Tag Archive | punishment

Is Punishment in Hell Restorative?

Universalists sometimes claim that punishment in hell is restorative. They use Matthew 25:46 as a proof-text and translate kolasin aiōnion (κόλασιν αἰώνιον) as agelong chastening or correction. Below I list four reasons why I do not believe in restorative punishment in hell.

First, the noun kolasis (κόλασις) only occurs two times in the NT (Matt. 25:46; 1 Jn. 4:18)[1] and the verb kolazó (κολάζω)[2] also only occurs two times in the NT (Acts 4:21; 2 Pet. 2:9). The majority of English translations translate Kolasis and kolazó as “punish,” “punishment,” or “torment,” (see KJV, NIV, NLT, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NET Bible). In fact, Francis Chan “checked ten commentators from different theological backgrounds and fifteen Bible translations in five different languages on the word kolasis… they all translate kolasis with the word ‘punishment.’”[3]

Second, the term kolasis is used by other literature of the period to mean (non-restorative) punishment. For example, Josephus talks about Herod being on trial and in danger of being sentenced to death, but through the intervention of the high priest, he was delivered from that danger, and all punishment (kolaseōs) (Josephus, Antiquities XV, 16). “Punishment” in the case above does not seem to be used in the “pruning” sense because he is being saved from death[4] (cf. e.g. 2 Macc. 4:38; 4 Macc. 8:9-11). Further, BDAG,[5] one of the most respected dictionaries of Koine Greek, lists all sorts of examples where kolazó and kolasis means “punish” or “punishment” in the non-restorative sense. TDNT[6] also a widely respected dictionary says that the meaning of kolasis is “punishment” and the meaning of kolazó is “punish.”[7]

Third, there are other terms that the NT uses to refer to the concept of punishment. Apollumi (ἀπόλλυμι) occurs ninety-two times and means to “destroy” (e.g. Matt. 10:28; 21:41). Olethros (ὄλεθρος) occurs four times and it means “destruction” (see 2 Thess. 1:9). Timória (τιμωρία[8]) occurs just one time and means “punishment” or “vengeance” (see Heb. 10:29). Ekdikésis (ἐκδίκησις) occurs nine times and means “vengeance” (see 2 Thess. 1:8). Orgé (ὀργή) means “wrath” (see Rom. 2:5; Rev. 14:10) and occurs 36 times.[9] William V. Crockett, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and University of Glasgow, has said, “when we examine orge in Paul we find no reason to assume that it has reformative elements.”[10] He goes on to say, “orge in Paul excludes any notion of divine love.”[11]

Fourth, there is a lot of imagery in Scripture of God’s wrath being poured out that does not look like restorative punishment. This is the type of imagery we see: “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia [i.e. about 184 miles]” (Rev. 14:19-20 see also Ps. 110:5-6; Is. 66:24; Ezek. 39:17ff; Matt. 24:51; Rev. 6:15-17; 19:11ff; 20:11ff; 21:27). Read More…

The Grave Necessity for a Hideous Hell

Hell is unashamedly a dreadful doctrine; yet, as we will see, a necessary doctrine.[1] C. S. Lewis’ said,

“There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of Our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason.”[2]

We don’t desire controversy for the sake of controversy.[3] Rather, we want to be convinced biblically,[4] logically, and practically that hell is a necessary doctrine.

Tinted Glasses
As we look at the doctrine of hell, we look with American glasses on. Glasses that are tinted. These glasses can prevent us from seeing how necessary the doctrine of hell is.[5]

It is important before considering the evidence to think about our a priori assumptions. For instance, in Harper Lee’s book To Kill a Mocking Bird the correct verdict could not have been given in that context (i.e. Maycomb’s racist white community) because people excluded the possibility that anyone other than the black man, Tom Robinson, was guilty. Despite the strong evidence that Atticus Finch put forward Tom was convicted. Why? Because people were prejudice against the truth. The people’s a priori assumption, that Tom was guilty because he’s black, led them to not honestly look at the evidence and pronounce the correct verdict.

This sadly still happens. It happens in the court of law and it happens when people consider other forms of evidence. This is especially likely to occur when emotional issues are involved. So when people consider what the Bible teaches on certain subjects they come with tinted glasses. One theologian, for instance, admits that he “was led to question the traditional belief in everlasting conscious torment because of moral revulsion and broader theological considerations, not first of all on scriptural grounds.”[6]

John Stott believed in annihilationism. Stott, by his own admission, left the ranks of what is “traditional orthodoxy for most of the church fathers, the medieval theological and the Reformers.” Even as Stott emotionally wrestled with the doctrine of hell he said, “our emotions are a fluctuating, unreliable guide to truth and must not be exalted to the place of supreme authority in determining it. As a committed evangelical, my question must be—and is—not what does my heart tell me, but what does God’s word say?”[7]

As we look at the wrath of God we look from a certain vantage point in the cultural climate in which we live. This inevitably shades our perception of things. One book I read told of a Korean man that struggled not with the wrath of God (and even hell) but with the love and grace of God.[8] This was because he had seen horrible wickedness and clearly understood that wickedness deserves justice.

Timothy Keller tells about a woman that told him that the very idea of a judging God was offensive. Keller responded by asking why she wasn’t offended by the idea of a forgiving God. The woman was puzzled so Keller continued:

“’I respectfully urge you to consider your cultural location when you find the Christian teaching about hell offensive.’ …Westerns get upset by the Christian doctrine of hell, but they find Biblical teaching about turning the other cheek and forgiving enemies appealing. I then asked her to consider how someone from a very different culture sees Christianity. In traditional societies the teaching about ‘turning the other cheek’ makes absolutely no sense. It offends people’s deepest instincts about what is right. For them the doctrine of judgment, however, is no problem at all. That society is repulsed by aspects of Christianity that Western people enjoy, and are attracted by the aspects that secular Westerns can’t stand.”[9]

Many people are chronological or geographical snobs. That is, they have baseless biases and think their place in space and time has the unique vantage point to decipher morals, values, and truth claims of people in different times and cultures than their own. However, why should one think that non-Western cultures are inferior to our own?

The various aspects of the unpopularity of Christianity actually show that it is transcultural. Keller says,

“For the sake of argument, let’s imagine that Christianity is not the product of any one culture but is actually the transcultural truth of God. If that were the case we would expect that it would contradict and offend every human culture at some point, because human cultures are ever-changing and imperfect. If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place. Maybe this is the place, the Christian doctrine of divine judgment.”[10]

Let’s, as Keller says, for the sake of argument, listen to the transcultural truth of Scripture. Let’s not be biased. Let’s take our tinted glasses off and seek to see why hell is necessary.

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