Love, Hate, and the Law of Volitional Responsibility
In last week’s post (see Christian Vs Christian: John 13:34-35) I placed a heavy emphasis on meaning of the Koine Greek word agapaō which is one of four Koine Greek words translated as “love” in English. Going forward I will continue to emphasize the idea that agapaō is something commanded of every believer toward other believers (and, at times, toward unbelievers). The understanding of this word is central to any Christian’s understanding of how to treat others.
I have always seen agapaō translated as either “unconditional love” or “impersonal love.” The problem is that some Christians believe that this is an incorrect translation of agapaō and that “unconditional love” is a terribly wrong headed notion. Rather than just assert that some, or maybe even many, Christians believe that unconditional love is nonsense I decided to look for an example. It wasn’t very difficult to find examples and I found a very good one at The Family Christian Study Centre in their post titled “Confronting a Common Heresy.” In that post the authors quote R.J. Rushdoony on the topic of unconditional love:
Unconditional love is a more revolutionary concept than any other doctrine of revolution. Unconditional love means the end of all discrimination between good and evil, right and wrong, better and worse, friend and enemy, and all things else. Whenever anyone asked you to love unconditionally, they are asking you to surrender unconditionally to the enemy.
From this quote I have been tempted to write that Rushdoony doesn’t understand what unconditional love is but that would be unfair to him. I do believe that he is misrepresenting unconditional love but he knows very well where other Christians get the concept and what it means. Rushdoony was undoubtedly a brilliant man. I have read that he would read an entire book every evening complete with hand written notes in the margins. When he died there was something like 8,000 books in his personal library. He was well read in everything theological and knew very well what he was rejecting.
What I am going to do now is provide my reasons as to why I accept the concept of unconditional love. Any readers of this post can accept or reject it as they wish.
I have found Pastor Bill Wenstrom’s word study of agapaō to be an invaluable resource and I would like to quote from it again. On page 43 Pastor Wenstrom states:
506. Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
507. Matthew 5:45, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
508. Matthew 5:46, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
509. Matthew 5:47, “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
510. Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
511. The Lord Jesus Christ explains in Matthew 5:44-48 that there is no virtue in loving those who love you but rather His disciples were to imitate God who loves His enemies, those who are obnoxious sinners to Him.
If Rushdoony is correct then this passage makes no sense. Are these enemies who are persecuting Christ’s disciples good or evil? I don’t see how they can be anything but evil yet the disciples are commanded to love these enemies. In addition, loving our enemies is linked to a perfection that our Heavenly Father has. That is a very powerful statement.
Love, Hate, and the Essence of God
One of the things that bothered me about the “Confronting a Common Heresy” article (and others I found) was an implied belief that hate is as much a part of God’s essence as love is. I believe that that is a very dangerous fallacy. What I am going to attempt here is a thumbnail sketch of why I believe it is impossible for hate to be part of God’s essence.
My starting point is a divine attribute that every Christian theologian I know of agrees that God possesses. It is called aseity and is defined as:
God is independent, self-existent, and fully self sufficient. He does not need anything outside of himself to exist, be satisfied, or be fulfilled.
Using this definition it can be easily seen that God cannot depend on His creatures for anything or he cannot be God. One of the arguments for the existence of the Trinity is based on the divine attributes of aseity and love. If God is love, and we are told by scripture that He is, then he could not have waited to love until he created mankind. If that is the case then His love would depend on His creating us thereby making His love creaturely dependent. If God did not love until He created us then He is not God.
Since love requires an object, who did God love before He created us? The answer is that each member of the Trinity loved each other. The Father loves the Son and the Holy Spirit; the Son loves the Father and the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit loves the Father and the Son. If God is to be God and have love from eternity past then the Trinity is necessary.
What about hate? Can hate be a divine attribute? This could only be the case if God had something to hate that is not creaturely dependent. Can there be hate between members of the Trinity. Absolutely not! Hate cannot be an attribute like love is since it cannot pre-date the creation of man.
Well then, what about those passages quoted in the “Confronting a Common Heresy” article which says that God hates? The only reasonable explanation I have ever heard is that ascribing hate to God is what is called an Anthropopathism. Pastor Wenstrom on page 7 of his study on the Divine Essence defines Anthropopathisms as:
The Bible uses Anthropopathisms. Anthropopathisms ascribe to God human characteristics which He does not have, in order to explain God’s policy or viewpoint to us in terms of human attitudes. Examples of Anthropopathisms: (1) Repentance (Gen. 6:6): God does not really change His mind, He is immutable. (2) Hatred (Rom. 9:13): This is an expression of divine justice. (3) Anger (Rom. 1:18): God’s judgments are not based upon passion. (4) Scorn (Psa. 2:4). (5) Benevolence (Rom. 8:32). (6) Compassion (Lam. 3:22-32). (7) Longsuffering (Num. 14:18). (8) Happiness (God is infinitely happy in Himself and is free from anxiety and fear).
God’s hate is an Anthropopathism.
The Law of Volitional Responsibility
God does move against those who commit evil (both believers and unbelievers can do evil things) because the perpetrators choose to be that way. This is not an act of hatred but of justice (a divine attribute).
When we have committed evil and God moves against us it is our fault. I believe that God’s love and justice are consistent with His punishing evil. Hatred, as we know it, has nothing to do with it.
The Law of Volitional Responsibility: People who choose for God are blessed; those who choose against Him suffer. The Law of Volitional responsibility is well documented by Scripture.
Job 4:8-9, “As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish.
Prov 11:18, “The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.
1. The deceptive wages are the result of bad decisions.
2. The deceptive wages shortchange the work of sin, making sin never worth it.
Prov 22:8, “He who sows wickedness reaps trouble, and the rod of his fury will be destroyed.
Hosea 8:7, “”They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour. Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up.
Hosea 10:12, “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.
2 Cor 9:6, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and who-ever sows generously will also reap generously.
Gal 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
James 3:18 “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
The law of volitional responsibility is a built in function of divine discipline (see below). It is a law as universal as gravity, and no less impressive in its effects.
The law of volitional responsibility can be summed up in the phrase, “You will reap what you sow.” This means that the seeds that you plant in bad decisions will grow up to cause suffering in your life.
In the law of volitional responsibility, the suffering is always appropriate to the original bad decision.
1. If the decision is in the realm of finance, then you will suffer financially.
2. If the decision is in the realm of romance, then you will suffer romantically.
3. If the decision is in the realm of social life, then you will suffer socially.
4. If the decision is in the realm of your chosen profession, then you will suffer professionally.
In the law of volitional responsibility, bad decisions, like crime, never pay. You never ‘get away’ with a bad decision. You never slip a fast one by God, even on a small scale.
In the law of volitional responsibility, good decisions never go unnoticed by the omnipresence of God.
There will always be a difference between right and wrong. Always to eternity.
Choosing right over wrong will always be important.