Are You Sure?

Is it or has it ever been God’s intention to punish mankind?

(punish – to inflict penalty for transgression)

I would like to open a discussion about this.  I’ll participate in the comments as I am able, but feel free to discuss this among yourselves.

  • Did God punish Adam and Eve?
  • Did God punish Jesus?
  • Will God punish you?

What is at stake with your answer?

  • Your image of the essential nature and character of God.
  • A foundational leg of your theology.

What do you gain or lose if you hold onto the concept of God as punitive?

What do you gain or lose if you let go of the concept of God as punitive?

Is it or has it ever been God’s intention to punish mankind?

Keep in mind that the people who comment from either perspective have based their opinion on their understanding of Scripture.  I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


72 thoughts on “Are You Sure?

  1. I didn’t put my answer in the post, because I didn’t want to imply that it was the “right” perspective (although it might be).

    Today, I would say that it is never God’s intention to punish mankind. I’ve come to that understanding through reading Scripture, not dismissing it. The concept of punishment used to be like a transparency overlaid on Scripture, something I assumed and read into verses and stories in the Bible.

    Key to breaking through that transparency for me was understanding the restorative, redemptive nature of judgment. Once I realized that judgment was God restoring things to His intention, I no longer interpreted every verse about judgment as punishment.

    I still see many warnings in Scripture, but they are not warnings of punishment, but warnings of the tragedy of living blind to God and His kingdom of life.

  2. Linda – We’re actually working through the book of Amos at my church right now, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Last night our pastor shared this quote from Miroslav Volf that I think has to enter our thought regarding these questions at some point:

    “If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence – that God would not be worthy of worship…the only means of prohibiting all recourse to violence by ourselves is to insist that violence is legitimate only when it comes from God…My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many…in the West…[But] it takes the quietness of a suburban home for the birth of a thesis that human non-violence [results from the belief in] God’s refusal to judge. In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die…[with] other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind.”

    From my reading of Amos and Revelation especially, I’ve drawn the conclusion that it is God’s intention to punish evil in the world. He does that first at the Cross, but those who reject the Cross reject the justice meted out there and will then have to experience divine justice themselves. (I guess one point here is I’d rather talk about “divine justice” than “divine punishment.”)

    Good questions, will be curious to see where this goes.

    1. That’s a great quote Jake. I agree with Volf that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine justice and the irony of divine love defeating the power of evil. I absolutely believe that in the end, all evil will be defeated and those involved will be confronted with the reality of God’s love. I don’t presume to know what the outcome of those confrontations will be.

  3. What is at stake is indeed our understanding of the character of God. I think it’s important that we clearly distinguish here between God’s disposition towards people and his creation in general which is always a disposition of love and a desire to see life blossom and to reflect His own love and glory, and God’s disposition towards evil which is always a disposition of radical opposition, intolerance and determination to root it out – as a necessary component of that same love and goodness.

    Since we all have been tainted by evil, we would have to expect condemnation from God’s retributive justice. But the whole point of the biblical narrative is that God’s redemptive justice in Christ triumphs over his retributive justice by overcoming our condemnation through what happpened on the cross. Now I think it’s important to note that Paul does not say that Jesus was punished or condemned there but sin itself (Romans 8:1-3).

    The question that remains is what happens to those who deliberately reject God’s reconciliation of the world in Christ. And the answer is always the same. As long as someone rejects Christ and God’s grace, there can be no salvation, only judgment. Of course, a universalist view would contend that even this final judgment will eventually lead those who rejected God’s grace initially, will embrace it in the end THROUGH that very judgment – in other words: even the retributive judgment in that view becomes ultimately redemptive judgment as well.

    1. Excellent Josh. The distinction between God’s disposition toward people and his disposition toward evil is important. I think too often those are merged and understood as being the same.

      Our salvation is an aspect of knowing God; so there are many who are reconciled who have yet to participate in their salvation (even some who have said the sinners prayer).

      Thanks for your input. I always enjoy reading your perspective.

  4. Does God punish sin? Yes. Is “punisher” a characteristic of God? I do not believe it to be so. He is a “redeemer”. “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” God’s character is revealed in His unceasing pursuit to restore people into a relationship with Himself (as He originally intended humanity). A “punisher” seeks out violations for the purpose of administering due punishment. It defines what he/she does. A “redeemer” seeks out those who are condemned under law to rescue and restore them. Even in the O.T., when God’s people whined to Him that His punishment was unfair because they were victims of sin, God answered “As I live, declares the Lord Jehovah, I take no delight in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! For why will you die?” (Ezek. 33:11). His character is not that of a vengeful punisher, but that of a caring God who desires that His people turn to Him to be restored.

