Thursday, September 23, 2010

God's Injustice

One of the most common criticisms of universalism is that it is unjust. The lack of a form of eternal punishment, whether conscious torment or complete annihilation, means that universalists are focusing only on God's love and mercy and totally excluding His judgment.

This criticism can be narrowed down into two schools of thought:

First are those who equate "no eternal hell" with "no punishment". This is a simple misunderstanding. Punishment is important. Any decent parent punishes their children, and since God is the perfect parent, His punishment would be perfect. Its purpose is for correction and reconciliation, not torment.

Second are those who believe you cannot have justice without eternal punishment. They see anything other than nonbelievers and unrepentant sinners in hell as injustice. In my opinion, this approach is completely irrational and does a huge disservice to God.

In The Republic, the philosopher Plato, using the voice of his mentor, Socrates, creates a dialogue around the question "What is justice?" With Socrates as a guide, the characters in The Republic outline the perfect city-state modeled with justice as the centerpiece. This dialogue is eye-opening in that is proves not only that justice is difficult to define, but that it is almost impossible to create a perfectly just world.

One of my favorite quotes from The Republic is "The highest reach of injustice is to be deemed just when you are not." (Book II). I believe this perfectly describes the god of eternal punishment. This god commits acts of unspeakable horror, all in the name of justice. Logically, it makes no sense. Finite crimes committed in a finite period of time, no matter how terrible, do not deserve infinite punishment. 

Almost every human today considers Adolf Hitler to be the face of evil. Yet Hitler's systematic torture and murder of 7 million people is nothing, absolutely NOTHING, compared to what this god does. The current lifetime of the universe (almost 14 billion years) is infinitesimal to the amount of time this god will torture sinners and unbelievers.

But that is not even the worst part. The worst part is that all of this is supposedly done out of love, from a god who is love.

As I mentioned earlier, through The Republic, Plato does a wonderful job of showing you how difficult it is to define justice, and I in no way claim I know what justice is in every circumstance. Only God knows. But, I do know what love is. I know how it feels and I know how it acts. The Bible itself knows:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 4-8)

I know that God is Love, and no God who is Love could ever abandon and torture one of His children eternally, with absolutely no hope of redemption. No good human would do such a thing to their enemies, let alone anyone they truly loved. Is God worse than us? The mere thought is horrific!

Love NEVER fails, and because God is Love, God NEVER fails. Losing even one of His children forever is failure. Not only would it be torture for the lost soul, but it would be torture to God Himself. Think about the person you love most. Could you ever be happy knowing they are being forever tortured? So how could God be happy knowing one of His children is lost eternally? Heaven cannot exist if even one soul is missing.

Eternal hell also fixes nothing. Will a woman who has been raped feel better knowing her rapist is in hell? Or a father who has lost his only child? Maybe for awhile. But does the eternal torture of the rapist and murderer do anything to heal the woman and the father? Not a thing. It might satisfy their desire for revenge, but it serves no redeeming purpose. Their pain and anger need to be healed by reconciliation and forgiveness. Since rape and murder are acts so damaging to the victims, it is doubtful this can occur during this lifetime. But if they are ever to occur, the perpetrators themselves must also be healed and redeemed, and an eternal hell precludes this from happening.

Justice and love are not exclusionary. On the contrary, they can exist in harmony. I believe God will eventually create justice for every singe being in the universe. But eternal hell is neither just nor loving, and it is definitely not of God. 

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