Does God hate people? (A response to Mark Driscoll)

Mark Driscoll created another controversy recently in a sermon when he told his listeners that God hates some of them.

Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is “meritous.”. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you, He hates them too. God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.

Driscoll specifically attacked the old adage that “God hates the sin but loves the sinner,” explaining that this saying was not Biblical, but was actually from Gandhi (who is in hell, Driscoll made sure to clarify, because he’s not Christian). Driscoll then stated emphatically, “God doesn’t just hate what you do; He hates who you are.” He then proceeded to prooftext some psalms where it says that God hates “evildoers” (rather than just “evil-doing”), clear evidence that God doesn’t love everybody, which is apparently the most important thing that Mark Driscoll has to teach us about God.

If you’re wondering where in the world this guy is coming from, he’s the product of a form of theology which defines God’s holiness as an intolerance for imperfection: because God is infinitely perfect, things we do that don’t seem like a big deal to us are a big deal to Him. So because God is a perfectionist, He hates His fallen creatures more than He loves them, but His hate is deflected from a certain subset of people who He picked out before the beginning of time because He got to shoot out their portion of His wrath all over His son on the cross instead.

I guess it might make me hell-bound in Driscoll’s eye, but I tend to be a more of a “God hates the sin but loves the sinner” kind of Christian. I know that the closer I grow to God, the more I hate my own sin, but I’ve also found that God wins the trust necessary for me to hate my sin by loving me unconditionally so that my eyes can be opened. When I’m hard-headed, God often breaks me with His wrath, but it’s because He loves me, not because His need for immaculateness supersedes His desire to draw me (kicking and screaming) into perfect communion with Him. God hates sin because He loves us and wants to be absolutely intimate with us, which is impossible as long as we “love darkness instead of light because [our] deeds are evil” (John 3:19). Where people go wrong in my opinion is when they see God’s wrath and God’s love as binary opposites instead of interdependent qualities that work together to achieve the same purpose, like a hard-nosed football coach who reams out his quarterback ruthlessly in practice to make him tough, but holds him for five minutes without a word while he sobs after losing a close game.

That aside, let’s say that Mark Driscoll is right and that God really does hate certain people to the bone and has no useful purpose for creating them other than to use them as “objects of wrath,” like the pharaoh of Egypt (Exodus 5-11) and the Assyrian emperor (Isaiah 8), who oppress God’s people in order to give their faith journey meaning. If this is true, then we ought to gain some idea of who God hates by looking at who Jesus hates since “anyone who has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Who did Jesus hate? Was it the tax collectors who were cheating people out of their money? Was it the prostitutes who spread disease and wrecked families by dishonoring the sacred act that God gave to humanity for our physical intimacy? Was it the Samaritans who worshiped a whole buffet of gods along with the Jewish God Yahweh? None of the above. Jesus wasn’t always nice to people. But there was only one set of  people whom He told, “You belong to your father, the devil” (John 8:44), whom He referred to as “child[ren] of hell” (Matthew 23:15), and whom He said were on their way to “being condemned to hell” (Matthew 23:33). Jesus had a lot of interactions with people who had done bad things, but He did not use extremely inflammatory language like this about anyone besides the Pharisees (except perhaps for calling his best friend Peter “Satan” when he was being a tool and calling a Syrophoenician woman !@#$%^&* which I still have no adequate explanation for).

It probably isn’t a very original observation to say that most of what is wrong with American Christianity today is that we have become like the Pharisees Jesus hated. I really believe that a major part of what the gospels are supposed to teach us is how not to be a Pharisee (a lesson that few American Christians seem interested in learning). What is it about the Pharisees that made Jesus hate them so much? Now someone will say, “Well, of course, the Pharisees were wrong, they didn’t believe in Jesus, end of story,” as though this one distinction invalidates any attempt to make an analogous comparison between Pharisees then and Christians today who act like them.

What does Jesus Himself say about why He hates the Pharisees? Let’s take a look at Matthew 23 where He goes off on a tirade against them.

Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues.
[vv. 5-6]

Phylacteries were little pouches that Pharisees wore on their arms which were filled with Bible verses, following the injunction in Deuteronomy 11:18 to “tie [the words of Torah] as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” The writer of Deuteronomy was being figurative about the need to “fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds,” but the Pharisees exploited this as an opportunity to engage in a piety competition which had nothing to do with devoting themselves to Torah and everything to do with showing other people how devoted they were to the Torah. As Jesus says, “Everything they do is done for people to see.” There are people like this in our churches who need everyone else to see how enthusiastic they are about praising God and hear how Biblically literate they are. Guess what? Jesus can’t stand you!

