Monday, November 19, 2007

Does God Love or Hate You?

There is a little controversy brewing at the moment, believe it or not, on the topic of whether God loves or hates us. To be honest I do think the church and general public is in a muddle right now over this issue. Let me walk you though the different points of view, and lets see if we can get to the heart of this debate.

On one side, we are told that "The Father loves you", and that in scripture we can see a love letter from Father God to each and every one of us.



Well, that settles it, doesn't it? Not so fast. Because apparently the same scriptures also teach us that God hates us !? Mark Driscoll explains it best:



To be honest even I am a little confused. And I know for a fact that there are many here in Edinburgh who are a little mixed up about whether God loves or hates people right now, following Driscoll's visit this weekend, where he spoke on this issue at a leaders meeting.

Let's see if our old friend Tom Wright can't shed some light on the issue. Wright recently wrote:

The biblical doctrine of God's wrath is rooted in the doctrine of God as the good, wise and loving creator, who hates - yes, hates, and hates implacably - anything that spoils, defaces, distorts or damages his beautiful creation, and in particular anything that does that to his image-bearing creatures. If God does not hate racial prejudice, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not wrathful at child abuse, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not utterly determined to root out from his creation, in an act of proper wrath and judgment, the arrogance that allows people to exploit, bomb, bully and enslave one another, he is neither loving, nor good, nor wise.
-- The Cross and the Caricatures, N T Wright.


Well, that helps a little bit. Let's see where we are just now:


  • God (not just the Father, but the entire trinity) is a loving, wise and good creator. God is indeed love.

  • Because God is love, he must relentlessly, absolutely, completely, and totally hate sin.



So far so good. Now here comes the catch. According to Driscoll, we can't separate the sin from the sinner. He mocks the idea that God can love the sinner, but hate the sin, as surely a person acts out of who she is. (He also correctly notes that "hate the sin, love the sinner" is one of Ghandi's teachings.)

This is where it gets tricky, and this is where I want my readers to chip in. To start the ball rolling I'll do my best to attempt to reconcile all of the above and come to some sort of conclusion.

I believe Driscoll is right in saying that because God hates our sin, he is angry at us. I prefer to put it like this: God hates that our sinful, corrupt, fallen, Adamic nature is the essense of what we have become. Therefore, without the mercy of Jesus we stand before God utterly incapable of escaping who we have become, and utterly incapable of avoiding the wrath and anger of God. Now I say "become", and not "are", because I believe also that God has created all of us in his image, and that we are all image bearers of God, whether you are a Christian or not, and whether you believe it or not. Thus far, this should not be controversial to anyone. Additionally however, I believe scripture informs us that the "Adamic" nature trumps our image-bearing nature, and therefore in some sense and in some way, we find ourselves as enemies of God, not because God for some particular reason hates us personally, but because as Wright reminds us, God hates all that is evil and wicked and wrong and perverse, and there is something of that nature in everyone.

So God loves humanity, not just a little bit, but without measure or bound. At the same time, he also hates everything evil that we do, and even more than that, he hates what we (without the grace of God) have become. Fortunately for us, he loves us even as we sin and even as we are his enemy. In other words, in the love/hate equation inside the Trinity, it is love that triumphs!. That love compelled the Triune God to send himself, the Son, in order to live, die, resurrect and ascend to Glory to sit down on the very throne of heaven itself, in order to rescue us from what we have become, and to restore us to a Glory even greater than that which we were meant to have, right back in the beginning of Genesis.

Why do I believe this? I think ultimately because of the biblical truth that on the cross, those that believe in Jesus also died with him. Although Jesus died for us, the mystery of the atonement runs much deeper. Scripture is absolutely clear about this:


2 Cor 5:17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!

Rom 6:3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Rom 6:6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 6:7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)


What I read from the above is this: there was something so wicked, so evil, so corrupt, in each one of us, that God has to destroy and kill this in order to give us life. Jesus is not only our substitute, our sacrifice, and our representative. Metaphysically, or spiritually, those of us that trust in Jesus have been crucified on the cross with Jesus!

