The Question of the Day: "Does God hate people?"
I'll bet you won't have a problem guessing what the universal answer was. Some people gave me a freaked-out look when I popped that question on 'em. Frankly, given the false gospel preached in many churches nowadays, I can't say I blame 'em.
Election, predestination, and soteriology
The first man I spoke with was in his late 30s and heading to the parking lot. After I introduced myself and handed him a gospel/ministry card, he willingly stopped to chat and after I asked him the question of the day he said, "No, God doesn't hate anybody." I then quoted the following passages:
for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, "THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER." 13 Just as it is written, "JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED." (Romans 9:11-13 NAU)
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. (Psalms 5:5 NAU)
The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, And the one who loves violence His soul hates. (Psalms 11:5 NAU)I then explained the basic context of each verse, especially Romans 9, and he responded, "Man, I've never heard anything like this before. I said, "I figured as much; that's because churches don't teach this nowadays. It doesn't bode well for the multi-million dollar facility you're in when you teach about the judicial hatred of God from Romans 9." He then asked what our church was like and I had the opportunity to explain to him that when it comes to church meetings, form follows function and if you understand the purpose/function of the church, then it will take a particular form and do particular things. He appreciated the chat, I encouraged him to read 1st John and examine himself per 2 Corinthians 13:5.
Mr. "I'm all good"
The next guy I spoke with was a nice kid with crumbs all over his face from eating his vending machine snack while sitting on a picnic table in the quad. His iPod buds were in his ears while he was talking to me, but he heard every word. After introducing myself, and asking the question of the day he said, "Naw, I don't know why God would want to do that." I then started explaining sin and God's righteous judgment to him, he smirked, blew it off, and said, "I don't think He's really like that, I mean, I believe in God 'n all, and I try to be a good person, but I think that as long as you're sincere, you're good to go." I then said, "What if I sincerely believe that the oak tree behind us is Jesus and I repent and believe in the oak tree, will that get me into heaven?" He said, "Uh, yeah, I guess." I then said, "What if I sincerely believe that flying jet planes into the world trade center will get me into heaven, is that okay?" He said, "Naw man, that's wrong." I then said, "Then mere sincerity isn't an accurate test for religious truth claims is it?" He agreed. I then returned to an explanation of God's righteous judgment and said that because God is good, He must give people what they deserve, which is Hell. He disagreed. I then asked him how God could be just and still forgive people willy-nilly (i.e., arbitrarily - without a grounds for forgiveness). He said, "He just does" to which I responded, "then He just does unjustly."
Then I quoted Proverbs 17:15, "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD", then explained that for God to justify the wicked without His justice being met would make God Himself abominable. So I asked him, "How does God justify the wicked without becoming an abomination to Himself?" Of course, he didn't know, so I explained to him how God could be both just and the justifier of the wicked by virtue of what Messiah Jesus did in place of sinners when he died on the cross. I then explained from 2 Cor. 5:21 how the sinless Messiah took the punishment of sinners upon Himself on the cross so that those who believe in Him could be counted as righteous before God. He still didn't get it, so I said, "look, if a guy raped and brutally murdered your sister but didn't get caught until 20 years later, and stands before the judge and says 'Judge, I realize what I did was evil, but I've been a morally upstanding guy the last 20 years. Since I raped and murdered that girl, I've changed my ways: I've been working in a soup-kitchen and I went to school to be a RN and now I'm working in a nursing home because I have a love for the geriatric population so much that want to help them in their twilight years. I've earned many nursing achievement awards from the state and national nursing boards and so I ask you to forgive me and please let me go. I'm terribly sorry for what I did. Those old people can't do without me." I asked this dude, "If the judge just lets this guy go willy-nilly, would he be just or unjust?" He said, "He'd be unjust." I then said, "Then how much more should the infallible, holy God of creation who never makes mistakes and has no sin be just with your sin?" He got the point. I then went through a few commands with him (adultery of the heart, lying, stealing, blasphemy, etc.) and he seemed to get a little convicted. I then said, "See man, that's why you need Christ. Without Him, you'll get what you deserve, which is pure and unmitigated justice in Hell forever." He balked, I shook his hand, and I was off.
Some Passionate Muslims
I always enjoy talking to Muslims about religion. They are almost always willing to talk to you and generally, they are amiable. I love it because you can walk right up to them, ask them a question, and then you can almost be guaranteed a 30-45 minute discussion with them about the claims of the N.T., the Qur'an, and the injil (the gospel). Today was no different. I walked up to three male Muslim students, introduced myself, asked the question of the day, and we quickly entered into a discussion about what it means for Jesus to be the Son of God.
