Friday, August 03, 2007

Can God Be Hateful?

A question came up in the HCR forum as to how we should understand the various passages from Scripture that speak of God "hating" particular persons and things. Here are a few of the passages in question:

Psa 5:5 The boastful may not stand before thy eyes; thou hatest all evildoers.

Psa 139:22 I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

Mal 1:2-3 "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How hast thou loved us?" "Is not Esau Jacob's brother?" says the LORD. "Yet I have loved Jacob 3 but I have hated Esau; I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert."

God also hates religiosity (Isa 1:14; Amos 5:21), hypocrisy and lies (Zec 8:17), wrongdoing (Isa 61:8); divorce (Mal 2:16), violence (Mal 2:16), idolatrous practices (Hosea 9:15), and the way the prophets are treated (Jer 44:4).

But how can this be? How can God "hate" if God is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8)? The key is in how we understand hate. Hatred in these instances is not the kind that arouses the desire to do harm or have harm befall the one hated. That kind of hatred is a source of evil, not of possible good. That kind of hatred is characterized by malice and malevolence.

However, hatred, as possessed by God, connotes his perfect justice and goodness. He will find contrary to himself anything that is against his virtues and his laws. That is why he is said to "hate" religiosity, hypocrisy, lies, wrongdoing, etc. The word "hate" is used to show the intense degree in which he will always be at odds with what is evil and immoral and against his Divine Will. His justice demands that no wrongdoing go unpunished, and this often appears to us as "hatred."

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia is also helpful here:
  • Hatred in general is a vehement aversion entertained by one person for another, or for something more or less identified with that other. Theologians commonly mention two distinct species of this passion.

    One (odium abominationis, or loathing) is that in which the intense dislike is concentrated primarily on the qualities or attributes of a person, and only secondarily, and as it were derivatively, upon the person himself.

    The second sort (odium inimicitiae, or hostility) aims directly at the person, indulges a propensity to see what is evil and unlovable in him, feels a fierce satisfaction at anything tending to his discredit, and is keenly desirous that his lot may be an unmixedly hard one, either in general or in this or that specified way.

    This second kind of hatred, as involving a very direct and absolute violation of the precept of charity, is always sinful and may be grievously so. The first-named species of hatred, in so far as it implies the reprobation of what is actually evil, is not a sin and may even represent a virtuous temper of soul. In other words, not only may I, but I even ought to, hate what is contrary to the moral law. Furthermore one may without sin go so far in the detestation of wrongdoing as to wish that which for its perpetrator is a very well-defined evil, yet under another aspect is a much more signal good. For instance, it would be lawful to pray for the death of a perniciously active heresiarch with a view to putting a stop to his ravages among the Christian people.

    Of course, it is clear that this apparent zeal must not be an excuse for catering to personal spite or party rancour. Still, even when the motive of one's aversion is not impersonal, when, namely, it arises from the damage we may have sustained at the hands of others, we are not guilty of sin unless besides feeling indignation we yield to an aversion unwarranted by the by the hurt we have suffered. This aversion may be grievously or venially sinful in proportion to its excess over that which the injury would justify. [Source]
The popular phrase, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" has odium abominationis in mind. When John writes, "If any one says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar," he has in mind odium inimicitiae. The first one is not inconsistent with the love of God. The second one is. For more examples in Scripture of the two kinds of hatred, see Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology and Torrey's Topical Textbook.

"For everything there is a season...a time to love, a time to hate" (Eccl 3:1,8). May your love and your hate be that of God.

Pax Christi,


Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Good post Nick.
I have read some blogs recently that seemed to indicate that God took particular pleasure in hating "the vessels of wrath" and that God took pleasure in displaying His wrath on mankind. It was a hyper-Calvinist blog and I was chilled when I thought that from the entire Scripture, that is what a christian thought of God.
It also explained to me how some could be so hateful and spiteful in their treatment of folks who didn't share their view (ie catholics)....

Hidden One said...

Thank you Nick!

[I actually have a recent post on how Calvinism leads to an Gnostic-esque (OT) god. Lo and behold, some agreed with the Calvinists. I think I shall use this post as a handy source for my reply.]

Joyful Catholic said...

Pièce de résistance!

"If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26




Athanasis Contra Mundum said...

This really clarified the use of "hate" in scriptures. Thanks!

CatGA86 said...

Thank you so much for your post. It is a hard question that needed to be answer. I have been struggling with many questions about God and the Bible, and your post helped me a bit.. Thanks again...

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