Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

10/31/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The modern god is a consummate liberal, a divine laissez faire, laissez passer democrat with a long, flowing white beard: He is not Father God: he is avuncular: Uncle God.

A Juggernaut of a doctrine, the modern "God is love" teaching, when not properly offered, can trample everything before it, including justice and punishment--indeed even, if some modern theologians are to be believed, an eternal Hell.  Now, that God is love is absolutely true.  (1 John 4:8)  It is dogma.  But it does not follow that a God of love does not also judge and punish.  Love and judgment, love and punishment are not opposites.  Punishment which follows judgment is not necessarily inconsistent with love. 

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/31/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: punishment, purgatory, temporal punishment, indulgence, God is love, Achard of St. Victor, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI,TX (Catholic Online) - "Punishment has some likeness to God."  The assertion sounds almost blasphemous to us moderns.  But this may only prove we moderns have a spiritually tin ear.  Our sense of hearing is spoiled by surfeit, by saccharine assurances that God is love and nothing else, and, as the Beatles reminded us, "All you need is love."

The modern "God is love" doctrine is so comprehensive, so all-encompassing, that it is seen as fundamentally inconsistent with a God in any way punitive or judgmental. 

The modern god is a consummate liberal, a divine laissez faire, laissez passer democrat with a long, flowing white beard: He is not Father God: he is avuncular: Uncle God.  He allows all things and blesses all things and invites all without prejudice to the wedding Feast of the Lamb, a heaven where the sinner and saint, Hitler and Mother Theresa, like lion and lamb, shall lay down together.

A Juggernaut of a doctrine, the modern "God is love" teaching tramples everything before it, including justice and punishment--indeed even, if some modern theologians are to be believed (which they ought not), an eternal Hell.

Like Robbin the Bobbin, the modern "God is love" doctrine eats everything before it, including the church and the steeple, its priest and all the people.  And yet it complains that its stomach isn't full and so it swallows whole the doctrines of punishment and judgment.

Now, that God is love is absolutely true.  (1 John 4:8)  It is dogma.  But it does not follow that a God of love does not also judge and punish.  Love and judgment, love and punishment are not opposites.  Punishment which follows judgment is not necessarily inconsistent with love. 
 
Quite the contrary, punishment is often consistent with love and required by justice.  An unjust God--no less than an unmerciful God--is not a God of love. 

Oddly, by excluding punishment from God in order to distill the "God is love" doctrine to a heady 200 proof, one really makes God loveless because it makes a mockery out of sin, which makes a mockery out justice, which makes a mockery out of mercy, ultimately making a mockery of love.  The modern "God is love" doctrine is an ouroboric doctrine: a snake of a doctrine that consumes itself.

That punishment is in a way part of the divine nature is a truth of nature, one grasped by reason, and therefore also a truth of grace, for grace builds upon nature. 

Except for the anarchist--who in this regard is an outlier whose views can be ignored--, all of us accept the State's legitimate authority to punish the wrongdoer, which necessarily implies it is a natural good.

We know that all power is from God.  (Rom. 13:1; Ps. 62:11 [61:13]).  This must include the power of legitimate authority to punish malefactors, else humans would not have it and its legitimacy would not demand universal assent.  The power to punish is therefore found in God, the God who is love.

What is true to our natural reason, is also taught by the Church.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches (§ 2266) that legitimate public authority "has the right and duty to inflict punishment" upon malefactors, "proportionate to the gravity of the offense."  This authority, as St. Thomas observes, is part of the natural law, as one of its precepts is "that the evil-doer should be punished."  S.T. IaIIae, q. 95, art. 2, c.

If punishment did not have some likeness to God, the State would have no natural right or duty to punish malefactors.  The power to punish could not be part of the natural law, since the natural law is nothing but the Eternal Law, which is God himself, applied to reasoning men.

This is supported by Scripture, for example: "Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?" (Lam 3:39) or "I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, says the Lord." (Jer. 21:14)

To be sure, there are some punishments that are not found in God and therefore the State cannot impose on its citizens.  For example, torture.  The State has no authority to use "physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred."  (§ 2297

It is not part of God's nature to use physical or moral violence vindictively to punish the guilty, frighten his opponents, or satisfy his hatreds.  As the Catechism (§ 1472) states, the punishment meted out by God against sin "must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin."  That's why it is wrong for any human authority to do so since no such authority is found in God, and it cannot therefore be asserted by man.

Though we are not dealing with a torturing, vindictive God, the truth still stares us in the face that "punishment has some likeness to God," the God who is love.  These--to the modern ear--jarring words with which I began this reflection come from a sermon by the holy second abbot of the great monastery of St. Victor in Paris and Bishop of Avranches, Achard of Saint Victor (ca. 1100-1172).  They are found in his sermon preached on the Solemnity of Saint Augustine:

"Punishment has some likeness to God, either because it is just, or because at least it happens by the just judgment of God, or because such a nature is by God's doing such that it cannot be brought into contact with another nature without suffering, like a finger brought into contact with fire."

According to our holy abbot Achard, punishment has some likeness to God if it is just, if it is allowed by God as part of his just and loving Providence, or if it is part of the natural result of bringing one nature into contact with another, such as a human flesh to fire.

The first instance Achard raises relates to the punishment of the wicked by God.  "Let no one think . . . that the punishment of the wicked . . . does not come from him [God]," wrote St. Augustine in his Retractions (1.26).  For the final impenitent sinner, the punishment is, as the Catechism (§ 1472) makes clear, eternal in duration.  Even then, as St. Augustine notes, the punishment is not as severe as the infinite offense against God of final impenitence.

However, just punishments are meted out not only to the damned, but also to the just.  Here, punishments are an occasion of merit, even sanctification. 

