Perfection and Justice.

Posted: January 26, 2011 in Controversial Topics, Thoughtful thinking.

Eye for an eye. Tooth for tooth. Action for action.

James 2:13 “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (Added April 29th, 2011)

I was at school in a somewhat boring math class wrote out my opinion on a subject that has been keeping me in thought.

For a God who has everything, it sure doesn’t seem like He’d need the puny worship of some tiny people on tiny planet Earth in the midst of infinite space that He created. Now, this is just my miniature, human, somewhat-distracted-and-extremely-hungry self thinking but isn’t creating people or things to worship You kind of defeating the purpose? Now I know we have free will and all but the purpose remains. And if we don’t follow the purpose then we are thrown into an eternal lake of fire. Yes, we have free will, but it’s not really free is it? In fact, the price that is paid for ill-use of our free will seems to be outrageously out of proportion.

Or is it? God created us in the first place. And because He is perfect He can tolerate no flaw. So anything that we use our free will to flaw instantly labels the individual as unworthy. You might as well burn down an orphanage as steal a cookie from the cookie jar, it’s all the same to God. A flaw is a flaw, no matter how small. So naturally God, being perfect and therefore just, should just bring the smiting hammer down on everyone who cannot play by His rules of “be perfect and live, or sin and die.” After all, He made us. So shouldn’t we be grateful and willing to abide by His rules? Why does God owe us anything? He doesn’t. In fact, if we are God’s creation, He can choose to do whatever He wants with us. Or let us choose what to do with ourselves. Which, so far, has all been death.

This is where it takes a turn for the strange. Because not everyone who sins enters the lake of eternal unpleasantness. There are those who are redeemed. God introduced into this black and white system He had running here something called mercy. Mercy, it seems, is a funny thing. Because it counteracts justice. To have mercy means a flaw must have been made, to make a flaw is to deny perfection. Mercy denies the flaw. But that does not mean the flaw was not committed. Justice must be taken or perfection cannot be obtained. or sustained. Mercy seems to take the place for justice as a band-aid to cover up what was done. This does not heal the wound however. In a black and white justified system, an action will always have another to reap what was sown, whether good or bad.  This leaves us to only one conclusion. Perfection is not synonymous with our (human) interpretation of raw justice.

I’d like to see the scales in heaven that God uses to deal out His infinite mercy. Our sanctity under God is due to His Son’s sacrifice yes, but even the process behind sending His son meant that God was giving us a second chance and therefore mercy. Even in the old testament God shows mercy to His people before Christ ever went to the cross. I’d like God to show me what His interpretation of pure justice is. That would be cool.

  1. Joshua says:

    Ahh, you’re approaching this with the eyes of a very, very, western Christian 😉 There is much more to God’s justice than simply being baked if we don’t obey, and that Christ’s death was strictly a legal transaction to change God’s mind towards us regarding His wrath. That is the Roman and post-Anelsm way of looking at it, which does have it’s place obviously. But there’s more to it than that.

    The Greek idea of justice is not simply punishment fitting the crime, it’s restoring the balance and the order of things to the way they originally were. The metaphors used by the Greeks and Eastern to describe our salvation is that of a healing (which is what the word salvation means, not being rescued or saved) of our condition which separates us from God from which the default position is damnation. It does NOT require a positive act on God’s part for us to be damned.

    A few of the very strict penal substitutionary atonement being the whole of salvation leaves out a major part of the Gospel, I think.

    “Christ is the judge; and yet, from another point of view, it is we who pronounce judgment upon ourselves. If anyone is in hell, it is not because God has imprisoned him there, but because that is where he himself has chosen to be. The lost in hell are self-condemned, self-enslaved; it has rightly been said that the doors of hell are locked from the inside. How can a God of love accept that even a single one of the creatures whom he has made should remain for ever in hell? There is a mystery here which, from our standpoint in this present life, we cannot hope to fathom. The best we can do is to hold in balance two truths, contrasting but not contradictory. First, God has given free will to man, and so to all eternity it lies in man’s power to reject God. Secondly, love signifies compassion, involvement, and so, if there are any who remain eternally in hell, in some sense God is also there with them. It is written in the Psalms, ‘If I go down to hell, thou art there also’ (139:7); and St. Isaac the Syrian says, ‘It is wrong to imagine that sinners in hell are cut off from the love of God.’ Divine love is everywhere, and rejects no one. But we on our side are free to reject divine love; we cannot however, do so without inflicting pain on ourselves, and the more final our rejection the more final our suffering” (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, pp. 135-136).

