Soul freedom, Baptist baptism, and the knowledge of good and evil

James McGrath responds to Jim West’s attempt to play Baptist Enforcer, pointing out that Baptists, by definition, do not and cannot have enforcers.

Pretty much the only way to break the rules as a Baptist is to try to enforce them on others.

McGrath writes:

Jim West has taken it upon himself to try to define away the status of the First Baptist Church of Seattle as a Baptist church.

Jim considers their stance on same-sex marriage and their holding of ceremonies marrying people of the same gender to be incompatible with Baptist identity.

But ironically, apart from believer’s baptism, one of the most fundamental and characteristic tenets of the Baptists is soul freedom – the right and duty of individual believers, and communities of believers, to follow the dictates of their consciences, without compulsion from authoritarian structures.

So congratulations to Jim West for having – rather ironically – defined himself  out of Baptist identity by thinking that he can dictate to other Baptists how to follow their consciences or their understanding of Scripture.

Yes. Although I’d quibble with one point there — I don’t think the idea of soul freedom is something “apart from believer’s baptism.” The two things are inseparable, and soul freedom comes first. Believer’s baptism is an expression of soul freedom.

The other unavoidable expression of soul freedom, of course, is the separation of church and state. That’s why I also want to commend McGrath’s recent smackdown of Mike Huckabee. It’s astonishing that Huckabee — a Baptist minister — is claiming that God is judging America for not establishing a sectarian state religion in our schools.

Huckabee is about as “Baptist” as Cardinal Richelieu.

* * * * * * * * *

Also here on Patheos, Scot McKnight continues his discussion of Edward Fudge’s Hell: A Final Word:

Some contend that endless punishment for temporal sin is “intuitively and irreconcilably inconsistent with fundamental justice and morality.”

The quote there is from Fudge, but I’m among the some who contend this as well.

What McKnight wants to contend with in his discussion is the response to that objection, particularly the response that tends to come from Reformed theologians:

Some contend right back that such a theological claim for that reason is arrogance , unsubmissive to God’s Word and rooting theology in our own moral perceptions. OK, I get that … but …

… anyone who claims humans don’t know justice and injustice, at some intuitive level, are standing on morally dangerous turf.

McKnight shares Fudge’s three-point response to this idea that God’s justice might be so utterly different from “our own moral perceptions.” Head over there to read that. But here’s the end of McKnight’s post, in which he poses two questions that hint at his own conclusions:

Can we comprehend justice well enough to know when something is just or unjust? Is the accusation, rooted in our intuitive senses of justice, that eternal punishment does not square with temporal sin a good argument?

The answer to both questions is “Yes.”

I appreciate the Reformed contention that we finite, fallible humans are not capable of grasping perfect justice. But that insight becomes a blindness when it gets twisted into the idea that we are utterly incapable of distinguishing justice from injustice, or that we are wholly mistaken when we perceive something as more or less just.

We are imperfect and limited, and our best approximation of and understanding of justice will never be perfect or complete. But those who want to argue that our fallen nature makes us incapable of the knowledge of good and evil really need to re-read that story in Genesis.

God’s idea of justice surely transcends our own. And just as surely it cannot violate our own.

Eternal torment for temporal sin is monstrous. The claim that God is so transcendently good that God’s goodness appears monstrous to us is, frankly, perverse.

  • Tricksterson

    It’s ironic that during the Constitutional Convention the baptists were one of the strongest proponents of the seperation of church and state.  Of course back then they were a much smaller minority and feared the idea of the Anglican Church as a state church.

    Quakers have a similarconcept to “soul freedom” but they seem to make it work for them better than the Baptists do.

    This is hardly the first time a congregation has been kicked out of the fold for not towing the supposedly non-existant party line.  Happened at least a couple times in the nineties over ordination of gay clergy and the performance of a same sex marriage.

  • Carstonio

    I’m gratified that Fred argues against eternal punishment from a Christian theological perspective. I take no position on whether perfect justice exists – the only justice I know about is the human imperfect one.

    Fred didn’t say this explicitly, but the argument for hell is an authoritarian one. The idea that humans cannot know right and wrong and need to be controlled is fundamental to authoritarianism. Religious authoritarians aren’t describing their god’s idea of justice as transcendent, but instead insisting that justice is whatever the god says it is. (One reason I’m not religious is that we have no words from gods as to what they consider justice, only the words from people who claim to act as proxies for gods.)

