I was listening to Michael Harding on Compassionate Eschatology (mp3 podcast) and decided to look up retribution.
Here’s from

ret·ri·bu·tion [re-truh-byoo-shuhn] Show IPA
requital according to merits or deserts, especially for evil.
something given or inflicted in such requital.
Theology . the distribution of rewards and punishments in a future life.

I don’t find these things to be contrary to God’s nature. Perhaps in theology something else is meant. I think many use it to mean: God pays back without the intent to reconcile.

Does anyone have any knowledge on this?


I think the problem is that in theology, people extend the meaning beyond the actual definition of being given what is deserved, to being given more than what is deserved.


Am I wrong in thinking that there is no room for grace in a theology of retribution?


It’s a great question. My question is, is it possible or compatible to say that retribution can exist in a grace founded theology?

Sometimes God gives back more than what’s deserved, this may be an extension of grace. It might seem to defy justice or retribution as Mel has explained, but not justice as we Universalists define it.

I have no problem with God doing what’s necessary in order to restore, even if he must pay back 2 or 3 times as much.

But how would that fit in with retribution, unless retribution is to restore?



Sometimes He gives more than deserved (in blessing or punishment) on both sides of the equation, and there is scriptural precedent for this. I don’t think this is inconsistent with retribution, unless we make the negative retribution infinite. I can think of no example in scripture where retribution is infinite.


Excellent point Mel.

I am however wondering if we ought to be so dismissing of retribution if it’s seen in the sense that I’ve quoted from the dictionary. If retribution is to give back as we deserve, that’s fine by my book - it’s the intent that divides us.


It also depends on what we mean by “retribution”, as you noted.

There are plenty of scriptural examples (mostly OT as it happens but also a few in the NT) about God bringing rebels back into tribute to Him: that’s the classical notion of re-tribution which has been very much changed by the inculcation of Roman law as a means of explaining theology. (Thanks ever so much, Augustine… :stuck_out_tongue: )

Is that gracious of God? Compared to the alternatives, and depending on His intentions (as Satan could re-tribute people, too, bringing them back into loyalty to himself), sure!

On the other hand, if we’re talking about repayment, the archetypal statement of retribution in the OT from which every other citation seems to be drawing is the Psalm 62:11-12 and the stunning revelation about the true nature of God’s recompense:

"One thing God has spoken
"These two things I heard:
"Power belongs to God
"And mercy/lovingkindness is Yours O Lord;
“For You repay a man according to his work.”

I have never once heard an explanation of hopeless punishment (or hopeless damnation if not exactly punishment from God) that didn’t split the one thing God had spoken into two distinct things. Mercy over here, and power over there; and if mercy may not fail, then power somehow does; or if power does not fail, then mercy either fails or never was given.

But David heard one thing that involved two things, as being therefore at bottom the same: power and love.

(Even Lewis, who should of all people known better, and who was certainly taught better by MacDonald, ultimately schisms God’s power and mercy.)

God always, even with power, even in punishment, repays every man, even the worst of sinners, with mercy and lovingkindness.