    I find it amazing that He is quick to forgive. I stood with my puny fist in His face for many years mocking and defying the Sovereign Creator of the universe. Then one day I opened my fist and surrendered, throwing myself on His mercy. He immediately received me with no demands of retribution for my past actions. He embraced me and called me His child. How can it be?


    1. Ken,
      His grace truly is amazing. I agree with everything that you said about Him. As far as your first sentence, I would say that God defeated sin. What do you think about that?

      1. It’s complicated :)

        (Hebrews 12:5-11) I love my sons. While growing up, I “punished” them more than once. To what end? To correct their behavior. To strengthen their character. To create opportunities for them to reflect on where they were at in their lives.

        To answer your question – God did defeat sin through Christ Jesus. But I didn’t. As long as I am ‘trapped’ in this sensual body, I am free in Christ, but still struggling with sin (Romans 7:21-25). But now God is my Father, and He may see fit to ‘punish’ me when I get too comfortable with sin. Not as a vengeful punisher, but as a loving, corrective Father.

        His desire is that all men come to repentance through Christ Jesus (2 Peter 3:9). But apparently not all will. Those who do not have to face some kind of judgment because they will not be found “in Christ” on that day (2 Peter 3:7). I am not sure what that all entails – but I am convinced that God’s pleasure lies in those who repented, not in judging those who refused.

  5. Someone define punish for me. In it’s simplest form, does it just mean “hurt in order to teach”? Or is that different… something we might call “disciplining”?

    Without a decent definition of punishment, I think we might all just talk past one another on the issue.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

    1. Good point Marshall. I added a definition to the post

      “punish – to inflict penalty for transgression.”

      Therefore the inflictor, inflictee, penalty, and transgression must be defined.

      Regarding the question in the post –
      Is God the inflictor?
      Is a man, each man, or all men the inflictee?
      What is the penalty?
      Is the transgression all sin or each sin?

  6. Marshall, I think Linda used the term in the general sense of imposing a penalty for an offense without that particular qualification (i.e. the purpose to bring about regret, repentance or moral change in the offender)in mind. “Redemptive judgment” would then be in contrast to “punishment”.

    I don’t think anyone has argued for a biblical base of that kind of punishment so far. So we’re actually in agreement with her, just using the terms a bit differently.

    I also find it fascinating that the Hebrew term most often used in our English translations rendering “punish” actually means “visit”. This seems to reinforce to me that punishment is more about God not ignoring evil than some kind of emotional reaction of rage towards a personal offense.

    There’s one more thing I should have added earlier. While salvation is by grace through Christ, judgment in terms of retributive justice is still according to works. And this retributive justice can include actual “beatings”, metaphorically speaking (Luke 12:47f.) or a “burning up as through fire” to use Paul’s language (1 Corinthians 3:15). The various contects of judgment, repayment, vengeance are all part of New Testament teaching but never in opposition to love. Otherwise we’d have to assume that love and justice would have some kind of “tug of war” within God himself.

  7. The question I’d ask is: “How much of God’s judgment due to injustice is a result of our human need for vengeance?

    But in today’s Christianity, God is not punishing according to injustices, He is punishing due to our wrong set of beliefs. So we can have a ‘born-again’ Christian who dedicates his life to save souls from eternal damnation with little or no thought towards issues of justice for the poor, naked, thirsty and imprisoned, and this person would spend eternity in heaven.

    On the other have, we could have an atheist who rejects the idea of a God, but spends all his time feeding the poor, giving the thirsty water, clothing the naked and visiting the widowed and imprisoned, and this person will be eternally damned to conscious torment.

    How does this line up to the words of Jesus?

    1. Barry, I’m not sure if I can add much to what Josh said below. I agree that our salvation is not a result of doctrine or works. We have been reconciled to the Father in Christ by His grace. We experience His life as we know Him. As I said above, there are many who are reconciled who have yet to participate in their salvation (even some who have said the sinners prayer).

      1. Sorry, my point was not about how salvation is worked out – I too believe works has zero to do with our justification and reconciliation to Daddy.

