Does God Love Everyone?
"Does God Love Everyone"? I feel quite saddened at the fact that this question requires an answer, much less a defense. Anyone who reads The Bible should be able to answer this question in the affirmative. The answer is a resounding YES! God does love everyone. A person whom God hates is as real as a human who has not sinned (excluding Jesus). That is to say; they don't exist. Unfortunately, there are Christians out there who spread the idea that there are people whom God hates. Now, the vast majority of these Christians identify as Calvinists and adhere to divine determinism and the T.U.L.I.P, but recently, I found that there are even NON-Calvinists who also hold that there are people whom God hates. In fact, I recently argued with an Arminian brother about this very topic. He handled the situation poorly, because he ended up unfriending me and deleting some of my comments. But I was just shocked that an Arminian of all people would advocate such a view. God's universal love is one of the things about God that we Arminians typically emphasize and celebrate.
So, as you read this blog post, don't think that this is merely a criticism of one soteriological view. I'm not simply refuting Calvinists or Calvinism, but a view that even some who disavow the T.U.L.I.P advocate, as strange as that is. Additionally, there are some Calvinists who do affirm God's universal love (even though I think they do so inconsistently), so this won't apply to them. It will only apply to Calvinists who deny God's universal love.
What Does The Bible Say About God's Love?
What is the biblical evidence for God's universal love? Well, I think one of the most blatant passages is to be found in John 3. In John 3, Jesus says "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:16-17, emphasis mine). This passage tells us who God loves: THE WORLD! For God so loved THE WORLD that Jesus became a man (John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-8) and suffered a horrible death on the cross to take the punishments for our sins, so that if we believe in Him, we will have eternal life. Who is a part of the world? Am I a part of the world? Are you a part of the world? Is Billy Graham a part of the world? Is Hitler a part of the world? What about Osama Bin Ladin? Was he a part of the world? The answer is "yes" to all of those questions. Every human being is a part of the world, and therefore not only does God love every human being, but Jesus died for every human being. He died for "the world". Moreover, to respond (as some Calvinist critics have done when I've brought this point up in earlier blog posts) that "Oh, well, rocks and cars and cats and elephant turds are part of the world. I guess Jesus died for them too." is just sophistry. Obviously John 3 is not talking about inanimate objects or animals, but people in need of salvation. Such a response is just a silly misunderstanding at best and sophistry at worst.
Additionally, Jesus said in John 15:13 that "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." and 1 Timothy 2:4-6 says that God "...wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time." and we have 1 John 2:2 which says "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." and John 3:16 likewise says that the Father sent His son to die for the sins of "the world". What is the point here? The point is that Jesus says that when you give your life for someone, you're showing externally that you have the greatest level of love for them. Since Jesus died for all humanity, it follows that Jesus not only loves all humanity, but has a love for them of which no greater can be conceived. God loves all people. Therefore, If He loves all people, it follows that He therefore cannot hate any person.
Moreover, we're told in scripture that not only does God have love for the world, but His very nature is love. 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16 state unequivocally that "God is love". God doesn't simply have love, God is love. It is within God's very nature to be loving and everything that entails (see 1 Corinthians 13). Once you realize that love is an essential property of God (meaning that He cannot lack love and still be God), then I think you can see how unintelligible it is to say "God hates __". God cannot hate anyone if His nature is love. You might as well assert that fire can freeze things! But that would be a ridiculous thing to say. Fire cannot freeze anything! Fire is, by its very nature, something that is hot, something that burns! God can no more hate an individual person that fire can be cold!
Now, it's true that God hates sin, but it is false that God hates sinNER. God hates sin, but God loves the sinner. The Bible says "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community." -- Proverbs 6:16-19. Moreover, Habbakuk 1:13 says that God's eyes are so pure that He cannot bare to even look upon evil. The verse says that He cannot tolerate wrongdoing. God The Father says to God The Son, "You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." (Psalm 45:7 cf. Hebrews 1:9). So God definitely despises sin, but that does not at all entail that God hates the person committing the sin.
Objection: But Some Bible Verses Say He Hates People
The advocates of divine hatred often try to prove that God hates unbelievers by appealing to verses like Psalm 5:5 where it says that God hates “all workers of iniquity.” or Psalm 11:5 which says "The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion." .