I believe that this is why God "hates us" -- because of the "old man" and "body of sin" that cannot be separated from the "true you" apart from blood of Jesus. So perhaps I would summarise the whole issue like this:

  1. God, that is, the Father, the son -- Jesus, and the Spirit, is love.

  2. God loves each and every person on this planet.

  3. God created us all with dignity, value and worth. We are all image bearers of God made by the hands of God, whether Christians, Muslims, Hindus, or any other faith, including no faith at all.

  4. God, because he is love, absolutely hates sin and wickedness and perversion and evil.

  5. All humankind finds themselves alienated from God, and in a sense he is opposed to us, because we are not "good people doing bad things", but image-bearers who have been tainted with a terrible disease of sin from which we cannot escape.

  6. We are under and subject to the wrath of God, for he opposes what we do and what we have become.

  7. Yet, even as we rebel against him, God loves us and his love triumphs and wins through. His love and forgiveness is poured out at the Cross of Jesus. Jesus himself says "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".

  8. And even though God loves us and forgives us, our "old man", our Adamic nature, is crucified and dies on the Cross of Calvary alongside Jesus.

  9. And finally, those that do not accept the reconciliation that God offers may ultimately face the prospect of existing for an eternity outside of God's love and outwidth his Kingdom; in other words they will be in hell. This is because although God loves all, he hates what we have become, and unless we turn back to him, we can never escape the corrupting influence of the body of sin.



Thanks for listening. Perhaps there are more concise or better ways of explaining this. What do my readers think?

48 comments:

Adam A said...

"He mocks the idea that God can love the sinner, but hate the sin." Well, this is good old B.S. for starters. Talk to pretty much even the worst of parents and they still passionately love their kids in spite of the many horrible things said kids may do. And you don't need to be a parent either: talk to the thousands of prison guards, social workers, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, psychiatric nurses etc who out of love lay down their lives every day in service of people who have committed the most depraved acts imaginable. And this is just a pale reflection of the love of God.

And what's this Gandhi straw man? As if Gandhi saying something made it false?? Yeah Gandhi said it. And why did he say it? Because he was hugely inspired by, erm, Jesus. And because it's True, no matter who said it.

Alastair said...

Thanks, Adam. You're right, and to continue the analogy, we would say that a loving parent can get mad and angry at their child even though they still love them. In fact, we all know that in a close relationship, love, anger and even hate can coexist, but in a good relationship, its always love that wins through. I think that's the point Driscoll is trying to make -- that God is upset with (a) what we do and (b) more importantly, what we have become. The solution for both points is to turn to the mercy of God as demonstrated on the cross of Calvary.

RE Ghandi, I would agree that truth is truth no matter whose lips it is on. But I still have issues with "love the sinner, hate the sin", perhaps it just the clichéd sound of the phrase, but it doesn't quite sit right with me.

Peter Kirk said...

Thanks, Alastair, for this balanced discussion. I can accept that God "hates what we (without the grace of God) have become". But his response to this hatred is not to punish us, but to send his Son to make it possible for us to become again what we were created to be, but with even more glory.

It is sad that there is not a whisper of the last part of this in Driscoll's sermon, at least as summarised by Adrian.

It may have been Gandhi who first actually said "hate the sin, love the sinner", but the idea is clearly biblical, see for example Jude 23 which says almost the same, and then of course see what Jesus did. I agree it sounds clichéd as an actual saying, but that doesn't stop it being a good principle.

Alastair said...

Thanks, Peter. I think I agree with you! I think Driscoll is guilty of hyperbole here to make a point. If you listen carefully, I believe he is saying

1) That Christians apply the Ghandi saying to God, and that is poor theology, if you take it to mean that God hates what we do when we sin but loves the totality of what we are (fallen, body of sin, Adamic, etc). I think we can agree the NT teaches that its not only our deeds that have required us to find salvation, but the very essence of our "unregenerate" being.

2) I think Driscoll is trying to explain propitiation. Are there better ways to explain it?

Peter Kirk said...

Indeed we can agree. We would also agree (even if Gandhi didn't) that "love the sinner" does not imply loving everything about that person including the way that they are fallen and sinful.