        My point, poorly laid out, was that our traditional ‘born-again’, going to eternity with my precious Jesus Christianity is lacking. It is lacking in Kingdom reality.

        The whole of the bible is filled to overflowing on how God is more concerned with our being just and merciful then our being religious and right. Our current Christianity in the west is more concerned with believing right and doing right (proselytizing) and only then, if we have time left over, will we look to add justice, mercy and peace to earth as it is in heaven. And only then as a means to an end.

  8. I think we need to view punishment as a process and not a result. That being said, what is the expected outcome of God’s punishment? It certainly wouldn’t be pleasure.

  9. Barry, it doesn’t line up if one makes belief (as opposed to a relational trust) the deciding factor – or else you’d have to take Matthew 25 out of the Bible. What Jesus will deem “done unto him” knowingly or unknowingly, we’ll find out soon enough. But I’d be careful to elevate acts of mercy as the deciding factor either. When Paul talks in 1 Cor. 13 about the hypothetical case of giving everything to the poor, yet without love, it’s not the act in itself that has any saving quality.

    I’d even argue that none of us who have read and know Jesus’ words can envision ourselves as serving the poor apart from a conscious faith and deliberate commitment to Christ. But it gives me a lot of hope for all those who never had a chance to hear and therefore don’t really know Jesus but are known BY him. No-one will find himself cut off from God because of what he did NOT know, only for what he DID know but did not act upon. Romans 2 points in that direction as well where Paul talks about what everybody did know apart from the law and how the final judgment will bring men’s “secrets” out into the open.

    1. Josh,

      I think that we are on the same page. It is my belief that righteousness and justification comes through the faith OF Christ. “he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.”

      I believe we will all be judged based on our works “some will be saved, but only as through fire”

      It is my belief that Matthew 25 is not about eternal punishment. Judgment sure, but not as is commonly believed. I think Jesus was turning the Pharisees own beliefs and doctrines around onto themselves. I also have the feeling that if he were to visit the western church today, he would turn the doctrine of hell and damnation around onto the church.

      I still contend that if we take the words and deeds of Jesus found throughout Matthew, my original observation is still a valid one.

      Our doctrinal traditions often cloud more than they reveal.

      1. Yes, and I would add that what you said about eternal conscious torment is also largely misunderstood by those same doctrinal traditions.

        I believe C.S. Lewis had a much better handle on it in his understanding of what “lostness” and the last separation is really all about. Whatever it looks like in detail, it certainly ain’t God’s torture chamber!

  10. God wants to erase all evil, but why would God do something so human and fallen like punishing for the sake of revenge? That’s too anthropomorphic to me… And it goes against the ethics of Jesus about enemy-love…

    Great question, this one is very useful to struggle with, and to frame my views on Love and divine punishment. Retributive vs Restorative…

  11. In answer to your 3 questions
    No and No.

    But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Rms 5:8

    We shut and eyes and see the God we want to see, my son whom I love I do not punish him when he has done wrong I seek to restore broken relationships.

  12. Agree completely – no,no and no to all three questions.

    Man reaps his own consequences by living out of harmony with the Divine and

    indeed his own essential being. Mimetic violence is a consequence of man’s

    wayward desire not Divine punishment. When Revelation is read from this

    perspective everything changes. Our essential being – the Divine spark- is I

    believe already one with the Ultimate Source – Yeshua’s Father

    with the Divine

  13. IMO punishment comes from within creation not from without. Sin has consequences.. and I think that those consequences can follow people when they die.. why would we think that they do not?

    1. Why?

      “he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.”

  14. The question is Kansas Bob are they eternal consequences? I personally believe that to be so they’d nullify the unconditional Love of the Father and His desire for reconciliation of all mankind.

    1. Maybe the rules change after we die.. maybe they don’t? Even though God unconditionally loves us before we die we reap the consequences of our sin. Why would that principle end when we die? I am not saying that one has to accept the idea of eternal conscious torment but really is there no middle ground on this?

      On one hand Calvinists say that God has selected some. On the other hand Universalists say he has selected all. I find both to be an affront to humanity and the dignity of being created in the image of God.

      But I could be wrong. Possibly humans are no different than any other part of creation? Possibly we are just God’s pawns and pets to be moved around and cared for like beloved animals. As for me, I would rather be a friend of God than His pet.