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [v. 13]

Some people feel like their role in the body of Christ is to be the gatekeepers of the kingdom of heaven especially if it involves being “politically incorrect” (which purportedly gets you bonus points with God for “standing in the gap” against “worldly compromise”). If you get a rush out of telling other people off in the name of Jesus, then it’s important to examine whether you simply relish the power of being a self-appointed bouncer for heaven. As Jesus says here, when what you live for is shutting the door of heaven in other peoples’ faces, you end up shutting yourself out of His kingdom.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. [v. 15]

Evangelism as conquest is an abomination and blasphemy to the name of God. When your purpose in sharing the gospel with others is to make them “twice as much a child of hell as you are,” then you are not really sharing the gospel, despite the fact that you might be quoting words from the Bible and tallying up how many people you strong-arm into praying Jesus into their hearts. The good news is that God uses even our miserable, abominable sinful misrepresentation of Him to His glory. Despite the fact that European civilization used Christian evangelism as the pretext for conquering and enslaving millions of people over half a millennium, God worked anyway to develop a version of Christianity in the cotton fields of the southern United States and the sugarcane plantations of Latin America that had way more integrity than the Christianity that masters used to justify beating their slaves. When this real Christianity is allowed to evangelize a modern-day Pharisee who thinks he’s got it already figured out, then a child of hell gets rescued (or at least that’s what happened to me).

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. [v. 23]

So what do Christians in our day do instead of justice, mercy, and faithfulness? Much of what we call “morality” today serves the purpose of being an alternative to justice, mercy, faithfulness.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. [v. 27]

Evangelicals today are very good at calling out works-righteousness, but the way we set ourselves apart as Christians is often in terms of our own set of “Thou shalt nots” which have more to do with middle-class social values (no drinking, no sex, no cussing) than Biblical priorities. The point of realizing what Jesus has done for us is so that we can experience an inner transformation and be filled with the fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). How we conduct ourselves on the outside is secondary to the internal surrender to God that produces these fruits.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started! [vv. 29-32]

So many evangelicals today revere the prophets of our past like Martin Luther and John Calvin, who were very controversial and unpopular in their day, but then ferociously attack the prophets of today. Who would Martin Luther and John Calvin be in our context? Or have we arrived at the “end of history” where we’ve finally gotten everything right and there’s nothing left to critique? Every age the church goes through has its own stagnation, worldly idolatries, and heresies, which create a need for prophetic critics. That doesn’t mean that everyone criticizing the church today is a legitimate prophet, but we should be listening very closely to the way that God is calling us to task for our idolatries and heresies. And it may be the case that the shrillest of the discernmentalists are the biggest heretics of all.

So in conclusion, I would say that Mark Driscoll is right in a way: Jesus hates Pharisees because they dedicate their lives to sabotaging His mission of sharing God’s love with the world. In trying to be the ultimate insiders, they become the ultimate counter-revolutionaries. Another way of saying this is God hates people who hate His grace (even if they’re in love with their doctrine of grace).

But… I don’t think Pharisees have to stay Pharisee. At least I know that every time I start to act like a Pharisee, God pours out His wrath on me and helps me remember that I’m just a worthless Samaritan without Him, but part of something more beautiful than I could ever be on my own because of His grace.

  • http://www.whatthehellbook.com Jackson Baer

    Jesus doesn’t hate anyone. He is love and love cannot hate in that way. He can hate sin and what it does but He cannot hate a person.

    http://www.whatthehellbook.com/the-book/

    • Morgan Guyton

      I generally agree with you, but I think as long as I stay a pharisee, Jesus isn’t going to want to have anything to do with me. Part of this is I’m playing along with Mark Driscoll’s premise (which I would otherwise reject) and asking who does God really hate if He has to hate somebody.

