But what makes that good? How is it good that anyone is damned — for any reason? I agree that what God wants is, by definition, good, but shouldn’t we able to understand it? Why should God’s notion of goodness contradict our own so severely?
What we haven’t talked about is God’s justice. God is not only good, he is just, and this is a major theme in the Scriptures.
(Lev 19:18 ESV) 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Deu 32:35-36 ESV) 35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.’ 36 For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.
(Pro 20:22 ESV) 22 Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
The Scriptures were written to people living in an honor culture. People lived for vengeance, and God taught them to let him handle the vengeance. They were commanded to love their neighbors.
Over time, the culture changed, and the same thing happened in most Christian lands. There are, of course, countless exceptions, but Christians do not bear grudges the way some cultures do. As a result, the British are fast friends of the Americans, although they were at war less than three centuries ago. On the other hand, some cultures still seek vengeance for battles lost many hundreds of years in the past!
I suppose you could argue that we could learn to forgive without counting on God’s vengeance. Right?
Absolutely. I often wonder whether the idea of God’s final vengeance was written to speak to an ancient mindset that no longer exists today. Perhaps the stories of vengeance at the end of time were just a device to push people to forgive.
Do you remember the pedophile in town who raped several five-year old girls? Do you remember how angry people were? How even devout Christians wanted to see him dead? Were they wrong to want the government, God … someone … to take vengeance?
You present a tough case, but is it really necessary that we believe in God’s vengeance to forgive someone who is mentally ill? Really?
I’m not sure I can agree that being a pedophile excuses rape of children. And consider Pol Pot and Stalin. They killed millions. Stalin allowed millions to starve to put his economic theories in effect. Pol Pot killed millions to impose Communion on Cambodia. Should they go to heaven?
No, of course, not! Of course they should pay for their crimes!
(Psa 97:2-3 ESV) 2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. 3 Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.
But God doesn’t have to punish them forever. Eternal punishment seems unduly harsh, even for a Stalin. Why not make him suffer one lifetime for each life he took — but forever?
For that matter, why should Stalin suffer the same fate as my neighbor, who is a good man but who refuses to accept the gospel. How is that right?
So you concede that at least some evil people deserve to be punished, and that God would be right to punish them?
Yes, but the system seems askew. Why punish the same as Stalin a 12-year old who has attained the age of accountability and dies without knowing Jesus? I mean, eternity for a 12-year old is eternity for Stalin …