      1. Pawn or pet? How about children. We are children created in the image of God.

        I am a father, and I would never let anything happen to my children as long as it is in my power. This is not to say that I will insulate them from life. No, I will let them suffer the consequence of their actions and all the more so as they grow up, however, I will do all in my power to prevent them from succumbing to real danger.

        When they were toddlers, I let them have their freewill but protected them from playing in traffic. They burnt themselves on candles but never once got hit by a car.

        If I, being an evil man, love my children enough to revoke their freedom for their own good, will not our heavenly Father do so even more?

        I just listened to a podcast where the hosts suggested that the logical conclusion to non-reformed/ Calvinist doctrines is Universalism. God will save ALL whom He loves!(Their position is that God only loves the elect. I have listen to many of their podcasts and left saying AMEN, however, this one made me noxious.)

        Though I put limits on my children’s freedom, they still have their freewill, gosh, my oldest is 15, talk about having freewill.

        The God I see in the bible and believe in does discipline the one He loves, and this discipline/ judgment (not punishment)/ consequences may extend past the last breath. Some may even come through as though through fire.

      2. The image you present is of an overbearing father who treats his children as infants and superimposes his will over theirs. It is not the image I get of God from the scriptures.

        Our loving God does not keep all people from harm before they die. Why would one think that He does after they die. Is it possible that one’s actions before they die impact their direction post death? If one has constantly rejected the Holy Spirit before death then what evidence is there that this rejection will not continue after death? Is it your position that God will force some to love Him after they die?

      3. Is it your position that God will force some to love Him after they die?

        No, not at all. It is my position that just maybe, His love for them will finally break through in their hearts and minds.

        After all, we Jesus’ followers and disciples have done a poor job at loving our enemies; of actively doing good things for those who hate us; of speaking blessings to those who move beyond just hating us to speaking out curses at us; and of praying for those that move beyond just speaking curses to us to actively mistreating us.

        No, we are more like the pagans and gentiles and resort to an eye for an eye – and not just towards our enemies but to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

        Its no wonder that so many cannot comprehend the love of God and reject the god of those who speak as Christians but do not project Christ’s love.

      4. “No, not at all. It is my position that just maybe, His love for them will finally break through in their hearts and minds.”

        I am okay with maybe.

        I am not okay with blaming Christ’s body when some reject Christ though. Is it not possible that some simply reject the influence and invitation of the Holy Spirit?

      5. I came to Christ in my adulthood.

        I had plenty of meetings with ‘Christians’ that pushed me further and further away from my having anything to do with this thing called Christianity.

        It was not until a kind and gentle person befriended me WITHOUT AGENDA that my heart started to turn. I knew he was a Christian, though he never brought it up. More importantly I knew he actually cared for me. He cared for me as a fellow human. It was through his act of Christ loving through him that my life was transformed.

        He did not find out about my meeting the Savior I saw through him for 3-4 years after the fact, when he looked me up as he was traveling through my town.

        1. Barry,

          What a beautiful story! To me it illustrates a point that is dear to my heart concerning how we are to function as Christians in this world. A common mistake in organized churchianity is for each fellowship or church to have its own mission. One body may have a mission to the poor, another to the unsaved, another to the homeless, etc. In reality, the primary responsibility of the Body of Christ is to seek after Him, so as to be transformed in His image, and thus reflect His image to the world (II Corinthians 3:18) It is the reflection, or appearance, of His image to the world that will then save souls, etc. What a great testimony to this individual that they were able to just love you for you, in spite of any rough edges, etc., and how wonderful that through that honest expression of God’s love towards you, you were drawn to that love and ultimately saved. I think the phrase that you emphasized, “without agenda” says it all.

  15. Very rare is the person whom the Spirit makes His visitation outside of humanity. At least in my experience.

  16. I think we need to make our doctrine fit the narrative. The Bible is God’s narrative. I don’t believe we get the option of making God in our image.

    1. And even if it were God’s narrative, we would have to determine whose interpretation of that narrative was the correct one.

  17. What do you suggest? Shall we explain away anything that doesn’t quite fit with our views? Do we doubt Jesus who verified the narrative? Or do we throw suspicion on the authors of the gospels? Was Paul simply following Jewish tradition when he verified the narrative? Was Peter mistaken when he claimed that the narrative was inspired of God? Do we totally disregard 2000 years of church history and the men who devoted their lives to study and interpretation and just start over? Isn’t God big enough or great enough to inspire and preserve a narrative that His church can depend on? Or did He just give us fragments of His narrative in historical Jewish documents and leave us to figure out which of those fragments are inspired and then let us piece them together so that they fit our theories, opinions or convictions?

