Why God hates Satan’s malice and Christians should too
September 4, 2019 note: This article has been revised.
September 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Recently, an esteemed Catholic has said — in the course of refuting Fr. Arturo Sosa's claim that Satan exists only as a ‘symbolic reality’ — that “God does not hate Satan” and that “God is love, and love does not hate—and neither should we.” There is a sense in which these statements are true, but they could be misleading.
St. Thomas Aquinas treated the question of God’s hatred for evil with consummate skill. He said God does not hate the nature or being of anything He has made (thus Scripture says: “Thou lovest all things that are, and hatest none of the things which thou hast made,” Wis 11:25), but He does hate the malice of the sinner’s will, by which the sinner acts against him, as many other verses in Scripture bear witness, e.g.: “The boastful may not stand before thy eyes; thou hatest all evildoers. Thou destroyest those who speak lies; the Lord abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men” (Ps 5:5–6); “Thou hatest those who pay regard to vain idols” (Ps 31:6 [30:7]).
The truths of Revelation are meant to illuminate our minds and form our hearts, day in, day out. It used to be the case that the entire psalter was recited each week by clergy and religious, a practice followed since ancient times. Those who prayed the psalter would necessarily have prayed the famous Ps 138:21–22, so often commented on by Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and so highly pertinent to the issue we are considering:
Do I not hate them that hate thee, O Lord? And do I not loathe them that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
Fifty years ago, “difficult” verses like the foregoing were removed from the prayer of the Church by Pope Paul VI (see here for more detail). If Catholics still had these God-inspired words on their lips — once a week, no less — would they not be compelled to search out the truth they contain? That is how Catholic theology develops: by wrestling with challenging truths, not by running away from them or sugar-coating them. We are meant to be able to pray this verse, to pray it with understanding, with conformity to God’s holy will.
What, then, does it mean for God’s inerrant word to say: “Thou hatest all evildoers” and “I hate them with a perfect hatred”?
As existing parts of the universe of beings, the damned are loved by God, the first and proper cause of being. God’s antecedent will to save all intellectual creatures is eternal, and so in this way, too, He loves the persons of the damned. But God’s consequent will looks to the angel or soul in its determinate or “particular” identity as just or unjust, and therefore as actually meriting and enjoying the beatific vision or not. God loves the nature, being, and persons of the damned, but He hates the malice of the damned; He loves and hates them in different respects. That is why Scripture can speak in both ways and we do not have to “explain away” either side.
It is above all on the basis of the will that a man or angel is called good or evil. When I say of someone “he is a good man,” I do not mean he is a metaphysically good entity or a standard example of the species homo sapiens. I mean he is morally good or righteous. When I say “he is an evil man,” I don’t mean his existence or personhood is evil, but rather that he is a sinner. Since good is the object of love, and evil of hatred, it follows that a good person (human or angelic) is loved by God, and an evil person hated, in regard to their righteousness or lack thereof. But it is on account of the state of the will that anyone merits (with God’s grace) heaven or hell. Therefore those who are in hell — whether an angel that fell after its creation, or a man who dies without sanctifying grace — are hated by God in precisely that respect in which they deserve to be in hell as a just punishment for their sin.
In the quotation with which we began, we saw the blogger stating: “Love does not hate.” St. Thomas disagrees: in reality, love, and only love, hates. Well-ordered love leads to a virtuous hatred, while disordered self-love leads to vicious hatred. Love hates imperfection (evil) because it wills the good of the creature, of which evil is the deprivation. It is our very love of the goodness of God and the goodness of the creatures He has made that motivates our hatred of their imperfection (that is, their evil). Those who do not hate what is evil, do not love what is good either.
The ultimate thing we will or want for someone is our most important attitude towards him. For a man en route to heaven, I want not merely existence, a nice car, a vacation, or even virtues, but the beatific vision: I want him to share in God’s life forever. For those who are damned — be it an angel like Lucifer, or a soul like that of Judas — I do not will the beatific vision, but rather, the just punishment they deserve, because that is what God Himself wills, and we ought to conform our wills to His. In heaven, the blessed angels and souls rejoice in God’s just and merciful judgments, which include not only the salvation of the righteous but also the damnation of the wicked.
A failure to understand the foregoing leads to another common error. Here is how the esteemed Catholic blogger phrases it: “Justice requires God to recognize the final disposition of a person (angelic or human). Some are justly permitted to live apart from God’s kingdom in a hellacious parallel universe; that is their permanent choice.”
The language here suggests that God does not positively send the demons or wicked souls to hell, but rather, that they send themselves there by rejecting His love. They choose it, He does not. He does not positively will their punishment, but permits it. We can see how this idea follows directly from denying that God loves the just in their justice and hates the wicked in their wickedness. The idea is a partial truth, not the whole truth. Demons and souls are indeed in hell because of their abuse of free will; but it is no less true that God actively wills their punishment.
God is the first cause of all reality. If any being exists anywhere and does or suffers anything, He is causing it to be and to be there and to do or to suffer; He wills it to be so — unless we want to claim there is some being or activity of which God is not the cause, which entails Manichaeism or Gnosticism. God must be the first cause of demons or souls being sent to hell and remaining in hell, as He is the first cause of angels or souls being admitted to the beatific vision and abiding in it. (Again, He does not do this without some disposition on the part of the creature’s will, whether good or evil; we are not looking at Calvinistic double predestination. That is the point of the aforementioned distinction between God’s antecedent will and His consequent will.)
Moreover, the angel or soul in hell does not will its own punishment — most basically, the bodily fire to which a soul is chained, as Aquinas says, in order to humiliate it for choosing bodily goods over spiritual ones. Rather, the spiritual creature suffers it against its will, otherwise it would not be a punishment. A mentally disturbed person might choose pain for its own sake in this life, but in the life to come, all minds will be operating clearly. The demons and souls in hell do not want to be lacking the beatific vision or happiness; they want the fulfillment of their natures, which they have forfeited by sin. This is why Our Lord, in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, tells us that Abraham says to the rich man: “Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Lk 16:26). In other words, God doesn’t just “let” the rich man end up in hell, as if powerless to do otherwise; He puts him there and keeps him there, as He keeps all things in being.
Lastly, the esteemed blogger is concerned that hating demons — which means willing, with God, their punishment — might lead an exorcist astray: “As he is dealing with a being who is both a creature of God and a fallen angelic person, the exorcist must find a balance. Sadly, he must usually inflict pain upon demons in order to drive them out.”
If the exorcist were supposed to be “sad” to inflict pain upon demons, he would be setting his will against the Lord’s, implicitly accusing God of wrongdoing by inflicting pain on these demons. What God wills, we should will. Our love of God, who is the common good of the universe, and our love for the good of our souls and their salvation, prompts a necessary and salutary hatred of the malice of demons. This hatred is in the will, not in the sentiments.
We might be legitimately concerned about entertaining or cultivating vengeful emotions or feelings towards demons — “getting worked up” about them, and thus making ourselves more vulnerable to their temptations. This could happen. Someone’s fear or wrath could get the better of their reason and cause them to do foolish things, to deviate from what is right and good. Certainly we can agree that emotions should be kept in check so that they do not disturb the order of reason.
In conclusion, God loves the devil or demons in a certain respect, but not without qualification, and that is how we should love them. Similarly, we can and must say that God hates the malice of Satan and his angels, and we too hate the same thing.
Understanding hell aright and seeking to avoid it and lead others away from it doesn’t mean obsessing over it, or neglecting the more beautiful truth of our calling to heaven. Nor does having a proper hatred for sin, vice, error, and ignorance make us sinful, vicious, errant, or ignorant. On the contrary, if we did not hate these things, we would ourselves become hateful.