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A letter from a reader, to which I responded in private. Permission was granted for publication of this letter.
I hope this email finds you healthy and well. I am looking for some guidance or help working through a theological question(s).
In the last few days/weeks/months I have increasingly been wrestling with a theology of eternal punishment.
The questions I am wrestling with are these: Why would God need to hold an unrepentant soul in eternal agony? Who benefits most from a doctrine of eternal punishment? Isn’t this a capricious and mean-spirited doctrine?
My current view is a mix to be honest. While I have traditionally held to Wesley’s views that indeed the fires and agony are of mental (not actual) nature, with literal physical torture being a remnant of the church fathers and the early Roman Catholic church. I am increasingly drawn to an annihilation view in some regards, ala Greg Boyd. I believe that God’s sentence is eternal, in that it is never altered or reversed, but at some point in order for God to be truly God and for their truly to be a new heaven and a new earth then sin must be utterly destroyed and made as though it never was, or am I missing something?
To be honest I am wondering where to turn to (authors, theologians, etc.) that deal with this topic openly and honestly. The reason I asked ‘who benefits’ is that it feels so often that churches and theological systems use it as stick to enforce their authority, not as a means to show God’s holiness.
Any thoughts you might have would be appreciated.