As for explaining "propitiation", there certainly are ways of doing so, like this from Wikipedia, which do not claim that God hates anyone or indeed use the "hate" word at all. OK, Wikipedia does quote "hating" from Calvin, but only in a negative sense: Calvin is denying that propitiation implies that "the Father, then hating, might begin to love us".

I accept the concept of the wrath of God, but understand it not so much as "an emotional response of anger", more "a moral response of indignation", again to quote Wikipedia.

PamBG said...

How we hear and use language is tricky in this context, isn't it?

I too believe that humanity possesses both the image of God and the sinful nature of Adam. I too believe that it is love that triumphs.

I believe Driscoll is right in saying that because God hates our sin, he is angry at us.

I think we need to be careful with this. I don't actually think that God hates those people who have been justified by grace through faith. Yet, my experience was that it was in church that I was told over and over that God hated me. I already didn't like myself very much and a preacher telling you that God hates you as a Christian is a very powerful tool in the hand of The Enemy.

Why are some churches so afraid to tell people that God loves them? I don't think this a modern problem. I think it's actually the age-old problem of the Gospel of grace and love versus the message (anti-Gospel?) of law and fear.

Alastair said...

Thanks for your comment, Pam. I think some churches and Christians are reacting to a movement which has so over-done the "love of God" message it has left no room for admonition, rebuke, sin, God being offended or upset, etc. Many people are keen to believe in an buddy Jesus and a Happy Sky Dad who always affirms their wishes and desires. Its very hard to witness the gospel to such people, because theologically they believe that they are OK before God in their fallen, Adamic, non Spirit-filled state. So I guess the basic problem is that churches have swung from one extreme (God hates everyone) to another (God loves everyone, and accepts everyone, and isn't worried about sin etc).

PamBG said...

I think some churches and Christians are reacting to a movement which has so over-done the "love of God" message it has left no room for admonition, rebuke, sin, God being offended or upset, etc.

Well, I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, so my lot were obviously worried about it back then. And John Edwards must have been worried about it centuries ago. I think it's not just a problem of today.

Its very hard to witness the gospel to such people, because theologically they believe that they are OK before God in their fallen, Adamic, non Spirit-filled state.

So, basically, Christian preachers have noticed that people who genuinely think they are sinners are relatively easy to convert, so they figure all they have to do is tell people that they are sinners and then they will make converts? Is that it?

Alastair said...

Pam, I speak only of my own experience, and not of "preachers" in general. I can only say what I have experienced, in terms of a loving God being preached exclusively, to the point where sin is never mentioned once, and also a difficulty I have had when telling people about Jesus, that they just accept the love of Jesus and then "move on", as it were. Paul's tells us that the gospel is the power of God unto Salvation, but if all you say is that God loves you, and Jesus died to show that, then I don't think that's the gospel. Certainly that message has not been the power of God in Edinburgh.

In saying that, I recognise there there will be some people who need more than anything else to immersed in the love of God -- I have no issue with that at all.

I think the bottom line is that we have had very different experiences of this whilst growing up!

Alastair said...

PS I became a Christian in the late 1990s...

PamBG said...

if all you say is that God loves you, and Jesus died to show that, then I don't think that's the gospel.

Read this in a neutral and curious tone of voice:

What do you think the 'Full Gospel' message is?

Alastair said...

:-) Good question. I think that is something I have been genuinely wrestling with on this blog. To chart something of a journey, check out these posts.

Having just reviewed them all, I am aware I still have not stated what I believe to be a satisfactory telling of the gospel. But I closely follow NT Wright. I'd love to blog some more on this and propose a thorough definition of the gospel...if I get some time...

PamBG said...

Um, you just linked me back to your blog page.

I don't see NT Wright as a purveyor of 'God hates you because you're a sinner', so I don't have much of a problem with him.

Alastair said...

The link is http://obscenebeauty.blogspot.com/search/label/gospel

which points to a series of articles on the topic, starting with the most recent. Scroll down! If you want to see my thoughts on the subject, this is where to start. :-)

BrunetteKoala said...

