A thought for 25 December
by: John Tyrrell
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A few days ago, I uploaded "Future Punishment" from Taber's Faith or Fact which looks at the Christian doctrine of eternal punishment for sinners. I know not everyone who visits this site wants to spend the time reading something as lengthy as Taber's book, I thought I might express a seasonal thought relating to eternal punishment.
I was taken with a couple of quotations Taber used showing the inhumanity of the whole salvation / eternal punishment issue.
From the Catholic side, we have St. Thomas Aquinas saying: “The redeemed in heaven will have no compassion for the damned in hell, tho’ they see their tortures.”
And representing the Protestant view, we have the 18C theologian, Jonathan Edwards with: “The woes of sinners in hell will not be a cause of grief to saints in heaven, but of rejoicing; will be the fruit of perfect holiness and conformity to Christ… After your godly parents shall have seen you lie in hell millions of years or ages, in torment, day and night, they will not begin to pity you then. They will praise God that his justice appears in the eternity of your misery. The torments of hell will be immeasurably greater than being in a glowing oven, a brick kiln or fiery furnace.”
What an image this Christianity presents – those saved up in heaven seeing the torments of the damned, and having no compassion whatsoever!* Instead they are rejoicing about a just God. And that "just" punishment from a "just" God is based on?
John 3: 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Believe – and you live forever in heaven. Don't believe – and you are condemned and suffer eternal torment in hell.
And the believers call it God's merciful justice.
Salvation by faith alone is the most immoral, unjust, religious credo ever put forward by any religion. It contradicts the idea of a just God and thoroughly annihilates the claim that we get morality from religion. The concept is intrinsically evil, profoundly wrong.
The base for this concept – which unlike many of the attributes of Christianity did not find its source in other religions – is the very words of Jesus as reported in the Gospel according to John.
And that's the "Good News" many Christians are celebrating today – that they are guaranteed to be "saved" through their belief; and that everyone else who does not believe is going to get justly punished for eternity solely for not believing.
Let's not celebrate that.
Celebrate friends, family, good times; celebrate love, and a season for giving; celebrate a fine meal; or celebrate the change of seasons. But do not celebrate the person who, according to the literalist interpretation of the Bible promised "Believe, or burn forever."
* Who would want to spend eternity with these folks? It seems to me, only those who have no genuine compassion in this world would look forward to not having it in the next.
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