Archive for the ‘Dean Dough’ Category

Infinite Punishment and Liberalism

August 31, 2009

One adherent to liberalism/progressivism recently commented on my post regarding eternal punishment (link to my post). He wrote:

Dear Turretinfan,

Sin against an infinitely holy God deserves an infinite punishment? Why? Out of necessity? And if not out of necessity, what kind of God would purposely frame a reality so that such a barbarous claim would be true?

Yes, the Bible has many terrifying things to say about God’s wrath against his enemies, as well as some very illuminating examples of how that wrath might get expressed in specific circumstances. Say, for example, the stoning of the one who picked up wood on the Sabbath, or the nice trial by ordeal of a woman accused of adultery. How about the murder of Achan’s entire family? Or the (implied) butchery of the women and children of the enemies of the Jews at the end of the book of Esther? Or how about those Babylonian babies in Psalm 137? None of these even raise the issue of post-mortem punishments and they are already generally recognized as beyond the pale.

In short, the doctrine of endless punishment is one of the surest demonstrations that what passes for Christian orthodoxy in the Reformed evangelical tradition speaks falsely about God.

This comment was signed “Dean Dough” which as his blogger profile indicates, is a pseudonym with his “identity withheld to protect family members still affiliated with very orthodox Christian churches from being tarred with my brush.”

Let’s examine his comments:

Sin against an infinitely holy God deserves an infinite punishment? Why? Out of necessity? And if not out of necessity, what kind of God would purposely frame a reality so that such a barbarous claim would be true?

This comment contains several layers of confusion. First, the reason why sin deserves an infinite punishment is because it is an offense against the dignity of the person of God, who is a person of infinite dignity. It is not so much the absolute holiness as the infinite majesty of God that is in play here.

Second, while it is not necessary that God permit sin, it is necessary that sin offend God in this way if God permits it, because of the nature of God. Thus, it is both necessary (in one sense) and free (in another sense) with respect to God.

Third, while it is easy to label something “barbarous,” it is more difficult to demonstrate that a position is incorrect. D.D. by taking the path of simply applying a pejorative label has demonstrated an apparent incapacity to address the substance.

Next:

Yes, the Bible has many terrifying things to say about God’s wrath against his enemies, as well as some very illuminating examples of how that wrath might get expressed in specific circumstances. Say, for example, the stoning of the one who picked up wood on the Sabbath, or the nice trial by ordeal of a woman accused of adultery. How about the murder of Achan’s entire family? Or the (implied) butchery of the women and children of the enemies of the Jews at the end of the book of Esther? Or how about those Babylonian babies in Psalm 137? None of these even raise the issue of post-mortem punishments and they are already generally recognized as beyond the pale.

This really looks more like a rebuttal argument for me to use against that “barbarous” label above. Yes, folks who think hell is “barbarous” are likely also to think that God’s wrath exhibited in the Old Testament is “beyond the pale.” Their rejection of the God of the Old Testament is their own condemnation. There’s really nothing I need to add to show that they stand opposed to God’s revelation of Himself.

Next:

In short, the doctrine of endless punishment is one of the surest demonstrations that what passes for Christian orthodoxy in the Reformed evangelical tradition speaks falsely about God.

The underlying logic seems to be:

1) If something strikes us as unpleasant, it is false;
2) The Reformed doctrine of endless punishment is unleasant;
3) Therefore, the Reformed doctrine of endless punishment is false.

The problem is with the major premise. To put it differently, the problem is with letting corrupt, human intuition substitute for revelation as the means for determining truth. No matter how “barbarous” or “beyond the pale” the doctrine of endless punishment may be, the problem is not with those who hold what the Scripture teaches, but with those who oppose the revelation of God.

What is illustrative about D.D.’s comment is that it illustrates one of many factors that have produced the diversity of denominations we see today: simple rebellion against the Scriptures. We know that Roman Catholics try to claim that the denominations are due to Sola Scriptura, but notice how liberalism is quite willing to oppose the clear revelation regarding God’s wrath. Scripture is not their standard, and consequently it is improper and illogical to suggest that liberal churches are the offspring of Sola Scriptura, just as it is improper and illogical to suggest that churches with new prophets (like Islam or Mormonism) are the result of Sola Scriptura. One group throws out Scripture one way, the other group another way, but neither seeks to make Scripture the ultimate authority for faith and life.

-TurretinFan

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