Tag Archives: sin

Is Endless Punishment Really the Best Option?

It’s common to hear people say that they will never submit to God because of His threats of eternal torture.  That is interesting because I have yet to hear someone refer to hell as eternal torment.  Torture undoubtedly refers to some type of unmerited experience, where torment could be entirely deserved.  The Doctrine of Endless Punishment has nothing to do with eternal torture.  If one finds himself in hell, it is a punishment he earned because he rejected his Savior in favor of a logical error.  Adhering to a fallacious argument like the argumentum ad baculum, or the Threat of Force fallacy, is unwise because it cannot diminish the reality of hell.

Universalism is the preferred religion of post-moderns as it ignores man’s sinful nature and the threat of hell along with it.  Joel Osteen’s brand of Christianity encapsulates this perfectly as sins are regarded as no more than mistakes, and if we have positive vibes, God will shower us with gifts because we deserve it.  This “God owes me” mentality is impossibly stupid.  How can we have the audacity to demand anything from God?  He owes us nothing but wrath, but we feel entitled to His grace.  This reasoning reduces God to an instrument that we wield to satisfy our carnal desires.

If we believe that eternal punishment is too mean, what other alternatives does God have?  In his commentary on Revelation, Chuck Missler suggests that there are three other options at God’s disposal, all of which would result in something worse than hell.

  1. God could let the world just continue to exist forever.

On the surface, this seems to be perfectly reasonable.  But what about the cruelty and injustice?  What about pain and disease?  This would go unchecked, and this Garden of Eden would go on and on.

  1. God could force man into automata.

Can anyone honestly say they would prefer life without free will?  We would be nothing more than mere robots carrying out orders.  Maybe this would be easier, but would we have meaningful lives?  Of course not, but without free will we would never realize it.  As a result, God would be forcing us to love Him which runs contrary to His nature.

  1. He can withdraw Himself.

We might assume that this would look something like number one, but in this case He would not be simply be ignoring His creation.  He would be turning His back on it.  The world was spoken into existence, and if the Word (revealed as Jesus in John 1:1-5) chooses to withdraw from His creation, we could expect that we would not exist.  It is impossible to imagine what it would be like without Him, but I suspect it would be much like it was before Genesis 1.

These are all bad scenarios for man and they all go against God’s nature.  From man’s perspective, the best option is an eternal hell.  What makes hell so appealing is the fact that God provides a way for us to avoid hell through Jesus Christ.  For many, this is preposterous as this would require submission to God.  Some find it much easier to impugn God’s character.  After all, if we must repent of our sins, we have to acknowledge our depravity.

Image courtesy of Kevin Dooley

Another Perspective on Sin

It’s interesting how we view and rationalize sin.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that God wants us to be happy.  To maintain that position we must completely throw out 1 Thessalonians 4:7.  Why should we try to be holy, anyway?  Joel Osteen sure makes Christianity sound easy with a limp wristed god that will give us a fancy car just so that we will bless him with our presence.  How can anyone even want to submit to an impotent god that will shower us with gifts so that we will spend time with him?  Oh wait.  We don’t.  Even people that subscribe to Osteen’s brand of Christianity probably are more concerned with what God will do for them than what God has done for them.

We can fall into another pit when we believe that God made us this way (whatever this way happens to be), so God must be pleased with our current fallen condition.  As a matter of fact, since He made us this way, wouldn’t our present condition be more desirable than holiness?  I have heard the argument, “I was born gay, therefore God made me this way.”  I can just as easily say, “I was was born with a predilection to alcohol, so if I choose to be a drunk it is because God made me this way.”  The rapist can cay that they were born with these tendencies, so ultimately, God created the rapist.

If this argument was valid, Paul would have not addressed the Church in Corinth with, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV)  So was Paul mistaken when labeling certain people as deviants?  Who is right?  Are Paul’s words divinely inspired, or should I lean upon my own understanding? (Proverbs 3:5)

I’m also intrigued when someone resorts to pragmatism as a defense to homosexuality.  Usually, the argument is meant to divert the attention from homosexuality to adultery.  I agree that adultery is sinful and should be addressed, and at least in the case of my church, these matters are dealt with in a biblical manner.  Notice that there is no argument that adultery is sinful.  When someone who supports homosexuality by equating it with the normalization of adultery, he just admitted that homosexuality is a sin.  Otherwise, he would have defended adultery as natural, or preferable, but would not assent to the fact that it is sinful.  What was 1 Thessalonians again?  The ESV states, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”  That sounds nothing like “adultery isn’t that bad or God reveres homosexual practices.”

