The provocative quote of the week goes to, Charles Spurgeon, “Be a good hater”.
Which in context means: to abhor evil: to regard it with extreme repugnance. [In Latin, “abhor” is Odium: with hostility; “repugnance”: resist, be an adversary of evil.]
Our present age has an almost absolute fear of hate, yet most would agree that “let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good“, is an admirable thing. One clear example which proves this is the often irrational hatred shown towards Donald Trump.
When discussing hating evil, clinging to the good, Calvin prefers to use the term “turning away”, saying it ‘corresponds better with the opposite clause, where Paul bids us to exercise kindness’ (Commentary on Romans 12:9)
This is displayed in the actions of real social justice advocates [by which I don’t mean the average internet variety, Social Justice Warriors]. Social justice advocates lay their claims against injustice on the very premise that an evil; an injustice; something to be abhorred; something repugnant has taken place.
The problem arises when the basis for those claims are centred on the ever shifting sands of subjective relativism. Akin to the great violation in the garden, that jettisoned God and made humanity the source of knowledge about good and evil; removing the Creator from His rightful place, and putting the creature at the centre of where, what and how that creature derives its definitions and subsequent redefinition’s of what is good and what is evil.
Once fluidity of truth is proclaimed and accepted. Competing truths then seek dominance.
From there lies can hide hatred and gain power behind the facade of truth:
“whoever hates disguises himself with his lips, and harbours deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart though his hatred be covered with deception.” (Proverbs, 26:24-26)
Under this rule, all hate is justified by personal truths among a plethos (a great number) of personal truths. Tolerance for the hatred of the Marxists, White Power Neo-Nazis or the Islamist who chooses to force faith through fear instead of charity, and well reasoned argument, must unfortunately be allowed.
The ultimate conclusion is a clash of competing untruths, long paraded as truth. The consequences being, that lies and falsehood come to rule, where truth and facts once did.
When accompanied by humility, mercy and justice, hate is not evil. Hate in this sense is restrained pathos or righteous anger. This is pathos seeking to end the cause of pathayma (suffering), which is held within the limits of both ethos and logos.
To hate evil is to cling to that which is good. The negative side to this, of course, is, that any hate which doesn’t cleave to that which is good, leads us towards that which is evil. Thus hating evil is not a sin because the act has a just cause. One grounded in the precedent, criteria and command of God.
Does this justify any and all kinds of hate? No, this doesn’t.
The statement, “be a good hater” is a challenge to resist evil (James[i]). To resist the morality of the tyrant or the ‘crowd which has no hands’ (Kierkegaard, The Crowd is Untruth [ii])
Morality drawn straight from the whims of the human heart is the subjective morality of the tyrant. Subjective morality becomes immorality the further it disconnects itself from the external Word and Spirit of God. This is because morality is held captive to the subjective truth of a tyrannical king, who acting on the mood of the moment bans all unauthorised morality from his or her kingdom. This unauthorised morality is anything other than the one he or she seeks to own, in order to grow their grip on power.
It is, as C.S Lewis wrote, true that ‘hatred obscures all distinctions.’[iii] What I think C.S Lewis is getting at here is any hatred that exists by itself and of itself, obscures all distinctions.
One way to speak of this could be to say that we need to be open about the things we intensely dislike, otherwise we are just lying to ourselves and others. Again we take Solomon’s words and apply them, ‘the one who conceals hatred has lying lips’ (Proverbs 10:18)
For the Christian, the ultimate grounding for hating evil, isn’t hate, it is love. Love motivates the Christian to speak out and proclaim the salvation brought to both the oppressed and oppressor alike.
This means continuing to act on the gifts that God gives, such as good government, the ability to teach, discern and speak in a gracious way to world hellbent on worshiping insanity. To achieve this we need to gain a better understanding about the close relationship between hating evil and being a “hater”.
Hating hate, and not evil, is the great twisted and misleading double negative of our age.
Nowhere in the bible does God command His people to hate hate. What we read is the imperative to abhor evil and cling to what is good. All of this raises a few more intricate questions that I haven’t got the room here to explore here,
1. How do we hate evil in a world that hates both hate, and hates anyone who proclaims that evil exists?
2. How do we as Christians respond to those who contradict themselves as they promote love, but preach hate against hate?
3. How can we keep the imperative to ‘hate what is evil’ from being misused and abused?
When we apply being a “good hater” to the Nazis, what is meant is that we hate the ideology of Nazism, not the German people who identified as Nazis. What is hated is the evil in the ideology that rules over the person and in the person, as if it were a lord without a Lord. The distinction between the German and the Nazi, if measured by Lewis’ criteria isn’t distorted.
Therefore, Charles Spurgeon’s ‘’be a good hater’’ is someone who acts in Christian love. Since love speaks both a “yes” and a “no”, to hate evil is to cling to the good; standing with, and in, God’s “no” to what is evil.
‘When you hate the man’s sins, you are not to hate him, but to love the sinner, even as Christ loved sinners and came to seek and save them. When you hate a man’s false doctrine, you are still to love the man and hate his doctrine even out of love to his soul, with an earnest desire that he may be reclaimed from his error and brought into the way of truth.’ (Spurgeon, 1858 Righteous Hatred)
It’s right then to conclude, that any Christian who falls in with the ‘untruth of the crowd’ when it comes to Donald Trump, may find themselves falling into hate that is absent of the rule of Christian love. The Christian in this context fails to see that ‘the sinner hasn’t stopped being God’s creature’ (Karl Barth CD 3:2, p.31)
Grace finds the distinction between the love for the sinner and hatred of the sin, and moves in love towards the sinner with this particular order in mind. Barth again brings home the point, ‘if it does not spring from grace, it does not lead to grace.’ (ibid, p.36)
Grace governs the outcome and reorders, hate the sin, love the sinner[iv]. Love for the sinner is primary. Hatred of sin is secondary[v].
Just as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:
“Although we are not Christ, if we want to be Christians we must participate in Christ’s own courageous heart by engaging in responsible action that seizes the hour in complete freedom, facing the danger’ (Meditations On The Cross, p.26)
None of this means being slothful in our response to injustice, what it means is letting authentic Christian love, not the untruth of the crowd, govern that response. So it is that we return to the imperative, let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, cling to that which is good.
[i] James 4:7
[ii] Kierkegaard S. 1847 The Crowd is Untruth sourced from CCEL.org
[iii] C.S Lewis, 1955 On Science Fiction in Essay Collection: Literature, Philosophy & Short Stories
[iv] See Bonhoeffer, D. 1954 Life Together p.111
[v] see Barth, K. 1960 Man as a Problem of Dogmatics, CD. 3:2 p.32 Hendrickson Publishers here Barth discusses the primacy of grace and the secondary place of sin in God’s attitude towards man.
Photo Credits: ‘Love Again’ by Kayle Kaupanger & ‘Old Vandalised Building – Vietnam’ by Peter Hershey on Unsplash