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 IAmAnAtheist » Just and Merciful

Just and Merciful

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A pair of Christians having lunch after church.

Jackie: Alexis got me to agree to go to her faith study group, but I’m really feeling intimidated. Everyone has these intellectual discussions, but I’m still getting hung up on what seem like they should be simple things. I’m too embarrassed to even bring them up because I don’t want him to think I’m an idiot.

Kathryn: What kind of things are hanging you up? Give me an example.

Jackie: Well, don’t laugh, but I don’t understand how God can be both infinitely just and infinitely merciful. That’s such a basic thing, but I can’t get my head around it.

Kathryn: What’s to understand? God is completely just and completely merciful. Simple. Done.

Jackie: I don’t think it’s that simple, though. Justice means that you punish people who deserve it, but mercy means that you don’t punish people even though they deserve it. Those are opposites, right?

Kathryn: Not quite. Justice means that you give a punishment that is appropriate. Mercy means that you take the situation into account when deciding on punishment. So if someone stole a loaf of bread, justice might say that he had to go to jail for a year, but it would be mercy to take into account that he has a starving children at home and sentence him to parole and a guidance counselor.

Jackie: But what about the people who go to Heaven? They aren’t punished at all, and that isn’t just.

Kathryn: If I owe you $100 and I pay you back $200 instead, would that be unjust?

Jackie: No. That would be great.

Kathryn: Then if a person deserves punishment but God gives them the gift of forgiveness, that’s not being unjust, it’s just giving them something extra, namely forgiveness.

Jackie: But in the money example, you’re giving me the $100 you owe plus an extra $100. In the punishment case, God isn’t giving the person their punishment at all, He’s just giving them Heaven. It’s not the same thing.

Kathryn: It’s not exactly the same thing, but the point is that it’s not unjust.

Jackie: Okay. I can see that. Thanks!


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Posted on June 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Conversations

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