Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stop saying "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin"

I have long intuitively despised that insipid saying and the lazy ethics and theologising that usually preceded it, but being a hypocrite I had yet formulated the exact problem. So glad to come across a fascinating article by Tony Lane of LST on the wrath of God which features a lovely section dealing with this false cliché of half baked theology.

The conclusion thus far is that God's wrath is to be understood neither as purely impersonal nor in crudely anthropomorphic terms. So to what does "the wrath of God" refer? It is God's personal, vigorous opposition both to evil and to evil people. This is a steady, unrelenting antagonism that arises from God's very nature, his holiness. It is God's revulsion to evil and all that opposes him, his displeasure at it and the venting of that displeasure. It is his passionate resistance to every will that is set against him.

These "definitions" raise an issue that is often ignored. What is the object of God's wrath? Is God angry with evil or with evil people? In the New Testament both are true. Often God's wrath is referred to without precisely specifying the object of that wrath (e.g., Matt. 3:7; Luke 3:7; Rom. 4:15; Rev. 14:19; 15:1, 7). In one place the object of God's wrath is evil (Rom. 1:18), although even here the perpetrators are mentioned. Where an object is mentioned it is usually evildoers (e.g., Luke 21:23; John 3:36; Rom. 2:5, 8; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 2:16). Thus a comprehensive verdict would be to say that God's wrath is directed primarily against evildoers because of the evil that they do.

Where does this leave the modern cliché that "God hates the sin but loves the sinner"? Like most clichés it is a half-truth. There are two ways in which it could be taken. The first, which is undoubtedly the way that most people take it in the modern liberal West, is as a comment about the wrath of God. God's displeasure is against sin but not against the sinner. Apart from the fact that this reverses the emphasis of the New Testament, there are problems with it. As William Temple observes, "that is a shallow psychology which regards the sin as something merely separate from the sinner, which he can lay aside like a suit of clothes. My sin is the wrong direction of my will; and my will is just myself as far as I am active. If God hates the sin, what He hates is not an accretion attached to my real self; it is myself, as that self now exists." It is incoherent to say that God is displeased with child molestation but feels no displeasure toward child molesters. In what sense, then, is the cliché true? It is to be understood not as limiting the objects of God's displeasure to sinful actions but as affirming God's grace. God loves sinners, not in the sense that he does not hate them along with their sin, but in the sense that he seeks their salvation in Christ. While his attitude to sinners as sinners is antagonism and wrath, his good will toward them actively seeks their conversion and forgiveness.

Let me know what you think :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I don't have a tattoo but if I did it would be this one

Seriously, this has to be the cleverest, most poetic and original tattoo to get done . . .

וְשֶׂ֣רֶט לָנֶ֗פֶשׁ לֹ֤א תִתְּנוּ֙ בִּבְשַׂרְכֶ֔ם וּכְתֹ֣בֶת קַֽעֲקַ֔ע לֹ֥א תִתְּנ֖וּ בָּכֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃

Not only is it in Hebrew but it it is actually from the Bible, if you find it hard to read in Hebrew you could look it up in an English Bible from Leviticus 19:28. If you do get it done be sure to send me a photo.

If you are going to get a tattoo done in a language that you don't personally read I recommend not only employing a qualified and hygienic tattooist but also locating and using someone with expertise in that language. Tattoo artists are not renowned for their mastery of ancient languages so don't trust them if they say they can do you in Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic or Ugaritic.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The curse of the Hebrew tattoo strikes again

Those of us who study the biblical languages are used to hearing them abused in sermons and increasingly must be wary of their abuse in the wonderful world of tattoos. In the western world what was once only the province of sailors and prison inmates tattoos has become trendy for millenials, trying to be trendy and original by getting inked. Of course what better way to show your spiritual side than by getting a tattoo in a biblical language, that way God can read it too.

Victoria Beckham has shown the way but not all have been able to follow in her footsteps without stumbling. The latest casualty of this trend is the soccer player Mario Mandzukic who seems to want to keep both Nietzsche and God on side (an impossible task?) but ends up insulting both with poor grammar and the sort of mirror writing that most of us managed to stop doing about the age of 5.

Mandzukic's Hebrew tattoo

Never mind, eh?