Like the Thing They Loved

A number of times I have sought to reinforce the biblical principle that you become like what you worship. This is an inexorable law; there are no opt outs. The passage I have cited most often in this regard is where the psalmist says that those who make idols are “like unto them” (Ps. 115:8) — blind, deaf and dumb.

But there are other aspects to this, and that would include the shamefulness of shamelessness.

“Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season, I saw your fathers. But they came to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved” (Hosea 9:10, ESV).

The sexual disintegration of America over the last generation is a direct function of idolatry. It is no isolated sin. This is not something that happened all by itself. No, we have our very own Baal-peor, and our rulers are busy dedicating themselves to it. Social conservatives have set themselves the impossible task of fighting the effects of all this without dealing with the cause of it. Our Baal-peor, in case you were wondering, is secularism.

So our elites have found out the shameful thing, and they have consecrated themselves to it. They are so dedicated to it that they will fiercely persecute anyone who dares speak the truth about what they are doing. They are setting themselves apart, in a twisted parody of holiness. They are becoming like what they worship, and that means they are becoming detestable. And that means, in its turn, that we should detest them.

Wait a minute. Hate the sin, love the sinner, right? While we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). We were by nature objects of wrath, just as they are now. We are all taken from the same lump of damned clay, right (Rom. 9:21)? Right. No high horse for us. Any grim views of the depravity of others that does not take into account that we were all delivered (by grace) from the same appalling detestable condition is a view that is part of the problem.

So that is all correct, but we do have to make sure we understand something important about this before we set ourselves up in the high office of hating the sin and loving the sinner. Here it is: “and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23). It is not enough to see your way clear to loving the sinner. You must do it while hating the filthiness that has ensnared him. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Prov. 8:13), and sinners don’t need any more love from people who don’t fear the Lord.

Such were some of us. That does mean there is nothing to be proud about. But this would have to include the kind of pride — than which there is no pride more sleek and insolent — that wants to rewrite God’s Bible for Him, making it more conducive the overwrought sensibilities of the detestable.

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).

There is real hope here for the sexual detestable, but it is not to be had for anyone who is indignant over the word detestable. Anyone who is offended when their sin is called detestable is still a drowning swimmer trying to fight off the lifeguard.

One last thing. Does the act of detesting, or any strong emotional reaction (to something the Bible says is worthy of that reaction), reveal that homophobia really is what is going on? No, not at all. God has made the world in such a way that detesting certain things, and being attracted to others, is normal. But we now have federal judges decreeing that when anyone puts powdered sugar on a turd, the rest of country must call it fine pastry or face a stiff fine. In addition, any obstinate soul who is still in the grip of common sense is identified as being pastryphobic.

The sin of Baal-peor is when rebellion against God is so advanced that the people consecrate themselves to the “thing of shame,” calling it their glory. That is where we are now. And they are getting all the cool kids to go along with it. They worship at Baal-peor, hoping to become really gross themselves, if they are not there already. Social conservatives are looking for a respectable “fall back” position, which is an attempt to get them to not prosecute us for thinking our wayward private thoughts.

Social conservatives are adopting this defensive posture because nobody is about to propose that we do to Baal-peor what the Eastern Europeans did to all those statues of Lenin when the wall came down. What we need are some cables and tractors. Oh, and courage. We might need some of that too.

The real phobia involved in all is theophobia — fear of the living God. And that is an irrational fear that really should be looked at.