  • GuestPoster

    McKnight reminds me of one of the classic atheist arguments.  When religious folks claim that atheists can only know good from evil because a god made it so, they often become incredulous.  After all…  if it takes  deity, and a big book, to let you know that theft is wrong, that murder is wrong…  are you sure you should be calling US monsters? Affronts to your holiness?  Atheists manage to figure out right from wrong just by observing nature and making logical deductions, and didn’t need to be told.

    Also very interesting about the baptists.  THAT reminds me a bit of the Jewish tenet that, when society and the Torah conflict, society wins, and that they’re not allowed to mistreat people just because somebody wrote that god said it was a good idea many, many years ago.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    “Eternal torment for temporal sin is monstrous. The claim that God is so transcendently good that God’s goodness appears monstrous to us is, frankly, perverse.”

    I would argue that it would be an ethical imperative to utterly oppose such a being at every turn.

  • Jurgan

    Off-topic, I know, but that William Blake picture, with Eve eating from the end of the snake that’s wrapped around her… does that remind anyone else of tentacle porn?  I mean, does it need to wrap all the way around her?  Does she have to use her mouth to take it from the snake?

  • vsm

    Incidentally, arguing morality is derived only from the Bible is, funnily enough, unbiblical. In Romans 2:14-15 Paul suggests that the ability to tell good from evil is part of human nature.

  • Mira

    I had a related discussion with my husband last night (I’m Christian, he’s atheist) about goodness from an authoritian perspective. He said “the more I think about Christmas carols that just say to ‘praise God’ because he SAYS he’s good so we should worship him, the weirder I think it is. Why would we even believe it just because he said it?” I said that I thought we were praising God not just because he says to, but because we know the whole Jesus story all the way through Easter, so it’s been proven to us concretely that God is good and we praise him at Christmas because we are thankful for the whole Jesus package. But that sort of leaves me unable to understand non-Christian monotheism, because the incarnation is the one thing that makes it click for me, otherwise I’m just as baffled as he is.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I thought we were praising God not just because he says to, but because
    we know the whole Jesus story [..] so it’s been
    proven to us concretely that God is good [..]. But that sort of
    leaves me unable to understand non-Christian monotheism, because the
    incarnation is the one thing that makes it click for me, otherwise I’m
    just as baffled as he is. 

    Well, obviously what works and doesn’t work for you is a personal matter.

    But if it helps understanding at all, I can tell you that Orthodox Jews would say something similar, without any reference to Jesus or the incarnation. That is, we are to praise God because of all the good that God did for us and for our ancestors. Many Jewish holidays commemorate incidents where God is understood by Jews to have interceded on our behalf, for which we are grateful; this is perhaps most obvious in the Passover Seder.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    God’s idea of justice surely transcends our own. And just as surely it cannot violate our own.

    This seems as much a rebuke of Dobson and the ”Newtown is God’s judgement” crowd as an objection to hell. Like this image I found on McGrath’s page, it makes Jesus the anti-Tom Joad:

    “Always remember this. Whenever kids are shot; whenever there’s a hurricane; whenever there’s a terrorist attack; it’s because I’m mad about gay marriage and abortion, and I let this happen.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/12/if-jesus-spoke-like-some-of-his-modern-followers.html

  • Carstonio

    My point is actually several steps more involved. I don’t know whether there’s a god or not. Or whether such a god is male or female. Or whether the god says he’s good. Or whether the god wants humans to worship him. Or whether the Jesus story happened as described in the Gospels. I would rephrase your husband’s question as “Why should we believe it just because someone claims the god said it?”

    For me, “non-Christian monotheism” is relevant in that wherever such religions disagree with Christianity, I have no way of knowing which set of claims is factually accurate.

  • Michael Pullmann

     It’s intentional. Probably not the same exact intent as tentacle porn (remember, Blake thought Eve’s eating of the apple was a good thing), but intentional all the same.

  • Eamon Knight

     I think Hell (particularly as depicted in Revelation) is the ultimate sick revenge fantasy — Persecuted? Don’t worry, those nasty people will Get Theirs, and you’ll get to watch! HAHAHAHAHA!

    Modern evangelicalism tends to play down that aspect because it makes for bad PR — which shows that, as Steve Pinker argues, humans have morally improved over the centuries.

  • Mira

    Dave – that makes sense, thanks. Even if we go different directions, since it wouldn’t work for me as someone without Jewish heritage, I can see how that’s the same principle at work.
     