What a fantastic post!

I wish I could meet this Driscoll guy that I keep hearing about.

I think you've summed this up fairly well. To say that God cannot love the sinner but hate the sin is ridiculous and I wonder if someone who comes to that conclusion has read the same bible as me?!

I love what you said Adam about the everyday examples of people who love people despite their sins. I know for many of my friends working as doctors, social workers, nurses, midwives, counsellors...it can be so hard as you don't refuse care if the person has done horrendous things in the eyes of us and of God.

The truth speaks for itself. We're all made in the image of God whether we beleive in Him or not. Truth doesn't become lies just because it was spoken out by someone who isn't a Christian.

Is Driscoll trying to address the fact that in church we've become so 'evangelistic' that we emphasise the loving Daddy picture of God, and brush the wrath part under the carpet? We don't want to get too controversial for fear of offending folks?

PamBG said...

Is Driscoll trying to address the fact that in church we've become so 'evangelistic' that we emphasise the loving Daddy picture of God, and brush the wrath part under the carpet?

I suspect that's what he thinks he's doing.

But he does seem to be saying that, in the final analysis, God is wrath with love as secondary.

And I believe that God is love (it's in scripture!) and that his wrath is directed toward sin.

I'm very suspect of people who are enthusiastic about God hating human beings. How can a person think this without thinking 'except me'? I cower in fear at God's wrath and praise his name that he forgives me by grace. How could a God who was wrathful in the final analysis also be gracious?

Alastair said...

Having listened to most of not all of Mark's preaching over the last five years or so, I can say for a fact that he does not believe that God is in essence a mad, hating God who is only forced to love us by the death of Jesus. Clearly this is unbiblical. I believe Mark is attempting to understand passages that talk of the wrath of God, of us being enemies of God (without Christ), and of how the scriptures talk of God "hating" or despising "the wicked".

Pam, if God is not wrathful in the "final analysis", does that mean you do not believe in the reality of Hell?

Personally, I believe God is first and foremost wrathful at sin, but as I explained in the post, that sin nature is infused into every person's being, so that we are fallen and the image of God in us all is tainted and marred. But in the last analysis, if God is to let people go to Hell, it shows us that ultimately the sin and the sinner cannot be separated (for those that end up there), therefore in a very real way God is mad at the sinner.

Or is that wrong?

Perhaps talking of God hating people is going too far, I wouldn't use such words myself.

I may post further on this topic as there is much confusion, not least in my own head!

PamBG said...

Pam, if God is not wrathful in the "final analysis", does that mean you do not believe in the reality of Hell?

First of all, I don't think we know much about the next life and I don't think that fear of hell is a very good reason to believe in God. I do believe in the reality of hell, but I may not believe in the same reality of hell that you do.

Can you explain to me how, if God is wrathful in the final analysis - and the word final is very important here - how anyone ends up in the Kingdom?

Assuming that you think you're saved, why do you think that if you think that God also hates you?

Alastair said...

"Can you explain to me how, if God is wrathful in the final analysis - and the word final is very important here - how anyone ends up in the Kingdom?"

I think I misunderstood the meaning of your phrase. All those that trust in Christ are in his Kingdom because of what Christ did for us, through his incarnation, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension and outpouring of his Spirit.

There is a sense that those in Christ are always in the full pleasure of the Lord. But surely there is some sense in which if I murder someone today, God will not have the fullness of his pleasure towards me. I'd say he'd be pretty angry. But if I confess my sin and repent, I know I will forgiven and my relationship with God will be restored.

"But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness." 1 Jn 1:9

Does that help at all?

I don't think God hates me, but I do believe that when I deliberately sin (as I do often) that God is upset and the Holy Spirit is grieved and that I do need to ask for forgiveness.

PamBG said...

But if I confess my sin and repent, I know I will forgiven and my relationship with God will be restored.

Which, to me, must mean that God's final word on humankind is not hatred and wrath.

This is why Christianity says that God is wrathful toward sin but that he offers{*] sinners grace and mercy.

