Part 1 of this topic sought to show the origin of wrong ideas about God. In this post, I endeavor to show how God is misconceptualized in the doctrine of the final dissolution of the wicked. Here, again, this touches on the Goodness of God, or, Omnibenificence. If God’s enemies can portray Him as unkind, he is less likely to be trusted.
Overwhelmingly, in the bible, the end of the wicked is spoken of in terms of destruction. It is mainly a few verses in the N.T. that derives the doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment (“ECT”). There are many very good refutations of this doctrine, such as Edward Fudge’s The Fire that Consumes, to mention one.
In this post, I focus on what many conclude to be the strongest defense of ECT, namely the philosophical formulations of Anselm picked up by Aquinas. Their idea goes something along these lines: Since God is infinite, then all sins against Him are severely infinite. Their rationale goes something like this: to slap a king is more severe than slapping an ordinary person and so deserves the greater punishment. Additionally, it is claimed at least by some, that after death, the wicked are still sinning and so deserve everlasting torment.
This cannot be the case and has zero support from scripture being almost purely philosophically derived (and wrong in my view). This merely ‘sounds good’ but nowhere from scripture is there a parallel, at least not to the extent that the subscribers to ECT can use as support for this misguided teaching. Why would God create eternally bad things? What glory could He derive from human eternal torment? To say that God, in creating and saving humanity, had to also damn some eternally would mean that God is not completely sovereign. Yes, God is both good and severe (Rom .11.22), but He doesn’t need to torment humans for all eternity, He has the Devil and his angels for that purpose.
“Infinite sin” refutable along at least two lines: 1. Is. 40.2 states “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” It is quite obvious that the sins were finite even though doubled. The reason that the punishment was doubled was the well attested “double sin.” The O.T. prophets told Israel that when they departed from the Lord, it was a sin as well as the sin act itself usually in the form of idolatry. They had left the fountain of water to dig out for themselves cisterns which could hold no water.
2. The wicked are not accountable after death. They are certainly not righteous in any sense, but the accounting stops as shown by several verses: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2Cor.5.10) The time on earth in the body is the designated probationary scope. Otherwise, the righteous just keep getting more righteous after death!
Rev. 20.12 sets the judgment scene and limits it to the record while on earth: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Again, a running record doesn’t seem to be spoken of and therefore the judging pertains only to earthly life.