From our perspective, we may try to minimize our guilt.  Is lying really all that bad?  If lying is okay in certain circumstances, then maybe adultery is acceptable.  Afterall, illicit sex isn’t really immoral (as long as no one gets hurt and both parties want to engage in sexual deviancy).  From there, it’s not a stretch to say that homosexuality is natural, and maybe even more than just an alternative lifestyle.  But is this our view of sin or is it God’s view?

The only thing that matters is God’s perspective regarding sin.  If sin wasn’t so deadly, we would not have continuous warnings.  Paul states, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV)  The issue at hand is not merely homosexuality.  The problem is with all sin.  We are called to be holy and we will be judged accordingly.  All sin is unnatural.  They are abominations, yet we try to normalize them because we believe that our feelings are more important than our God.

CC image courtesy of Bront Nolson.

Which god do You Worship?

It’s interesting how people like to place limits on the sovereignty of God. It is something that is impossible, because if God has limited authority, He is not sovereign. Yet, some are not comfortable with the idea of a sovereign God. You can see this as books of the Bible are ignored, concepts such as justice are glossed over, and you are left with a spiritless, plastic, bumper sticker god. The bumper sticker says, “God is Love,” or more appropriately, “god is love.”

What is interesting with “do it yourself” religion is that you can add or subtract components to make your faith truly unique. God does some pretty scary stuff and the Bible promises some scary stuff for unbelievers, so it is easy to dismiss the Wrath of God because it sounds mean. Now that eternal punishment is off the table we are free to do as we wish. At least that’s what we want to believe.

CC image courtesy of dingler1109 on Flickr.
CC image courtesy of Rox Steady on Flickr.

Let’s assume that this bumper sticker is true. Does it mean that God is only love? Or is He more? What about righteousness? What about justice? What about mercy?

As I was exploring this concept I focused on 1 John 4. It’s very compelling that the first verse of the chapter exhorts the reader to test the spirits as there are many false prophets. Nevertheless, we are adhering to the assertion that “God is Love.” One noteworthy verse mirrors John 3:16. It states, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9 ESV) Is this saying that we all will live through Jesus? It says we might. John 3:16 was also a conditional statement. The verse doesn’t say that everyone will have eternal life, but “whoever believes in Him.” So we are left with two groups of people: those who believe, and those who do not. So far, I don’t see evidence of unconditional love.

If believers will have eternal life, what happens to the unbelievers? John 3:18 leaves no room for interpretation when it says “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” If we take the Bible seriously, how can we synthesize this with our newfound belief that “God is Love?” We can’t.

I read a post recently that said God cannot execute wrath because it is sinful. I searched the Bible to find if there was scripture where someone might come to that conclusion. Granted, it is a stretch to use the Bible to assail God’s character at all, but if we believe that God loves unconditionally, we can believe whatever we want.

Colossians 3 teaches the believer to seek Christ, not his sinful nature. It also mentions God’s wrath. But is His wrath sinful? In verses 5-8, the reader is advised to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:5-8 ESV) In one short passage we have God’s wrath and man’s wrath. But are they the same?

CC image courtesy of dingler1109 on Flickr.
CC image courtesy of Rox Steady on Flickr.

To learn the original intent it is best to read it in the original language. Regarding God’s wrath, the Greek word is όργή (I’m aware the markings aren’t quite right, I just can’t figure out how to type them). This is #3709 in Strong’s Concordance and it defines this word as fixed, controlled, a passionate feeling against sin. Man’s wrath is θυμόν in Greek. This is #2372 in Strong’s Concordance and is defined as rage which is a flaw not present when the Lord expresses intense anger. We see that God’s wrath is controlled and purposefully executed without sin. Man’s wrath is not righteous, rather it is an impulsive fury.

God is Love. But is that all He is? He is also Just. God could be a Just Judge and be unloving. He could be like the Pharisees and carry out the Law to the letter. God cannot be Love and not be Just, though. It seems counterintuitive, but if you love someone you also hold them accountable. This is what people don’t like. Accountability. We want to sin as we please but we don’t want to reap the consequences. The consequences are real. The Bible says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV) “And such were some of you.” Paul was addressing true believers who repented of their sins.

We all worship a god. Do you worship materialism? Do you worship a god that turns a blind eye to sin? Do you celebrate a god that affirms a sinful lifestyle, like the god of this age? Or do you worship the Living God of the Bible who detests sin? 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is patient so that we can come to repentance. This is where people quote John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” I agree with that statement wholeheartedly, but are we loving if we avow or even encourage a sinful lifestyle? That is most unloving as we are spreading lies from hell when we promote happiness over holiness.