that you’ve said about Christ’s and God’s love toward sinners. However, there are numerous examples as well of God’s wrath and hatred toward sinners: The flood, the Canaan-judgment, eternal hell, etc.

      3) You said, “Excuse me? The Father poured out hatred on the Son? Where do you find such a sentiment in the Bible or the tradition? You’re a ThM student, Jared, and you should be beyond such sloppy wording. What you are positing is a schizophrenic Father who loves the Son until the cross, hates him while he is on it, and then goes back to loving him again. The most fundamental truth in the universe (not to mention the gospels) is the love that is shared between the Father and the Son. ”

      I’m not advocating that the Father stopped loving the Son at any point in the crucifixion. I am, however, advocating that the Father poured out His hatred toward sin and sinners on Christ on the cross so much so that the Son cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” Once again, I’m not arguing the Father stopped loving the Son. That’s not a fair representation of my argument.

      4) You said, “I fail to see how the Father could hate those whom he has called to be his eternal children.” Do you believe that our sins make us God’s enemies? “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).” I don’t understand how you can argue all humans are treated like God’s children already prior to salvation without diminishing God’s adoption of sinners, their regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification, and their eternal fellowship with Him. Once again, do you believe God can send “His children (the human race according to you)” to Hell in eternal judgment?

      I think you have a huge misunderstanding of God’s love for sinners which causes you to necessarily diminish His love for His church.

      • Jim G. says

        Hi Jared,

        1. I do not believe judgment, even eternally so, is equivalent to hate. Neither Scripture nor tradition says it is, and I don’t think you or I can prove it to be so. I have a real difficulty seeing how it is possible that God can hate his own image-bearer. Many good theologians have argued that in eternal judgment, what makes the damned soul a human is lost. If that is the case, then perhaps it is possible. But as long as humans carry the image of God, I think hatred is too strong a word to be taken literally. In these “many verses,” is figurative language being employed? If so, we must take it into consideration.

        2. Back to my original reply to you way up the thread. You are using hate and wrath interchangeably. I am making a distinction; I don’t deny wrath. I don’t think hatred, as we understand it, is a proper word to use when speaking of God’s eternal disposition toward humans. Given the entirety of God’s character as revealed in the NT and especially in the person and work of Christ, I think we need to be careful and nuanced when we apply the word “hate” to God’s disposition toward us.

        3. I’m glad to know that you do not see the Father-Son relationship turning to hate for six hours. You do need to word things a little more carefully in such an argument, though. Take that as constructive advice. i still fail to see how the crucifixion is the Father pouring out hatred of sinners on the Son. That assertion needs a lot more unpacking to convince me.

        4. Now who’s being unfair? I said that all people were CALLED to be his children. (Go back and look) I didn’t say all WERE. Before you start accusing me of having “a huge misunderstanding…”, perhaps you should pay closer attention. If God CALLS me (regardless of my response to such a call) from darkness into light, why on earth would he hate me? Is not such a call evidence of an overwhelming love? I’m just not seeing any residue of hate, as you assert, co-existing with his love. You asserted he has it, and I have challenged you on it. Now you are retreating to the topic of eternal judgment and quoting Scripture laced with contrasting figures of speech without any interpretive work to fit them into the whole of God’s revelation. The notion that God hates sinners (as we understand “hate”) cannot stand under close theological scrutiny. That is why I urged you to abandon it and just say God’s wrath abides on sinners. Wrath is defensible; hatred is not.

        Jim G.

        • parsonsmike says

          Jim G.
          “I don’t hate you, I just created the world KNOWING that you would end up in eternal hell, suffering my eternal wrath, and knowing that I could not or would not stop that from happening, BUT I still love you.”
          Somehow, I just can’t see God ever loving those that go to hell.

        • says

          Jim, I don’t think you can chalk up all the times the Bible says God hates sinners to “figurative language.” I don’t think textually that argument is fair to the text. Would you do the same with God’s love toward sinners and/or God’s hatred of sin? God’s hatred is a holy, justified, hatred. His hatred is other than our hatred. He is not human; God’s hatred is a sinless hatred. Also, I don’t think you can separate God’s hatred from His judgment. After all, the Bible describes sinners as God’s enemies. God not only calls sinners to repent, but also promises to send them to an eternal hell forevermore if they don’t. He has fixed His love on His enemies.

