It was recently brought to my attention that the cult run by Fred Phelps, which goes under the misnomer “Westboro Baptist Church,” apparently declares itself to be a Calvinistic church. For those who don’t know, Phelps and his family (literally, most of the church are his family) are a group of people infamous for going to the funerals of soldiers killed in war – or even famous individuals who pass away – and hold up signs that say “God hates f–” (the censored word being the slur for a homosexual) among other things. In another corner of the interweb, someone asked the curious question: “Does God hate sinners? If you say yes how can you say that Westboro Baptist is wrong?” This was directed towards Calvinists, and I offered him a reply, which I will rewrite (with some cleanup) now.
Got hates sin, just as it is written that God’s wrath is against all unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18), and it is for our sins which we are all guilty. There has been no “righteous” person who has ever lived (save Christ), and there is no “righteous” person in existence (Rom 3:9-11).
Here are the errors that the Westboro people commit:
1) They hone in on one kind of sin – that is, homosexuality. They make it their pet peeve sin and, like the prohibitionists attacked alcoholism, launch their personal crusade against it. God’s Law extends far beyond homosexual acts.
2) It is not that homosexual activity is not a sin (it is), but under the eyes of God and under God’s perfect Law, you and I are just as guilty as a practicing homosexual. For example, Christ outlined that anyone who looks at a woman with lust is guilty of committing adultery (Matt 5:27-28), and I don’t know any straight man alive who isn’t guilty of that. Likewise, the apostle James stated that he who violates one commandment of God is guilty of violating them all (Jam 2:10).
3) In their presentation of their beliefs regarding God and sin, the Westboro cult leaves out one important factor: grace. You see, the difference between how a Calvinist like George Whitefield would present the gospel and how Fred Phelps & Co. present the gospel is that any knowledgeable Christian (Calvinist or otherwise) recognizes that you establish Law to glorify Grace. That is, even while we were enemies to God, we were reconciled to Him by His Son (Rom 5:10), and we were reconciled to Him by the blood of the cross (Col 1:19-20). None of this is presented by the Westboro cult. Instead, they harp on the sin of homosexuality and condemn everyone of it. Nowhere is Christ’s glory preached, nowhere is Christ’s love preached, nowhere is the great Triune work of the crucifixion and resurrection talked about. They are like the Pharisees in the sense that they’re great at condemning everyone but short on explaining how to do it better.
4) Finally…they’re just tactless. I don’t recall, in all the combats Christ had with the Pharisees, of Christ going to the funeral of a Pharisee’s son and picketing it with His disciples. When the centurion came to ask Jesus to heal his servant, Christ didn’t say, “I hope your servant dies you dirty pagan sodomite! God hates you!” Going to funerals and showcasing your hate is not only disrespectful to the grieving families, but shows that you basically wear your beliefs on your sleeve. It is not a very Christian way to act.
The Westboro group are not Calvinists, nor are they Christians. They are simply an example of man’s depraved nature masquerading as a religious entity.