What are we to make of this? It says outright that there are individuals who God hates, doesn't it? Yes, there are a few places that seem to say that God hates sinners or the unrepentent (like Psalm 5:5 for example), but we need to interpret scripture in light of scripture. This is one of the standard established rules of biblical hermenuetics. Given that The Bible is the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and given that God is perfect, it follows that His inspired word will never contradict itself. Ergo, when we find two passages that seem to contradict, we are to interpret the unclear passage in the light of the clear teaching elsewhere in scripture. Based on the wealth of evidence for God's universal love elsewhere, I've concluded that the "I hate" statements uttered from God are instances of metonymy. Metonymy is a figure of speech that substitutes the causes for their effects.
One example of this figure of speech found in scripture is found in a verse I quoted above: "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community." - Proverbs 6:16-19
This is an obvious example of metonymy. The writer says that there are 6 things that The Lord hates, and then goes on to list things like "a lying tongue" and "hands that shed innocent blood" and so on. He's substituting the cause (tongue, hands) with their effects (lies, shed blood). God doesn't literally hate physical tongues or hands, He hates the sins that the tongues and hands cause. God doesn't hate feet, He hates the action that the feet do (i.e rush into evil). The causes and effects are substituted for one another.
So when people refer to passages like Psalm 5:5 where it says that God hates “all workers of iniquity.", I don't think this means that God actually has hatred for people anymore than Proverbs 6:16-19 teaches that God hates peoples' tongues, and hands, and feet. Rather, I think that Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, and Proverbs 6:16-19 are all employing metonymy. God hates sin, but God loves sinner God hates evil deeds, but God loves the evil doER. This interpretation fits better with passages that teach God's love for all humanity such as John 3:16, and His atoning death for all people (1 Timothy 2:6, 1 John 2:2, Hebrews 2:9). It seems odd that while some Christians would not interpret Proverbs 6 as saying that God literally hates feet and tongues, they'd interpret Psalm 5:5 and Psalm 11:5 as teaching that God literally hates individual human beings.
Objection: But Jesus Only Died For The Elect
Now, what I just said in the first subheader will appeal to people like the Arminian who unfriended me and deleted my comments. But what about the Calvinists? Calvinists don't believe Jesus died for all men, and respond to the biblical evidence I brought up with all sorts of implausible counter-arguments, saying that "all people only means all kinds of people. World means 'the world of the elect'." and many more. I'm not going to take the time to respond to any of these arguments since I've already done that in blog posts such as "What Biblical Evidence Is There For Prevenient Grace"? So, I'm not going to rehash that material and argue why "all people" means all people, why "whole world" means "the whole world" and why "everyone" means "everyone". You can check out "What Biblical Evidence Is There For Prevenient Grace?" to see how I respond to those objections. Instead, I'll take a different tactic to refute the Calvinist which doesn't require a denial of the T.U.L.I.P to succeed.
REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM ALERT! If the Calvinist (or the Arminian who unfriended me) wants to interpret Psalm 5:5, Psalm 11:5, and others like it as teaching that God hates those who do evil, this entails an absurd conclusion. It entails that God hates Christians! Psalm 5:5 says that God hates those who work iniquity! Guess who works iniquity? According to God's Word, it's EVERYONE! Romans 3:23 says "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Given that all people are sinners, God hates the elect and the non-elect alike. After all, we Christians still sin sometimes even after we're saved. We are "Simul Iustus et Peccator" as Martin Luther so eloquently put it. That's Latin for "Justified yet simultaneously sinners." If everyone is a sinner, even Christians (Romans 3:23), and God hates those who sin (Psalm 5:5), then it follows logically that God hates Christians as well as non-Christians.
Now, if that's so, then what are we to make of Romans 5:8? This verse says "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." So what is the divine hatred advocate to say at this point? That God both hates and loves His own children? Restricting Romans 5:8 to only the elect will not help for the reasons I gave in the above paragraph. It cannot be that God both loves and hates His children (or anyone for that matter) since to affirm that would be to affirm a contradiction.
Now, if we take the "I hate" verses as employing the figure of speech known as metonymy, the conflict vanishes.