          Can you give me some Scriptural examples that justifies interpreting God’s hatred of sinners figuratively?

          • Jim G. says

            Yes, I can. I went to Blue Letter Bible (a great resource by the way), chose the NIV translation, and checked every time the Bible uses the words “hate”, “hates” or “hated.” I only list those times where God is said to hate someone (hating deeds does not count – we agree there) It only applied to God in the following verses:

            Ps 5:5: “You hate all who do wrong.” The hating here is connected with the actions of men rather than the men themselves. In other words, if the men do right, they will no longer be hated. I believe this to be a common theme in the psalter.

            Jer 12:8 (speaking of Israel) “I hate her” (this passage is loaded with figurative language)

            Ps 11:5 “The wicked …the [Lord’s] soul hates” – I think this can be explained as a figurative personification because the hatred of God is connected with the actions of men, that is, he hates due to the actions they perform.

            Hosea 9:1 God hated Israel in Gilgal (with the way Hosea concludes, this is figurative, as God’s love overcomes)

            Mal 1:3 and Rom 9:13 “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.” (figurative – contrast)

            That’s it, Jared. Unless I am missing a text (and I did look), these are the only 6 places in Scripture where God is said to “hate” people. Only Psalm 5 and Psalm 11 are not explicitly figurative within context, except that they are instances of Hebrew poetry, where figurative language is part and parcel of the genre. The Jeremiah, Hosea, Malachi (and by extension Romans) texts are figurative, which does not dismiss God’s strong feelings, but lends me (and most other interpreters of Scripture) to conclude that we have to at least qualify the meaning of “hate” based on usage. Note that every use of “hate” comes from the psalms or prophets, where we would expect figurative language to abound. It is instructive (not counting Paul’s quotation of Malachi) that there are no instances in any narrative OT literature or anywhere in the NT that God is said to hate people. I don’t think your case for hatred of sinners passes the exegetical or hermeneutical test. It already fails the theological one. I’d abandon it.

            Jim G.

          • says

            Jim, you forgot Proverbs 6:12-19, which reads, “12 A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, 13 winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger,14 with perverted heart devises evil, continually sowing discord;15 therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.16 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil,19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

            Notice how Solomon goes from describing the sinner, to describing God’s hatred of the sin, then God’s hatred of the sinner.

            Once again, if God’s hatred is a holy, just, righteous hatred, and yet, He still loves sinners, I don’t understand why you would be so against it, as if hate is beneath God. Hate is His righteous response to sin and sinners. Yet, He chooses to love His enemies as well. I think this reality makes His love that much more amazing. He’s not required to save any sinner, yet He so chooses to save us due to His choice to love us. I believe He loves Satan and those in Hell as well since they’re part of His creation.

          • Jim G. says

            “I don’t understand why you would be so against it, as if hate is beneath God.”

            I’ll say this one LAST time. When the Bible says God “hates,” we must qualify such language in the larger theological picture of his love. Otherwise, we have God hating and loving the same people at the same “time.” My point in the last couple of posts has been that the qualifications we must make are already there, built into the text itself in the form of figurative language. Every example of God’s hatred for individuals that either you or I have uncovered is loaded with figures of speech that qualify the word “hate” to mean something less than pure hatred, which is then consonant with the large volume of biblical texts emphasizing the love of God. You have not made a compelling case for God’s hatred of individuals. Your case rests on wisdom and prophetic literature that is loaded with figurative expressions that add emphasis to a point. Even in your strongest texts, a good argument could be made that what God is really hating is the sin, rather than the sinner.

            If you place love and hate on such apparently equal footing (as I read your OP to suggest), then, since God’s love is something rooted and grounded in his eternal triune self, what is the rooting and grounding of God’s hatred?

            Jim G.

          • says

            Jim, I’m just trying to believe what the text says, instead of trying to “qualify” what is clear in Scripture. It makes more sense textually to argue that God hates sin and sinners while also loving them. That’s clearly what the Bible teaches.