    I am of the conviction that the reason there is so much fragmentation in Christ’s Church today is because the church is Biblically illiterate. If one does not understand the narrative, it becomes easy to isolate various passages and then build doctrine out of them. I contend that this is exactly how false shepherds with charismatic personalities build devoted followings and lead people away from following the Great Shepherd (Acts 20:28-30).

    1. I see it differently.

      In the western tradition, the church was most unified when there was biblical illiteracy. The church of Rome was catholic. It wasn’t until others started reading the scriptures that they realized that reform was needed and out of the Reformers, as people studied the bible and came to different conclusions, they divided.

      I personally believe that we are in another period of reformation theologically, not because we are biblically illiterate but because of a vast array of things:
      1) biblical criticism – not an inherently bad thing
      2) a better understanding of historical contexts
      3) a realization that we have been inundated with a western worldview of Christianity based largely on a marriage of faith with Roman Power and Greek Philosophy – the Constantine Shift.

      In the same way the reformers critiqued their tradition and radically transformed it, so to we are in the process of critiquing tradition, taking it even further. I am excited.

      There is great scholarly work being done that is waved off as being liberal. Other work, like N.T. Wrights is more conservative, but no less radical in a lot of areas. So even in the most scholarly understanding of the narrative there is vast differences that cannot just be waved off with an indictment that they are …(liberal, conservative, emergent, evangelical, pentecostal, reform). We need to engage each other now while there is still time to be an influence in the conversation. The question posed in this post, from which we have greatly strayed, is one of the questions that must be asked and worked out together in the greater traditions of our common faith. We may not all leave in agreement, but if we are honest, we will all leave changed.

      1. It seems to me that the ‘Western influence’ is as much in play with the emergent take as with the modernist take – only now the thought processes are constrained to be PC. God is not PC. “Punish” is not necessarily a pejorative term. God is God, and He has selected a narrative story out of all of the millions of stories that could be told so that we might understand His creation, His purpose for creation, His character, and His sovereignty over all of His creation. Within that narrative is definitely a ‘doctrine’ of punishment.

        I believe Kansas Bob’s string of thoughtful questions contains a lot of wisdom. We are finite beings contained in a time-space continuum. I believe we will never have the capacity in this life to ‘figure God out’ – or to make Him a just God in accordance with our very limited understanding. He is just because He is God. He doesn’t have to answer to us.
        -Isaiah 55:8,9

        1. Great thought, Ken.

          One need only read the story of Moses and Pharoah to see a side to God that modern christianity would like to ignore. God HARDENED PHAROAH’S HEART so that he would resist the pleadings to free the people of Israel, until the very end where he finally gave in. Pharoah was the object of great punishment, including the loss of his son, because God chose to harden his heart. Just, by our modern definition and limited site? Hardly. Ken makes a great point, however, that God is infinite, and we can not possibly hope to understand an infinite God with our finite minds.

          “He is just because He is God. He doesn’t have to answer to us”. Exactly.

  18. I would say that the doctrine of judgment [punishment] is couched within a greater narrative of reconciliation; of a God who from the beginning was reaching out to all humanity through the narrative of Abraham and his seed. This ‘reaching out’ reached its climax in Christ – in his life, death and resurrection.

    I have no doubt that you believe that your interpretation of the biblical narrative is the correct one, just as I believe that my interpretation of the same narrative is a better fit.

    I am in place where I cannot declare with certainty that “Within that narrative is definitely a ‘doctrine’ of punishment” or any other such assured declarations. Looking back over our 2000 year history, there have been so many times when our assured truths of God have proven false according to our current understandings. (for example the center of the universe and slavery).

    The assurance that they were right (over progressive thinkers rising out of their own midst and over other traditions such as Eastern Orthodox) lead to many needless deaths at the hands of those who are called to love both their brothers and their enemies. I cannot risk my falling into that same spirit.

    As for Isaiah 55, these verses seem to be all about an inclusive God. A God who will freely lavish life on outsiders. And as if God knows our human resistance to such mercy and our need for vengeance, he proclaims “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”.