The Church teaches that there are both eternal and temporal punishments associated with our sin.  While the justified--those who die in a state of sanctifying grace--escape eternal damnation, they do not escape the temporal punishments that are associated with their sin, the most obvious of which is physical death but which also includes all manner of suffering in this "vale of tears" we call earth.

The temporal punishments justly imposed upon our sins by our loving God must be expiated by suffering the punishment or by substituting for it by God's merciful indulgence, through prayers, almsgiving or other good works, or by undertaking voluntary penances and other works of supererogation.

Temporal punishments suffered by those in a state of grace are considered by the Church a great actual grace.  "The Christian," the Catechism (§ 1473) states, "must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace." 

This accords with Scripture: "And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons?--'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him.  For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.'"  (Heb. 12:5-6)

Temporal punishments are therefore indications not only that God is love but, what is more, that God loves us intimately, even as his children.

To the extent temporal punishments are not suffered in this life, they will be suffered by the just after death in that state of cleansing called Purgatory.  (CCC § 1030)  This, in fact, is what abbot Achard makes reference to when he says that suffering occurs "because such a nature is by God's doing such that it cannot be brought into contact with another nature without suffering." 

Following our death, any attachment to sin must be removed, like dross from gold, as we begin our eternal life in God, and as what remains of our sinful nature is purged, we suffer temporal punishments, "like a finger brought into contact with fire" in the words of Achard. 

"If the work which any man has built on the foundation"--which is Jesus Christ--"survives," St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "he will receive a reward.  If any man's work is burned up,"--that which is not of Christ--"he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire."  (1 Cor. 3:14-15)

"Punishment has some likeness to God."  If the words grate us, then it may suggest that there is a problem with our understanding of the living and holy God and the seriousness of our sin.  It may be that we suffer from that most modern of sins, that synthesis of all sins, which Blessed John Paul II identified as the "loss of the sense of sin."

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2015
Universal:
That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.
Evangelization: That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be ready to proclaim Jesus.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

Teen delivers powerful impromptu invocation during graduation commencement's unexpected emergency Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A high school graduate stepped up to the podium during the Clay-Chalkville High School graduation ceremony and delivered a powerful prayer, after one woman had a medical emergency. The prayer moved the audience so much that his impromptu invocation was cheered for at ... continue reading


Catholic Priest warns participants of 'Charlie Charlie' Challenge summoning a demon is no joke Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"Charlie, Charlie" Challenge is a game now infamous on social media that encourage players to summon a demon. According to a Mirror Online, a Catholic priest has issued a letter warning about the dangers involved with doing such a ritual, and that the challenge is ... continue reading


A Baltimorean's reflections on the Baltimore riots

Image of

By Tony Magliano

"The God of peace is never glorified by human violence," wrote the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Whether it's on an individual, city, national, or international level, violence always dishonors God, and makes bad situations worse. The recent Baltimore City riots ... continue reading


Pope Francis admits to giving up TV in 1990 Watch

Image of While being in the eye of the international media, Pope Francis has little time for media. He's just too busy, and pledged not to watch TV after a pledge to the Virgin Mary in 1990.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While frequently in the media's eye, Pope Francis in fact has little time for the media. After making a promise to the Virgin Mary, the Pope claims that he has not watched TV since 1990. He did not even watch the matches of his football team San Lorenzo de ... continue reading


Pope Francis wants to be remembered as 'good guy who tried to do good' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In his brief time as the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has done many remarkable things and has captured the world's attention. He came off as surprisingly humble in a recent interview with a fellow Argentinean journalist. Pope Francis says he ... continue reading


Catholics worldwide vow to get the word out on Pope Francis' message on climate change Watch

Image of Environmental advocates, working with bishops, religious orders, Catholic universities, and lay movements hope that there will be a transformative impact in the fight against global warming.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will release his anticipated teaching document on the environment and climate change in the coming weeks. Over the past several years, more faith traditions have rallied behind environmental protection. Churches have begun to press ecological ... continue reading


The Church Needs to Be Baptized Afresh in the Holy Spirit Watch

Image of Do I still believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for ordinary Christians? You bet I do! I believe that Pentecost still happens. I KNOW it still happens. We can ALL know it still happens because we can experience its effects in our own lives. We should not be afraid of the Holy Spirit! In fact, we should regularly seek to be filled with more and more of the Spirit.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We need to pray for a New Pentecost for the Church in this hour! We need more of the Holy Spirit for the New Evangelization of the Church - so that a renewed Church can engage in the missionary task of the Third Christian Millennium. We need to be baptized afresh ... continue reading


Brotherhood of the Belt: Struggle, Trouble and Failure in the Christian Life Watch

Image of The Martyrdom of Peter

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Peter's wrong choices were not the end of the story of Gods plan for his life. Peter's denial crippled Peter emotionally and spiritually. He lost his way. That was until he encountered the Risen Christ. There, in that encounter, he allowed the belt of ... continue reading


The Purpose of Pentecost is the Birth and Ongoing Mission of the Church

Image of The purpose of Pentecost is the birth - and continued rebirth - of the Church.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The Church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently in the midst of a world awaiting the fullness of redemption, to live as a new people to lead the world back to the Father, in and through the Son. Through their experience of the Holy Spirit the early ... continue reading


Top 5 Roman Catholic colleges in the United States Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What constitutes being the best university is oftentimes subjective and usually in adherence to one's beliefs and practices. Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions many people are making. Some opt for those that offer the best training in the fields of ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Sirach 42:15-25
15 Next, I shall remind you of the works of the Lord, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2 Give thanks to Yahweh on the lyre, play for him on ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 10:46-52
46 They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 28th, 2015 Image

Bl. Margaret Pole
May 28: Martyr of England. She was born Margaret Plantagenet, the niece ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter