You hate all who do wrong. (Psalm 5:5)
Reformed Pastor Tim Conway explains in his sermon “God Hates the Sin and the Sinner”:
What Scripture tells us is that all of mankind are children of wrath. We are objects of the hatred of God by nature. We don’t deserve His love… God is not unjust to hate mankind. Because mankind is a hateful thing by nature. It ought to be hated.[i]
In case you don’t know Conway and wonder if this is some marginalized unknown pastor no one follows anyways, think again. This sermon is available on the “I’ll Be Honest” YouTube channel. A popular channel that presents Conway’s preaching with that of Paul Washer. Together, they have gained over 70 million video views. Their social media following is about half a million (that’s a pretty big mega-church).
It’s also worthwhile repeating an earlier quote by Reformed pastor of The Gospel Coalition Nick Batzig:
Is it right, in any sense whatsoever, to say that the Father was angry with the Son when He punished the Son in our place and for our sin…He made the Son the object of His just displeasure and anger as the representative who stood in our place to atone for our sin and to propitiate God’s wrath.[ii]
But, if you insist on an even more prominent figure, this quote comes from a sermon by New York Times bestseller, reformed-Baptist pastor David Platt. Its title is, “God hates sinners, not just the sin.”:
So, does God hate the sin and love the sinner? Well… sure… in a sense…
But does God hate the sinner as well? Yes!”[iii]
As far as Platt and Conway are concerned, if God hates sin, he also hates sinners. And since none of us is perfect (we all sin), God hates us all. But in addition to hating us, he also loves us “in a sense.” Like them, Paul Washer also preached that “God hates the sinner.”[iv] I bet this is not the first time you have encountered the “God hates you, but he also loves you” preaching. I like to call it “theological acrobatics.” These preachers try to explain to their confused audience how their Father in heaven hates and loves them simultaneously without making it sound as if God suffers from a split personality or bipolar disorder. If you don’t understand why, I dare you to tell your child that you both hate and love them and see how baffled they get. But there’s another issue at hand. If, following God, people were to hate not just the sin but also the sinner, would they not end up hating everyone, including themselves? Perhaps this is how, from “for God so loved the world” (John 3:16), we ended up with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It is also why we keep coming across statements like this one by reformed Baptist pastor Mark Driscoll:
God’s anger at sin and hatred of sinners causes him to pour out his wrath [on Jesus][v]
Preachers of Divine Abuse clearly connect God’s anger, wrath, and hatred for sinners. They preach a narrative whereby you are born as a God-hating sinner on day one and, therefore, will be damned forever because of who you are, regardless of your decisions or if you were just born yesterday. This can be paralleled to a physician who loathes his patients – even his baby patients – because they are sick, especially if they have multiple illnesses. Because of that, he wants to stay away from them unless he kills them.
But God doesn’t hate sinners; he doesn’t want to damn them simply because of their sins. Instead, God wants to heal, cure, and restore their souls. This process will ultimately come to completion only when we receive a new and resurrected body.
But if to put logic and emotions aside, isn’t God hating sinners (everyone, as everyone sins) a fact from the scriptures? Marco from Reading, Pennsylvania, wrote to ask reformed Baptist pastor John Piper. The question was answered by Piper in the “Ask Pastor John” podcast: “Pastor John, what do you make of the saying, ‘God loves the sinner, but hates the sin?’.” John Piper’s answered:
It is just not true to give the impression that God doesn’t hate sinners by saying, ‘he loves the sinner and hates the sin.’ He does hate sinners.[vi]
Piper then went on quoting Psalm 5:5-6 to biblically back up his claim. Likewise, pastor Mark Driscoll preached to his congregation the same motif:
The Bible speaks of God not just hating sin but sinners… Psalm 5:5, “You,” speaking of God, “hate all evildoers.”…God doesn’t just hate what you do. He hates who you are![vii]
David Platt preached on Psalm 5:5-6 as well, where he explained:
Sin is the core of who we are in this world. We are sinners with a deep sinful nature, and a holy God who is dead set against sin is also dead set against sinners…We are sinners, and God is infinitely holy and possesses holy hatred of sin and sinners alike.[viii]
And in his book, Platt repeated:
Does God hate sinners?
Listen closely to Psalm 5:5-6: “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; You hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors.”[ix]
The logic in quoting Psalm 5:5-6 goes something like this:
- Those who sin are sinners.
- Everyone sins.
- God hates sin.
- Therefore, God hates everyone.
Practically speaking, every cute, sweet toddler and every child playing in your neighborhood’s park – God hates them. He hates them all!
On the surface, Psalm 5 contradicts verses like John 3:16, which state that “God so loved the world.” (John 3:16). In “world”, John is speaking about the people in the world, not the waters and soil. So, what John is saying is, “God so loved the sinners.” But in Psalm 5, he hates them? So, which one? How do we reconcile the two? Does God really love and hate us both at the same time? How are we to understand Psalm 5 if not that God hates us all because we are sinners?
Well, only if we take Psalm 5:5-6 out of context will it say God hates us. But first, it is essential to understand what these verses are talking about in their broader context. Hebraist scholar, Mitchell Dahood, explains what Psalm 5 is about the “repudiation of false gods when one was accused of idolatry.”[x] Similarly, VanGemeren, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, says Psalm 5 is about a God who distinguishes himself from other gods:
Whereas other religions brought together good and evil at the level of the gods, God had revealed that evil exists apart from him and yet is under his sovereign control.[xi]
So, with this context in mind, maybe more accurate than “God hates everyone” will be to say that God hates idol worshippers. Remember, the pagans around ancient Israel would not only steal pens and lie about wedding dresses. They would burn their babies as a sacrifice for their idols. They were cruel and evil. So, it is them, in this context, that God hates. But this isn’t even the main problem with how preachers of Divine Abuse use Psalm 5:5-6.
What does it mean to HATE?
In contemporary language, much like the term “love,” the words “hate” and “wrath” have become heavily loaded with strong emotional connotations. They are often associated with images of violence, death, and anger. People use “love” and “hate” to express extremely strong emotions (such as when describing their feelings towards their mothers-in-law). However, “hate” and “wrath” have different meanings in biblical Hebrew. Unfortunately, preachers sometimes make the mistake of using ancient words and giving them modern meanings when they read modern connotations into ancient texts written in a different language. It is even worse when they add their emotions on stage when preaching on these issues.
The Bible mostly uses the word ‘hate’ as a synonym for ‘reject’ or ‘avoid.’ The Hebrew word translated to “hate” is SANE. In the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, it is explained as something one avoids:
The pictograph is a picture of a thorn, then is a picture of seed. Combined, these mean “thorn seed.” The thorn, (the seed of a plant with small sharp points) causes one to turn in directions to avoid them.[xii]
For example, in Romans 9:10-13, Paul clearly speaks of “hate” in a matter of election. God chose Jacob yet rejected (“hated”) Esau. So biblically speaking, to hate someone is to reject or avoid them. To deny your intimacy and blessings from them. If a woman hates her husband, she pushes him away, avoids him, and leaves him. On the other hand, if she still cares for him — loves him — she will argue loudly and get upset with him. You go to battle over the things you cherish most.
Anger doesn’t equal hate; apathy does. We get angry when we care. When we hate, we turn indifferent.
This is why Paul says, “No one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body.” (Ephesians 5:29). We all know people who hate (emotionally) their body (or parts of it). I hated mine when I was a fat kid with zits on my face. But as we just established, Paul is not talking about emotions or feelings of detestation. Paul was saying that no one is avoiding/rejecting their body. It is true that we eat when we are hungry, and we don’t avoid going to the toilet when our body tells us to — even if we emotionally “hate” how we look or something about our body. Similarly, we should read “Esau I have hated.” It’s not that God wished for him a violent and painful death, but that God avoided/disregarded Esau, choosing Jacob instead.