Objection: But Love And Hate Aren't Opposites!
Now, some people foolishly think that love and hate aren't opposites. They'll say things like "Hate isn't the opposite of love. The opposite of love is indifference". Now, surely if it were true that love and hate weren't opposites, my argument would fail as this whole article has presupposed that they were. Let's examine this popular catch phrase, shall we? Is indifference really the opposite of love? Well, in one way, I suppose it is. Love is a passion, and indifference isn't passionate in the least. Love moves you to demonstrate the virtues spelled out in 1 Cortinthians 13, indifference doesn't care about whether it's kind to you or not, whether it's patient with you or impatient, whether it keeps records of wrongs or forgets all about them. Indifference doesn't care, but love cares a great deal! Now, we can say that in this sense that indifference is clearly the opposite of love. But in what way? Indifference is the opposite of love in the sense that one cares and one does not care.
But that's really more of a difference between passion and impassion. Hate is also the opposite of love, but in a different way. Hatred is a passion like love, but it's a passion for the things opposite to the things that love is passionate for!
Before I got saved, (and I am ashamed to admit this), but I did hate some people with a firey passion. When I came to Christ, The Lord freed me from that bondage, but I still remember how it felt. As someone who has experienced both genuine hatred for people and genuine love, I can tell you firsthand just how diametrically opposed these two are. For the people I hated, I desired the worst for them. For the people I love, I desire the best for them. Regarding the people I hated, I wanted nothing to do with them. With the people I love, I want to spend as much time with them as I can. With the people I hated, my heart would have rejoiced to see them in despair, but with the people I love, my heart breaks when theirs breaks. So trust me when I say to you that you cannot love a person and hate them at the same time. I almost wish Paul had written a mirror image version of 1 Corinthians 13 to show people how true that is. It might read something like this: "Hate is impatient, hate is cruel, hate is envious. It boasts frequently, it is proud. It is self seeking, it is quick tempered, it keeps a long list of wrongs. Hate takes great delight in evil and rejoices with lies. Praise God that hate is capable of failing."
Objection: God Is A Wrathful God
Divine hatred advocates frequently appeal to Bible passages about divine wrath and judgment, and about God's righteousness and holiness. But these aren't at all in conflict the idea that God loves all people. Indeed, I believe God loves even those he has to send to Hell. I believe God loved those destroyed in the great flood of Genesis 6-9, and the Caananites. The fact that God judges the unrepentant gives me no reason at all to doubt God's universal love.
Think of it this way: if you're a parent, I think my following illustration will have a great impact on you than if you aren't. But let's suppose you're a judge and your son gets arrested on murder charges. The evidence overwhelmingly points to his guilt and you cannot deny the fact that he is guilty. You, as a just and righteous judge, must sentence him to death. Now, I suppose it would break your heart to have to do this; but if you're truly a judge of perfect justice, it would be immoral for you to turn a blind eye. Do you hate your son? Do you despise him? Is your love for him gone? I know of many fathers and mothers who would say no. You still love him, but you hate what he did, and your heart breaks that you have to sentence him to the chair or lethal injection.
God is the same way. God is a holy and righteous judge, and He will deliver judgment upon the wicked (Psalm 9:7-8, Psalm 9:16, Psalm 10, Psalm 11:16, Psalm 103:6). That said, we are told by The Almighty Himself: "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23), and "Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’" (Ezekiel 33:11). God judges the wicked, but He doesn't like to. He would rather that they repent so that He could forgive them.
Given This, Why Might Someone Still Advocate Divine Hatred?
In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus commands us to love our enemies. In the final verse, he says "be perfect therefore, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect". Jesus ended His "love your enemies" speech with a command to be perfect just as our Father in Heaven is perfect because loving our enemies is a requirement in meeting that end. We are to be perfect just as God our Father is perfect, and in order to do that, we need to love our enemies. After all, Jesus says, God loves His enemies by causing His sun to rise on them as well as the good people, and to cause rain to fall on the crops of both the righteous and the unrighteous (verse 45). If we're to be perfect, loving our enemies is unavoidable. It's a requirement to meet that goal. That is why Jesus ended his "love your enemies" speech by saying that. But then, that just means that God doesn't hate His enemies. Remember, love and hate are opposites. If God loves His enemies, that means He doesn't hate them. If He hates them, it means that He doesn't love them.