  • jeff

    great post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670629923 Evelyn Wenzel

    Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. [v. 23]
    So what do Christians in our day do instead of justice, mercy, and faithfulness? Much of what we call “morality” today serves the purpose of being an alternative to justice, mercy, faithfulness. –

    one point is the other thing we want to do is things like tithe or give money to charity, pick an angel tree (to buy a present for at church), send a shoebox with small toys or items to orphans somewhere, or give food to a food bank (giving a tenth of your spices-mint-dill and cumin) instead of actually mininstering to the people around us in real tangible ways (being champions of justice, mercy and faithfulness). Not that any of those things are bad but although bellies may be filled by foodbanks, people donating food don’t build relationships with the people receiving food (usually). They are more of an aside thing, possibly good to do (although some forms I have my own doubts about having grown up as a receiver of much of this kind of charity) but in no way are they a substitute for building relationships with broken and hurting people. And truthfully if they appease our conscience and keep us from doing the real work we need to do (bringing justice, mercy and faithfulness to those broken around us) they are probably doing more bad than good.

    Everything else though I couldn’t have said better myself. I always love your perspective.

    • Morgan Guyton

      Mission has to be relational! Amen.

  • Mirche Tanchev

    I think that Mark Driscoll has something important to say on Ps. 5, 5 or Ps. 11, 6 to modern stereotipic “hate” and “love”, but how is he understood (from me at first) is perhaps something else.

    There are indeed times of hate too (Eccl. 3) and it is no question that God hates the sin. But the question is, what if God indeed hates as He loves the sinner too? If this “time of hate” is the only way to eternal love with God, then I have to fear God at first, and not only to love with some modern stereotypic love, because the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Luk. 12, 5). Our Lord Jesus Christ is not teaching us to hate our enemy or one another, except if we start to hate ourselfs first in this world (“to hate my life in this world” as the only way to keep my life (soul) unto life eternal – John 12, 25), or our relatives (»If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple« – Luke 14, 26).

    This is indeed a question about the priority in our hearts! »Sanctify the LORD of hosts Himself; and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.« (Isa. 8, 13; 1. Pet. 3, 15-16 »in your hearts … with … fear«!) »therefore, my beloved, … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.« (Phil. 2, 12) »For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness« (Rom. 1, 18) »But seek ye first the reign of God and His righteousness« (Mat. 6, 33a), »For what have I also those without to judge? those within do ye not judge? And those without God doth judge; and put ye away the evil from among yourselves.« – 1. Cor. 5, 12–13.

    God loves the sinner too, but in Christ Jesus only. »For I am not ashamed of the gospel of the Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to every one who is believing, both to Jew first, and to Greek. For the righteousness of God in it is revealed from faith to faith, according as it hath been written, `And the righteous one by faith shall live,’ (Rom. 1, 16–17) Therefore Mark Driscoll is speaking about the gospel according to John Chapter 3, 3. 18. 36!

    • Morgan Guyton

      I think it’s important to understand that we’re talking about God analogously. “Hate” and “love” are inherently inadequate descriptors. God has “hated” me at times precisely because He loved me. And in fact the moments when I’ve been humiliated and brought down to earth are the moments when I’ve known that God is showing His tough love.

      I disagree with you about the sequence of discipleship. It’s through learning how much God loves me that I become vulnerable enough to learn how ugly my sin is and hate it like God does. It is not through hearing about how angry God is that I come to learn how much He loves me. Sometimes people need to be hit over the head by a two by four, but I don’t think that the measure of the truth in what someone’s preaching is how offensive it is to “modern sensibilities.” Fred Phelps (the “God hates fags” preacher) would be the most faithful prophet of God’s truth according to this standard of measurement.

      It seems to me that people like Mark Driscoll need for the gospel to be unpalatable so that it’s “hard” to accept and thus they can get credit for having made a “sacrifice” in accepting it. But God desires mercy not sacrifice. We don’t earn God’s acceptance through stomaching “tough” truths about Him any more than we earn His acceptance through sacramental rituals or an ascetic lifestyle. We are living through an era of rampant doctrinal Pelagianism. Many of these neo-Calvinists who decry works-righteousness as a concept end up exhibiting works-righteousness in the faith that they put in their doctrinal correctness to save them, instead of the person of Jesus Christ.

      • Mirche Tanchev

        It seems to me that God’s love and His hate are both helping me to love and hate as it is written in the bible, but also to realize more fully the amazing sinfulness of sin. Therefore it seems to me that the problem is not in the understanding of His “tough love” as His “hate”.

        • Morgan Guyton

          “It seems to me that God’s love and His hate are both helping me to love and hate as it is written in the bible, but also to realize more fully the amazing sinfulness of sin.”