Driscoll goes too far in getting enthusiastic about making a point about sin to saying that God also hates sinners. And we are all sinners.

[*] "Offers" is an important word. Many of us seem to love to say "God does not offer everyone grace because not everyone will be saved." Offering everyone grace is not the same as granting everyone salvation.

I was taught as a 4 year old that God hated me. I did actually think that "God's love" was a judicial construct. I thought the Gospel was "Jesus died for your sins so the Father has to let you into heaven, but he's going to hate you with an eternal, omnipotent hatred when you get there."

If you wouldn't teach a 4 year old "God hates you", then I submit you should jump up and down about "The seriousness of sin" until you are blue in face. (A person will only believe you when they have been convicted by the Holy Spirit. Which is, I think, what we get frustrated about.) But do not, under any circumstances preach "God hates you" to adults.

Peter Kirk said...

Pam, your experience seems strangely similar to Molly's of being told as a four-year-old that she was going to hell.

PamBG said...

Um, Peter, I'm not sure if you're saying I've taken my idea from someone else?

The details of my situation are quite different. I went to the same church and same church-school that my mother did; I even had the same teachers.

What they taught was frighteningly similar to Driscoll. They were absolutely convinced everyone is prideful; basically they thought that everyone thinks that God loves them and that God doesn't care if we sin or not and that even small children are in active rebellion against God. So they set out to 'break our spirits' (this was the phrase they used). Only my mother was already 'broken'; which was my own saving grace, really. Because she did not apply all the recommended severity. Otherwise, I suspect I probably would have attempted suicide some time in my teenage years.

These were not evil people. They were scared to death of God themselves and they genuinely thought they were saving us from hell.

I can't understand why people like Driscoll preach as they do. I can only think of two reasons: 1) They are scared to death of God themselves or 2) They don't actually take their own sin seriously and therefore make up for it by trying to scare others. Perhaps a bit of both?

Alastair said...

I am sorry to hear that you were taught as a child that God hated you.

I believe Driscoll was using hyperbole when he used the phrase "God hates you", but even if he wasn't, the point I believe is this: God loves you/me, but is upset at both the sins you/I do, the good things you/I don't do, and perhaps even more importantly, God is upset at what we have become (assuming you/I are not trusting in Christ). I believe this applies to a child as much as an adult.

If God is opposed to sin, and to some extent that "sin" is infused in fallen human beings, in some sense God is against us. We are "children of wrath", are we not, without Christ? I think Mark's point was, "if God loves us, and only hates the sin", then why are we children of wrath?

Do we just say: "God loves you, but you are destined for wrath and an enemy of God?" [thinking of Rom 5:10, Eph 2:3] That makes little sense...

Peter, since you are reading this thread also, any thoughts to add?

PamBG said...

then why are we children of wrath?

I've never heard "We are children of wrath" confidently proclaimed as "Gospel" (sic). I praise the Lord for that small mercy.

I'd really like to ask what this means to you. Do you envisage spending eternity with a God who views you with some degree of wrath? And if you do not think you'll spend eternity with a God who harbours wrath toward you, doesn't that mean that his grace and mercy have won out in the final analysis?

Alastair said...

Pam,

God in Jesus has saved us from the righteous wrath of God, by removing our sinful nature, giving us his Spirit, and reconciling us back to him.

I assume you would agree with this statement? If so, that would be a "gospel presentation" with a theme of wrath. At the end of the day I am talking about Ephesians 2:1-10. How do you read that text?

I'd really like to ask what this means to you. Do you envisage spending eternity with a God who views you with some degree of wrath?

No, because by the blood of Jesus I have been saved - "But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus"

Don't hear me wrong here...God is merciful and loving and kind! But apart from Jesus, we were destined for wrath. At least that is what my bible seems to be saying.

And if you do not think you'll spend eternity with a God who harbours wrath toward you, doesn't that mean that his grace and mercy have won out in the final analysis?

Yes, as Ephesians puts it:

I believe in "the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus".

For those in Christ Jesus, YES, his grace and mercy have won out in the final analysis.

Peter Kirk said...