    “Holy wrath” sounds like an oxymoron/contradiction to the contemporary mind, but it is an inseparable part of the biblical portrayal of God’s holiness. How should a holy God respond to evil? Complete indifference to evil by anyone amounts to moral bankruptcy, but this would be especially so for God. This is widely recognized even by atheists, agnostics, and philosophers who frequently ask “Why does God allow it?!” of evil. God’s implacable opposition to every form of moral evil is disturbing and even offensive to so many, largely because this kind of opposition inevitably reaches the human heart that beats within. It reaches into you; it reaches into me. It seems that God cannot win the popularity game with us. If he does not resist evil, he is evil. If he resists evil, he resists us and we resent him for that. God’s anger is not the uncontrollable and disreputable outburst of passion that human anger often is, but instead is a holy and blameless opposition to all that is destructive of selves, societies, and environments (i.e. sin). Yet God does not merely desire to oppose and chasten; he desires to heal us. Still, mercy must not be separate from opposition to evil, or God is indifferent to evil once again. God’s holiness is a holy wrath as equally as it is a holy love or it is bankrupt because it is impotent to eradicate evil. Traditional Christian eschatology sees this tension as having eternal consequences. It is hard to see how God could provide a heaven for anyone if it included those who eternally would refuse to turn to evil. It is hard to imagine a heaven with malevolent hatred, eternal strife, jealousy, child molestation, theft, etc. Even heaven cannot be without all such things unless all those who populate it are willing to at least approximate doing the will of God rather than their own while residing there. If God’s policy is merely to forgive and let everyone continue to live as sinfully as they wish throughout eternity, then everyone is going to hell! (or at the very least, heaven would be no better than the present world). God’s call, often ignored, doubted, partitioned, or otherwise explained away is “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, or ye will all likewise perish.” C. S. Lewis claimed that in the final judgment there will be only two classes of people: those who say to God “Thy will be done” and those to whom God will say “thy will be done.” I tend to imagine a river of tears flowing from God’s eyes in the latter case. Here yet again the holiness of God is often challenged. Especially here! Yet those who know God are more than reasonable to suspect that the judge of all the earth will judge rightly.

    Hell is not the result of misbehavior; it is the result of a condition which we were not meant to be in and which God gives us the opportunity to be healed from with the Death and Resurrection of Christ providing the salve (salvation). To think that sin somehow offends God forgets that Christ spent most of his time in the presence of sinners.

    “To whom did Jesus address his gracious words of invitation and promise? To people who were obviously guilty –dishonest tax collectors, prostitutes, political and social outcasts rejected by respectable people. And to whom did he address his sternest warning of hell-fire and eternal misery? He almost never mentioned hell except when he spoke to the scribes and Pharisees –the very moral, very religious, complacent church-going people of his day” -Guthrie, Shirley, Christian Doctrine, p. 398-399.

    Anyway, something to think on.

  2. Thanks Josh! You always seem to have great insight on this stuff. I picture you in a theological library blowing dust off of handwritten tomes from the medieval eras and then reading each one of them by candlelight with a pipe. Anyways…

    You’re right! If I read your massive comment correctly you referred to sin being more of a um… disease or incurable condition rather than a series of wrong doings that we consistently inflict upon ourselves. Rather than our actions being the source of sin, sin is the source of our fleshly actions. Is that where you are coming from? If so then I have something to say, if not then I still have something to say but you’re welcome to correct me again with your librarian knowledge.

    The purpose of the post was not really to delve so deeply into the root of sin and forgiveness rather than mark the contrast of what we deem as perfect and just. For man, or possibly at least for me, justice was subconsciously synonymous to perfection. Perfection in the sense that one’s punishment for their action is equal to the crime committed. In God’s case, the penalty for sin, disease or not, is death. When I thought about this in a more three-dimensional point of view, I thought that God’s perfection requires that perfect justice must be taken in order for God’s legitimacy to be sustained. But somehow, God squeezes mercy in the equation somewhere that negates our eternal damnation. You must understand that I was looking at this, (for argumentative purposes) in VERY black and white terms and was thinking more theoretically.

    In theory, in order for perfection to be indeed flawless. Perfect justice must be carried out. Therefore, an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, penalty for flaw. Mercy defies this. I want to know how God does it.

    That’s all. 🙂

  3. Joshua says:

    “You’re right! If I read your massive comment correctly you referred to sin being more of a um… disease or incurable condition rather than a series of wrong doings that we consistently inflict upon ourselves. Rather than our actions being the source of sin, sin is the source of our fleshly actions. Is that where you are coming from?.”

    I’d say it’s both; obviously we “sin,” but we are also obviously “sinful” (ie infected with sin). It’s the condition that seperates us from God, I think, moreso than the action; I like to think that God is big enough not to be sullied by any dumb crap I do.

    To break it down: I don’t believe God can’t be in the presence of our sin; I believe that our sin keeps us from the presence of God. There’s no inability on His part, only on our part. Look at Moses. Being in God’s presence nearly killed him. Onan died from touching the Ark (which was Gods presence). It’s not God that needed healing, it was us.

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