    Carstonio – given that my husband is an atheist, I am pretty sure his statement was also shorthand for “why should we believe it just because people claiming the Christian God exists also say that’s his message?” (And with the question of whether the Jesus story happened as described, which is more approachable historiographically than God’s existence but way less answerable than your great-grandma’s, we accept that we are just not going to agree because I am committed to willingly ”leaping into the absurd” and he is committed to rationality. So we don’t argue about it.)

    Anyway my point is just that we should know God by goodness in the world, not just declarations, so we should be able to trust our consciences and experiences in terms of both salvation and hell.

  • Eamon Knight

    But those who want to argue that our fallen nature makes us incapable of
    the knowledge of good and evil really need to re-read that story in
    Genesis.

    They also don’t get to use the argument that, if society turns away from (their) god, it will fall apart and generally become a horrible place to live. Because that (empty) threat implies that we *can* distinguish between more desirable and less desirable states of existence, that Good and Evil are defined at least partly with reference to human needs — and if we can recognize them, we can consciously work towards the former, without reference to transcendent standards accessible only by revelation.

  • Carstonio

    Deists believe in gods that have nothing to do with goodness in the world. As you noted,  someone with your own beliefs might find that incomprehensible. While I don’t find either position absurd, both seem to involve assumptions, and I don’t have the knowledge to assume anything about whether gods exist. That doesn’t stop me from agreeing with Fred about what justice should look like in the world.

  • mud man

    If people can’t look around and feel gratitude or at least batshit good luck at the world … if they need to have somebody tell them about something from a book … well … they have eyes but they don’t see. God, whatever all-powerful awesomeness that resulted in all this … is evidently good because of the massive provision that has been made for us. Cisterns ready dug. Air we can breathe. DNA. Stuff like that.

    On the other hand, can’t ever get away from some kinds of consequences. We had a fellow here in town who was so mad at his girlfriend that he tried to kill the bartender, then blew his own jaw off with a shotgun. Now he is very sad (and wants somebody to pay for reconstructive surgery) but he will live with himself for whatever portion of eternity belongs to him. Should we chalk his torment up to  all-powerful awesomeness?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Eternal torment for temporal sin is monstrous. The claim that God is so transcendently good that God’s goodness appears monstrous to us is, frankly, perverse.

    Umm…

    “That story in Genesis” punishes all women, forever, for something their foremother did. After God withheld knowledge from her, but stuck a big tree out and said DO NOT EAT THIS BECAUSE I SAY SO THAT’S WHY. And then Eve was persuaded by a supernatural being of immense power, far more power than she had, to go against that nonsensical dictum. So God made all women slaves forever, to our own bodies and to men. Might want to rethink the idea that story shows God being just in any way. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I have been by the First Baptist Church of Seattle a few times.  Very pretty building, though I have never been in it.  Glad to know that it is a welcoming place though.  

    Actually, probably one of the biggest reasons why I feel some trepidation around churches is that they always feel somewhat alien to me, and I can never be sure that I will feel comfortable there.  Oh, I am sure that any given church will probably be happy to see new faces, but would I actually be accepted if they actually knew me?  

    Still, the buildings make nice eye candy, even if I would be uncomfortable attending one.  

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    God’s idea of justice surely transcends our own. And just as surely it cannot violate our own.

    As many have observed: if I attempt to reconcile observed events in the world that violate my idea of justice with the idea of a God without whose endorsement those events do not occur and whose idea of justice does not violate my own, I am drawn rather unavoidably to the conclusion that said God endorses injustice.

  • Fusina

    My daughter was peeved at the priest at our church, who did a sermon in which she used the idea that if you do something bad, you did it, but if you do something good, it is because God put it in your head to do it. Her question? “Why do we get the blame for doing bad things, but no credit for doing good things?.” She also, although she has chosen to be a christian–and yes, I did bring her to church with me, but other than that I did not push her to believe, has no problem with other religions, no religion, etc… I have raised her… well. Anyway, I think I have. And I am pretty proud of the way she is. Not that she is perfect, she has faults like everyone, but she does at the least use her mind.

  • Deborah Moore

    The whole view that God is so far above us that he can violate our sense of justice and we don’t get to call him on it just amounts to saying, “You’d better believe it’s just because God will send you to Hell if you don’t.”

  • CoolHandLNC

    Can we comprehend justice well enough to know when something is just or unjust?
    Well, absent any way to figure out whether we are right, we can certainly give it our best shot. 