Pam, I didn't of course mean to suggest that you had taken your idea from Molly. My point was that you and Molly had had very similar experiences. What was strange was that you were both saying it at the same time - and that presumably loving mothers and teachers thought it right to teach this doctrine of hate to four-year-olds. And if it is hyperbole, as Alastair thinks Driscoll was guilty of here, that is even more culpable, because they should realise that four-year-olds don't understand hyperbole but take things literally, and so do many adults.

Alastair, God has saved us from his own righteous wrath, not one god has saved us from the wrath of another. So God is no longer wrathful towards us, we are no longer "children of wrath", he doesn't hate us. We were destined for wrath, but not so much because of God's active hatred, only to the extent that we spurned his love. Compare Hebrews 10:26-31.

PamBG said...

God in Jesus has saved us from the righteous wrath of God, by removing our sinful nature, giving us his Spirit, and reconciling us back to him. I assume you would agree with this statement? If so, that would be a "gospel presentation" with a theme of wrath.

I'm not a Calvinist, so I'd nitpick a bit. I'd say that God in Christ Jesus has saved us from God's righteous wrath against the sins that all human beings commit and that this salvation in Christ has reconciled us to God.

I think Ephesians 2:1-10 is talking very clearly about sinful deeds.

But apart from Jesus, we were destined for wrath.....For those in Christ Jesus, YES, his grace and mercy have won out in the final analysis.

The thing is, I believe that there is no longer a human history without Jesus. God came in Christ and showed that his loving desire to offer salvation to humanity 'won' over his wrath.

I believe his grace and mercy are offered even to those who decide to throw it back in his face. I do not believe that his grace and mercy are only for Christians.

PamBG said...

My point was that you and Molly had had very similar experiences. What was strange was that you were both saying it at the same time - and that presumably loving mothers and teachers thought it right to teach this doctrine of hate to four-year-olds.

It's given me the opportunity to post words of encouragement on her blog. So maybe a God-incidence?

Loving, scared teachers and a loving, confused and scared mother, in my case.

Alastair said...

Peter, I agree fully with your statement.

Pam, I think I can agree more or less with what you are saying, but I am unclear on "The thing is, I believe that there is no longer a human history without Jesus". Are you implying that the atonement was unlimited or universal?

I would agree with you that God's forgiveness and kindness is available to all. But without coming to faith in Jesus, much of the world is still "lost" and still needs to be reconciled to God.

At this point, I am not sure if I am saying anything in substance contrary to what you folks (Peter and Pam) are saying ?

I have enjoyed this debate, as I very much believe in iron sharpening iron.

PamBG said...

"The thing is, I believe that there is no longer a human history without Jesus". Are you implying that the atonement was unlimited or universal?

As a Methodist, I believe in the universal offer of grace. Not the universal granting of salvation. Methodist distinctives are often expressed as the "Four Alls": 1) All need to be saved; 2) All can be saved; 3) All can know they are saved; 4) All can be saved to the uttermost.

In other words: 1) Original Sin; 2) The universal offer of salvation (denial of single or double predestination); 3) Assurance; 4) Holiness.

If Driscoll is saying 'Without Christ, God would have hated our guts'. I'm saying 'But God has proven he doesn't hate our guts by his very sending of Christ.'

I would agree with you that God's forgiveness and kindness is available to all. But without coming to faith in Jesus, much of the world is still "lost" and still needs to be reconciled to God.

Yes, but telling people that God hates them is hardly spreading a message of reconciliation!

I strongly suspect that what's going on here is that we don't really understand how sinful we are until we are saved. But it's the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin - not human preachers telling us that God hates us.

It's the old story about the young man who turns to God at a revival and he resolves that his must go home and tell his minister that he (the minister) has not been preaching The Gospel. And then the minister preaches the Gospel that Sunday, and the Sunday after, and the Sunday after....

Alastair said...

Thanks, Pam, I enjoyed reading about the Methodist position.

"But it's the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin - not human preachers telling us that God hates us."

