Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Is Penal Best part 2 Wrath and Fear

Continuing with Stan’s comments:

Graham Maxwell teaches that there is no literal lake of fire that will punish the wicked. He simply denies the doctrine of the wrath of God, and this is a gospel that Satan would love. If Satan can get people believeing that there is no just punishment for their evil deeds, then folks will see no need of a Savior and salvation. Frankly, before I was converted, I wished that there was no such thing as a lake of fire as taught in Revelation 21:8, and if I could be convinced of that, then I could just go about my merry way really living it up. I certainly wouldn't have bothered with any time worrying about religion or even caring about the things of God.

While I don’t want to simply discuss Graham Maxwell’s views I will say that I have no problem with Maxwell’s idea that the wrath of God is revealed when God let’s people go their own way. As Maxwell’s website says:

Romans 1:18, 24, 26, 28. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth... Therefore God gave them up... For this reason God gave them up... And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up.." (RSV)

As the article God Always Takes The Blame says:

This is just one more sample of how it sounds like God is destroying people when His patience runs out and He lets His wrath go and kills them all. But that is not what it means at all. Psalm 78:49 teaches us that God's wrath is when He lets go and allows evil angels to destroy. "He cast upon them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them." Another version says: "He showed them his hot anger. He sent His strong anger against them, His destroying angels." Now, when we put with that Rom. 1:18-26 regarding the "Wrath of God" and what Paul says that it is, we find that God is not striking down the wicked or lashing out against the sinners but He is simply taking His hands off and letting the sinner do his own thing and go the way he wants to go even though it leads to suffering and death. For example, when a person chooses to drink and/or smoke, God will not send an angel down to knock the cigarette or marijuana joint out of his mouth or the beer can out of his hand. No, the Lord at that point allows the inevitable consequence of this man or woman to take place. You do not break the laws of nature. They break you…

When you read the Old Testament you see this type of thing happen a lot. It is recorded that God destroys when in actuality it is the consequence of the nation’s behavior which causes foreign nations to attack Israel. A classic example is this verse in Amos:

(Amos 4:9 NIV) "Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me," declares the LORD. (Amos 4:10 ) "I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me," declares the LORD.

We know from history that God did not come down and kill people and horses with the sword. The writer however sees everything as the result of God. As most of the Old Testament knows nothing of Satan as an agent of evil it was natural for them to think of these things as acts of God. God was in charge after all anything that happened was therefore and act of God. From fungus in the vineyard to national defeat these were all punishments of God. With advances in knowledge particularly from the New Testament the battle between good and evil is expanded and the realization that life has consequences apart from those of God’s actions becomes apparent. As the Disciples once asked Jesus who sinned, this blind man from birth or his parents. The answer was neither but even physical problems of nature can be used of God for his glory (John 9:2-3).

When you think about it, if the wages of sin is death is there really any need for God to pour out wrath upon anyone? Do we insist upon people being tortured before they die? Does that equal justice in anyone’s mind? I can hear some saying oh but that is not the death that we all face, it is the “second death”. Well it does not say second death and that idea only is seen in the book of Revelation and not likely to be the type of death referred to elsewhere in the Bible. But we will discuss more about that later. Remember Jesus is the firstfruits of those raised from the dead, it is not talking about the second death.

Would it really make Satan happy “If Satan can get people believeing that there is no just punishment for their evil deeds, then folks will see no need of a Savior and salvation.” In other words unless God is going to punish you for your evil deeds your death is not enough and no one would want salvation (healing) or feel a need for God to offer them reconciliation and life. That is a doubtful proposition but then many doubtful propositions are produced when people pretend they know what Satan wants or does not want. As a liar and murder from the beginning as Jesus said of Satan, it would seem that anything that was a lie would fit into the purview of something Satan uses and thus may like. But that could just as easily be the idea that God wants to pour out His wrath upon His creation then the idea that God does not want inflict additional punishment over and above the natural consequences of death.

In the context of the Penal/Substitutionary atonement is a just punishment ever produced by punishing the innocent or substituting the punishment of one person for the violations of others let alone billions of people. Not likely aside from this atonement theory would this type of justice even be considered just.

Stan’s testimony that he would have no interest in God had he not been afraid of God’s lake of fire is a troubling way to come to God. Fear is generally not a good technique to achieve a loving relationship. It may happen in a Stockholm syndrome situation but it was not generally the method that Jesus advocated. Yes you can find elements there but overall they were not the major focus of His ministry. Healing and teaching were His major efforts only using those harsher ideas upon those who did not seem to accept the more loving aspects. One thing about the Bible is you can certainly find some aspects that reach your particular need. However your need is not the need of everyone else or necessarily the need of the majority. That however seems to be a point the Penal theorists don’t understand.

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