Theology That Bites Back



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  • thor

    In my humble opinion, Theo- (and those of equal meaning), are the only prefixes which cannot be used with the suffix -phobia.  The very definition of phobia is an irrational fear as you have indicated. However, for the Christian, it is the ONLY fear which is both rational and safe.  Everyone should have a rational fear of the Lord.  If fear of the Lord is rational, it cannot be a phobia.  Likewise, the term homophobia which has been adopted by the sodomites is certainly improper.  It is a derogative term now adopted by nearly all of “secular” society regardless of it’s obviously erroneous connotation.  I do not like canned spinach.  However, I do not have a phobia of it.  Similarly, I do not like (in fact I detest) homosexuality.  Again, that does not mean I am afraid of it.
    One last unrelated point would be that it is wise to remember (as I am sure you do) that it is not merely the “last generation” in America which has contributed to our country’s sexual disintegration.  We must not forget many of our parents who have taught us such wonderfully compelling sexual freedoms widely promulgated during their Woodstock days. It is my firm belief that sexual disintegration is merely a symptom of the disease which effects civilizations when they become mighty and powerful and concomitantly haughty and narcissistic and eventually … secular.   Stay tuned for Edward Gibbon’s new book – The Decline and Fall of the American Empire.

  • Rob Steele

    Theophobia–there’s a mouthful.  It’s wanting God to not be God.  It’s spiritual pride.  It’s the hatred of the father that both the prodigal son and his sanctimonious brother shared, though they worked it out differently.

  • Steve Perry

    “Consider then the excess of the transgression when being honored with so high a prerogative, thou puttest thyself to shame, seizing the woman’s dress.  And thou doest the same as if having received a diadem, thou shouldest cast the diadem from thy head, and instead of it take a slave’s garment.”  John Chrysostom, homily on first corinthians 11.  Yes, our society reflects our worship.  Respectfully submitted.  

  • Gregory C Dickison

    I was in Seattle recently, and while checking out at QFC it struck me that the city will happily let one man put his penis in another man’s anus, but you can’t put your groceries in a plastic bag at the grocery store without going to green hell. Just saying.

  • Dan

    Another path to green hell is using the wrong light bulbs in your home.  Such a travesty to even think of doing.  But teach grade-schoolers about sex?  Why, of course, since the secular elites always know better.

  • Dan

    Pastor Wilson, well said: “Anyone who is offended when their sin is called detestable is still a drowning swimmer trying to fight off the lifeguard.”  Also this: “What we need are some cables and tractors.  Oh, and courage.  We might need some of that too.”  Unfortunately, too many Christians seem to prefer “respectability” over courage, even when those for whom we’re trying to appear respectable don’t respect us anyway.  And why should they, since they’re not afraid to defend their beliefs while we’re too afraid to defend ours.  Many proclaim to believe and trust the Bible, until they feel that their respectability or their need for acceptance is called into question by skeptics and secularists.  In truth, it was God who gave us His Word, which Christians believe is God’s revelation to us.  Either we believe this or we don’t.  Thus, we must choose who we desire to please and who we desire to obey. 

  • RFB

    Pastor Wilson,
    An honest question, not an argument. Jonathan Edwards says this regarding the (currently) unrepentant:
    The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.
    How does that square with the “loving the sinner” part, or was Edwards wrong?

  • Eric Stampher

    I like “Theology That Bites”

  • timothy

    I will bite as I was on the receiving end of that wrath–or just enough of it to get my attention and make me repent.
    That same Holy God who hates sin in all honor and glory and righteousness became a man and was nailed to a tree by us in propitiation of that wrath and judgement. Our model, therefore of hating sin and loving the sinner is God himself.

  • timothy

    I like “Theology That Bites”

    It makes me uncomfortable–reminiscent of the gnawing of hell.
    I would prefer something 19’th century-ish, like this turn of phrase from (the Catholic science fiction writer) John C. Write in his post eviscerating an early critic of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Fellowship of the Ring

    One wonders why Mr Auden did not seek out Mr Wilson and punch him handsomely in the nose and break it.

    We have several juxtapositions here.
    1.  Perfect prose with a powerful punch.
    2. Handsome violence.
    3. Robust gentleness
    Theology that bites…its too much like the times we are in opposition to.
    My 2. cents.

  • timothy

    I just realized that the recipient of the handsome punch in the nose is a Mr. Wilson. I assure you Pastor that that realization did not happen until after I posted my comment and proof-read it; please do not infer any latent hostility on my part!.

  • Robert

    There is a great video on youtube where Michael Crighton describes from an anthropological point of view 

  • Robert

    In which environmentalism is religion. 

