The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Fear Of The Consequences of Hell Motivates To Work Hard

From my book “The Shyness & Social Anxiety Workbook” by Martin Antony Ph.D. and Richard Swinson M.D.:

There is no question that when anxiety is too intense it can interfere with performance; however, mild to moderate amounts of anxiety are actually helpful. If you never became even slightly anxious under any circumstance you probably wouldn’t bother doing the things that must be done. Why would you bother eating healthy food if you weren’t concerned about the consequences of not doing it? In part, it is anxiety that motivates us to work hard, prepares us for challenges, and protects us from possible threats…Anxiety and fear have a helpful function in that they prepare you for future threats and protect you from danger. So, your goal should not be to rid yourself of all fear and anxiety. Rather, your goal should be to reduce your anxiety to a level that no longer interferes significantly with your life. page 9

The anxiety about the consequences are reduced by the love and hope of heaven. Hope motivates as well as fear.


The Sufi Mystic Rumi explains the paradox

God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches by means of opposites, so that you will have two wings to fly not one ~~ Rumi - Sufi


Just to be clear. I don’t think we can know for certain that hell is forever but it does exist. I’m a hopeful universalist now.

Good. I don’t see hell as “punishment” in the penal sense, but in the remedial sense. I see all of God’s judgments as remedial.

I go along with the Orthodox view of Robin Parry that it’s both retributive and restorative. It is possible to refuse God’s corrective love though:

Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding ~~ Proverbs 15:32

Poverty and shame come to him who ignores discipline, but whoever heeds correction will be honored. ~~ Proverbs 13:18

A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction is prudent. ~~ Proverbs 15:5

Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled,
the oppressing city!

She listens to no voice;
she accepts no correction.

She does not trust in the Lord;
she does not draw near to her God.~~ Zephaniah 3

Hence, I’m a hopeful universalist

Discipline (which means “teaching” or “training”) is great! That’s what I mean by “remedial.” A loving human father disciplines his children in this way.

I disbelieve that God practises retribution. Even a loving human father doesn’t. He wants his children to learn to behave, but he doesn’t lock them in a room for a month in order to “make them pay” for their wrongdoing.

So when guys and gals do bad things, is God working to move them to a place he wants them to be?

Retribution is punishment that is deserved. The Bible teaches that God’s punishment is deserved:

Hebrews 10:29

How much more severe a punishment do you think that person deserves who tramples on God’s Son, treats as common the blood of the covenant by which it was sanctified, and insults the Spirit of grace?

There’s nothing unusual about calling the police on your grown children if they are abusive. People do it all the time. God is just therefore not to punish serious crimes would be unjust. When we commit a crime we pay a fine. This is justice and it is defended by the vast majority of philosophers in the philosophy of law:

During the first half of the twentieth century, under the influence of social scientists, retributive theories of justice were frowned upon in favor of consequentialist theories. Fortunately, there has been, over the last half-century or so, a renaissance of theories of retributive justice, accompanied by a fading of consequentialist theories, so that we need not be distracted by the need to justify a retributive theory of justice. ~~ William Lane Craig, The Atonement pp. 68-69

Yep! Sometimes sooner; sometimes later.

Excellent new book that I just recently purchased that gives a justification for retributive justice. Justice and love protect. Punishment is essentially a defense of the honor of the victim. The book is over a hundred dollars but well worth the price. Here’s the description on the back

This book addresses the problem of justifying the institution of criminal punishment. It examines the “paradox of retribution”: the fact that we cannot seem to reject the intuition that punishment is morally required, and yet we cannot (even after two thousand years of philosophical debate) find a morally legitimate basis for inflicting harm on wrongdoers. The book comes at a time when a new “abolitionist” movement has arisen, a movement that argues that we should give up the search for justification and accept that punishment is morally unjustifiable and should be discontinued immediately. This book, however, proposes a new approach to the retributive theory of punishment, arguing that it should be understood in its traditional formulation that has been long forgotten or dismissed: that punishment is essentially a defense of the honor of the victim. Properly understood, this can give us the possibility of a legitimate moral justification for the institution of punishment.​

A couple of quotes:

We have argued that the central purpose of punishment is to restore dignity, self-respect, and honor to the victim, by demonstrating that society does not passively acquiesce in the crime but is willing to risk even life and limb in response to it on behalf of the victim. The goal of defending the honor of the victims seems to be morally unobjectionable even to critics of punishment, and it seems to be more reasonable to expect that retributive motive will always be with us - or as Sharon Krause argues, that we need to preserve the motivation to defend one’s honor, a motive on which our liberties depend. Indeed, we have argued that virtually every current theory of punishment has an underlying retributive motive. ~~ page 190

The case for the essential continuity and even identity of revenge and retributive punishment is overwhelming, The two words are dictionary synonyms and are more or less interchangeable; if the revenger demands “retribution” we would not have any doubt about what he meant (nor would we ever think that he was referring to an entirely different conceptual system of punishment). As Zaibert points out, when in the Bible God says “Vengeance is Mine,” it is clear that He means retributive punishment, not sadistic pleasure. Both the revenger and the punisher aim at “justice” ~~ page 106

As we can see there’s nothing immoral or psychologically abusive about Christianity because it teaches retributive justice. To quote Robin Parry, It’s both retributive and restorative:

In scripture, divine judgment serves various ends. It has, as the tradition rightly points out, a retributive aspect. Someone is punished because they deserve to be. It is not hard to find this instinct in Scripture. But we err if we think that retribution exhausts what Biblical justice and punishment are about. Biblical justice is about putting wrong things right. As such, while retribution may possibly be a necessary condition of justice, it cannot be a sufficient condition, because retribution cannot undo the harms done and put right the wrongs. The primary end of God’s justice, with respect to creation, is not punishment, but salvation. And punishment itself is not merely suffering inflicted as a deserved consequence for wrong deeds. Punishment also functions as a deterrent…Furthermore it is also a corrective for those being punished…And these different purposes of punishment need not be mutually exclusive. God’s punishment of Israel say, can be SIMULTAEOUSLY RETRIBUTIVE AND RESTORATIVE ~~ Robin Parry in Four Views on Hell pages 113-114