One time on Catholic Answers Live, I had a caller, Sandra, ask for an important clarification.
Her sister, a Baptist, insisted that God can hate, which didn’t seem to match how Sandra thought of God.
After all, in 1 John 4:8, we read that “God is Love,” etc. But after this discussion with her sister, she found other passages of Scripture, such as Proverbs 6:16, which says there are six or seven things that God hates.
This left Sandra confused.
To answer Sandra’s question, we have to remember that often in Sacred Scripture there are what we call anthropomorphisms. You have to be very careful if you’re going to take scripture in a strict literal sense, because Psalm 91:4 says, “He will protect us under his feathers and his wings.”
Now, I don’t think we want to say God is a great big chicken! And yet, hey, the Bible says right there he will protect us under his feathers and his wings, right?
Well, in that case, that’s not an anthropomorphism. There it’s more like a bird. (Maybe a chicken-amorphism?)
Can God be said to “Hate”? Or is it really an Anthropomorphism?
But, as a better example, we read of the wrath of God, or the anger of God, and all of these anthropomorphic things that we know can not be attributed in a strict literal sense to God, because that would mean God would have a defect.
Remember, God is pure actuality. He is. And it’s good that Sandra brought up 1 John 4:8 there, “God is love,” because God is Love. He is perfect and pure Being, infinite Being. There is no lack in Him.
Think of it this way: in order to get God angry, somebody would have to cause him to get angry, to tick him off.
But, you can’t cause God to do anything. God is what we call pure act. He’s all perfection.
He causes us. We don’t cause him.
And so, if you claim that God is literally angry, what you end up doing is making God less than he is, less than God.
Now, unfortunately, Sandra’s sister doesn’t have some of the books of the bible we do, like Wisdom 11:24 that says, “For thou lovest all things that exist and hast loathing for none of the things which thou has made. For thou wouldst not have made anything if thou had hated it.”
Does God Hate? God Cannot Hate His Own Creation
God cannot hate His own creation because He created it good, as we see in the book of Genesis.
God made everything
- and very good when he gets to the final day of the creation.
So God loves everything that exists inasmuch as it exists.
However, and I think Sandra got this right, when we say God hates sin, again that’s an anthropomorphic thing. It means that God opposes in the most radical way that which hurts us as human beings.
So in that sense we can say God hates sin. He hates the fact that when we commit sin, it separates us from God. But the old axiom is true. He hates the sin but loves the sinner.
So God opposes absolutely anything that’s going to hurt us.
Why? Because he loves us.
Does God Hate? What Does the Bible Actually Say?
One thing that might help Sandra’s sister is to show her Matthew 5:44 where Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Now, isn’t it interesting. Right before that He says, “You have heard it said to love your neighbor and hate your enemies. But I say to you, love your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you.” Pray for them and so forth.
“Love your enemies.” But, would God ask us to do something that He doesn’t?
In other words, is God a hypocrite? Would God say, “Okay, you guys love your enemies, but I’m going to hate them.”
Of course not.
Jesus is the ultimate example. He is God manifest in the flesh. And what did He do on the cross, but made a petition to his Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
He is the ultimate example who loved us even when we were yet sinners.
Romans 5:6 says he died for us. He loved us. I would recommend, in a discussion with someone like Sandra’s sister, to just pour on the scripture verses like that.
And in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” Every Protestant knows that verse, “that whosoever believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” He loves the world.
In fact, in 1 John 2:1-2, Saint John says that Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not only our sins but the sins of the whole world.
Does God Hate? No, He Loves
What is the ultimate example of love? John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay his life down for his friend.”
And what does 1 John 2:1-2 say? He did that for the entire world. He did that for Hitler, for the most evil people that have ever walked the planet and, according to the New Testament, Jesus loved them, and in fact died for them to prove that greatest love.
So take all of these verses of scripture we’ve been talking about, God is love, Jesus is love. He loves even the greatest sinners. He commands us to love our enemies.
You can’t make a few obscure verses, that talk about him hating sin and so forth, or even in some Old Testament text talking about hatred toward human beings, to contradict all those.
What we do is we harmonize all of these verses, of course, in the context of the analogy of faith, which means our entire Catholic faith. And we understand that, no, those difficult verses are anthropomorphisms.
Then What about the Passages which say that God Hates?
In order to help us to understand God, God has to use linguistics. Saint John Chrysostom used to say that He condescends. He uses language.
In fact, in the Incarnation He condescends so that we can have a relationship with Him. Well, he does that in His language, so that we can have a real relationship with Him.
But He also helps us to understand, much like when I’m talking to my children and we talk about the sun rising in the morning. Now, my children, when they’re five, six years old, have the idea that the sun’s actually rising. That means it’s moving upward. I mean, that’s phenomenologically accurate, which is the way language develops, seeing something and describing it. The sun rises.
But we can’t leave them as children and have them think that the sun is actually rising and the Earth is standing still. And so, we have to help our kids to grow up and understand that saying “the sun rises” is using phenomenological language.
In the same way, the bible will use phenomenological language as well as anthropomorphic language.
But we know from Sacred Scripture, as Sandra pointed out I think very well, that God is love. What does that mean then?
There can be no lack in God whatsoever.
And in order for someone to hate there has to be a defect in the character of the one who hates when that hatred is toward a human person that’s created in the image and likeness of God.
So, strictly speaking, God does not hate.
For more apologetics from Tim Staples, check out his latest book, Nuts and Bolts: A Practical, How-to Guide For Explaining and Defending the Catholic Faith.