            Also, there’s more evidence than you’re letting on: God’s judgment in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the eternal nature of Hell. You act as if God doesn’t want to send the unrepentant to Hell. That’s just not how the Bible describes God’s judgment. God is not reluctant about sending the unrepentant to Hell. Sure, He wants all to repent and be saved, the Bible clearly says so, but if they don’t repent, He’s not weeping eternally over their torment. On the contrary, consider how the elders worship God for His holy wrath in Rev. 11:15-18:

            “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” (Rev 11:15–18; cf. 6:9–11; 15:1–8; 18:20)

            To answer your question, love is part of God’s ontology, hate isn’t. Holiness, however, is part of God’s ontology. And, God’s holy response to sin and sinners is holy hatred. He, however, is not required to love His enemies; yet He so chooses to love. He chooses to love His enemies (those He hates).

            Do you believe that God had to save sinners once humanity fell into sin, since they’re created in His image?

          • Jim G. says

            All right, Jared. Since you want to be faithful to the text, you’d better hate that young woman your avatar picture too. Jesus said that if you love him, you have to hate her. That’s what the Bible clearly teaches in Luke 14:26. You are going to have to love her as Christ loved you, but you need to hate her in order to be Jesus’ disciple. So you too can hate her and love her at the same time. How’s that workin’ for ya?

            By the way, where does it say IN THE TEXT that hatred of sin is a function of holiness? If you are going to be faithful to Scripture, where is it?

            Jim G.

          • says

            Jim, if you’ll take the time to answer the couple questions I’ve asked you: 1) about Proverbs 6:12-19 and 2) if you believe God had to save humans since they are created in His image, I’ll be happy to try and answer your questions as well.

          • Jim G. says

            Hi Jared,

            As to Proverbs 6:12-19, I think there is enough figurative language there to give us a great deal of pause before constructing a theology of hatred for sinners. Does God hate only the “look”, the “tongue”, the “hands”, the “heart”, and the “feet?” Or are these figures that represent the person or the act? That’s an interpretive question. Based on my theological leanings, I would side with the act rather than the person. Now, as to the false witness or the discord sower, even if I were to grant that God is showing hatred for the person (which I do not in the case of such a proverb), the text only shows that God hates liars and troublemakers. You must practice theological reflection to extrapolate God’s hatred out to all sinners – the thief, the murderer, the adulterer, and the like. Why are you allowed to do such a thing (take theological liberties with a text and extrapolate meaning) yet say I cannot when I am doing the exact same thing (qualifying such a hatred of individuals)? Don’t you see you are doing the same action, just in the opposite direction?

            Did God have to save? No, likely not, but I cannot imagine a different scenario (that is, one where he does not save). I believe Jesus was coming in human flesh from the beginning of creation and would have incarnated whether sin occurred or not. The remediation component in salvation is such a small part of the whole saving picture anyway. Whether or not God HAS to save isn’t the right question to ask anyway. The right question is whether or not he WANTS to. And that answer is plainly “yes.”

            Okay, I’ve answered your questions as you asked. Now answer mine. Do you both love and hate that young lady (whom I presume is your wife)?

            Jim G.

          • says

            Jim, I don’t think you have textual warrant to argue that God doesn’t really hate sinners in the various passages I’ve cited. My point is that you can’t think “God hates sinners” is figurative and think “God hates sin” is literal. Concerning Christ’s words about us hating our family members in Luke 14:26 in order to follow him, I think He means that we’re to love Him more than our families (Matt. 10:37). There’s textual warrant to think that Christ is using a figure of speech to make His point. After all, we’re to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39).

            First, showing that there are figures of speech in Scripture doesn’t prove your point. There must be textual warrant to justify that someone is speaking figuratively, and I think you’ve already made your decision before you’ve interpreted these various texts. You’ve already decided, “God cannot hate His creation,” therefore, when you read that God hates humans, you think “that must be figurative.”

