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All or Nothing or Somewhere in Between

All or Nothing or Somewhere in Between
September 26th, 2017

Putting aside the testimony of the Scriptures for the moment, I think that between annihilationism, universalism or eternal Punishment for the damned (I'm calling that eternalism from now on), it's got to be one of the latter two. Annihilationism simply isn't a live option.

The idea that motivates universalism is that it seems plausible that given enough time, everyone would repent, and God, being a God of love, would forgive them, even if justice didn't demand that. (It also is emotionally attractive as well, in case you didn't notice.) On the face of it, I think that it would be reasonable to accept this, though, in the end I don't think it is true.

What motivates eternalism? The idea that (at least some) Sins in this finite duration of life warrant eternal punishment? For many that is one reason to suggest that it is plausible; I don't think it is obviously wrong. (See Matthew 12:31) However, we mustn't overlook the fact that the damned in Hell will still be sinning - clinging to their pride, dishonoring God, committing whatever sins they desire in their heart (even if they're restrained from being able to act them out externally). It might be that those in Hell could get morally worse, become more vicious instead of repenting and becoming virtuous. Maybe they just stay at whatever wretched state they when they were cast into Hell (or are sentenced at the final judgement), not improving but not worsening either.

In this case, they'd always be deserving of punishment. I view shame as the appropriate punishment here (according to the Bible and another hunch I have). You dishonor God, God shames you, you continue to dishonor God, God continues to shame you. (And you must be alive and conscious to experience shame.) But what exactly this punishment is is not important for the present purposes.

It seems that Witnesses acknowledge those who end up punished by the second death either will get worse, or at least never improve from their wretched, sinful state. Otherwise, wouldn't God, because he is love, kill them - acquitting them of the sins committed since they died and were raised up previously in Witness thought - and resurrect them again until all were saved? (On the other hand, if the wicked would, given more time repent, and yet God wouldn't afford them this opportunity, it seems Witnesses think God is not as loving as he is; I don't think Witnesses want to say that.)[1]

Why assume that there would be any time in Hell, during which the wicked would continue to sin?

Because if the wicked are, at the second death, annihilated for their sins, that would be the same punishment meted out across the board. However, not all sin is equally bad, nor sinner equally bad Compare lying on your taxes with murder did; our an unfaithful spouse versus Hitler or Satan. Not all vices are as bad, or rather, not all people are equally as vice-riddled, as depraved. Not everyone who will be found wicked come the second death will sink to the same depths of perversity - some might commit fewer or less severe sins. And, since punishment ought to be proportionate to the evil done, they must receive different degrees of punishment, and hence can't all deserve mere annihilation.

At the very least, it seems that some time in hell (varying in degree and/or duration, to the extent one is evil and dishonors God) - is in order before annihilation. In which case, we're back to the dilemma above. And I think the dilemma shows that either God will either save everyone, or damn some forever (because ultimately, the wicked, in a sense, want that - which I might explain later.)

Well, those are my thoughts - what are yours?

This post first appeared on Witness Seeking Orthodoxy, please read the originial post: here

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All or Nothing or Somewhere in Between


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