          There’s something Gnostic about going on and on about how amazingly sinful sin is. What I mean is that it seems like a “secret knowledge” that everybody around you talks about so you feel like you’re supposed to talk the same way they’re doing whether or not you really believe what you’re saying. I’ve seen a lot of people pretend to realize how amazingly sinful they are, but they prove that it’s all a front by how little it bothers them to be completely un-Christlike towards other people.

          The closer we get to God, the less tolerance we have for subtle things like our pride and envy that we mask underneath a pious exterior, but God’s mercy is what enables us to face our dark side. If fear (in the 21st century English sense as opposed to the ancient Hebraic word yore) was a sufficient motivating tool for making us obedient to God, then the law would be enough to make us righteous. What changes us from being hypocrites who hide our inadequacies into grateful sinners is a realization of God’s mercy, not having God’s hate drilled into us.

          “Therefore it seems to me that the problem is not in the understanding of His ‘tough love’ as His ‘hate’.”

          Explain this line further.

      • Mirche Tanchev

        If there is no repentance God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. He resisteth because he loves the proud too. But he gives him grace if he repents. If not God’s wrath and not his mercy remains upon him (John. 3, 36) and not only upon His pride but upon the proud too! And he resists the sinner and not only the sin, because he is a holy and remains faithful to his righteousness and holy testament.

  • Morgan Guyton

    And another question: who do you think are the analogue today to the Pharisees that Jesus hated so much 2000 years ago?

  • Brent

    I’m a bit surprised as to the fact that you fail to reference Driscoll’s reference to which you disagree. Driscoll is referencing Scripture when he suggests that God hates the wicked. Specifically, he references Esau, Jacobs brother. Furthermore, he is referencing the Biblical doctrine of predestination. Esau was not among the elect; the chosen line from Abraham that lead to Christ and eventually His Church. Those people are referenced as the Children of the Promise. Esau was not part of that covenant. Esau voluntarily sold his birthright, just as the sinner voluntarily sells his birthright to adoption from the Father. I am in no way making reference to a doctrine of free will. I do not believe such a doctrine can exist if God is sovereign (which I absolutely believe and Scripture proves throughout the Old and New Testaments). What I do argue is that sin comes from the heart. In fact, I cannot make the case for that any better than Christ Himself does. If I do not have the Holy Spirit, my heart is wicked by default and God does not revere me as His child. It is about heart attitude and this is a central theme of the Bible as it refers to man since Genesis 3. If God loves everybody unconditionally, then why does He not let everyone into Heaven unconditionally? Why would atonement be necessary at all, and moreover, why would faith in Christ on our part be necessary? What you argue for, I call heresy. Your argument does not stand. There absolutely is a condition to be in the presence of God’s absolute holiness. It is faith in Christ, for He is the propitiation. Anything short of that does not meet the condition, to put it simply. It is actually much more complex than that, especially once we start talking about the Biblical doctrine of predestination but this is the basic thought. God hates the wicked. If He did not hate the wicked, then why did He destroy them all in Genesis 6-7? God does show mercy and grace to the elect. That is what makes Him the ever-loving God. But He also shows wrath and issues eternal judgment. You seem to qualify discipline as wrath. The two are not one in the same. God’s wrath is His righteous judgement to the wicked. God’s discipline is His mercy to the Church. Those are two completely different things. Sorry, but your doctrine appears to be flawed. Driscoll rightfully references this as an argument for the doctrine of election. For the Christian, this is wonderful news. It means that for some reason that I will never fully understand, God chose me as part of the mystery of His Divine purpose. God is in no way obligated to choose anyone for His Kingdom. It is all according to His grace, but it is for a specific purpose. Paul clearly makes this case in Romans 8.

    Matthew 7:21-2321 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

    Jesus is clear there is He not?

    Grace and peace fellow Christian. Do not let friendly discussion turn sour. But stand firm in your conviction and make the case for Christ. Defend what is true.

