Speaking as one of the big-gun purgatorial universalists on the site:
1.) I agree that we ought to be restrictive when it comes to major punishments, and even if due to social circumstances we believe we have to inflict them we should do so as mercifully as possible. I may be in favor of the death sentence in various cases, but I’m not in favor of death by torture. Relatedly, though, it would be better to institute a system of restitutionary justice where the criminal is expected to do good for those whom he (or she) has wronged. As a practical matter this becomes very difficult to implement, moreso than merely punitive systems (do your time, pay your debt to “society” in the abstract, then go your way or be buried). But there are scriptural precedents for it. Even the OT laws, harsh by our standards, were very progressive for their times and circumstances; not least because there were numerous safety factors built in (and built upon them later) to help prevent maximum penalties from being adjured. Yet the maximum penalties were still there, and still really viable (not merely theoretically so): for fallen human nature, at least, the stick has to be real or there will be a lack of respect.
2.) On the other hand–and this is something I find myself having to stress with some frequency to both non-purgatorial universalists and non-universalists whose systems divorce God from being actively involved in the fate of sinners (this is one of my main criticisms of JP Holding’s soteriology which I’ve been commenting extensively on recently)–***[size=150]any[/size]*** infliction of an unwanted condition by God, amounts to God inflicting suffering!
The suffering may be light or may be severe to any degree, but it’s still suffering. We may agree that God does not do what would be evil for us to do, but insofar as He opposes evil at all in any practically effective way, those who do evil will suffer as a result. Someone may love their sins because of corrupted psycho-physical wiring (so to speak), but healing that problem still involves inflicting an inconvenience directly opposed (to some real degree) to the person’s current preferences. That’s an infliction of suffering just as real as keeping sinners hopelessly alive in some inconvenient condition (no matter how relatively light that inconvenience may seem), or just as real as intentionally withdrawing active upkeep of a sinner’s existence so that the person is hopelessly annihilated. If God sits someone down for a stern talking-to (which is what I hope and expect most post-mortem retribution will amount to, aside from healing corrupted natures), that’s an infliction of suffering by God. If someone in their sin does something with an inconvenient result of its own, and God chooses to let that result occur to inconvenience the person, then that’s still an infliction of suffering by God. God may not have wrath in Him, but if He goes out to war against those who go out to war against Him, He is still inflicting suffering by burning up their thorns and thistles with which they try to wage war–even if they themselves (metaphorically and/or literally speaking in whatever degree) aren’t burned in passing, or by trying to hold onto the thorns and thistles, they wanted and intended to use those thorns and thistles which God has now forcibly denied them!
There wouldn’t be much point to God being reckoned with transgressors, either, if those transgressors had not transgressed against God and were suffering as a result. Different rabbis even outside Christianity picked up and applied both concepts from OT scripture, that the Messiah (or even YHWH!) shares suffering inflicted by YHWH on Israel for her sins, and that the Messiah (or even YHWH!) suffers Himself due to sin by Israel against YHWH: God (and/or His highest appointed representative) voluntarily suffers with victims and with the guilty.
I sympathize with the problems in trusting a Father who would “allow” their child to be hurt, but your own proposal still involves God allowing His children to not only hurt themselves in their sins but to hurt each other in their sins (completely aside from the question of God allowing them to hurt Himself in their sins!) Otherwise sinners would never be inconvenienced at all, ever; and if I am not supposed to trust a Father who would “allow” his child to be hurt, then I only have to recall EVERY SINGLE UNFAIR SUFFERING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED OR KNOWN ABOUT (whether really or only apparently unfair) to be just as fatally solvent in trusting the Father.
Maybe this comes from spending many years as a Christian apologist, but that’s a big factor in lack of trust in God already for unbelievers. If we cannot offer anything better than that principle lack of trust due to any kind of allowance of suffering, then frankly I recommend becoming at least agnostics, maybe atheists, and even maybe anti-theists.
Personally I prefer knowing that God Most High, the One authoritatively responsible for setting up and maintaining conditions where people suffer, doesn’t inflict those conditions from on high but shares them with us as a promise and evidence of His ultimately benevolent intentions toward us. The judge Who inflicts our inconveniences (whatever those are) for our sins, is also our Paraclete who stands with us and even suffers our penalties with us. The judge who arbitrates between us and those we have sinned against, also stands with our victims sharing their victimization, just as He shares our unjust victimizations with us. We have no appeal and we have every possible hope.
But our sin doesn’t have any hope at all. God is going to inflict against our sin, sooner or later (or sooner and later), one way or another (or in a bunch of ways). Insofar as we insist on holding to our sins we’re going to be that much more inconvenienced by the infliction but we’re going to be, and already are, inconvenienced anyway by God in action regarding our sins!
If I, who fondles my sin, am going to be inconvenienced on God’s authority and (in various ways) by God’s active choices against my sin in any case (which must be true if God opposes sin in any practical way), I had better damned well hope that salvation from my sin, and the achievement of justice for all, is God’s goal for the inconvenience!
Otherwise it’s ECT or anni. Which are at least as inconvenient to my currently fondling of sin, and so to my current personal preferences (to some degree), as salvation from sin.
But my point, in summary, is that even salvation from sin, in whatever fashions, must be an inconvenience, and thus an infliction of suffering, by God. We may hope it will not be more than a minor inconvenience, but it will still be an inconvenience, and logically moreso insofar as we insist in holding to our sins.
To which I could add more comments regarding violent imagery claimed of God (and by God, at least by report) in the scriptures, in opposition against sin: even accounting for Ancient Near Middle Eastern hyperbole and possible (even likely) misunderstanding by messengers, those are still warnings and outright predictions (and reports) of God’s opposition to sin and to sinners. Inconvenience, at least authoritatively allowed by God, due to our sins, is a past, present and future reality (even if not the ultimate end of our reality). And most of those statements, by far, are not merely about God allowing inconvenience, but about God inflicting inconvenience.
And, from a purely self-critical perspective, I do not have much trouble expecting that for at least some people, that infliction has been, is, and will be, inconveniently extreme for various reasons–primarily having to do with people insisting on holding to their sins. Being baptized in God’s consuming fire sounds great to a Christian charismatic. Not so much to someone holding onto adultery and murder and pride in his heart.
Being salted by the unquenchable fire, to such a person, sounds frightfully hellish and affrontive to their personal self-worth.
And for very good reason.