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Absolute Justice and Mercy

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  • Absolute Justice and Mercy

    Why doesn't God just forgive?



    How can God be both to us? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    On Thursday nights, I take part in an Aquinas study group. We were discussing a passage from the Summa Theologica last night asking if there was any way to bring about redemption other than the cross. As much as we admire Aquinas, most of us seemed to be of the mindset that this wasn’t Aquinas at his finest. I was asked for my opinion on the matter of whether I thought there was another way or not.

    Now none of what I say can be proven, but it is a question I have spent well over a decade thinking about and I keep coming back to the same idea. Could God just be absolutely just instead of merciful at all. Sure. If He did that, we would not be having this problem of discussing this topic in the church. Why? Because we would all be dead.

    After all, God does not owe anyone their own lives. If God wants to take a life, He can do that. He is under no moral obligation to keep anyone alive. Skeptics complain about the flood and the Canaanite conquest. I always ask the question first off of on what grounds is God obligated to keep anyone in existence?

    So if God is absolute justice, then He can just kill everyone.

    But what if it was the opposite? What if God was just being absolutely merciful? In this case, we have not God the Father, but God the Grandfather up in Heaven saying boys will be boys and not judging anyone. After all, why hurt their feelings or anything like that? People get away with sin constantly and do whatever they want and God does nothing about it.

    Ironic because an absolute merciful God who was not just at all would lead to more complaining about the problem of evil.

    Now some could say, “Well I can forgive someone who does me wrong without requiring a price be paid.” Sure, but you are also not absolute goodness and holiness. What would happen if God had no justice in forgiveness? If sin is not punished, then it means sin is not a serious matter. That would mean that divine treason against the supreme being of the universe is not a big deal at all.

    And if sin is not a big deal, then God is saying that He Himself doesn’t really matter. If anything, He is no longer the greatest good in the universe then. He has exalted His creation to that point.

    So what is God to do? He wants to forgive human beings, but He has to treat sin seriously, treat Himself seriously, and still be merciful. So now the question comes up of if there was another way other than the cross.

    For this one, I go straight to what we see in the text. Jesus prays in the garden and asks God if there be any other way to please let this cup pass through Him. I find it hard to think that the Father looks and says, “You know what? There is another way, but I think I’ll just let you suffer.”

    Now still keep in mind God was never under no obligation to send a ransom for us. No one forced Him to provide any way of salvation and He could have avoided doing that. If He did, He would not have done anything wrong. However, it was out of a free love that He has for His creation that He chose to do that. God offered love and it wasn’t because He needed us. He doesn’t. It was because He wanted to.

    I also want to say that this has been my own thinking for the most part. I have read many other writers and I get ideas from other places such that I don’t know who supplied what, but I don’t know any other one person who has this theory on God’s forgiveness like I do. If someone does, I would be excited to see it.

    Also, normally, I do consider Aquinas to have a better argument, (And it’s worth noting that atheists today do not really have new arguments.) but there are times I disagree. For anyone outside of Scripture, I also think this is important. If we walk with anyone in complete lockstep, we are treating them as if they are infallible. Aquinas was a brilliant mind, but he was also still just a man.

    For now, this is my response. I don’t see anything changing it, but perhaps new data will come in some day or I will read a better theory. So far, that hasn’t happened yet.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)

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