An excerpt from “WHATEVER BECAME OF MELANIE?” by yours truly.
”What about justice?” she asked. “Aren’t the holiness and justice of God to some degree compromised by what you’re saying?”
“That all depends on your view of justice,” said Brenda. “If you see justice as nothing more than heartless revenge and retribution for crimes committed, then you’ll naturally see a problem here. But is this what true justice really is? Is this the extent of God’s purpose and holy design regarding justice, that the unrepentant sinner should be tormented day and night in the flames of hell forever, for crimes committed in the brief moment of his mortal existence? Born into a world of shadows, with a predisposition to sin and self-will, cast upon the stage of fleshly desires and lust - hardened by sin and circumstance, weak and frail, spiritually blind, deceived and deluded, a will bound by sin and self-indulgence, and more likely than not, never hearing the gospel of grace and redemption until he finds himself standing before his Maker, and then it’s too late! Does the justice of God rise no higher than this? Do the evil tyrants of the past, with their torture chambers and racks, their boiling caldrons of oil; though repulsive to us now, do they accurately reflect the justice of heaven? This obviously isn’t a very flattering commentary on the justice of God, but if the conservative doctrine of hell is true, so is this.”
“If you study the history of the early church,” said Brenda, “this twisted view of justice was not popularized until the fifth century, when Augustine imposed upon the church a theology that he patterned after the harsh judicial system of
. He then proceeded to build a systematic theology around it that has ruled, or rather ‘plagued’ the church ever since. Rome
“Do you know what view was predominant in the early church during the first five centuries?”
with deep interest. Alice
“Christian universalism!” exclaimed Brenda. “A large segment, if not the majority of the early church fathers believed in the final holiness and happiness of all. This is a fact that even ‘orthodox’ scholars cannot deny. Those closest to Jesus and the Apostles, for the most part, believed in the final triumph of grace.”
“Can you verify that?” asked
“I’ve got quotes galore,” said Brenda. “We’ll look at some of them later this week.
“Getting back to our discussion, this was the height and extent of Roman justice, you broke the law and you got stepped on, simple as that. There was no higher end or more noble purpose than this. Now according to the view prevalent today, God’s justice is far worse and much more severe than anything we’ve seen demonstrated on this planet. Regardless of how brutal and depraved a ruler or tyrant was, the victims of his justice would eventually die. This is not the case with God’s victims. As the ages of eternity roll on, the victims of His justice are never any closer to satisfying the demands of that justice than they were at the beginning. Age after endless age after endless age, the haunting cries for mercy continue to rise from the pit of despair, only to fall upon the deaf ears of cold-hearted omnipotence. Literally billions who have been created in His likeness, numberless myriad of souls who were supposedly once the objects of His love and goodness, now, the objects of His wrath and holy hatred, and that, for ever and ever and ever.
“According to this view, the justice and love of God are diametrically opposed. They are against each other and they serve completely different ends. You are either an object of His love and goodness, or you are an object of His justice and wrath. The haunting consistency of Calvinism cannot be ignored. For if God is God indeed, a soul is either an object of His love and goodness, yesterday, today and forever, or an object of His justice and impending wrath, yesterday, today and forever. If a soul is an object of His electing love as determined in the council of eternity past, he will be an object of electing love forever, whether foreknown or foreordained, it matters not. If a soul is an object of electing justice, as also determined in the council of eternity past, he will be an object of electing justice and holy wrath forever, again, whether foreknown or foreordained, it matters not. Now is this just? According to the sense of right and wrong, the innate values, moral instinct and intuition that God has placed deep within you, is this just?”
“I see your point,” said
. “So tell me, what is justice?” Alice
“Contrary to popular opinion,” said Brenda, ”God’s love and justice are friends, and they seek and work toward, and will one day achieve the same glorious end, the just and holy life of all His children. We’ll look at the Scriptures later, but for now, just try to wrap your mind around the principle. What does society justly require of us as citizens? - to obey the laws of the land and to live just lives, right? Now, in a civilized and progressive society, what ideally is the purpose of penalties under the law? What do they intend and hope to achieve? Are judicial punishments nothing more than cold, calculated revenge? Is this their intent, or do they hope to achieve the rehabilitation and redemption of the offender? Granted, there are times and occasions where this cannot be done. But if the authorities had the power to change and rehabilitate the life of an offender through the process of justice and corrective discipline, would they not do it? Is this not clearly the highest and most noble end of justice? A misguided youth strays from the path and commits a crime. Is the response of society to damn their children to harsh and heartless retribution? - vengeful punishments that would do nothing but harden the youth, and condemn him to a life of crime?