  • carole

    my 2 cents as well (not that you are taking a poll :)) is “furious scribblings” was too good to give up and more descriptive of your blog.  ‘theology that bites back” sounds like a reviewers comment on one of your books…On the other hand, I am just grateful for the blog, whatever you choose to name it.

  • RFB

    I do see the love of God in the cross; I have to since that is what He calls it.
    Where my question falls is in Edwards’ seeming description of not the sin (solely) being hated but the sinner himself. It seems (again, I am not staking out a position here, but asking a question based upon my observation), apparent that Edwards’ words have the cross-hairs firmly fixed upon the offender, not the offense.

  • timothy

    Interesting perspective. I will give Edward’s a closer read next time I run into it. thx

  • timothy

    +1 on Carole’s comment.

  • Ray Nearhood

    RFB,Concerning “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” – what you quote is right.  God does, in fact, hate the sinner insofar as the sinner is an enemy of God (“The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” – Psalm 5:5).  God loves with a perfect love and hates with a perfect hate.

    I am not God.  “Love the sinner, hate the sin” applies to me. 

  • RFB

    Yes, I have heard the “I am not God” rationale. With that said, (and not rejecting the premise that none of us are God), Pastor Wilson has made (in my opinion) a cogent argument that goes somewhat like “since God commands us to be like Him, then that means in all respects”. That includes hating as He hates. (And if I am misrepresenting Pastor Wilson regarding this, it is in ignorance on my part and with no malicious intent.) Similar in that since we are to emulate God’s love, then we are to emulate His hate as well. Otherwise, the same argument about the command to love could be made: “I am not God”.
    That is why I am trying to reconcile (for my own understanding) how this fits with Edwards’ sermon.

  • RFB

    Thought this after I finished the above: So,  does the proclamation of God’s hatred of him (as Edwards does) constitute ‘loving the sinner”?

  • Dan

    I also prefer “furious scribblings” over “theology that bites back”.  I would suggest something like “theology for the real world” or “theology that confronts the culture”.  But I love the blog either way, so it’s a small matter.

  • Dan

    Since some of the comments have focused on the concept of “hate,” I thought I’d weigh in on the subject as well.  It is true the people in general, especially those outside the faith, struggle with the idea of God hating anything.  I think this is because most people’s general conception of God is that He’s a God of love.  Therefore, any notion of God hating something seems too difficult to comprehend.  For many, the word “hate” seems to evoke feelings that are contrary and inconsistent when ascribed to a God of love.  Thus, many even struggle with the common maxim of “hate the sin but love the sinner”.  Admittedly, this type of statement sounds a bit trite and simplistic (and even untrue in certain cases).  This is why I appreciated what Ray Nearhood stated in his comment: “God does, in fact, hate the sinner insofar as the sinner is an enemy of God.”  This is indeed true, and this is indeed what Jonathan Edwards was alluding to in his famous sermon.  The natural man is not only a sinner, but he is under the curse of the law and he is under God’s wrath and condemnation.  This doesn’t sound too lovely, does it?  I say this tongue and cheek in order to make the point.  Therefore, to address the notion of God hating something, whether it’s sin or even the sinner, it might be better to qualify the word “hate” somewhat, in order to detach it from the raw emotion that this word seems to evoke in our culture.  Perhaps we should qualify the word “hate” to imply any of the following instead: antipathy, opposition, rejection, disgust, distaste, anger, etc.  Thus, by merely replacing the loaded, emotionally charged word “hate” with any of the aforementioned words, we get a clearer picture of why God is disgusted and angry with sin, as well as disgusted and angry with unrepentant sinners.  God cannot tolerate sin in His presence, and God cannot tolerate unrepentant sinners in His presence.  Therefore, those who reject Christ will also be rejected, for they are in opposition to Christ.  By re-qualifying the word “hate,” I believe it takes some of the sting and emotion out of the word, and it may help people to understand that the God of love is also the same God of holiness and justice and wrath.  They are all attributes of God, and none more elevated than the other, since God is not a pie that we can neatly divide up according to our own idea of who God is or how we think God should act.  God is both indivisible and immutable.  But I think too often, many people’s culturally and emotionally driven idea of “hate” ends up clouding their judgment concerning God’s holiness and wrath, thereby causing them to focus exclusively on God’s love.  Any view that elevates God’s love while minimizing or negating His righteous anger and wrath, is an incomplete view of God.  This is false and it is dangerous.  Whenever we fashion an image of God of our own liking, rather than the God portrayed in the Bible, we are making an idol, since our view of God is something less than He truly is (hence, a false god).  God’s love is a holy love, and His wrath is a holy wrath.  His love is greater than we can imagine, because it’s rooted in His holiness and His character.  And His wrath is greater than we can imagine, because it’s rooted in His holiness and His character.  This is the portrait of God in the Bible.  As A.W. Tozer remarked over 50 years ago, “The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly, has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.”

