If it be said by any that God does a thing which seems to me unjust, then either I do not know what the thing is, or God does not do it. If, for instance, it be said that God visits the sins of the fathers on the children, a man who takes visits upon to mean punishes, and the children to mean the innocent children, ought to say, “Either I do not understand the statement, or the thing is not true, whoever says it.” God may do what seems to a man not right, but it must so seem to him because God works on higher, divine, perfect principles too right for a selfish, unfair, or unloving man to understand. But least of all must we accept some low notion of justice in a man, and argue that God is just in doing after that notion.
The common idea, then, is that the justice of God consists in punishing sin: it is in the hope of giving a larger idea of the justice of God in punishing sin that I ask, “Why is God bound to punish sin?” If a man say, “How could a just God not punish sin?” I answer that mercy is a good and right thing, and but for sin there could be no mercy. We are told to forgive, to be as our father in heaven. Two rights cannot possibly be opposed to each other. If God punish sin, it must be merciful to punish sin; and if God forgive sin, it must be just to forgive sin. He cannot be sometimes merciful, and not always merciful. He cannot be just, and not always just. Mercy belongs to him, and needs no contrivance of theological trickery to justify it.
by Diane Adams
What father would say to his child ‘If you fail this time, if you don’t get it right, I will punish you in the worst way you can imagine, forever and ever, without any hope of escape?’ Even the cruelest father, the worst sort of man who treats his child in the worst possible way, might pause before making such a decree. If the worst parts of humanity could possibly worry over sentencing another person to eternal punishment, is it fitting that we cherish such a trait in God himself? Can we call what is evil in man good because we’re told God does it himself? Would this make it right for a parent to torture a child, for his own ‘good’?
I’m not a theologian. I can’t keep all those trains running on one track without a crash. But it seems to me that if God expects us to know the difference between right and wrong, and he does, he himself must also know the standard. If it is wrong to torment another being, it is wrong no matter who is doing it. If there were one moral law for human beings and a different one for God, good and evil would not really matter. In the end our choices would be nothing more than a performance for the applause of someone above us. Good and evil would not be things that transform the soul, they would be just a set a laws to keep as an experiment.
Choices create who we are. If we do evil, we become it. If God were to do evil, he could conceivably become it as well. I’ll leave it to the theologians to quibble over words and translations in order to prove or disprove the idea of eternal punishment. In Jesus we have a savior of the whole world, not the part. In the father of Jesus, we have a father for the whole world, not just part. He teaches us to pray ‘our father’ because God is the father of mankind. If a human father would not subject his own son to eternal torture, why would I believe that God, who is rich in mercy and love, could do this to own child? Is God not better, kinder, more loving than any mortal parent?
These questions can only be answered by earnest prayer. Seek the father, ask him to teach you his heart. You will not find there an angry, vengeful parent, but a joyful, loving one who will go to any lengths, even the sacrifice of himself, to save his children. Trust him to love you better than your own father ever did or could. He is the father of all, and his love will not fail.