Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley and Sam Storms as they discuss if it is possible for God to both love and hate a person at the same time.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    6 replies to "Theology Unplugged: Problem Passages, 6 – Can God both love and hate someone at the same time?"

    • C Michael Patton

      I resent this statement: “and I know, Credohouse is a Calvinist theological think-tank)”. 🙂

    • greg huguley

      Sorry, I stand convicted, though perhaps not corrected 😉

    • Carrie Hunter

      Hi Greg,

      I would like to point out that the view that “God has only hate for the non-elect, and only love for the elect” is not actually something all Calvinists believe.

      Some Calvinists do in fact believe that God has nothing but hate for the reprobate and has only love for the elect, however, that particular view departs from an orthodox Calvinistic (majority) view, and worse still, the text of Scripture.

      When dealing with this difficult topic (and it is a difficult topic. D.A Carson’s “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God” is aptly named) it is important to make very, very careful distinctions.

      First it would be wise to make a distinction about the idea of hate. In the podcast, Sam pointed out that the hatred God has is not to viewed from the same vantage point of our hatred we have for other people.

      God’s hatred for the sinner, is rooted in the sinner’s rebellious attitude towards the things of God. God rightly abhors this. I also think it important to qualify that we can not separate the rebellious attitude from the person holding it, as this rebellious attitude is further rooted in the very nature of the person. (A corrupt nature, that is at enmity with God.) So with that understanding, it is acceptable to say that God hates the sinner as well as the acts of the sinner (the sins.) Sins spring forth from a sinful nature and the nature can not be separated from the person (as our nature is part of our very constitution as humans.)

      So I think it correct to say, that God does in fact hate people (in a certain sense.) But I also think it correct to say that while God hates people in a sense, He can simultaneously love people in a certain sense.

      Keep in mind God hated us prior to our conversion. We were children of wrath just like the rest. So there is no question that God did in fact hate us. Yet, He loved us while we were yet sinners. (This type of love however is a saving, efficacious love, that I will explain further down.) So I have to say the text of Scripture convinces me that God does both love and hate even the elect at the same time yet with different senses.

      This is where a distinction in the idea of love is crucial.

      I, as a Calvinist, believe God loves all of humanity. I believe there are many reasons for this, but even it were just one, that would be sufficient to make the claim God does indeed love all humanity.

      One reason is that God loves His own image. All of humanity bare His image, therefore God loves all of humanity on that basis alone.

      Also in regard to the idea of love, it is helpful to appeal to an historical context that provides further understanding to the distinctions that have been made regarding love. (If you are in anyway interested, I would happy to provide historical sources that make the distinctions I am attempting to here in my comment.)

      There is the love of benevolency (a love God has for all people, for his creation, etc.) This love flows naturally from his eternally gracious nature. This is a love God has that is directed towards all people for no other reason than He is a loving God.

      There is also the love of complacency. This type of love God has for those 1. He elects and 2. comply with his commands. (Keep in mind, this type of love is not thought to be identical with what can be understood to be a saving, efficacious love, but understanding that the love of complacency is part of that.)

      The love of complacency is that of God’s love increasing for us. I believe that when we do as God has commanded, (and I don’t mean to say personal acts of righteousness that can been seen as meritorious in anyway) but when we do as He has commanded, there is a love from God that is directed towards us as a result. Think when Scripture tells us that our obedience, pleases God. It does. It makes Him happy. If we can grieve the Holy Spirit, then it would follow we can also bring joy to Him as well!

      Also, I don’t mean to say that God’s love is conditional in the sense that because of our meritorious acts of righteousness (which, in the biblical sense, are simply non-existent) He then loves us more. No, it is the compliance with holiness that He loves. Just as sin springs forth from a corrupt sinful nature, obedience springs forth from a renewed, regenerate nature. And just as God hates both the sin and the person committing it (as we can not separate the nature from the man) God also loves the obedience and the person willfully adhering to it (because again we can not separate the renewed nature for the man.)

      Now as a Calvinist, I do believe there is a difference in the saving Love God has for humanity. I believe that God loves all humanity in a way that is in fact saving (I believe John 3:16 for example does in fact mean what it says – that world is world – i.e. humanity as a whole not merely the elect.) I believe that His redemptive love has been made manifest in the person of work of Christ, and I believe that love has been extended to all people.

      However, I do not believe, God’s love for the elect is the same as for the non-elect. I believe there is a special, efficacious love at work in that aspect of God’s redemptive love. That aspect of the redemptive love of God is intrinsically linked to what He has purposed, or better put His intent for those whom He has chosen.