    So I say right back at you:
    We are finite beings.
    We cannot ‘figure God out’ with our limited understanding.
    He doesn’t have to answer to us.

    However, getting right back into the main topic of this post, to say that He is just because He is God is abhorrent to me. It removes the human definition of justice. If God’s justice includes dashing infants against rocks and ethnic genocide, then this is not God but a demon and his justice is meaningless.

    I would rather stand in defiance against such a god and suffer the consequence then be a peon who blindly follows because he declares that ‘he is god’.

    1. “If God’s justice includes dashing infants against rocks and ethnic genocide, then this is not God but a demon and his justice is meaningless.

      I would rather stand in defiance against such a god and suffer the consequence then be a peon who blindly follows because he declares that ‘he is god’.”

      Dude, Like AMEN

  19. “However, getting right back into the main topic of this post, to say that He is just because He is God is abhorrent to me. It removes the human definition of justice. If God’s justice includes dashing infants against rocks and ethnic genocide, then this is not God but a demon and his justice is meaningless.”

    “The human definition of justice” in which world culture and which period of history?

    To lift and isolate these thoughts out of the narrative and ascribe these types of actions to God’s character is exactly my point.

    Perhaps we are in more agreement than realized.

    And please, do not think that I do not seek to discern the difference between doctrine and dogma. The Bible is not a book of science, therefore it should not compete with science. It is a book of history and reveals cultural realities held throughout the various periods in which it was written. That too is an important factor in understanding the narrative and not ascribing cultural nuances to universal doctrine.

    That having been said, if the church does not hold an orthodoxy, then we really have no message of hope to offer a world without hope. I believe the gospel begins in Genesis – not Matthew. Without Genesis, there is no foundational understanding of God’s purpose and passion for creation, and no need to look for hope in the ‘second Adam’. Without Genesis, there is no understanding of God’s incredible commitment to humanity through a covenant He made with a common pagan named Abram through whose seed He would ‘bless the nations’. A covenant of Divine Commitment. Jesus Christ is the central character of the Divine Narrative, but without the narrative, we are unable to see how God worked through human history (with all of its warts and blemishes) in a perfectly just manner to restore that which was ‘lost’ to Him. And throughout the narrative we see constant patterns of sin, judgment and grace. I believe the pattern is there for a purpose. The N.T. writers often made reference to the lessons of the narrative – e.g. Paul in 1 Cor. 10:11 where he states, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”

    I ask myself, “If there is no divine punishment, then why would we need to be warned?”

    1. Oh, and I would like to sincerely add: I am really enjoying this conversation. Thank you for a very intelligent debate.

      1. I am glad to hear that you enjoyed the conversation.

        I think that this conversation would be much better over a pint or a BBQ where we could interact real time. We could share laughs and dig into each other’s thoughts much better. Such is the drawback of interacting online. I think it is time we un-hijack this post. However, feel free to read my blog and continue this conversation there if you so desire.

        Here are some links that may be related to our little dialogue:


  20. Anybody ever looked into the original Middle Eastern concept of ‘justice’.What are the root meanings of the Hebrew and Aramaic words translated ‘justice’? Are we labeling the Divine with English,Western views of ‘justice’ that were developed much later.I know that the Aramaic word translated ‘righteous’ means to bear fruit at the correct time while ‘evil’ means unripe when the time for ripeness is come.Have we totally misunderstood Divine ‘justice’. Any Aramaic or Hebrew scholars out there like to help us?

  21. Lots of great thoughts here,
    I would just like to say that I don’t believe it is ever God’s intention to punish sinful man..
    The consequences of sin are natural I believe and as far as doing away with sin, doesn’t it stand to reason that God’s presence in and of it’s self will do away with sin.
    I don’t know how biblical my stance is but I love the picture that C.S. Lewis painted in “The Great Divorce” Where all that was not in God Became less & less real until it was all gone and light consumed everything, making all that was in God more real and simply dispersing all darkness.

    1. Yeah, I get that Shaun. Maybe all that is not in God will evidentially just be no more. IMO an annihilation view of the afterlife is much more believable that a universalist one. Much easier to accept the notion that folks that are not spiritually born before they die simply do not exist in the afterlife than the idea that what you do in this life does not matter.

      1. Much more believable how? Biblically? Morally? Or just better fitting the way you think it should be?

        I would say that the traditional, annihilist, and the universalist views can all be found in the scripture. I think that one could say that they are all biblical and that they all have contradictory scriptures. This is no easy feat to boldly declare one as the biblical one over the others. At least I cannot make that statement.