I largely agree. I would never use the phrase "God hates us", but I do think that clarifying that our sinful deeds and hearts have caused a relational rift with God is something which has a place in the telling of the gospel. Perhaps not every time, but to certain people at certain times, yes. I don't think it does justice to scripture (which is all I care about -- I am not aligned to any particular tradition) to merely say "God loves us and is hurt by our sins. God in Christ has forgiven you, so please accept that offer of forgiveness and be reconciled to God". Now, that may be appropriate for someone, but as a textbook summary of an element of the gospel, its missing just how offended God was and is at both our sinful deeds (before we become Christians) and our fallen nature -- our "Adamic" being.

Alastair said...

"If Driscoll is saying 'Without Christ, God would have hated our guts'"

I don't think he was saying that. Stripping away the hyperbole, I think he was saying that before justification, a person is alienated to God and God is angry at the sinful things they do, and upset at what they have become (see blog post for definition of "what we have become".) He was saying that before a person becomes a Christian, they are a "child of wrath" and an "enemy of God", with all the nuances such expressions have from their original context.

So I agree with you here (I think!). God loved us before Christ died for our sins, and because he died for our sins, his love enables us to move from children of wrath to sons and daughters of God.

The upshot of all this is that for those that are outside Christ, God simultaneously loves them yet consider them children of wrath and alienated from him. Certainly that is my reading of scripture, and Ephesians in particular. I think it was this hard teaching that Driscoll was attempting to convey.

Peter Kirk said...

Alastair asked Pam: Are you implying that the atonement was unlimited or universal?... But without coming to faith in Jesus, much of the world is still "lost" and still needs to be reconciled to God.

Interesting question. Perhaps we need to consider also the two sides of reconciliation, God being reconciled to us and us being reconciled to God. The former I would see as universal, God does not hate anyone because through the death of Christ his wrath has been propitiated. That is not to say that he was previously wrathful, because the death of Christ is eternal. But the other side of the atonement is limited by human choice, only those who choose to be reconciled to God are actually reconciled. Does that make sense?

PamBG said...

I agree with Peter's distinction of God being reconciled to us and us being reconciled to God.

I largely agree. I would never use the phrase "God hates us", but I do think that clarifying that our sinful deeds and hearts have caused a relational rift with God is something which has a place in the telling of the gospel. Perhaps not every time, but to certain people at certain times, yes.

I agree with you and should you be daft enough to wade through my sermons on my sermon blog, I do actually think that I do that. But I do it in the context of a Christian congregation gathered together to meditate on scripture. And I usually try to remember to point the finger at myself when I'm talking about sin. I don't do it in the spirit of 'There are too many people out there who like themselves too much' which is the distinct impression that Driscoll's YouTube snippets leave me with.

He was saying that before a person becomes a Christian, they are a "child of wrath" and an "enemy of God", with all the nuances such expressions have from their original context.

I certainly didn't 'get' that when he was mocking people for thinking that they could be sinners who God loved. *I'm* a sinner who God loves. If I'm not, then I have no hope whatsoever for salvation.

Alastair said...

Peter, I have never thought of it that way. If God's wrath has once and for all been propitiated for all humankind by the sacrifice of Christ, how do you explain texts such as:

John 3:36 The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.

Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness

Eph 5:5 Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience.

and especially Rev 14:10

"that person will also drink of the wine of God’s anger that has been mixed undiluted in the cup of his wrath, and he will be tortured with fire and sulfur in front of the holy angels and in front of the Lamb."

Surely these verses (and I could have quoted many more) indicate that God's wrath is still very much real, post-Cross ?

Alastair said...

Pam,

"And I usually try to remember to point the finger at myself when I'm talking about sin."

As does Driscoll. Don't be too hard on the man...he spent one of his most recent preaches emphasizing how much of a proud jerk he has been, and is, apart from the grace of God.

Peter Kirk said...

Alastair, I realise that the wrath of God is not something entirely non-existent. But it does seem to be something only for those who spurn his love and grace. I have been looking at the phrase "children of wrath" and intend to post on this.

By the way, would you consider yourself to be a Calvinist?

Alastair said...