    • Morgan Guyton

      I quoted Driscoll’s sermon. He pulled the youtube video down. The question I’m asking is simple. Who are the Pharisees today? Because those are the people who Jesus calls children of the devil and children of hell, not the prostitutes and tax collectors. The same people Jesus talks about in Matthew 7:21-23 are the people he’s talking about in Matthew 23. Have you ever read Matthew 23? I know it’s not one of John Calvin’s top ten verses. I imagine that you’re as locked into your reformed theology as I am into my Wesleyan theology so I’m not sure it’s worth the energy of rehashing the same old debates. But I do think it’s worth asking yourself whether the reason you’re attracted to an unpalatable gospel is that you’re “earning” your salvation by accepting something that offends other people’s sensibilities. How important is it to you that the truth be offensive to others? Is your rubric for measuring the truth how offensive it is? Because I really think that we are living through an era of rampant doctrinal works-righteousness in which the work that supposedly “saves” is agreeing with a bitter-tasting gospel.

      I just don’t want to have a theology that makes me a self-righteous Pharisee. I want for God’s mercy to reign in my heart. I want to surrender perfectly to the Holy Spirit so that every day my soul looks more and more like Galatians 5:22-23. From what I’ve seen, the figs off the neo-Reformed tree are not good for eating so I’ll stick to my Wesleyan figs instead.

  • http://nailtothedoor.com Dan Martin

    Morgan, this is an excellent post, which I’m going to link on my NTD facebook page as well as my own profile. Even those who disagree with you above, accurately recognize that the hatred Driscoll is talking about is the inevitable conclusion of a predestinarian view which says God has chosen–even created–most people with no hope and no destination but hell. Of course this notion is offensive to anyone who has actually studied the character of God as portrayed throughout the scriptures, as opposed to merely pulling out some convenient Calvinist prooftexts.

    Your turning the tables on these modern-day Pharisees is brilliant. Good work!

    • Morgan Guyton

      Thanks Dan. I’m going to be writing more about the phenomenon I understand to be doctrinal Pelagianism, earning salvation through accepting a bitter gospel, which I believe is the heresy of our time.

    • Mirche Tanchev

      @Dan: I can understand your bias about the biblical predestinarian view perhaps with some hyper-calvinistic understanding of election and hate, but for me as wesleyan united methodist this bias is a narrowness of spirit which we should avoid and abhor. Every kind of bigotry too, because we can still learn a lot from each other if we have still ears to hear, yes, also in positive sense e.g. from Mark Driscoll and from Brent’s comment now too, and not only how not to be like them! In this sence the modern Pharisees who is showing with the finger on the others can be me too. How often is the same temper found in us who pray please God have mercy on me, because I am not like this calvinist brother? (or somthing like that…)

      • Morgan Guyton

        There are certainly things to learn from the neo-Reformed perspective. Tim Keller’s Generous Justice is brilliant. John Piper’s Desiring God is too. I bought Driscoll’s book called Doctrine and haven’t yet been ready to crack it open because I’m worried he’s going to anger me with his mocking tone. I know that part of how he appeals to his particular audience is to talk disparagingly about metrosexual hipster Christians, but he pretty well loses credibility with me when he does that. He just seems like another member of the outrage industrial complex, only slightly different in who he hates than people like Glenn Beck.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1241063000 Dan Martin

        Mirche, I understand and receive your criticism about “narrowness of spirit.” If it were just a matter of doctrinal squabbles, I’d agree with you…and I certainly did not mean it to be read in that way. However, I do think that the notion that God created some people for no other purpose than to suffer forever is abhorrent and flies in the face of the character of the Father. It’s not a matter of peripheral doctrine, it’s a matter of fundamentally blaspheming the character of a good and loving God…not a universalist who makes everybody happy, but certainly not the monster that deliberately willed some people to torment and suffering. It is not about me and my theology…it IS about who we represent God to be!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1241063000 Dan Martin

        I should correct my language above…”blaspheme” is the wrong word…”misrepresent” or “malign” would have been better.

  • Morgan Guyton

    Whatever else is true, Mirche, “He mocks proud mockers, but shows favor to the humble.” (Prov 3:34). That’s true no less for me than for Mark Driscoll. I hope that God kicks me into the dirt whenever I blaspheme His name by being a proud mocker. It’s so easy to slip from prophetic zeal into proud mocking. I do it all the time.

    • Mirche Tanchev

      @Morgan: Thanks for the Proverb about the proud mockers and God who mocks with such mockers. Ap. Paul had learnt such a “ridicule” temper of humbleness, when he rejoiced that Christ was preached, even by those who were his personal enemies: »what then? in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed – and in this I rejoice, yea, and shall rejoice.« What then? Rejoice? Yup: Rejoice! :)

  • April Emery

    “he’s the product of a form of theology which defines God’s holiness as an intolerance for imperfection”

    God is intolerant because He is HOLY. HOLY cannot mingle with sin. JESUS stepped in the gap for us to divert God’s wrath.