  • timothy

    Excellent points.

  • Charlie

    At some level (and I certainly don’t claim to know the mind of God completely) He DOES hate sinners before they are made alive and repent. He does not cast their sins into eternal torment in hell, He casts them in. His hatred for sin is so great that it would seem it extends to the sinner. His love for the sinner is so great that He sacrificed His Son to remove that sin. A great paradox, to be sure, but I’m ok with not comprehending God. If I were to fully comprehend Him, that would make me greater than Him and thus make Him not worthy of my worship.

  • RFB

    Thanks for the reply. The problem of God hating someone or thing does not cause me any emotional angst whatsoever. I think that my most frequent reaction to the descriptive terms that He uses when He describes His hated and anger is fear. God says that we should fear Him, and I think that anything that subtracts from that is not good; He is not cuddly or doting or casual in His holiness, The God Who is high and lifted up.
    Your response is closer to my understanding; I am not trying to “fully comprehend Him” but I do find some  “hate the sin, love the sinner” saying as difficult since I am unable to reconcile it with how God speak in His Word: “…do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!… But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.

  • RFB

    And I do not think that it is a problem when I said “The problem of God hating someone or thing …”. I meant it in terms of someone who might think it to be a problem. I think that these are all His attribute,s but that man tries to soften the edges of the ones (attributes) that actually offend man’s sensitivities.

  • Dan

    RFB, thanks for your reply.  You said: “The problem of God hating someone or thing does not cause me any emotional angst whatsoever.”  Just want to clarify that I was primarily referring to those outside the community of faith, since oftentimes their culturally driven perception of hate obscures the meaning of the word and thus affects their judgment about who God is and how God acts.  As believers, I agree that the notion of God “hating” is not as problematic.  It certainly doesn’t mean we can grasp it fully, since we’re finite beings with limited understanding.  But it’s evident in Scripture how God feels about sin and how He feels about rebellious, unrepentant sinners. 

  • Dan

    Charlie, good point: “He does not cast their sins into eternal torment in hell, He casts them in.”

  • Ryan

    Wilson, often when regarding sexual immorality, these blog posts comment on people’s attitudes toward homosexuality. Yet, you seem to suggest that there is a problem with people’s attitude toward to sexuality generally rather than just homosexuality.
    I request a post regarding sexuality as it refers to heterosexual relationships. Posts about the immorality of homosexuality have the benefit of gathering people against a common enemy, but don’t confront people about their own sexual relationships. If there is something wrong with our regard to sexuality generally, it would seem that there should be something wrong with other facets of sexuality, apart from just homosexuality. 

  • RFB

    If you research Pastor Wilson’s writings you will find equal opportunity reproof, not just regarding sodomy. He has repeated underscored the sexual rebellion that has and is occurring in our culture.
    But, I think that it is important to note that the sins involving “strange flesh” are in a unique class with a city whose very name has behavior linked to it: “And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom…is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me… Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom…”
    To this very day we have a word for what they were doing in that city: sodomy. Even though the sins of fornication and adultery are evil without exception, it is apparent that Sodom and its practices was a sin on a different scale: “…because their sin is very grave…” such that “…the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom…”