        As one who leans more towards the Univeralist interpretation and belief, I would argue that, at least the way I understand universalism, what we do in this life does in fact matter a great deal. As a matter of fact, it matters more in my universalist understanding then I see it in the Traditional understanding.

        After all, according to the traditional view point, it does not matter what we do in this world, as long as we make it right at the last moment. Also, someone could do horrendous things and still make it to heaven if they are ‘born again’. (At least in theory.) That is why it is so hard for anyone to make a stand on the eternal resting place of anyone else, no matter how evil that person is. After all, “we don’t know their heart, only Jesus can judge that.”

        So the traditionalist view only requires one act of faith in the midst of a life of hell in order for one to make it into heaven. Without that one act of faith, even Mother Teresa or Gandhi end up roasting for all eternity.

        I find Universalism [or more accurately Ultimate Reconciliation] more believable then either of the other two. I base this on morality and the image of God as revealed in Jesus.

      2. I think that you and I have had a conversation about the topic Barry. My problem is with how UR presents humans as a divine pets beloved by God but not really friends of God – except maybe a friend in the sense of a divine pet.

        IMO being born again is not just “making it right at the last moment” – that would hardly be repentance. The image of the Holy Spirit’s influence and transforming power in the life of NT believers is compelling.

      3. I do recall we discussed this before. Let me just say that your understanding of UR and mine are not the same, in my understanding we are far from ‘divine pets’, although I see how this straw-man gets created.

        “IMO being born again is not just ‘making it right at the last moment’ – that would hardly be repentance.”

        So you would say that deathbed conversions are not possible?

        “The image of the Holy Spirit’s influence and transforming power in the life of NT believers is compelling.”

        Are you saying that we can look at a person’s life and make a judgment on his eternal resting place based on the image of the Holy Spirit’s influence and transforming power in his life?

        Statistically, there is little to no difference between being a Christian or not. Of course the common comeback is that not all professing Christians are NT believers. The problem I have is that so many confessing NT believers that I know and see have no compelling evidence of a life transformed by any power.

        If I start dropping names, will you be able to tell me where you believe they will spend eternity based on their life? Or at least could you tell me if they a only professing believers and not true NT believers?

        Based on the stats and based on my personal observance, the best the traditional view can say is not that “what one does in this life matters” but “what one believes about reality in this life matters”.

        Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that you would say that “one is saved based on his faith in Christ and that his eternal judgment is based on this salvation.” I say that “one is saved based on by the faith/ faithfulness OF Christ and that judgment is based on what on one does in this life.”

        1. For what its worth, as “iron sharpening iron”, as you so aptly put it, I’ll give my two cents:
          I believe we are saved by grace through faith [in Christ] (Ephesians 2:8)
          I believe that if we are saved by grace through faith we need have no fear of
          judgement as far as eternal damnation is concerned.
          I believe that those saved by grace through faith will be judged based on their
          deeds in Christ, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10)

      4. Also, I ask again: Much more believable how? Biblically? Morally? Or just better fitting the way you think it should be?

      5. These online dialogs are pretty difficult to have Barry. I appreciate your desire to engage on these things.. wish we could discuss over a cup of coffee or something.. so hard to communicate effectively.. anywho.. here are a few responses which I already know will be inadequate:

        1) I think that salvation is simply a response to the Holy Spirit and the love of God. I see faith as a gift given at birth (part of being made in the image of God).

        2) Possibly the Calvinist and the Universalists are right and salvation is all God and in no part man. If those views are correct then I am wrong about faith being a gift given at birth.

        3) I think that Annihilation is more believable than Universalism because of #1 – at least with Annihilation humans are not presented as divine pets or children of an overbearing father.

        4) As I said to you previously: “The image you present is of an overbearing father who treats his children as infants and superimposes his will over theirs. It is not the image I get of God from the scriptures.”

        5) I also said: “Our loving God does not keep all people from harm before they die. Why would one think that He does after they die. Is it possible that one’s actions before they die impact their direction post death? If one has constantly rejected the Holy Spirit before death then what evidence is there that this rejection will not continue after death? Is it your position that God will force some to love Him after they die?”

        6) That last issue of being forced to love God seems to fly in the face of what I think love is.. especially the sacrificial love that we see displayed in the scriptures.