    THAT is what you are missing.

    The problem with emergent theology is that you overlook (or maybe even ignore) God’s holiness, divine judgement, uniqueness of Christ, human depravity and the necessity of new birth.

    I have nothing else to say.

    • Morgan Guyton

      Thanks for sharing. I really hope you do have other things to say, because I’d like to learn from talking with you. Be careful about using labels like “emergent,” as I do not self-identify that way. I am not the same person as whoever else you have been arguing with so try not to superimpose their identities on top of me. I am simply a fellow Christian wanting to know God’s truth in a way that I can understand and share with other people.

      The main point of this article (which perhaps you didn’t get to) is that Matthew 23 makes it pretty clear who Jesus hates: the Pharisees. Whenever anybody talks about who or what God hates, part of how we understand that must be shaped by what Jesus had to say about the Pharisees. Our understanding of sin needs to be more sophisticated than just thinking in terms of following a list of “Thou shalt nots.” The Pharisees followed all the “Thou shalt nots” but they were consumed by self-righteousness. In the same way, today, we can say all the right things doctrinally and be utterly detestable to God because of how self-righteous we are. The main heresy in Christianity today is doctrinal works-righteousness, where we put our trust in the correctness of what we believe rather than in Jesus Himself. Faith is not a checklist of doctrinal propositions that we agree to about Jesus; it’s trusting in Christ’s atonement enough that we stop trying to justify our sins before God, which is repugnant to Him.

      It is an impoverishment of the concept of holiness to reduce it to meaning intolerance for imperfection. Understand this is different than saying that God tolerates sin. It is true that holiness cannot mingle with sin, but that’s not because God’s an angry, spiteful supernatural American Idol judge. It’s because we will hate our ugliness in the presence of God’s beauty without the atonement of Christ’s blood and that will cause us to hate God and experience the light of His truth as eternal torture.

      God’s holiness is described throughout the Bible in terms of His love and solidarity with the victims of sin. God’s holiness and His love are not two contradictory qualities. They are fully integrated inside of one another. God hates sin because He hates what hurts the people whom He loves. Where I disagree with Driscoll is that I think God hates sin BECAUSE He loves us while Driscoll wants to very emphatically say that God doesn’t just hate sin; He hates us as people. He’s trying to be extreme and controversial, but His scriptural basis for saying it this way is very tenuous. It’s very dangerous to proof-text from the psalms, which Driscoll does, since their purpose is not to give us overarching theological norms but to give us the model for how we should pray. Just because it’s okay to pray, “I hate those who hate you” (Ps 139:21) as a way of confessing our zeal before God doesn’t mean that Psalm 139:21 gets to trump Jesus’ call to love our enemies, for example. The Hebrew word sane (hate) doesn’t mean the opposite of ahav (love) anyway.

      Here is a more drawn-out, scripturally based argument for what I’m saying above. I’d be interested to hear how this sounds to you. http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/article/entry/1575/learning-to-love-gods-judgment.
      Bless you sister! I’m saying a prayer for your friend.

      • April Emery

        Following your argument I can see why you beleive what you do, but I don’t buy into it. I have browsed your posts and read a few … the disagreement with Chan’s Erasing Hell, etc … and I really just don’t agree with you. :/ Erasing Hell and books like Why We’re Not Emergent expose some of the falacies within emergent circles. This is the mindset where I am coming from … just to give you an idea :/

        Thanks for your prayers.

        • Morgan Guyton

          I haven’t read “Why We’re Not Emergent.” I had some specific issues with “Erasing Hell” because Chan totally bent the Biblical text to fit his argument which is precisely what he accused Rob Bell of doing. Try to transcend the tribal loyalties. I’m a total hypocrite to say that. I’m probably about as passionate about fighting what I perceive to be heresies within neo-reformed theology as you are about opposing emergent Christianity (which I’m not necessarily an advocate for).

