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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Does God Hate?

I've already brought into question the notion that "God loves everyone equally" and even that God loves "unconditionally". Part of the certainty I have for questioning these assumed premises is that the Bible indicates that God hates. He hated Esau. He hated idolatrous nations. He hates sinners. (If you need any references for that, please look at the other articles.) God definitely hates.

The question, "Does God hate?", becomes problematic, of course, because of the numerous references to God's love. He "loved the world" (John 3:16). He is love (1 John 4:8). I mean, come on! Isn't this a contradiction? And it would be if we continued to use the terms that we are using. On the other hand, the terms that the Bible uses, "love" and "hate", as it turns out, don't mean the same thing that we do.

Here, look at this fairly well-known statement from Christ: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). "What??" you will (or should) immediately say. "Aren't we commanded to love? Indeed, aren't we commanded to 'love your neighbor as you love yourself'? If you must hate your own life and hate those around you, aren't we talking contradiction here?"

So let's slow down a little and look at the terminology. The word "hate" there is the Greek miseo (from which we get "misogyny", the hatred of women, "mysanthrope", someone who hates people, and so on). The word means "to detest".

Going to the dictionary, "detest" comes from two Middle French terms: de- + testari, where testari means "to testify, to bear witness" and de- means a reversal, a removal, a privation, a negation. "Detest" then, from its root, would mean most literally a negative witness, a denial of affirmation.

Proceding to commentaries, this is almost universally the concept here. John Gill's commentary on the verse says they are "not to be preferred to Christ, or loved more than He". Matthew Henry's commentary on the verse says, "Every good man loves his relations; and yet, if he be a disciple of Christ, he must comparatively hate them, must love them less than Christ." And so it goes

Does that work? Or are we simply making excuses? As it turns out, it's the common biblical concept. Compare Gen 29:30-31. "So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years. When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren." Note that the first verse does not say that Jacob abhorred Leah (where "abhor" is our equivalent for "hate"). It says that he loved Rachel more which does not require or even suggest that he hated Leah. Yet "the Lord saw that Leah was hated." That is, Jacob loved Rachel more. Note, also, that "He opened her womb." If Jacob hated Leah in the sense that we use the word, God's opening of her womb would have to have been immaculate conception -- pregnancy without sex.

This, then, would be the general biblical concept of hate -- to deny affirmation, to care less, to devalue. Thus, when God said, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated", He meant His love for Jacob far outshined His love for Esau. Esau, in God's view, was not as affirmed as Jacob. The concept of Luke 14:26 -- our love for family or self in comparison to our love for Christ might look like hate for family, not because we hate our family, but because the comparison is so far apart, because we so highly esteem Christ.

God does indeed love the world in a sense. He gives rain to the just and the unjust. He continues the lives of sinners. He sustains the righteous and the unrighteous. He even offers salvation of His Son to all. But the love God has for the redeemed so far outshines any love He has for the non-elect that it looks much like hate. "Hate" -- the denial of affirmation, a negative witness -- would be an apt description for these folk. At least, Scripture seems to think so.

1 comment:

David said...

I just looked up Luke 14:26, and even writer of that Bible understood hate to mean love less, though I don't think that translation gives a good view of the broadness of the difference of love between ourselves and God.