A Discussion on Justice, Hell and the Moral Uprightness of God
Note: this conversation is a simulation only. No test-subjects were harmed in the creation of this post.
Jeremy: Okay, Henry. Some of what you are saying is starting to make sense. There is just this one thing that I don’t get. This judgment thing. I mean, who does God think He is to judge me? And why should I care that He doesn’t approve of what I do? And now you’re telling me that if I don’t listen to Him, He’s going to send me to Hell for all of eternity? How is that loving? This doesn’t really make sense to me.
Henry: When you think of God, what do you think of? Can you describe him to me?
Jeremy: Okay…hm…well, I don’t know. I mean, I know he’s invisible and really big and all that. (thinks)…(laughing) Well, he’s got a beard, right? I mean, he’s got to have a beard. He’s got something in his hand too. Either a trident or a lightning bolt or something. Probably sitting up on a big throne, wearing a white robe. Sandalls of course. Yup – gotta have that ancient gettup. Um…yeah, so that about does it. What do you think.
Henry: And you are saying that this being doesn’t have a right to judge you?
Jeremy: Well…no. I mean, the more I think about it the more rediculous it gets. Why should such a being – if he even exists outside of people’s imaginations – pass judgment on me?
Henry: What if this being had absolute power. Would that help?
Jeremy: Honestly, no. I think that having more power…oh, how does that go, « with greater power comes greater responsibility, » to quote the all-wise Spider Man. I don’t think such a god would have a right to torture me in hell just for the fun of it.
Henry: So if this being was all-mighty, but not just, he would still be in the wrong?
Jeremy: Yes. Absolutely. Such a god would have no right to hurt me, even if he was more powerful. That’s just the same thing as the big kid in the playground beating up the little kids.
Henry: What if this god had created everything out of nothing, and sustained it by his power?
Jeremy: I still don’t think that would give him the right to hurt anyone for no good reason. I mean, if it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be here. But that doesn’t give him the right to beat me if he wants. And hell sounds a lot worse and an aweful lot more permanent than any beating any father ever inflicted.
Henry: What if this god had set up laws, and he had decided that no person who broke these laws should come to heaven with him?
Jeremy: I don’t see what gives him the right to set up laws. And it doesn’t seem right to punish people so severely for breaking laws. The big kid on the playground doesn’t have a right to say everybody needs to jump on one foot, and if they don’t they will get pumelled.
Henry: So what you are saying is that this god of yours – the one on the throne, with sandals and a white robe – is in the wrong, and you are in the right?
Jeremy: I suppose I am.
Henry: It sounds almost like you would like to take this guy to court.
Jeremy: I suppose I could. I would charge him with unethical treatment of the human race, and send him to hell, for wanting to inflict that on others.
Henry: What role do you think you are playing in the courtroom?
Jeremy: Judge, jury and prosecutor!
Henry: Are you sure? You don’t sound very unbiased to me. Also, you keep saying, « God doesn’t have a right, » and « it is wrong for God to do this or that. » Doesn’t that mean that you are appealing to a higher power or standard of some sort? I don’t think you really have the power to be the prosecutor either (sorry, man!) so maybe that would leave the prosecutor role to you….?
Jeremy: Yeah, that makes sense. I suppose I am like the prosecuting lawyer, presenting a case against god.
Henry: So what is your case? How would you judge god?
Jeremy: I am stating that God is unjust. He is unethical. He’s just plain wrong. I say he has no right to create this world, and then let it go. He has no right to allow people to hurt people, and let this planet hurt people. And he definitely has no right to punish people and send them to hell if they don’t meet up to his eternal standards. That’s what I think – sorry if I’m offending you!
Henry: No problems there. So, tell me Jeremy – what punishment are you pushing for?
Jeremy: Well…I don’t know. I suppose that his punishment should be in accordance with his sins. So…well, he wanted to send me to hell, so I think it’s fair enough for him to go to hell.
Henry: For how long?
Jeremy: I don’t know. ’till he learns his lesson, I guess.
Henry: Here’s a ripple in the fabric: what if time is only a reality in this life? What if when we die, we enter into a place where time has no relevance. There is only eternal, conscious « being. »
Jeremy: I suppose in such a case, god would belong in hell « forever. » Or « right now »….or whatever. Don’t do that to me, man – those infinity, time-space weirdness questions make my head hurt!
