Some Early Morning Thoughts

A lot of people have been challenging the justness and love of God if there is such a thing as eternal torment in Hell. And that made me think about prison.

A lot of people nowadays are dead-set against the death penalty. They see it as somehow unjust, or an overstep of our human rights and dignity, to end someone’s life outright. So instead we have growing prisons of individuals who will be there for life. Prison is not a vacation resort, mind you.

I think this has an interesting part to play in the discussion of Hell. Why do we consider it unjust on the one hand for God to punish eternally, when we as a culture are on the road to saying that it is better to prolong the punishment of prison rather than kill outright? Why do some consider annihilation a more “just and “loving” judgment from the throne of Christ, when we would not necessarily argue it being more loving and just in the prison system? It seems (to me) like a contradiction, a way of ascribing justice and love to ourselves, while accusing God.

I suppose one possibility, which comes up both about hell and prison, is the hope of reform. But prison is not always about reform. That might be the hope in many short-term punishments (whether it has a proven tack record is, I believe, questionable), but I don’t see that as being descriptive of the longer term sentences used as an alternative to the death-penalty.

How about you? Is this a false connection, or do you see any merit in this direction of thought?

About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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4 Responses to Some Early Morning Thoughts

  1. Paul D. says:

    I think punishment is very much a human concept. I have trouble imagining a God who has some itch that can only be scratched by creating people and then torturing them for their sins.

    I think there’s a larger problem with all this afterlife talk, which is that people are assuming the universal existence of immortal souls, which was never a Judeo-Christian concept to begin with. Why does *anything* need to be done with people once they’re dead? Maybe dead people are just dead, with nothing to annihilate or throw into an eternal prison cell.

    • George says:

      Thanks for your comments, Paul.

      I don’t know that I’d use the term “itch”, but I have no problem understanding God punishing those who continually reject his will. Whatever God’s full intentions are, I believe the positive results of his creative and redemptive goals will far outstrip any punishment on those who stand resolute against him.

      I’d agree that the Jews had to work up an understanding of an afterlife or resurrection. But I have a hard time saying that there never was a “Judeo-Christian” concept. It seems Jesus himself was a believer in the resurrection (per his comments counter the Sadducees). And Scripture repeatedly refers to resurrection to judgment, both of sinners and saints.

      Do you mean that some do not have souls? The biblical pattern seems much more that there is no hard dichotomy between body and soul, with the intent being physical resurrection (not just a soulish existence in heaven or hell). What would it mean to be “in the image of God” if some are soulless and destined to pass into nothing upon death? Or are you being more general, that this life is all there is, for both followers of Christ, and those who reject him? Not sure I understand where you are going with that thought.

  2. Nathan Stitt says:

    Hi George. I have yet to weigh in on the hell-afterlife discussion as I’m not sure exactly how I believe on many aspects of this topic.

    I just wanted to comment that this is the first time in a while that I’ve linked through to your blog from my Reader and I love your current theme and header. Very nice!

  3. George says:

    Thanks, Nathan!

    I actually have avoided all the madness as well. Even this post is only about that in a back hand way – I was trying to focus more on the seeming contradiction between our theological reasoning and how we are actually “doing” it in real life situations of judgment and punishment.

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