I never been a fan of Calvinism (despite being a fan of Driscoll!), but I guess its emphasis on sin has a resonance with me for some reason, perhaps because I am so aware of my own weaknesses. I don't think I could really be Calvinist because I really struggle with the idea of people being predestined to hell. On the other hand, I believe that people can be saved apart from literally confessing Christ, otherwise unborn children and babies would also not have a chance to be saved if they died young. At the end of the day, I try to believe what I read in the bible, and I attempt to add as little framework or systematic theology as possible.

I look forward to your children of wrath post. Perhaps even more importantly, this whole notion of the "wrath to come" is worth more debate. (I am aware that some explain it away with a preterist hermeneutic.)

One of my private thoughts is that there are three "categories" of people in God's eyes: the righteous, the wicked, and the people in the middle. I may develop a post concerning this, as its a theme I see hinted at throughout the scriptures. If this is the case, it would help explain some things...

PamBG said...

I guess its emphasis on sin has a resonance with me for some reason, perhaps because I am so aware of my own weaknesses.

This is emphatically NOT a personal remark aimed at you but this is the sort of statement I just don't 'get'.

I really, genuinely, believe that I'm a constant sinner. And I don't think I have any hope apart from God's grace and mercy.

And I feel that there is a school of Christianity that is absolutely bent on tell me and others that God isn't going to give us any grace and mercy and that we really should give up all hope of salvation.

Don't be too hard on the man...he spent one of his most recent preaches emphasizing how much of a proud jerk he has been, and is, apart from the grace of God.

I apologise, then.

Alastair said...

Not sure I follow you here. What don't you get?

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PamBG said...

I don't get why any Christian would want to hear 'You are a sinner and God hates sin and God hates you' as the primary 'gospel' (Good news????) message.

I don't get how this message can do anything positive for anyone. But obviously it does because there seem to be a lot of people who are very enthusiastic about it.

Peter Kirk said...

Partially in response to this comment thread, I have posted a new post.

Alastair said...

Pam, I think that before I was a Christian I did not understand all the fuss about sin. The issue for me, if you like, was Lordship. I stalled in my journey of faith for a while whilst I considered the implications of making Jesus Lord of my life. When I finally did, confessing his Lordship at my baptism, my life began to slowly change as the Holy Spirit convicted me of sin.

So yes, I agree, before I was a Christian, the sin issue was not a big thing for me.

Rather, as I grow in Christ, I realise more and more my sinful nature, and become more and more thankful for the love and grace and mercy and kindness of God.

So I do agree with you: focusing on sin alone may not always be the best way to explain the gospel. I believe we need to be all things to all people, and each person will have unique path that takes them to Jesus. But when preaching to an entire congregation, its good to throw in all aspects of the good news.

Why is our sinful state good news? I think I would pull in Dr Tim Keller as this point:

I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe [but] I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope

I suppose the point is that the magnitude of what Christ has done for us is increased the more we realise just what a sorrowful state we were in.

I have done street evangelism in the past, and had the opportunity to chat to loads of unchurched regular people. Many people have no concept whatsoever of personal sin. I know the atonement deals with far more than personal sin, but I do believe its the or one of the basic starting points to looking at the work of Christ's atonement.

I do recognise they are other ways of looking at the atonement which don't place an emphasis on personal sin. They may also be valid ways to reach people with the gospel...

PamBG said...

Thanks, Alistair. I'm not sure I have much more to say but thanks for a good conversation.

Anonymous said...

Okay, well for sure God hates you because you just tried to rewrite the entire bible which he (god) worked so hard on for so many years. Thanks god the catholics were able to get us a copy of it unscathed until the protestants got ahold of it a few hundred years ago and got it all straightened out. You are as full of shit as constantine and all the rest of the so called saints of old who so diligently wanted to get god's ideas, desires and commands written down for the rest of us. What we would do without you?

peabody said...

Someone may have already pointed this out but the "love letters from God" video uses a lot of verses from Psalm 139. Ironically, the end of that Psalm or "love letter" that is put forward as a video in defense of God's love is about hating people.

19Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain!
21Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

Alastair said...

How ironic! Thanks, peabody!