On the Hatred of God

A translation of a sermon, in Latin, which Elisabeth Anscombe delivered at the University of Oxford.

On the Hatred of God

The great philosopher Spinoza denied that God could be hated by men. He relied on false arguments. For he thinks that the idea of God that exists in the human mind is always perfect and adequate. Certainly if we were to mount to an insight into the divine nature itself, we would necessarily love God as the supreme good and source of all goodness, but at present we see through a glass darkly, as the Apostle says, and we only know God by his works in this world. Of these his effects, some are intrinsically lovable and delightful, nor can God be hated on account of them; but to human nature corrupted by sin the divine law repressing vices seems intolerable, and much more the punishments which are to be inflicted on us for our offenses. On account of such effects, as is said by the Angelic Doctor, God is hated by some, inasmuch as he is apprehended by them as forbidder of sins and inflicter of punishments.

From such hatred of God some have fallen into open atheism: they do not want God to exist, hence they do not acknowledge God. For nearly two hundred hears now philosophers have been entangling themselves in involved arguments that they may believe there cannot be one supreme and infinite divinity: in fact on this account they reject the worship of God as being unworthy of a free spirit; they despise the worshippers of God and mock them as slaves. Yet others publicly profess to love God, but do not any the less hate the true God: as in former times rebels who wished for revolution began by attacking not the king but the king’s ministers, so these men praise God, but pour abuse on the saints and prophets. These false worshippers of God are easily known by the following sign: they condemn the fear of God; further, they do not know the divine law compelling virtue; they think the divine love towards men consists in men’s leading a pleasant life and having the fleshly desires of their hearts satisfied, that virtue is ‘to believe in man’; that such a faith is supremely manifested in the life of Christ. Where then is the severity and mercy of God (of which the Apostle speaks)? Severity is held to be a myth; mercy they do not understand; for they think that punishments cannot be justly inflicted, if they can be remitted without injustice. About such there are words from the mouth of the Lord in the prophecy of Ezekiel: “You are become to them like a musical song, which is sung with a sweet and pleasant sound”. But there comes: “When what was predicted shall have happened (for behold, it is coming) then they will know that there was a prophet in among them.”

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