          The reason that Paul tells Timothy to avoid heresy is because “it promotes controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith” (1 Tim 1:4). Don’t take my word for it. Read the context around that verse and look for Paul’s underlying practical concern with false doctrines. The point of having right doctrine (orthodoxy) is to “advance God’s work” (orthopraxis). St. Augustine wrote in De Doctrina Christiana (which was one of Calvin’s favorite books) that our measure of whether we are interpreting the Bible correctly is whether it brings us to love of God and neighbor since all the law and prophets hang on those two. That’s not to say that what we believe is insignificant by any stretch. It’s very significant because heresy really can keep us from “advancing God’s work” when it prevents us from having the full gratitude for our salvation that makes living for God even possible. But a tree is measured by its fruit. Whatever nonsense heterodoxy the Samaritan had in his head (because Samaritans were heterodox), he was still capable of being “moved by pity” when he saw the wounded man in the road which the priest and Levite’s “orthodox” commitment to cleanliness prevented them from doing. It’s complicated but thank God we’ll never run out of new things to discover.

    • http://nailtothedoor.com Dan Martin

      April, Jesus himself was holy, and he spent his entire ministry mingling with sinners. God the Father specifically invited Moses to commune with him, David to commune with him, Isaiah into his presence…The beauty of God’s story is repeated, persistent mingling with sin. The notion that God somehow couldn’t be in the presence of sin comes from John Calvin and others…it is not borne out by the Biblical record.

      • April Emery

        Habbakuk 1:13 – God can’t even look at sin. If he can’t even look at it then how can he be amongst it.

        Holiness is that perfection in God that totally separates Him from all that is evil and defiling and common. If you mingle with it you become tainted.

        God’s holiness means He can never approve of any evil, but perfectly, necessarily, universally, and perpetually abhors all evil. God cannot hate one sinner and indulge another. He can have no respect of persons (Romans 2:2-8)

        This is the problem within the postmodern church … choosing rather to focus on the NT and God’s glorious attribute of love, but missing the balancing attributes such as His justice, holiness, etc

        • Morgan Guyton

          Your quote from Habakkuk is an example of what you may have heard people call “proof-texting” without context. Habakkuk’s purpose in what he’s saying is not to make an abstract statement about God’s nature. He is exhorting God not to allow the wicked to continue to oppress and exploit other people (vv. 13-17). Certainly God cannot tolerate sin, but this is not because sin is a victim-less, abstract violation of God’s honor (as reformed theology too often teaches), but rather because sin really does hurt people God cares about which is exactly how Habakkuk describes the wickedness he’s surrounded by. His people are caught in the nets of their wicked ruler, who worships the power of his net rather than God “since it’s by by his net he lives in luxury and enjoys the choicest food” (v. 16).

          Understand that I am not disputing whether or not God can tolerate sin; I am disputing WHY He cannot tolerate sin because the reductionist “Four Spiritual Laws” way of describing the problem of sin that I used to be brainwashed by myself simply isn’t Biblical. God opposes sin because it hurts people. That’s what the Bible teaches. Read the examples of sin that Habakkuk goes on to describe in 2:6-17. All of these describe actions that hurt other people. None of these sins are a disembodied, victim-less “uncleanliness” or “impurity” or “offense” against God’s honor.

          Similarly, verse 1 of Romans 2 cannot be surgically detached from the rest of the discourse that follows (verses 2-8). The chapter starts: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things,” which frames everything that follows as a refutation of the self-righteous listeners that Paul is laying into. We show contempt for the riches of God’s kindness when we try to cast judgment on others (2:4). That’s the point of what Paul has to say. When Paul says, “God is no respecter of persons” in verse 11, he is referring to the distinction between Jews and Gentiles (vv. 9-10), which has been obliterated by Christ so that Jews have no privileged standing any longer. The point of Romans 2 (and 3 for that matter) is that nobody has any leg to stand on before God. It’s only when we repent of trying to pretend like we can justify ourselves before God and put our trust in Jesus instead that we are able to do good (or Christ is able to do good through us). Without the faith that also means complete humility, nothing we do is acceptable to God because we are doing it for the wrong reasons, to prove our worth to Him, which makes us into cantankerous Pharisees who treat people God cares about with condescending spite.