      The passage discussed in the podcast about God loving Jacob but hating Esau, is, I think speaking to this. It isn’t saying God only hates Esau and has no love whatsoever for him (as we can see from the witness of the entirety of Scripture that isn’t the case – God blessed Esau! and such blessings stem from a type of love.) However, what this passage can add clarity to, is the understanding that there is a passing over of people, for no other reason than God’s divine (and decreetal, or hidden) will. We are not privy to the why’s of His hidden will. Because it is hidden! I think a good argument for this is rooted in a more accurate understanding of the idea that “His thoughts, are not our thoughts” (but also understanding the “His thoughts are not our thoughts” text is not merely speaking to the hiddeness of His decrees etc.)

      To springboard off the “His thoughts, are not our thoughts.” we can then address what type of hatred (if any) believers are to have for sinners and an unrighteous, and wicked world.

      I would say that we do, and are to, have a hatred of the world. Furthermore, we should have a properly balanced hatred of the sinner. What I mean by that is, just as God hates the sinner because their nature is at enmity with Him, and as the nature can not be separated from the Peron, we too have a certain type of hatred for the sinner. We as believers, are to love what God loves and hate what God hates (provided we are being careful in what we mean by that.)

      While we should have some type of hate for the world and the the sinners within, we should also display a love for the world, just as God has. We have a love for the lost, a sorrow, a longing, a yearning for them to come to know the true and living God. Just as God Himself has such a desire. And we also do not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. We are certainly not more loving, or just than God, so we can not think our desire for the lost to come to Christ is not a genuine Godly desire. It is. It is a manifestation of the very heart of a loving God. But ultimately that goes into another category of thought.

      Scripture is filled with these dichotomies. It is our job as lovers of God’s word to maintain these true dichotomies without turning them into false ones. Which is admittedly so easy to do in our imperfect state.

      This was quite lengthy, so I do hope you took the time to read it. And I do hope it has at least served to present you with a different Calvinist perspective from what it seems like you have been exposed to.

    • greg huguley

      Carrie, I do appreciate the nuance; my (shorter) critique of calvinism on these (and other) issues though is aimed at the root of its problem–the logic. I mean even the idea of God”s love being connected to us “doing as He has commanded…” seems odd, because from a calvinist perspective, whatever I do is not only what God has commanded, but what He has decreed, willed and rendered certain that I would do–whether it complies with His commands or not.

      And for a calvinist, i don’t find any comfort in God loving all humanity; if He loves me, yet will not elect me for salvation; rather He chooses to allow me to remain in my sins and “suffer” for all eternity. I’ll pass on that “love,” which by definition, would have little connection to anything I understand as “love.” If you go that route, it’s easy to believe that God “hates” humanity though.

      I like the “kinder, gentler” calvinism that you espouse; I just don’t think it’s really consistent with the implied…

    • Carrie Hunter

      Hi Greg,

      I understand your concerns. The point of my putting up the explanation was merely to explain an alternative view within Calvinism. I promise I didn’t want to pick a fight or anything! 😀

      In regard to what I see as an objection to the thought that God loves us when we obey….

      It would seem you think that Calvinism (or certain types of it) entail that human actions are in no way independent of God’s decrees. Meaning, if God has decreed it, there is no way we have a choice in anything we do or say etc.

      I wonder however, would this apply to the authors of Scripture?

      First I will have to presuppose you believe that the authors of Scripture were divinely inspired. If I am correct in that, then how can we account for God inspiring the minds of the author, God willing His words to be written, yet men freely exerciseing their will to write what they did.

      Do you think there’s a possiblility that the authors of Scripture did not write what God wanted them to write. Do you think for example, they could have conjured up the tail of the reusrrection by way of their own volition? Or do you think they complied with God’s will to write exactly what He wanted. And if they did do that, were their wills somehow violated as a result? What I mean is, do we in fact believe that the text of Scripture says exactly what God wanted it to say? I of course believe it does. And I also believe that the collective wills of the authors of Scripture were not violated by the other Author of Scripture. What would your thoughts be on that?

      That is just a question to possibly consider when thinking about the will of man and the decrees of God.

      Also, I will ask this, if you believe that God’s love is contingent (not solely contingent) on whether people go to hell or not, and you think election is perhaps unfair and unloving, would you not also face the same problem in your system? Which I am presuming your system is a non-Calvinist, Arminian type of system (but I could be wrong.)

      In the Arminian system, God gives everyone a chance to believe. But is it not unloving of Him to allow people to be born, whom He knows will reject Him? If sending people to hell without giving them a chance (which is not what Calvinism entails) is unfair, and unloving then how is it not also unloving to allow people to be born whom God knows will choose to reject Him? Subsequently, their free will actions will land them in Hell. How can a loving God let people be born whom He knows will ultimately perish?

      Just another thought to consider.

      Anyhoo, thank you for your reply and your kind manner.

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