The Goodness of God and Eternal Punishment By Wayne Jackson

The late Bertrand Russell, a renowned British agnostic, wrote a small publication titled, Why I Am Not A Christian. One of the reasons he cited for his unbelief was that Jesus Christ taught that there is an eternal hell for the wicked.

Russell could not harmonize Christ’s doctrine about hell with the biblical position of a just and benevolent God; hence, he rejected the teaching of Jesus and inclined toward the belief that there is no God. Russell, who lived a life of reckless abandon, echoed the sentiments of Cain: “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” On that basis, he became a determined opponent of true religion.

The problem of reconciling eternal retribution with the goodness of God also has had a significant impact on the religious world. Many religions, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and the World Wide Church of God (Armstrongism), have rejected the doctrine of the eternal punishment of the wicked. Even the churches of Christ have had their advocates of this erroneous viewpoint (see Fudge, Smith).

Ad Hominem Arguments

An ad hominem argument (meaning, “to the man”) is the type of reasoning that focuses on an opponent’s inconsistency. Let us, at the outset of this discussion, utilize this form of argument in response to the “no hell” theory.

First, a major premise of the “no eternal punishment” dogma is the notion that such is at variance with true justice. The argument might be framed like this. The Bible speaks of a just and good God; it also teaches the doctrine of eternal hell. These two positions are mutually exclusive. Therefore, the Scriptures are inconsistent and cannot be true.

We insist, however, that those who thus argue are under obligation to defend their use of the terms “just” and “good.” By whose standard are these character traits to be measured? Critics of the Bible must not be allowed to become “theological dictionaries unto themselves.” Their reasoning is based solely upon their own ideas of how goodness and justice should be expressed.

If it is true that the Scriptures teach that God has appointed eternal punishment for impenitently evil people, and if it likewise is correct that the Bible affirms the justice and goodness of Jehovah, then it must follow that eternal punishment is not inconsistent with the nature of God. It is at odds only with some men’s perception of goodness and justice.

Second, no one (skeptic or otherwise) is ready to concede that evildoers are unworthy of any type of punishment. It is recognized that no society could survive in such an atmosphere. Should the rapist, the robber, and the murderer be told: “Admittedly, you have done wrong, but we (society) will not punish you for your crimes. This would be unjust”? Is there anyone who argues that there should be no consequences resulting from criminal conduct? Surely not! It is conceded, therefore, that punishment is not inconsistent with true justice.

Third, let us take our reasoning a step further. Is it the case that genuine justice can be served even when an evil man’s punishment is extended beyond the time involved in the commission of his crime? Do we, for example, in our criminal justice system, ask the murderer, “Sir, how long did it take you to kill your wife?”—then assign his incarceration accordingly? Would justice be maintained by such an approach?

Here, then, is the point. True justice, combined with genuine goodness, allows the possibility that a wrongdoer may be required to suffer a penalty that is considerably longer than the duration of his evil. The real issue, therefore, is not punishment per se, or even protracted punishment; rather, it is eternal punishment. The skeptic (or religious materialist) simply wants to tell God how long the penalty is to be! Remember, however, in a system of true justice, the offender is not allowed to set his own sentence.

Eternal Punishment and a Just God

Since no one has ever returned from the dead to discuss his or her personal experiences, this issue is not one that can be settled by human speculation; rather, it must be decided by divine revelation. When the relevant biblical data is assembled, it will be seen, even from man’s jaundiced viewpoint, that the fact of eternal punishment is not inconsistent with the character of a righteous God. Our case will be set forth in a series of interrelated propositions. Continue reading

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“Skin in the Game”

The phrase “skin in the game” is a reference concerning a personal interest that one has in something of great consequence. Often times the phrase is made in connection to a financial investment made with one’s own resources. Consider that description and it becomes easier to imagine how the phrase could be used to describe other situations of personal interest.

When it comes to the salvation of our soul, Jesus put his “skin in the game” both metaphorically and literally! He humbled himself by leaving the glories of Heaven, exchanging them for a life contained inside the skin and bones of the human body (John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-7). He made his body available to receive the pain-filled smacks, punches, whips, thorns and nails that ultimately lead to him experiencing a physical death so he could be our atoning sacrifice and compassionate high priest (Philippians 2:8-11, Hebrews 2:6-18, 10:1-10).

Jesus’ critics can accuse him of a lot of things, but they can never accuse him of not having any “skin in the game” for without his “skin” the “game” would be over for them and us!

Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!” Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!” So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.” (Mark 15:12-15)

#atonement, #christianity, #jesus, #salvation, #skin-in-the-game, #the-cross, #vested-interest

Tools of the Trade

Crown of Thorns

Crown of Thorns (Doug1021)

A scourge, striking rods, a crown of thorns, a hammer, some nails and a couple of pieces of rough and scarred wood! What did these things build? Our salvation!

What a stumbling block. What a moment of confusion. What a time of rejection. What a time of reconciliation.

To the world then, and to the world today, a crucified savior is a crux, a contradictory statement and a conclusion that just doesn’t add up. It’s good that Nazareth’s carpenter didn’t use the world’s math while building what had been drawn up.

A few days afterward, an empty tomb would put the pins in the door that had been hung at Calvary and all those who were willing to place their faith in Jesus as the Son of God would have access to the kingdom of God through the very tools of the trade that had tried to destroy it.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God…But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23-24, 30)

#christianity, #jesus, #kingdom-of-god, #salvation, #the-cross