            Second, I don’t understand your question concerning if I love and hate my wife. After all, we’re talking about God, not humans. God is ontologically other than us in holiness. He is justified in His hatred of evil humans. We aren’t. Yet, one day, we too will be justified in our hatred of humans (those who’ve rebelled against God – Isaiah 66:22-24). We will praise God for His righteous justice.

            Third, God’s judgment of sinners in Hell is not a passive judgment. He is actively involved in their torment. He sustains their lives and keeps the flames burning. This is His just and righteous response.

            Fourth, Hell is not for the betterment of those in Hell. Hell is the just penalty of rebellion against a holy God. Hell, however, is for the betterment of those in heaven, for their enemies and God’s enemies have been slain. God has kept His promises and the martyrs have been avenged (Rev. 6:10-11).

          • Jim G. says

            I see.

            Jesus’ use of “hate” is so obviously figurative but the use of “hate” toward God is so obviously not – because Jesus tells us to love, he can’t really mean hate; But God, who is love and says he so loves the world, can actively hate those who disobey him. With Jesus, hate does not mean hate, but with God, hate means hate. Why? Because you say so. Got it. That makes absolutely perfect sense, Jared.

            Any further conversation on this issue with you is pointless. You pick and choose how you apply figurative language, but all the while think you are “following Scripture.” I have shown you textual warrant for every figure of speech where the Bible declares God’s hatred, yet you refuse to see it. All the while, you take every liberty with interpretation you want while denying any to me. As long as you get to make your own rules, then your interpretation will always be correct. Enjoy your kingdom.

            Jim G.

    • parsonsmike says

      One could see how justice demands wrath.
      So one could see that despite God’s feelings toward sinners, he must justly condemn them for their sins, unless their sin punishment had already been paid. [By their being under the blood of Jesus].

      A good and righteous human judge must condemn the guilty that come before him despite his own feelings toward them

      But such a viewpoint only looks at God from the end point. from judgment day.
      In that, it is flawed.

      To those who ascribe to God’s infinite foreknowledge, we have a God who created knowing the unfortunate and horrific destinies of million upon millions, and created anyway.
      [And if you are an open theist, I have another argument for you].

      But for those who are not, please don’t close your eyes to one picture of God because it seemingly distorts your preferred view of Him. It is closing one’s eyes to truth that brings distortion.

  9. parsonsmike says

    The Lord God said to the serpent,

    “Because you have done this,
    cursed are you above all livestock
    and above all beasts of the field;
    on your belly you shall go,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life.
    I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
    he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.”

    Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

    Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

    Those never saved are not the lost for we also are told, “Seek and you shall find…” if Jesus can not find, how can we?

  10. Christiane says

    New Advent has a really good write-up on
    John Cassian and his references to Augustine, if anyone cares to read it.

  11. says

    Jim G. I was so glad to read your comments as you said a lot of what I’ve been saying (while arguing with the screen as I commonly do, lol).
    My main problems with what was posted are that
    1. Wrath and anger are not the same. The entire article seemed to equate the two.
    2. I recently read in a study on Malachi by Lisa Harper that “in the ancient Near Eastern language of Malachi, the antonyms of love and hate are not indicative of petty human emotion…the biblical idiom “to hate” usually means to love someone or something less rather than to have extreme animosity for someone or something.” So if we were to use the term “hate” to describe God’s feeling toward sinners then it behooves us to look into what the word or idiom actually meant/implied.
    3. I also felt that some of his supporting scripture didn’t actually back what he was saying.

    There were things I agreed with, but I disagreed with the “God hates the sinner” stance. After reading all of the comments I really feel very strongly about the trap of equating wrath with hatred.

    I feel way out of my league here but I felt strongly enough to post my two cents anyway.

  12. Frank L. says

    “”Any further conversation on this issue with you is pointless.””

    Jim, I think you have discovered that when someone makes a commitment to a particular argument, any concession of any kind is like a fan blowing on a house of cards. The fan simply cannot be allowed in the room.

    It is amazing to me how the word “text” is sort of a magic word, or a talisman for some people. The word itself prevents any kind of discussion. The word as often used means, since God agrees with me, you must be wrong.

    Jim, I get what you are saying and I think God agrees with you for the most part.

    God bless.