    In a discussion with a rather Calvinist friend, I opined that it would be unjust, even perverted, for (a) God to create people who are not in the elect, and therefore are destined from the outset to eternal torment. His response was that God is sovereign and has the right to destroy his own creation. I pointed out that it is circular to say that whatever God does is just because God is just, and deprives the term “justice” of any meaning. I don’t think that computed with him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jam-Blair/711692344 Jam Blair

    Here’s an argument for an eternal-type hell that I think makes more sense than the typical Christian formulation. (note: I am agnostic currently; this is an intellectual exercise really)

    I used to believe that Heaven and Hell were real. But they were not static entities: they were eternally dynamic. Essentially, whatever direction you were going in when you died, you’d keep going in that direction in the afterlife. Those travelling toward God would keep travelling toward God: their Heaven would get better and better, and they would grow closer and closer to God, asymptotically. (is that a word?). Those who were rejecting God and Goodness and Love would continue travelling away from those things, leaving them behind, becoming more and more twisted, more and more lonely, more and more scarred–embracing more and more evil.

    Those, I guess, who hit a plateau in their spiritual growth would neither grow nor shrink in the afterlife. I suppose this is a kind of limbo? Maybe a very “mild” Heaven or Hell.

    So, yeah, basically Heaven and Hell would be unique to the person, and their experience of it would depend on the disposition of their soul whenever they saw God. God, who is neither dictator nor rapist, would allow the individual soul to approach or flee from him as that soul willed.

    God Loves everyone, and the afterlife will surely be God Loving everyone equally. But those who have rejected love in all its forms would not experience this love as a pleasant thing.

  • Mark Z.

    But if there’s one thing all theistic religions agree on, it’s that God’s endorsement is not necessary for events to occur. If there is a God who is not simply the universe, then the universe has enough independent reality to deviate from God’s will. Even the Calvinists have to finesse this by separating the “God’s will” that allows events to happen from the “God’s will” that endorses those things, and they have no explanation for why those aren’t the same.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    >  But if there’s one thing all theistic religions agree on, it’s that God’s endorsement is not necessary for events to occur.

    Let me put it this way, then: when a hurricane kills people, for example, that frequently violates my idea of justice, and it is not hard for me to find theists who  agree that God endorsed that event. If I attempt to reconcile my observation of that hurricane with the God those particular theists are describing and with a God whose idea of justice does not violate my own, I am drawn rather unavoidably to the conclusion that said God endorses injustice.

    That said, I accept that all of those theists might simply be mistaken about what their respective theistic religions claim, in which case their claims don’t actually tell me anything meaningful about their religions or about the God they are in ignorant relationship with, any more than asking a hundred people at random what the atomic weight of barium is will tell me anything meaningful about barium.

    I also accept that it’s possible for a theist to believe that, as you put it, a hurricane has enough “independent reality” that its actions don’t provide evidence about God’s will.

    Not all theists believe this, though, and I find it unlikely that all theistic religions agree to it.

  • stardreamer42

    Yes. If the only thing keeping you in line is the threat of hellfire and damnation, you don’t HAVE any morals — what you have is an overseer standing over you with a whip. “Morality” that doesn’t come from internal comprehension is nothing of the kind.

  • stardreamer42

    Shorter Mike Huckabee: “My God runs a protection racket. Pay up, or your kids get it.”

  • Mary Kaye

    There is also something very self-contradictory in saying that one should selflessly do good for one’s neighbor–or else be tormented.  There is nothing selfless about the desire to escape torment!  It would actually seem more in accordance with (some parts of) Christianity to say, “It doesn’t matter what happens to me.  I will try to do good in the world because that’s the right thing to do. “  And, frankly, a God not pleased by that is a pretty poor sort of God.

    But what I just said is no help to the tribalists, because it doesn’t give them power in the same way that the doctrine of torment does.  That’s why, I guess, even though when Jesus was asked for the greatest commendments his started with the verb “love”, modern US Christianity mostly seems to start with either  “believe” or “abstain.”

  • SketchesbyBoze

     ”Those who were rejecting God and Goodness and Love would continue
    travelling away from those things, leaving them behind, becoming more
    and more twisted, more and more lonely, more and more scarred–embracing
    more and more evil.”

    This is basically hell as envisioned by C. S. Lewis. Pope Benedict also gives a variation on it in sections 45 – 47 of his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Combined with original sin, it actually translates to “Eternal torment for all”, which implies a god more like the one in my avatar than one you’d actually worship.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Eternal torment for some, miniature American flags for others!