          The 3rd century Christian bishop Irenaeus wrote in the time of the Gnostic heresies that Bible verses were like a set of colored mosaic tiles that could be shuffled around in many different combinations to form a picture. If they were organized in one pattern, the picture would be a lamb (Christianity), but if the same tiles were shuffled in a different order, the picture would be a fox (Gnosticism). He used this metaphor to illustrate the way that people can cherry-pick verses out of the Bible to justify all kinds of craziness. Our only safeguard is to try to read the Biblical passages in context. This is not a “postmodern” concept; it’s been around for the entire history of Christian interpretation of the Bible. Gnostics and Montanists and Pelagians and Nestorians and Arians have all tried to justify all sorts of crazy heresy by proof-texting Bible verses out of context.

          Our problem today is that under the scientific worldview of modernity which has held sway the past several centuries, people view “facts” as self-contained units that can be analyzed individually and detached from their context. This works with a scientific theory or mathematical equation whose components can be atomized like this, but it doesn’t work for a narrative text like the Bible.

          What I disagree with is the reductionism; I don’t dispute that God is holy, loving, just, etc. Of course He is. But love, justice, and holiness are not abstract, stand-alone qualities that don’t have any overlap with one another. God doesn’t hold His love in His left hand and His justice in His right hand as two “balancing,” completely independent qualities. He is just because He is loving. His holiness explains how He is loving. He’s not loving in the way that an abused wife “loves” her husband and enables his wickedness by refusing to call the cops. No, God is loving in the way that I love my son enough to make his behind bright red when he disrespects his mother.

  • Randi

    The opposite of love is indifference not hate. Just because God hates the sinner does not mean he doesn’t love the sinner. On the contrary he loves us so much he died for us and made a way for us to be spotless and blameless before him. If God did not love us he would have left us alone in our filth.

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  • http://priceofdiscernment.wordpress.com David Marshall

    “How important is it to you that the truth be offensive to others? Is your rubric for measuring the truth how offensive it is? Because I really think that we are living through an era of rampant doctrinal works-righteousness in which the work that supposedly “saves” is agreeing with a bitter-tasting gospel.”

    Agreed.

    Also, I’ve seen that God is LOVE and God is HOLY, but I have yet to see a verse that says God IS hate. If you’re catching my drift.

    • Morgan Guyton

      And holiness and love are not binary opposites. It’s true that God’s holiness makes His presence unbearable to us without atonement but it’s not because of God’s hate; it’s because of our unacknowledged hate of His goodness.

  • Paul Hansen

    MG—Thanks for another thought-provoking essay. I look forward to further biblical study of the “pathetic” (emotive) ascriptions of God (e.g., as vengeful, hateful, jealous, grieving, loving, etc.). Here are random responses, some on unrelated topics [forgive me]:
    (1) On at least one practical level, it makes sense to say that “love is the opposite of hate,” or that the two are antithetical. When explicating the commandments, Jesus said “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not kill,’ but I say to you, ‘He that hates his brother commits murder in his heart.” So, in that sense, we might say that “Hate is wanting the the DESTRUCTION of another, whereas love is wanting the CONSTRUCTION of another.” Fragmentation versus wholeness, annihilation versus integration, fatality versus fruition.

    (2) You assert that “Love, justice, and holiness are not abstract, stand-alone qualities that don’t have any overlap with one another” and that God’s “hate of sin” is not an abstract statement about God’s nature devoid of a narrative in which people are harmed or oppressed. In like manner, it makes little sense to speak of “human rights” as existing metaphysically, that is, independent of a social-political CONTEXT in which ‘rights’ are declared as positive (civil) law. The “inalienable rights” to which Thomas Jefferson alluded in the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution do not come from the Bible, but from John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government (originally identified by Locke as “life, liberty, and property” and later rendered “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” by Jefferson). That so called “natural laws” may be known “intuitively” through human reason (because they are “written on the heart”) amounts to an epistemic claim—not an ontological claim.

    (3) I get sick of repeatedly hearing (from pulpits) that “God hates divorce” from clerics who care not one whit for the PARTICULAR circumstances a couple is dealing with. Their pastoral counseling aims at judging failures, not solving problems. They assume the marriage MUST have been “right” initially, so there is no “mistake” to be corrected. Obsessed with the inflexible prohibition against divorce (the law), they seem utterly oblivious to the possibility that the individuals comprising the marriage ALSO hate what they’re going through. Pastors often imply (tacitly or expressly) that divorce is the “easy” way out, or that one partner or both are too “lazy” to work things out. This is empirically false. In most cases, individuals consider divorce only as a last resort, and the process is almost never “easy.”

    • Morgan Guyton

      Thanks for sharing these three points. I agree.