“What about justice in the home? What is the motive, what is the desire of parents as they administer justice to their children? Does a loving parent whip a child for a minor offense? And even if the offense is a large one, does the parent ever stop loving the child and finally cast him or her off forever? Can the ties that bind a parent and child be so easily severed? No! A wise and loving parent will discipline and punish out of love! A wise and loving parent will always carefully and judiciously discipline the child so that the child might grow to live a just and righteous life! This is where love and justice meet - and they do meet and always serve the same noble end.
“Where do we find the ultimate pattern for true justice? Do we find it in the home? Do we find it in society? Or do we find it in the heart and the redemptive purpose and ways of God? As in the home and society, God’s justice is only truly served and gloriously achieved in the rehabilitation and transformation of its object. Perfect justice must always render its object perfectly just. It cannot be otherwise. Parents and societies often fail, but God never fails. He cannot fail! There will ultimately be no victims of God’s justice, only grateful recipients.”
. “You’re good.” Alice
“No,” replied Brenda. “God is good, and this is the real issue. No matter how we may try to get around it, if God damns even one soul to the torments of hell forever, He is not good. The foundation of His goodness crumbles, and He resembles more the devil than the false, flattering image we’ve made of Him.”
“According to Jesus, what is the greatest commandment?”
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” quoted
from the Scriptures. Mk 12:30, 31a NIV Alice
“What can more magnify and glorify the justice of God,” asked Brenda, “than all His children eventually achieving this high and holy end in every thought, word, deed and motive? This, first and foremost, far above and beyond anything else, is the grand and holy claim of justice, a royal prerogative that will never be relinquished, a lawful right that will never be altered, an irrevocable necessity to which all the dealings of God, all His judgments and penalties of law, all His providential acts and interventions are directed. This exalted and glorious end will finally be achieved in each and every one of His children. Both His goodness and justice will be vindicated and magnified beyond all our abilities to fathom or comprehend.
“As Paul states in his epistles, it is the works of the devil, death and the grave that will finally be destroyed, not the children of God who are now held captive by these forces. There is a difference. Notice too that they are destroyed, not preserved in hell forever.
“‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.’ 1Cor 15:22 NKJV Here we see the word ‘all’ again. All die in Adam, every last one. We all essentially come into this world with a god-complex. Yes, for the most part we want to do what’s right, but we also want to decide what’s right. Herein lies our natural depravity, the core and marrow of our rebellion. Isa 53:6 Whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or not, we are not our own. We are not autonomous, independent creatures with the right to self-government and rule. God has made us. Our lives are intrinsically, inseparably bound to Him. There is not one breath we take that God has not given, not one pulsating beat within our breast that He does not author and powerfully sustain.
“Christ has redeemed us. For us He lived a perfect life, for us He was despised and rejected, for us He died an agonizing, shameful death, for us He powerfully rose from the grave, victorious, exalted and free! To save us from ourselves, our sin and its consequences, to reconcile us to our Father, to restore us to a state of happiness and wholeness, He freely gave His all. On the cross of Calvary He offered Himself to the Father as a sacrificial gift of His love - in the language of the Old Testament types, a ‘sweet savor,’ ‘an aroma pleasing to the Lord,’ Lev 1:9b KJV & NIV a culmination of a perfect life of loving submission and pure devotion.
“As reward for His selfless obedience even unto death, God has highly exalted Him, giving Him a name above all names, granting Him authority over all. Phil 2:6-11 Christ is now the rightful heir and undisputed owner of all things. Everything and everyone belong to Him. This also happens to include us. And the fact of the matter is that He is now in the process of claiming His inheritance, not mutilating and destroying it! And He will succeed! Not cold, heartless revenge, but true justice, holy, exalted and pure, will finally triumph. And all who have died in Adam will most certainly live in Christ, and that, forever and ever and ever! And the predominant, most powerful instrument in His arsenal of justice is His love! True, deep and lasting repentance, a genuine, life-changing conversion is not birthed by servile fear, but by love. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. Rom 2:4 Fear is nothing more than a cruel taskmaster that hardens the heart and drives the child away. According to the Scriptures and our own experience, it is the love of Christ that compels and inspires us to truly live for Him. 2Cor 5:14 It is the constant, cloudless view of His mercy that empowers and persuades us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices in the service of God and others. Rom 12:1 Though justice does involve punishment and the occasional fearful consequence, this is not its base. The foundation of true justice is love, as are all the attributes of God, for God is Love. The only logical conclusion we can draw from this is the Biblical conclusion, in Christ ALL will finally be made alive!”
“I believe it!” replied
“Once you’ve seen the issues it’s hard not to,” said Brenda.