The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Doesn't seem like rehabilitative justice is possible

Hello EU forum members! This is my first post. I have been a believer in UR for about 2 years, but recently I have been severely doubting UR and especially the idea of ‘‘rehabilitative’’ justice that most universalists say is the main way God prescribes justice. So essentially, my argument against EU/UR is that rehabilitative justice doesn’t work as evidenced from most prison systems.

Most prisons around the world are called ‘‘corrections’’ centers, where the stated goal is to rehabilitate the offender, yet I think it is quite obvious that this system doesn’t work. Most prisoners will tell you that prison doesn’t rehabilitate them at all. Effectively prisons are still mostly used for punitive justice, and bodily punishment. I say bodily punishment because even though some might argue that being in a cell most of the time is not punishing the body, it is punishing the brain, which causes prisoners to become mentally unstable, and I think it is clearly used as a means of punitive/retributive punishment, to torture the prisoner. Not to mention all the prison violence which most people actually believe is just and that most prisoners need to engage in, or be victims of prison violence.

Now essentially in my opinion, if I’m not mistaken, most universalists are purgatorial, which is essentially putting all of them in a prison like existence in the lake of fire. I just don’t see how this would be rehabilitative to the sinner. If isolating people in a prison cell on earth doesn’t rehabilitate the offender, I don’t think it will work in an afterlife, especially if the sinners still have their fallen human nature.

The only options left are annihilation which is the most merciful to the sinner, and which actually is based in reality, as the most heinous criminals on earth are usually executed, not rehabilitated. Then you have ECT which is merely punitive and which seems the most likely in my opinion as most humans believe in punitive/bodily torture type of justice, which leads me to this question, If we are made in Gods image, and he administers rehabilitative justice, why is most human justice punitive and torturous?

Glad that you’re back!
Well, God himself who is Love itself, no doubt has a lot more wisdom than prison officials. At least that’s the hope. Plus prison is no place for rehabilitation anyway, let’s face that.
Personally I’m not convinced that the LOF can be interpreted as a ‘purgatory’. I don’t think that our Father in heaven needs to ‘pay people back’ for their sins - especially with physical torment (that could never work) sin usually pays its own dividends - but recovering, in our characters, the goodness that we forfeited by our rebellious acts, may take some time; if it is ‘painful’ it is only the pain of growth, to the point that our chosen goodness takes the place of our chosen badness.

2 Likes

That isn’t evidence of anything other than demonstrating that most prisons do not actually try to rehabilitate offenders. It works just fine, provided the nation makes it a priority.

https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-48885846?utm_source=pocket-newtab

The above is an article on the superior system Norway uses. They treat people like humans, not as scum. Seems to work well.

The sad truth is that the US Justice system is horrible. It is punative and treats offenders as less than human. Additionally, because many prisons are private and for profit, it isn’t in their best interest to rehabilitate. They need to keep the prison industrial complex going.

2 Likes

You’ve got it right, Gabe! There are two main types of “justice”—“retributive justice” and “restorative justice.” The former doesn’t reform anyone; the latter does.

Howard J. Zehr is an American criminologist. Zehr is considered to be a pioneer of the modern concept of restorative justice. You can download a little pdf file of his here:

https://www.amazon.ca/Little-Book-Restorative-Justice-Revised/dp/1561488232

How about because the Bible is correct about the reality of sin driving human beings to pursue destructive approaches?

Arguing that American sinners desire to emphasize ineffective retribution means that God himself
is incapable of the desire or means of employing effective enlightenment and restoration seems backwards. An almighty God is hardly limited to imitating what sinners do.

Norway’s population is just over 5 million. They have just over 5.5 thousand people in prison.
In my mind, that is not any comparison to go by. Yes the US system needs an overhaul; but do we really think that a country club for violent gang members, drug pushers, etc. would work here in a nation of 350 million+? Just trying to be real.

Hi FormerUR,

You say, and I won’t argue, that most earthly prison rehabilitation doesn’t work.

IMO, one of the major reasons prison rehabilitation often fails: many “bad” people thrown together in a holding facility breeds corruption because the corrupt prisoners are surrounded by other corrupt prisoners.

In a simplistic thought process:

The ratio of “mostly righteous people” to “mostly corrupt people” in American jails might be, 3 to 15. The three “mostly righteous” being prison guards, chaplains, teachers, etc. versus the 15 unreformed prisoners.

What if, in the eons of correction that God prescribes, God provides something of a half-way house arrangement where there is a ratio of 10 “mostly righteous” rehabilitators to 1 “mostly corrupt” prisoner? Even if it took trillions of years for a whole jail of 100 to be rehabilitated, wouldn’t rehabilitation be much more reasonable in such a scenario?

The limitations of men does not affect the capability of God, think of the conversion of Saul to Paul, maybe you realize how weak and unbiblical your argument is, Mark 10:27:

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

The Old Testament has no torturous punishments, it is either death or restitution which is a good argument in favor for annihilationism.