Similarly, we should read Psalm 5:5-6. God avoid-reject the idols and those who worship them – the evildoers. This is also why in the New Testament, Peter explains that when we sin, we cause God to avoid-reject our prayers (1st Peter 3:7).
The bottom line is that God may “hate” by withdrawing blessings and protection from people, rejecting their appeals, or avoiding them. However, he loves even the greatest of sinners. I know it for a fact – because I am one.
The understanding that to hate means to reject, ignore, or avoid is the only way these words of Jesus would make sense:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
Love would not demand you “hate” (in the modern sense of it) others or your family because that would no longer be love. Besides, Jesus thought we should love everyone, our enemies included. So obviously, “to hate” your father cannot mean hate in the modern sense of despising him. Jesus wanted his disciples to choose him over their families. Not loathe them. If your parents said you must stop believing in Jesus, which often happens in Judaism, then you should reject their request.
To summarize, ‘hate’ can metaphorically be described the same way darkness or cold can. Just as darkness is the absence of light and cold is that of warmth, so is hate. When you reject, avoid, or ignore someone, you hate them. When you don’t want to sacrifice for a person, you hate them. God avoided the pagan evildoers, but he loves sinners.
Good Cop, Bad Cop
On the one hand, these “Divine Abuse” preachers present to us God the Father, who allegedly hates us and is furious with us. He isn’t willing to be in a relationship with us or even look our way. He’s upset and demands to pour his wrath out violently on us. In fact, for some pastors, even if you are a Christian, yet you are “lukewarm,” you are still “utterly disgusting to God.”[xiii]
On the other hand, God the Son is willing to come down and rub elbows. He is willing to buy sinners coffee and cake. There are even illustrations of him allowing drug addicts to inject needles in his veins instead. He looks at us with compassion, shading tears from the sight of our suffering. He teaches about forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. He loves us so much he is even willing to forfeit his life for us. He’s the contrast of the other hand and the very opposite of how His Father is often being described.
It is as if the godhead of Divine Abuse extends two hands to us. The right hand represents the Father, who wants to strike us with wrath simply because we are imperfect. The left hand represents the Son, a soft, caring, gentle hand reaching out to hug us also because we are imperfect. It is the classic “good cop, bad cop” method we see in movies. But then, we are told that on the right hand’s way to strike us, the left hand interferes and gets struck by the right hand, hard enough that it dies. Finally, the right hand can relax; its wrath was finally satisfied. May the left-hand rest in peace.
But there’s a problem with this version of a god suffering from a split personality or bipolar disorder. And it is what Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30). Clearly, some preachers paint a paradoxical picture of who God is. They paint a false picture of a god that has very little to do with the God of Israel. Unfortunately, this is also much of the “gospel” many evangelistic ministries and churches in Israel preach (including some I served with). I believe it is also why Jews reject (this version of) the gospel being preached to them.
 A well-known sermon preached by the American theologian Jonathan Edwards. Although Edwards used it to emphasize God’s wrath upon unbelievers after death, its been used otherwise as well.
 I am not trying to mock them. If you watch any of Paul Washer, David Platt or John Piper’s sermons on YouTube, especially on this very topic, you will understand the emotional manipulation I’m referring to. There is nothing wrong with being emotional. However, at times it feels that there’s a contest in which the pastor who preaches the loudest and with the most emotions, wins.
 Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; John 11:31-32,36; Luke 7:13.
 1st Timothy 3:16, 1st John 4:2, Phil 2:7.
 BTW, The existence of sense of humor is proof God is not legalistic.
[ix] David Platt, “What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me?”, page 8.
[x] Mitchell Dahood S.J., Psalms I: 1-50: Introduction, Translation, and Notes, vol. 16, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 31.
[xi] Willem A. VanGemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 88.
[xii] Jeff A. Benner, The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, Virtual bookworm, 2005.
[xiii] Francis Chan, “Crazy Love”, page 201.