If you think that Jesus taught only the Golden Rule and love of one’s neighbor, you should reread the New Testament. Pay particular attention to the morality that will be on display when Jesus returns to earth trailing clouds of glory:
6) For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
7) and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire,
8) dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
9) These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power
2 Ths. 1:6–9
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
In these versus we see Christ returning and bringing judgment upon His enemies. Mr. Harris seems to think that this is somehow immoral, although he doesn’t say why. The question we need to answer is, “Is God’s judgment upon men just?”
When God created man, he created him “good, and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness”; however, after succumbing to the temptation of the devil, our first parents rebelled against our creator. Because of this disobedience, “our nature became so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.” Furthermore, because of our corrupt nature, “we are wholly unapt to any good and prone to all evil.” This means that we are not only born with Adam’s guilt (because he represented us all before God), but we also “daily increase our guilt” with our own sins.
Although God is merciful He is also just, and will not allow our sins (i.e., not conforming to, or acting against, His law) to go unpunished. How can mortal man escape this just judgment? How can we sinful mortals repay a debt owed stemming from crimes committed against an infinitely holy God? How can we “escape this punishment and be again received into favor?” Answer: Satisfaction must be made, “either by ourselves or by another.”
But, because we “daily increase our guilt,” we ourselves cannot make such satisfaction. Furthermore, no “mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin.” It seems hopeless. The only way to bridge the chasm separating us and God is to have a mediator and redeemer “who is a true and sinless man, and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is at the same time true God.” But who is such a mediator and redeemer? “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is freely given us for complete redemption and righteousness.”
(All quotes taken from the Heidelberg Catechism, Q and A 6 – 18.)
Back to God as Judge
As seen above, mankind has rebelled, and continues to rebel, against his God and has earned the Creator’s wrath. God, however, has made a way of escape—faith in Jesus Christ. By rejecting that way of escape, men will stand before the Just Judge of the Universe and give an account. Their punishment will fit their crimes; since these men can never repay the dept owed, they will bare God’s wrath for eternity. This is just. It also matches their desire—they wanted nothing to do with God, and they’ll get their wish, forever.
It would be unjust for God to simply say, “Hey, no problem. I’m a loving God. Here’s your Get Out of Jail Free card.” For example, if Mr. Harris was robbed and assaulted, and went to the police to swear out a complaint, would he be satisfied if they said, “We caught the guy, but let him go because we’re a loving police station”? I bet he would rail against such an injustice.
The truth is, if you sacrifice justice for love, you have likewise sacrificed love. Thankfully, this is a false dilemma—one does not have to be sacrificed for the other. God is both loving and just.
Mr. Harris’ complaint falls on its face because it would be unjust and immoral for God not to render just judgment—of course, the criminal always complains about the judgment against him.
Mr. Harris continues . . .
If we take Jesus in half his moods, we can easily . . . justify the Inquisition . . . . (pg. 14)
Does the fact that it is just for God to render judgment upon man give leave to man to render judgment upon man?
If my four-year-old grabbed my truck keys and headed out for a drive to market, would the defense “Well, you do it so it must be okay for me to” be effective?
Because human beings are God’s creation, it is appropriate for Him to render judgment against them. That’s His prerogative being God. Man can only render judgment against other men when authorized to do so by the Lord, such as described in Rom. 13.
Stay tuned for part 4!