        I don’t know that I have much more to say on the matter. I do not wish to argue the issue. I respect your views even though I do not agree with them. Hope your weekend is a good one.

        Peace, Bob

      6. I agree with you that the limitations of online discussions, especially those occurring in the comments of a blog post on only semi-related topic, are extremely limiting.

        Please take comfort that I realize that much of my engaging other in this media, including you, is based on stereotypical arguments and opinions which I don’t think many people actuality hold. This is a necessity due to the lack of intimacy. (Humanity, including human reasoning and thinking, is much more complicated then the labels and categories that we carrel people into.)

        I also realize that far smarter people then I have argued all sides of these issues far longer then I have been around, so I don’t think or expect that a ‘universal’ resolution will be agreed upon any time soon. I see these dialogues as “iron sharpening iron” [].

        These online posts, comments, podcasts as well as offline books have taken me on a great journey out of a charismatic, evangelical, conservative, Arminian, born-again … position into a new one that I could list using other labels [emerging, liberal, UR, born-again-again …]. Throughout this journey, I have strived to remain faithful to scriptures, continue to live in and develop relationship with God and continue to disciple at the feet of Christ [including being open and inclusive to all and being gracious in disagreement even while challenging traditions as I ‘feel called’].

        Finally, may you have a blessed weekend as well.

  22. Hey, I just found this blog while surfing the great and wide interwebs. I really like the look of it. You should write something sometime. ;)

  23. There has been discussion of this, but for the purposes of my answer I want to define punishment. I mean punishment as an act designed not primarily to improve bad behavior, but simply to inflict a penalty for it.

    With that as a foundation, I do not believe God punishes. I believe God’s purpose always is to restore relationship with Him. The things we suffer come as a result of our broken relationship with Him, a break that we make, not He. It is as though we put ourselves in a place that inflicts punishment because our decision to break away from God puts us in a place where we weren’t designed to be or withstand.

    Hebrews 12 demonstrates that God disciplines us – that is, He teaches us through the things that we suffer. The primary purpose of the suffering is to demonstrate His love and restore us to Him. When we see the result of choosing to follow a lie rather than the Truth, we should naturally turn back to Love. We don’t always, because the lie can be so well crafted and we can be so easily duped, but that is God’s purpose and design for our suffering.

  24. Although not a Universalist (yet?) nor convinced of their theological stance I do believe God way beyond the need to penalize or punish to any gory extreme. However, if all humanity imbued with a bit of the divine nature, then we are responsible not only for what we think, say, do, but more so when it involves other people bearing the Imago Dei…

    Now it may be God will hold all individuals responsible for what they did & also did not do. We may have to face these very people in the afterlife while God looks on. We will have to acknowledge our shortcomings whether or not repented of in this life. I believe God will address each wrong & we all will have to answer to those wronged…

    If there is a punishment or penalty phase, it will have to be based on the condition of our heart+conscience during our temporary stint on this jeweled orb. I think we will immediately know God’s pleasure or displeasure in how we conducted ourselves in this life. So much so we will either continue to be attracted to Him or conversely, repelled by Him. But there must be an accounting of everything done in human history with God addressing it all & wiping away every tear…

    I believe God is so interested in our behavior He provided us with the Gold Standard in Jesus. That is the One that must be confessed before all while every knee bows. We will bow in humility & true homage or simply by the weight of the Divine Presence. But from what scripture hints at nothing will be left unexposed or without formal redress…

    Since our lives here in a sense already forfeit, I am not sure what it is we can offer for repayment anyway. Eternal conscious torment could only be something God could deal with since I cannot fathom its need nor purpose. As bad as we can have it here on earth, what some people have done to others so heinous it is distasteful to think the pain & terror caused here will not be experienced by its perpetrators in the next life. Will it be temporal & proportional to the crimes committed? I don’t know. What about moral transgressions that did not inflict physical pain on those impacted by such decisions? If all sin is actually an affront to God, then He will have much to address on Judgment Day. No one escapes that penetrating gaze of fire that burns to the core of our souls. It will reveal everything, burn away the wood, hay, stubble, dross & what is left will either remain as purified gold or be one puny ash heap. For what my perspectives can add to this discussion I would state my personal feelings as this: I know God has it all worked out & I want to be transformed into His likeness as much as possible in this life before facing Him in glory in the next…

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