  • EllieMurasaki

    And for a select group, eternal torment and miniature US flags! In fact, given the prevalence of the damn things around people who are all rah rah USA except when it comes to any clause of the Preamble except ‘provide for the national defense’ or anything to keep our national defenders from being smashed to literal or figurative bits by the results of being or having been among our national defenders, I am inclined to suspect that the flags are one of the causes of the torment…

  • Becca Stareyes

    The anime Haibane Renmei also implies something like that, though it shows more those trapped by depression and dispair than those who had done anything wrong.  Rot13 for spoilers:

    Vg’f fgebatyl vzcyvrq gung gur Unvonar (natry-ybbxvat orvatf gung nccrne va n fgenatr jnyyrq gbja bgurejvfr cbchyngrq ol uhznaf) ner gur erobea sbezf bs puvyqera/nqbyrfpragf sebz bhe jbeyq jub qvrq jvgu fbzrguvat haerfbyirq (jvgu gurve bayl zrzbel bs gurve sbezre yvirf orvat n pelcgvp qernz).  Vqrnyyl, gurl jbex gbjneqf gurve ‘Qnl bs Syvtug’, n fbeg bs fcvevghny ernqvarff gb yrnir gur gbja.  Gur znva punenpgre, Enxxn, fgnegf trggvat ernyyl qrcerffrq naq tevrivat nsgre ure sevraq Xhh yrnirf, naq fubjf fvtaf bs genccvat urefrys va jung nabgure punenpgre pnyyf ‘gur pvepyr bs fva’ — ure qrcerffvba naq vanovyvgl gb haqrefgnaq ure bja cnfg zvfgnxrf pna xrrc ure obhaq gb guvf jbeyq.  Enxxn znantrf gb snpr ure qrcerffvba naq nyfb serr ure zragbe, Erxv, jub unq orra pbcvat guebhtu fvzvyne vffhrf (naq vg’f fgebatyl uvagrq fur pbzzvggrq fhvpvqr va ure cerivbhf yvsr, juvyr Enxxn unq fhssrerq sebz ncngul yrnqvat gb ure qrngu, qrfcvgr sevraqf gelvat gb qenj ure onpx vagb gur jbeyq) fb gung Erxv pna gnxr ure Qnl bs Syvtug.  

    While I’m not fond of calling what could be mental illness as ‘sin’ (though it certainly can trap someone), the idea of our own habits and actions creating the afterlife (and, well, purgatories in general) felt a lot more fulfilling than eternal torment period because it does offer the possibility that something can change.

    Granted, I don’t believe in an afterlife (I could be wrong, though), but at least one such as that is consistent with the idea of a just and loving God.  

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    At least Cthulhu is just doing his own thing; the Old Ones are uncaring & cruel because they are alien. The whole “make something in your own image & then literally torture it forever” angle is a special kind of horror. Way more than 1d6/10 SAN.

  • Diona the Lurker

    I think that the Eastern Orthodox and Russian churches believe something similar as well.

  • Baby_Raptor

    My fiance and I have discussions like this occasionally. (Our situation is reversed. He’s a Christian, though having doubts, and I’m the Atheist.) 

    My issue is a bit more complicated than your husband’s, however. My understanding of the Christian story as it’s presented is that God created humanity with free will, knowing we would do things he doesn’t really like, and that he would “have to” punish us for them. 

    Then he turns around and sends his son to die so we have a way out.

    Why should we be praising him for giving us a way out when he created us knowing he was condemning us from the word go? 

    Which brings us neatly around to Fred’s post, because such discussions usually end with Dear Fiance saying “Hopefully God will make it make sense.” 

    My apologies if this sounds like I’m attacking you or your views. I don’t mean to. 

  • Loki100

    That’s something I’ve said that has literally caught several fundamentalists I’ve discussed religion with flatfooted. For young Earth creationism to be true, God has to be lying to us. An omnipotent, all powerful, and yet deceitful god is unworthy of being worshiped by me. Similarly, an omnipotent, all powerful god who refuses to give concrete proof of himself, and yet condemns those who don’t believe in him to hell for all eternity is unworthy of being worshiped by me. When I say that, inevitably they are shocked into silence. They actually couldn’t process the idea that their god is not deserving of worship. Rebelling against God they could understand, being angry at God they could understand, not believing in God they couldn’t understand but could at least wrap their heads around. Judging God, they just couldn’t comprehend.

