Imagine a judge claiming to want to assign all offenders a punishment proportionate to their diverse offenses instead sentencing all offenders to life in prison, regardless of their offense. Both murderers and jay-walkers get life in prison. Does that reflect any notion of justice we understand? Now imagine that judge claiming the most grievous offense is rejecting him as a just judge. Imagine this judge claiming we don’t know how much emotional injury rejecting his authority causes him. Imagine him claiming that spending our lives in a miserable prison is the just penalty for making him feel bad by rejecting his authority. Would we not conclude such a judge is quite emotionally unstable? What if that judge, instead of simply sentencing you to life in prison, was able to eternally prolong your life, and claim an eternal miserable punishment was the just punishment for every offense, Would you not immediately know this judge was either maliciously unjust or insane? Most of us would. What then should we think about a God who deems every offense worthy of eternal damnation? Should we simply accept this claim out of fear that rejecting it is itself worthy of eternal damnation? Or should we conclude to a high degree of certainty that this claim is entirely nonsensical?
Consider various ways humans determine which punishment matches which offense.
- Some societies take into account the notion of retribution in which society desires that the offender suffer the same measure of pain and loss the offender caused. Can eternal damnation somehow be considered retribution for the biblically-defined offense of lust? Who was actually hurt? The God who made us lustful? Is this not clearly an inequality far removed from a just repayment of pain and loss?
- Many societies wish to impose a penalty on an offender that will most efficiently and quickly result in their rehabilitation and return to society. Does an eternal damnation allow for this?
- Other societies allow for the degree of societal anger to inform the proper degree of punishment. But no just judicial system would allow societal anger over an offense such as a lie to result in a life sentence or prolonged torment. We would rightly consider those who felt such intense anger over an offense such as a lie or petty theft emotionally unstable, and would release the offender after a reasonable time corresponding more to what might lead to their rehabilitation. We would do this in spite of the angry protests of the less emotionally stable. Do you think a God who becomes so wrathful over a single lie that he can’t think of any better punishment than eternal damnation is emotionally stable?
For those who have children they truly love, it is saliently clear that a one-punishment-fits-all-offenses system and eternal punishment for a lie are intrinsically unjust, and the choice to eternally sever the relationship with a child is indicative of a lack of love, rather than a commitment to justice.
(This chapter does not apply to those who do not believe in a conscious eternal damnation.)
Some Christian leaders have suggested that, the more authority someone has, the greater the severity of punishment for those who offend that authority. Is this true? Perhaps it is true for dictators who have the dispositions of spoiled children. Several dictators throughout history have extracted extremely harsh and cruel penalties for trivial offenses. But would you become more severe in your response to those who offend you the more authority you had? Or would you be more inclined to forgive them without pain or bloodshed? Do you think an actual God would retaliate in immense wrath against the child who lies or lusts or simply lives consistent with the nature they neither requested nor can avoid?