Every Muslim I have spoken with believes that the N.T. term "Son of God" means that the Father literally impregnated Mary and that Jesus is a literal Son from a literal divine-human union. However, the orthodox, Biblical understanding is that the phrase "Son of God" is to be understood as a metaphor, a relational term to help humans understand something about the relationship between Jesus and the Father in the Godhead; what's commonly known as the economic Trinity. After explaining that issue and then trying hard to avoid getting sidetracked by my Muslim friends into various irrelevant areas for a total of about 10-15 minutes, two of the original men left and a second young Muslim man listened a few feet away and then walked up and said, "But Zakir Naik has proven that the N.T. isn't reliable"
At this point I immediately asked, "Can you give me an example of any textual variant(s) in the N.T. manuscript tradition that undermines any essential Christian doctrine or changes the essential message of the N.T.?" to which this gentleman gave a confident, smirking grin but said nothing. I said, "If you cannot prove that the message of the N.T. has been substantially changed, then you have made a bare-naked assertion" and he responded, "If you watch Dr. Zakir Naik's videos on YouTube, you will see that I'm telling the truth." and I said, "But Zakir Naik uses examples that have been answered over and over and over again yet he refuses to stop using arguments that have already been answered by men who are experts in the field of N.T. Greek and/or N.T. textual criticism." He then asserted, "The Qura'n has not been changed at all like the N.T. has, and at that point I pulled up the following image on my iPhone:
Though you may not be able to make out exactly what this page is referring to, it is taken from Dr. James White's AOmin blog. I have this page bookmarked in my iPhone for these types of conversations. The photo to the left contains several variant readings that have been discovered in palimpsest manuscripts of the Qura'n. For the uninitiated, palimpsest manuscripts are manuscripts that have had the original writing erased and then written on top of what was previously erased. Through different methods, textual critics can determine what was originally written in the erased portions and determine whether textual variants existed.
After pulling this page up I said, "My friend, that's not true, there are textual variants in the ancient manuscript copies of the Qura'n just like any other work of antiquity. Please, take a look at this evidence." At this point, the young Muslim man refused to look at them and said, "I cannot speak against the Qura'n or Islam." and I responded, "I'm not asking you to speak against either, I'm proving my assertion by pointing you to evidence that contradicts your claim that there are no textual variants in the manuscripts of the Qura'n." He responded, "You don't understand, I cannot speak against Zakir Naik, Christianity, or the Qura'n." I then said, "I'm confused; isn't that what you just did with the the N.T.? Didn't you suggest that it had been corrupted to such an extent that we can't trust its message?" At this point, he took a cell phone call, and I turned to the lone remaining Muslim and said, "Look my friend, if you are truly lovers of the truth, then truth demands that you study these issues for yourself and not take Zakir Naik's word for it. I can tell you based upon my extensive study of the N.T. that his assertions simply aren't true." At this point the other young man briefly returned for a moment and I asked both of them, "Have you ever read the N.T.?" and they both said, "No."
I then replied, "My friends, I have read the Qura'n three times. I have examined its claims and found them wanting. But I did so after examining the Qura'n, not before. I also didn't base my conclusions wholly on what somebody else told me about the Qura'n. I looked at the evidence for myself, listened to other trusted scholarly sources (both Christian and non-Christian), listened to many public, moderated debates re: the claims of the Qura'n and Islam, and came to my conclusions after looking at the data and interacting with the arguments. I didn't just assume it was wrong; I actually examined it for myself in light of the claims that Muslims make for it. Thus, don't you think its disingenuous for you to dismiss the N.T. when you haven't even read and studied it for yourself?" At this point one Muslim agreed with my reasoning, whereas the other who originally brought up Zakir Naik didn't.
I then pointed out to them that their Qura'n put them in a difficult situation:
P1 - The Qura'n says the words of Allah cannot be changed or corrupted (Surah 6:34, 115; 10:64)I then said,
P2 - The Qura'n says the Bible is the Word of Allah (Surah 2:136; 29:46).
- "Rejected were the messengers before thee: with patience and constancy they bore their rejection and their wrongs, until Our aid did reach them: there is none that can alter the words (and decrees) of Allah. Already hast thou received some account of those messengers." S. 6:34
- "The word of thy Lord doth find its fulfillment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who heareth and knoweth all." S. 6:115
- "For them are glad tidings, in the life of the present and in the Hereafter; no change can there be in the words of Allah. This is indeed supreme felicity." S. 10:64
C - Therefore, assuming the authority of the Qura'n for sake of argument, the Bible could not have been changed or corrupted as many Muslim apologists claim.
- "Say ye: 'We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)."
- "And dispute yet not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, 'We believe in the revelation which has come to to us and in that which came down to you; Our All and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).'"
