As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Hate and Love of God are the Same

How is it possible for the following to both be true:
  1. God is always loving, gracious and merciful to sinners
  2. God is always just, lawful and hates sin
God is like rubbing alcohol. When you have a diseased cut, you might pour it in. What will happen, simultaneously, is terrible pain and healing. The pain is the death of the disease as the alcohol kills it. The healing is that same death, that same pain.

The key is to understand evil as the Socratic (and, yes, Augustinian) "absence of God."

What is dryness but the absence of moisture.
What is cold but the absence of heat.
What is darkness but the absence of light.
In what way is rain or sun violent? Because, by their nature, they destroy (respetively) dryness, cold and darkness. We could say the Sun had clobbered the darkness, or banished or scattered it, but that wouldn't be correct, technically, since there was nothing there to be clobbered or banished or scattered. The Sun "annihilated" darkness just by infusing it with what it lacked: light.

What is death but the absence of life?
What is unbelief but the absence of faith?
What are lies but the absence of Truth?
What is hate but the absence of Love?
How does He smash death? By providing Immortality.
How does He end unbelief and lies? By providing that Truth which gives faith.
How does He cure hatred? By loving us so much we are moved (and enabled!) to love Him back, and to lover one another. ("We love Him because He first loved us.")
How does God "cobber" the gracelessness in this world? By bringing the world His Grace.
How does He counter ignorance? By coming to teach us and show us.
That's how His gracious Presence is reconciled with His hostility to evil: they are one and the same.


Blogger Hajiburton said...

I feel it incumbent on myself to point out that the first statement is not, technically, true. (God is not always loving, gracious and merciful to sinners). In fact, God is always loving, gracious and merciful to sinners who accept His gift of grace in Christ, ACKNOWLEDGING their sin, and are through that process adopted into His family. Sinners who refuse to acknowledge their sin, or to trust in Christ are responsible for the consequences, although God takes no pleasure in meting them out.

Of course, your point stands: the hatred of God for evil and the active love of God for those that turn to him are both expressed in the same (Sanctifying) action.

Sir R.F. Burton

2:33 PM  
Blogger The Poor Blogger said...

But that's exactly central. God is ALWAYS loving toward sinners. Always. He never metes out justice. Rather, because His holy Presence is unbearable to us, we are wounded until we are changed. Not because of what He does, but because of who He is.

And God doesn't really hate evil. God doesn't hate. God can abide the presence of evil. But evil cannot abide the presence of God.

It's a hard to see, but essential distinction.


4:17 PM  
Blogger fra edwin said...

Can you rectify that statement with Psalm 9: 6-11?

6You rebuked the nations, you destroyed the wicked; their name you blotted out for all time
The enemies have been ruined forever; you destroyed their cities; their memory has perished.
The LORD rules forever, has set up a throne for judgment.
It is God who governs the world with justice, who judges the peoples with fairness.
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, stronghold in times of trouble.

2:46 AM  
Blogger The Poor Blogger said...

The Psalms, like anything aside from Christ in His Person, reflect an unfolding understanding of God. God hates sin, but only in the same way that alcohol hates disease. By His nature, sin is obliterated in His presence. All He has to do is show up in full force and the wicked and their doings would be obliterated.

10:39 AM  
Blogger fra edwin said...

I dislike focusing on the negative, even frightening aspects of Christianity, but Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. May I offer the following words from Jesus regarding the Judgement:

<< Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.'
Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?'
He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'
And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matt 25:41-46

2:51 PM  
Anonymous scott said...

Hi, just stumbled upon your site...

Psalm 9:15 The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made;
In the net which they hid, their own foot is caught.
16 The LORD is known by the judgment He executes;
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.

As you see the Psalm you quoted continues to say that the nations have brought their destruction on themselves. God destroys them as light destroys darkness. That's the point of the post, that it's not out of retribution, but a fall-out of God being love and light and life that the hatred and darkness and death are annihilated

5:23 PM  
Anonymous scott said...

fra_edwin (i'm picking on you, sorry):

Without quoting it here, please refer to Matt 25:31-40. I'd point out that "all nations" receive the same speech from Christ. It we ourselves who either obey or disobey Christ and by our lives approach already self-defined as sheep and goats.

When we approach the Judgement Seat of Christ, it's not as if all nations will be hoping to deepen their relationship with Him, and He not with them in return. He wants us to want Him. Those who already have the relationship with God will desire more of Him (sheep), and those that don't (goats), won't.

"Come, you blessed" vs. "depart from me you cursed" can (and I think should) be seen in relational terms like everything else. Come into the deeper relationship the sheep desire, depart into the non-relationship the goats desire. The blessed and cursed reference their state as read from the Book of Life (again, they bring this baggage with them). Christ isn't blessing or cursing them in the moment--they are already in that state when they approach.

Notice it says "these will go off to eternal punishment" as opposed to "I command you to be punished even though you'd rather be anywhere else." He's making a statement of fact regarding their own nature as they approach Him and desire to recoil, not a juridical command of eternal retribution.

Christ did not come to Judge the world but to save it. As the original post says, God will always (IMHO) be merciful.

6:04 PM  
Blogger fra edwin said...

scott said...
Christ did not come to Judge the world but to save it. As the original post says, God will always (IMHO) be merciful.

Edwin replies:

Christ did not incarnate to judge, but to save. That is exactly right. However he will come at the end of days to judge the living and the dead. I don't believe I suggested that God sought "retribution," only justice.

You are quite right that the nations (and individuals for that matter) plant the seeds they reap in destruction, or in the image of Psalm 9:15 "the pit which they made". This is justice which God visits upon the nations (and individuals). It is the consequence of our own making.

However, I disagree with those who would say that "because God loves us there will be no reaping of destruction, no suffering of hell, no pit." This just isn't supported by Scripture.

I also agree with you when you say that God will always be merciful. But to gain God's perfect and limitless mercy, we must extend our own imperfect mercy. We cannot simply accept God's mercy without being merciful. What did Jesus say, "Forgive us as we forgive others," right?

For those who by their unrepentant lives, their merciles spirits and their compassionless souls, turn away from the holiness and life that is God, God in his justice made a place for them to go: that place prepared for the Devil and all his angels. This is justice, perhaps even mercy - not retribution.

6:46 PM  
Blogger The Poor Blogger said...

I'm not saying that because God loves us there is no suffering, hell or pit. I'm saying that the very love of God is insufferable, hellacious and eternal for those who hate God.

7:09 PM  

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