Jeremy: Well, so there we have it. Your god is in hell, and I am in the clear. Wow – and I thought you were supposed to be witnessing to me or something….?
Henry: There is still one more question I have for you.
Henry: Who is the judge?
Jeremy: Come again?
Henry: You are the prosecutor. God is the defendant. Who is the judge?
Jeremy: Hm…good question. I don’t know. Justice itself, I suppose. I mean, right is just right, and wrong is just wrong. It doesn’t change with power, with status or whatever. That’s what’s on the throne in this strange eternal courtroom of yours. Justice itself.
Henry: And you think that according to pure justice, God deserves to go to hell?
Henry: I would agree with you completely! Any being which for no good reason seeks to harm the human race just because it is more powerful deserves an eternal punishment. And I agree – it is pure justice which should judge this being. Now here is the difference between how we are thinking. That idea of « absolute right and wrong, » that perfect ideal of justice you have been speaking of – that is what I would call « God. »
Henry: It’s wrong to hurt, to kill for no good reason. It’s right to love. And if there is some sort of eternal afterlife, it just makes sense that bad people should be judged, and good people should be rewarded.
Henry: This is what we Christians mean when we talk about « the judgment-seat of God. » It is that time after life when each person faces the facts, is forced to take a good hard look at their life, and pays the consequences for the wrong things they have done.
Jeremy: Well, I suppose that’s fair.
Henry: It is also fair for you to judge any supposed « god, » any spiritual being who puffs themself up as « a god, » and then goes around hurting people just because they can. These beings will be judged too.
Jeremy: Okay, slow down on me partner…so you’re saying that this being I have been passing judgment on…this is not god?
Henry: No one has seen God at any time. God is far too big for us to imagine. Usually when we try to imagine God, we get it all wrong. Those images you described were images from Greek Mythology – and I have a really strong suspicion that those myths are based on demons, posing as gods.
Jeremy: And you think these beings will be judged by the true God?
Henry: In almost all religions, Justice is presented in one form or another. In Christianity, justice is just God. God is the judge. Justice is a part of God. You cannot seperate the two.
Jeremy: So what do you do with the fact that this « God » is sending me to hell?
Henry: Well, do you think the concept of hell is a valid idea? After all, you have already sent « god » – or a demon posing as god – to spend eternity in hell.
Jeremy: I suppose it makes sense. That deity was evil, and was very mean. So it makes sense that he should be punished.
Henry: But not you. You’re perfect, aren’t you Jeremy.
Jeremy: Don’t get sarcastic with me! You know that nobody’s perfect!
Henry: Well, I know neither of us are perfect. Let’s leave it at that. So now – what judgment do you think that Justice will pronounce on us poor, imperfect wretches?
Jeremy: Well, I suppose the judgment should be in keeping with the crimes.
Henry: How many crimes have you committed, against pure justice?
Jeremy: Phew..well, when you put it that way….um…probably quite a few. I mean, not enough to deserve hell, but yeah – quite a few.
Henry: So justice would have to find you guilty?
Jeremy: Yes, guilty – but hey, we’re all in the same boat here, aren’t we? Like I said « nobody’s perfect. »
Henry: You’re right. The problem is that you are comparing yourself to others like yourself, saying, « we’re all the same, aren’t we. » What if all humans are the same, and they are all headed for the same terrible fate?
Jeremy: This would be too terrible to think about.
Henry: Your version of justice seemed quite inflexible. Do you know any people who would pass by the test of pure justice?
Jeremy: No, I don’t.
Henry: So then if the Christian idea is true – that is, that we all die once, and then comes a judgment where we all stand before pure justice and are judged for our sins – do you think anybody would make it?
Jeremy: No, i don’t think so.
Henry: Neither do I. This is where Christianity begins. I am sorry to have to start with the bad news. The bad news is that God is just, and humanity is terribly sinful. As we are, we all deserve eternal punishment for our sin. The good news, however, is that God has made a way for us to be remade into righteous creatures and more importantly, to receive mercy. Would you like to hear about this way of….well, what else can I call it? This « Way of salvation? »
Jeremy: So long as you are buying our coffee, I’ll be back next week to give you a listen.