"Look friend, if the Qura'n affirms the reliability of the Bible then it's false since it contradicts the very Bible that it affirms. On the other hand, if the Bible is false then so is the Qura'n since the Qura'n affirms the Bible's trustworthiness when its really not trustworthy. Thus, if you agree with the Qura'n that the Bible is reliable, then you'll have to believe the Bible, but that puts you in a very difficult situation since the N.T. contradicts many fundamental doctrines of Islam. Worse, you have a choice to either trust the Qura'n which affirms the trustworthiness of the Bible and so contradict every modern Muslim apologist that claims otherwise, or you can trust the Muslim apologist and deny the Qura'n."At this point they wanted to get away from that argument as quickly as possible by changing the subject to irrelevant issues. I patiently redirected the conversation back to the gospel.
I finally was able to bring the law of Christ to bear upon them and explained the reason for Jesus' atonement while also contrasting it with Allah's arbitrary basis of forgiveness. For those who are unaware of this theological problem, Islam has no grounds for forgiving sins other than Allah's arbitrary will, thus making Allah unjust since he forgives the guilty without someone being punished for their sins. I used the courtroom analogy with them (i.e., an unjust earthly judge merely forgiving a brutal murderer and rapist just because he said he was sorry) and explained that this is the problem with Allah's method of forgiveness. I then explained that the N.T. teaches that Allah can be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Isa because Isa's substitutionary atonement for sinners is the legal grounds for a sinner's forgiveness since the sinless Messiah bore the punishment that penitent sinners deserve but don't get because Isa died in their place (Proverbs 17:15; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). They didn't accept the last argument due to their pre-programmed Muslim denial of the crucifixion, but they thanked me for the conversation with a warm smile, we shook hands, and we went our separate ways.
Pantheism and Denominational Confusion
The last conversation I had was with two American students smoking cigarettes and waiting on their rides to go home. One student, a male, said that he believed that God hated and loved people, and I said, "I agree, though not in the same sense." The other student, a female, said, "No, I don't think God hates anybody." I quoted the relevant passages of Scripture and explained that God's "hatred" isn't like ours, human, imperfect, and sinful, but is a demonstration of His judicial hatred of sin and sinners. The young man changed the subject and said, "I think God is everything" to which I responded, "do you think the cow pie in the field is God too?" to which he said, "I didn't think about that." I said, "Well, if you're consistent, you'd have to carry it that far" and then he said, "I basically agree with what the Bible says about God" and I responded, "No, the Bible teaches a Creator-creation distinction; the Creator is not the creation and vice versa" and then I quoted Romans 1:18-25 and other passages that prove this distinction. I then told him, "What you are advocating is called Pantheism; i.e., the idea that all is god and god is all. I'm god, you're god, the cigarette smoke is god, and cow pies are god". He said, "I've never heard of that before" and I said, "That's why I'm here." He smiled. I then said, "Look, if god is everything, then you have functionally defined god out of existence."
At this time several people standing around were listening intently and I then asked him, "How do you know if what you believe is true or not?" and he said something like, "Well, I'm not sure about it" to which I responded, "Are you sure of that?" and then said, "If you're sure that you're not sure, then how can you be sure of that?" The female student standing beside him laughed, but he didn't quite get it yet. That's certainly understandable. So I slowed down a little and attempted to patiently explain how his beliefs were self-defeating. He got it, appreciated the explanation, and then I started talking to the female student beside him while she lit up another cig.
I asked her, "You seemed to follow what I'm saying pretty well, so let me ask you this, what is the gospel?" She never answered my question, but said, "I believe in God and know that I'm going to heaven when I die, but I get confused about all the different denominations . . . I mean, I grew up United Methodist and went to Baptist and Catholic churches with my friends and they all say that the differences amount to people's different interpretations of the Bible." I then said, "Well, Roman Catholicism is another animal that I'll deal with later, but most 16th century Protestants originally held to all the same basic doctrine (i.e., Trinity, 5 Solas, TULIP)." I then moved from briefly explaining the Protestant Reformation to discussing the major doctrinal differences between Rome's view of justification and Bibical doctrine of justification. She then understood why I earlier asserted that Rome is no true church. I then explained the gospel to her, exhorted her to examine herself in light of 1st John, and headed off to my car.
IN CONCLUSION, the question "Does God hate people" is an excellent conversation starter. In light of that question, I'll ask you the same follow-up questions I asked a college prof. late last week. Do you love the God of the Bible who not only demonstrates love, compassion, and abundant mercy, but who also:
- Hates the sinner and not just the sin (Psalm 5:5; 11:5)?
- Creates most people for the purpose of displaying His justice in their destruction (Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 9:22-23)?
- Predestines people for salvation and the rest for damnation (John 6:37-44, 65; Romans 9:11-23; Ephesians 1:4-11; 1 Peter 2:8)?
- Punishes those whom He's created to destroy forever in Hell (1 Peter 2:8)?