Infinte Punishment for Finite Mistakes?

Good question by Catholic Priest and Swiss theologian, Hans Kung, from Don Rogers:

“What would we think of a human being who satisfied his thirst for revenge, as the church depicts God does, with an eternal hell?”

Never thought about it like that…interesting. What do you think?

Don goes on to relay another question:

“How is eternal, infinite hell a just recompense for finite temporal sins?”

Another great question indeed. Hit Don’s site in the above link for more on the topic.

  • Don Rogers

    Hi Jeffrey- Even though I’ve posted on this topic twice recently, I really bellieve this is an important issue for the modern Christian . Thanks as always for the link.

    Don Rogers’s last blog post..Abba Father?

  • Justin Bertram

    I have heard this question, “How is eternal, infinite hell a just recompense for finite temporal sins?” answered in this way…

    Hell, as an eternal punishment, is not reflective of the finitude or temporality of a particular sin, but of the infinite and eternal nature of the thing offended, namely God. In other words, God is eternal and infinte and sin scorns and belittles God. An eternal and infinite hell, therefore, is a just recompense for an offense against something eternal and infinite, namely God.

    In our own society we have similar values. For instance, verbally threatening the life of an ordinary citizen (without other action) is perfectly legal, but verbally threatening the life of the President is a felony.

    Anyway…some food for thought.

  • Jeffrey

    good food for thought indeed, Justin.

    It sounds like the explanation you are relaying is one that essentially says that God has limitations and restrictions. That kind of negates the whole idea of a God at all doesn’t it?

    To say that humans are punished for eternally for an offense against an eternal God, would be to say that God is bound by his eternal holiness to the degree that he MUST punish those even though he “wishes that none should perish”.

    That wouldn’t really be a God I’d be interested in. I mean what kind of God isn’t even all powerful? ;-)

  • Justin Bertram


    I didn’t mean to give the impression that God had externally imposed limitations or restrictions.

    My aim was simply to offer an explanation that *if* God chose to repay sin with eternal punishment then that would be just – not based on the temporality of the particular sin but upon the infinite and eternal dignity of One offended.

    I’m not saying that He is bound by external forces to repay sin in this way. On the contrary, He is the great I Am, and is only bound insofar as he chooses within himself.

    Furthermore, I do not make this assertion lightly. Whether one believes in eternal “recompense” or not, the simple idea of such a thing is frightening and offensive (although that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true). I don’t throw this kind of stuff around in casual conversation, and I certainly don’t mean to give the impression that I do.