  • Loki100

    For the most part the Great Old Ones couldn’t even understand a human’s perception of uncaring or cruel. Most of them were not even native to this universe, and most of them were made up of matter that didn’t exist in this universe. With a few exceptions, they most likely wouldn’t even notice humanity as they were going about their business. It’s why the most common reaction of a human upon seeing one of them was to go completely insane, because they were so alien and beyond comprehension.

    Now, Christianity is explicitly premised upon a God that knows exactly what our perception is. And, in fact, a God that chose to spend an entire lifetime as a human being. That makes God a special kind of twistedly evil monster. He’s a sadist who spends our whole lives watching everything that happens to us, knowing every detail exactly as we see it, and then condemns us to be tortured anyway.

  • vsm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if more and more churches started giving up the idea of Hell, or at least an eternal one. It’s a monstrous idea with relatively little scriptural support, as has been discussed before.

  • evagrius

    Regarding eternal punishment etc;

    There is a fascinating, scholarly study just published that has some interesting insights into all this.
     Terms for Eternity; Aionios and Aidios in Classical and Christian Texts, by ILaria Ramelli and David Konstan, explores the terms for eternal in the Old and New Testament as well as classical Greek literature.

    Aionios is the usually preferred term. It eternal but linked directly to the aeon, the age.

    Aidios is the term used strictly with relation to God. Only God is truly, metaphysically eternal.

    Punishment is always described as aionios, never aidios.

    Further, punishment itself is termed kolasis, suffering inflicted in the interest of the sufferer, and not timoria, which is inflicted in the interest of the one who inflicts to obtain satisfaction, ( p.67).

    The New Testament and the early Church fathers always keeps this distinction. 

  • Lalouve

    I think the part about God’s justice being inexplicable or not understandable to humans is where it violates our sense of justice in another way.

    Even small children believe in justice: good shoould be rewarded, evil punished. However, God is perfectly willing not to punish evil which repents – if you don’t believe in Purgatory, any evil we have done can be entirely without consequences. What often horrifies me about contemporary Christian discourse is that this endless mercy, the willingness to do anything to save a human being who desires saving, is absent from much discussion. People almost seem to wallow happily in the idea of harsh justice being meted out to anyone who doesn’t agree with them (see Ellenjay…) but are uncomfortable with the idea that people may escape even deserved justice through mercy. 

    I suspect that in order to ignore the message of mercy and revel in the message of justice, one has to convince oneself that one needs no mercy: that one is perfect and sinless. This is, generally speaking, not a good idea.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I’m not anything akin to Ellenjay, but I have an issue with people who deserve justice not getting it. 

    Mercy and justice are not incompatible…It’s not a one or the other choice. Further, letting the person go unpunished denies justice to those that person wronged. Where is the mercy for them?

  • lalouve

    I believe in justice for the victims right here and now. I see no reason why that should be put off to the end of the world.
    Also, I don’t think mercy means unpunished. And since repentence is needed for forgiveness, and repentence can only come through understanding what you have done to others, this is what I expect to happen.

    Imagine yourself to be one of those people who have treated others badly – anything from the kind of person who maltreats children to Hitler, as far as I am concerned – and then, at  judgement day, coming to see yourself as what you are:  all self-righteousness stripped away, looking at your actions and being filled with disgust and horror at what you did to others – others whom you can no longer make amends to. I cannot really see that any other punishment is needed.

  • lalouve

    Let me also add that I see no duty whatsoever for victims to forgive the perpetrators; if they can do so I am impressed, if they cannot, I fully see their point.
    The people whose lack of mercy I find horrifying are those Christians who have not, in any way a sensible person would consider, been personally injured by the people whose punishment they are looking forward to, thus my example of ellenjay. Even if you think that LBGTQ rights are leading your nation away from God (which, for the record, I really don’t), you are not a victim of anything except people disagreeing with you. Revelling in ultimate punishment for those ‘sins’ is deeply unChristian.

  • arcseconds

    What if you met God, and he said ‘Justice? no, you’re completely wrong about that. It’s got nothing to do with punishment, it’s actually the name of a particular small pig living on a farm in Bolivia. To behave justly is to behave like him: snorting and grubbing around in the dirt for the most part’

    I imagine many of us would think this absurd, some kind of weird joke maybe. A pig is just too far from our ideas of justice that it’s impossible to see this as being the same topic at all.

    That’s pretty much my reaction to the notion that eternal torture is a just response to being less than perfect and not saying the magic words. It’s too far from any human notion of justice to not warrant the word.If any human were to act at all like that, we’d consider them warped and cruel.

    (It actually strikes me as more like a purity norm. God won’t eat shit.)


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