12 April, 2018

The Inclusion of “Wrath” and “Hatred” Among God’s Attributes: A Denial of Divine Simplicity and Classical Theism

David Hutchings

God’s “hatred,” properly defined, is His “divine aversion to all that opposes and who oppose His goodness, or holiness.”1 God's “wrath” is “the expression of this aversion in a consuming anger.”2 Rightly understood, this means that God’s “hatred” and “wrath” do not exist ‘independently’ of that which they are against or in relation to. They are manifestations of His displeasure precisely TOWARDS “SIN.” God is never “displeased” at merely “nothing”! His anger is not irrationally directed towards thin air! He is never angry just for the sake of being angry!—such a notion would make no sense whatsoever. Sin and wickedness are always in view when we speak of His “wrath,” “hatred,” and “indignation.” These attitudes of God are always in relation to wickedness, and to all that is in opposition to Him.

One of God’s attributes is His “independence.” God’s “independence” means that He is “self-existent”: i.e. He doesn’t need anything “outside” of Him to be WHO HE IS (otherwise He wouldn’t be God!). The theological term for this is His aseity. God doesn’t need the creature in order to be a God of “love,” “beauty,” “holiness,” “righteousness,” “goodness,” “grace,” “mercy,” etc.). WHO HE IS is “independent” of anything apart from Himself.

Since God’s “wrath” and “hatred” don’t exist “independently” of sin, and yet God in Himself is “independent” ... It constitutes a denial of His “simplicity” to include wrath as one of His attributes. God’s “simplicity” tells us that God IS His attributes—“God is love” (I John 4:16), “God is light” (I John 1:5), “God is spirit” (John 4:24), etc. God’s attributes, properly understood, are not “stick-ons,” “labels,” or “appendages.” His simplicity or oneness teaches us that His being and attributes are identical (one whole, no separations). And among His attributes is His “independence.”3

Now, if one is to either brush aside or disregard the above truths concerning God, and nevertheless insist on including “wrath” and “hatred” as attributes of God (i.e. to assert that He is “wrathful” and “hating” IN HIMSELF)—or perhaps claim we can hold “both” ideas! (paradox)—this would necessitate, at the very least, a “segregation” or “compartmentalising” within God into at least two parts: i.e. that “part/section” of Him which exists “independently” (His love, mercy, grace, beauty, holiness, righteousness...), and the other “part/section” of Him which is “not” independent (wrath, hatred). And already you would have contradicted, denied, and destroyed the truth of His perfect oneness (i.e. the truth that He is not composed of “parts”—Westminster Confession 2:1),4 let alone contradicted the truth that all His attributes are “identical”!—for how can attributes that are “independent” be said to be “identical” with an attribute (so-called) that is not “independent”?

And to hold to such an idea expounded above, and at the same time wear the badge labelled “One who strongly believes in the Simplicity of God and Classical Theism,” would make one a “liar,” and “duplicitous.” For one cannot say one proposition through one side of the mouth, and then say the complete opposite through the other side of the mouth. One would be a “double-minded man”—one whom James describes as “unstable in all his ways” (1:8).

(to be continued, DV)


1. Prof. David J. Engelsma, Private Correspondence, April 9, 2018.

2. Ibid.

3. For a fine overview of God’s “simplicity,” check out Herman Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics (Grandville, MI: RFPA, 2005), vol. 1, 106-107.

4. “[God is] a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, **parts**, or passions.” (WCF 2:1)

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