Moreover, why would God command us to love our enemies if He didn't do the same? Why would God forbid us to hate our enemies if He Himself hates them? Is God a hypocrite? Is he a "Do as I say not as I do" kind of Father? Surely not! God's philosophy is surely not "Do as I say, not as I do." God is not a hypocrite. Moreover, we're supposed to imitate God right? We're suppose to conform our moral character to His. If I am to imitate God, and God hates His enemies, then it would seem I am supposed to hate my enemies as well (in contradiction to Jesus' command in Matthew 5).
I think another reason one might be lead to think God has hatred for individuals is because there are some false teachings out there that erroneously incorporate God's universal love. Teachings such as universalism and the prosperity gospel for examples. The former argues that since God loves everyone, everyone will be saved. The latter argues that God's love will prompt Him to shower you with financial wealth and prosperity in this life because "God wants you to be happy". Both of these views are false. As for universalism, I'm baffled at how anyone can read Revelation Chapter 20 and not conclude that at least some people will go to Hell. As for the former, even a newbie Bible student should be able to see how "The Health N' Wealth" gospel isn't the biblical gospel. But both push their views on the basis of "God is love". I think some people flee to divine hatred as a knee jerk reaction to these aberrant false teachings. But that is simply to jump out of the frying pan and into the oven! It's to fall avoid two false teachings at the expense of falling into another!
God doesn't hate anyone. He hates our sin, but He doesn't hate us. That's why He died for us in the first place. That's why He died for all people, even for those who will never love him (John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:6). He showed His love for us by dying for us (Romans 5:8), and Jesus Himself said that giving your life for someone else was the greatest display of love anyone could ever display (John 15:13).
The idea that God hates some people is unbiblical, and I would even go so far as to say blasphemous. It is blasphemy to utter the words "God hates __" unless and only unless that blank contains "sin" or the names of evil actions. "God hates murder", "God hates adultery", "God hates theft", "God hates pornography", etc. But if you put any person's name in that blank, you've blasphemed God. If you put "God hates unbelievers", "God hates Frank", or as the Westburrow Baptist Church is so fond of saying, "God hates fags", then you've blasphemed The Lord Almighty and you need to repent. Frankly, I see anyone who asserts God's hatred for people (and not merely the sins they commit) as no different then The Westburrow Baptist Church. They've both committed the same sin. I pray that God will use this blog post to open your eyes to the truth and convict you.
I would also say that such a position is anti-gospel. The whole message of the gospel is that God loves us. That's why He became a human being, and was crucified and rose from the dead. He did this because He loved us and wanted us not to have to endure the punishment for sin that we deserve, but to live in eternal bliss with Him forever. God was willing to be brutalized. Why? Because He loves us so much! Oh how He loves us! Jesus died for us because He loves us, and as Romans 5:8 says, He loved us even while we were still sinners, even while we were estranged from Him and living a life of immorality. That's the God I serve. That's the God I worship. I serve a God who has never for a single moment, not even for a nanosecond, ever hated me, in spite of giving Him many reasons to. When you undermine the love of God, you undermine the very motive for God to send His Son into the world. When you undermine God's motive for sending His Son into the world, you undermine the gospel. It causes my heart to ache that so many professing Christians are buying into this false doctrine that God hates individuals.
Much more could be said about why divine hatred is untenable, in fact, I could make the case that The Ontological Argument For God's Existence undermines the divine hatred view, and I did in fact make this case in chapters 4 and 5 of my book "Inference To The One True God: Why I Believe In Jesus Instead Of Other Gods". I said in the book that this is one reason why I don't think Allah can be the one true God. Allah is not a maximally great being because he only loves those who love him. I reject the divine hatred view prevalent in reformed Christianity for exactly the same reason. A Maximally Great Being is an omnibenevolent one. But rather than unpack that here, making this blog post even lengthier than it already is, I advise you to read my argument in the book.
Also, for those wanted to dig in further, I would also advise you to check out Jerry Wall's newest book on this topic titled "Does God Love Everyone?"