Blockquote

What if, in the eons of correction that God prescribes, God provides something of a half-way house arrangement where there is a ratio of 10 “mostly righteous” rehabilitators to 1 “mostly corrupt” prisoner? Even if it took trillions of years for a whole jail of 100 to be rehabilitated, wouldn’t rehabilitation be much more reasonable in such a scenario?

It depends on how agonizing that process would be. If the person is in mental agony for trillions of years I do not think that is loving or merciful at all, I just couldn’t imagine saved people watching their loved ones being mentally tormented for trillions of years and being happy about it.

So you don’t allow that ANY of the prisoners are “mostly righteous”? Have you ever heard of wrongdoers experiencing genuine repentance? Wasn’t the apostle Paul one such person?

I probably left out “mostly righteous” prisoners because I prematurely turned my thoughts from American jails to the penal system of the afterlife. In an oversimplification of the afterlife penal system, one might assume that all prisoners will be in need of some form of rehabilitation. Otherwise, I’d assume they’d already have been welcomed into the kingdom.

Maybe the complexities of that last statement are worth considering. I’m sure God’s plans for the ultimate reconciliation of mankind are far more complicated than any three sentence commentary on the subject could begin to explain.

But anyways, good point.

Don’t forget, though, that God’s goal is to create an infinitely lasting existence for all people. I’m not implying that anyone will certainly suffer constant mental anguish for thousands, much less trillions of years. But even if so, that suffering might be worth it if it produces billions of trillions of years of joy for all of creation. And after billions of trillions of years, existence will have just begun.

Human justice systems are increasingly aimed at correction and rehab (at least that’s what they claim). But many inmates will resist on the basis that they don’t want to be trained to be productive slaves of Caesar (that’s the protest that got many there to start with).

Only God can effect a true change of heart. He does this by amazing grace, which produces humility and repentance, new eyes to see the truth and value of life, a new King to serve in spirit and in truth, a new principle in the heart and knowledge in the mind. Jesus died for us while we were still his enemies.

The greatest justice is that which effects true remorse and repentance. God can and will achieve that, by going to hell to reclaim us, by honoring the downtrodden and healing the broken, by destroying unbelief and showing us the way the truth and the life.

While I won’t disagree with you, I think you need to understand that God changes hearts through people and kindness. Pissing on a prisoner, treating them like garbage, and asking God to change the prisoners heart is sort akin to when James mentions the “worthless religion” that sees someone in needs and merely prays for them instead of giving them what they need.

So maybe the first step is humane prisons and prison guards who treat prisoners humanely? What if that is what God is waiting for to work his magic?

1 Like

Sure, prisoners are saved by God every day under those kinds of conditions. The world lies in the hands of the devil. God changes hearts one at a time.

Now isn’t it time you confessed your sins and cried out to God for salvation, Agnostic Gabe? The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

Retribution stems from humanity’s fallen nature that lusts after revenge and violence. Retributive justice is a contradiction in terms. God calls us to practice the same kind of justice He does, restorative rehabilitative justice, a justice most powerfully demonstrated on the cross where instead of lashing out in vengeance against those who crucified Him, Jesus forgave them.

1 Like

I’m not sure about that. While I would never support physical torment or eternal torment as punishment, I think people who have done evil deserve some measure of retribution. Parry aknowledged a place for retribution in punishment. And even George MacDonald said something to the effect of a person need not forgive someone right away. If someone murdered a loved one of mine I’d want them to spend decades in prison even if they made heartfelt repentance at their sentencing.

If the purpose of prison is to keep them from killing someone else and rehabilitate them, then sure the person needs to be in prison, but if it is vengeance, then I don’t think it is what we are called to do (incredibly hard though it would be to forgive someone for killing your loved one).

I agree. Howard Zehr has some great teaching on restorative justice:
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwiu49jf8u7jAhXkRt8KHbhrDrcQFjABegQIBhAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.unicef.org%2Ftdad%2Flittlebookrjpakaf.pdf&usg=AOvVaw2IcB9NXGLmFWt1n7HVGEbp

Some Canadian prisons offer prisoners programs that lead to restoration and genuine reform

1 Like

Sad that the Church dropped the ball on restorative justice, when that was God’s explicit plan and Jesus’ instructions. It’s now been left largely to the heathen to embarrass the Church by producing secular sentencing laws/ policies increasingly relying on restorative principles (as well as aiming to balance the traditional punitive and deterrent functions). In Victoria Aus where I live, criminal courts are bound to justify their sentences against the list of principles, and of course have alternative options to incarceration available, like community based orders and restitution.

God’s justice is always better than man’s - I’m at pains to point this out to the general run of Christians who are so enamoured by the idea of eternal torment as the great motivational stick. Um, it’s not, and history shows how counterproductive that satanic doctrine has been.

That looks to be a good little book, thanks for the link.

2 Likes