In a recent sermon I heard the preacher say that those who deny eternal punishment must accept a less imposing deity. The implication was that a God who is not angry and vengeful is somehow diminished, hardly God-like at all. This line of thought follows the normal depiction of the Creator as little more than a very powerful superhero, one who must right the world’s wrongs by opposing and subduing the forces of evil.
This definition of God requires by necessity that the evil forces be exceedingly powerful, so God can really demonstrate His might. If evil can be swept aside easily, the superhero picture is not so impressive. In this fashion, we require a powerful antagonist to oppose God, and Christian theology supplies that in the form of Satan, the supposedly created being who is the ultimate cause of all the world’s problems. Unfortunately, the introduction of this powerful enemy of God raises a lot of unanswered and unanswerable question about just how powerful our superhero really is and about His original plan for mankind.
This preacher may see the traditional God who created but could not maintain as sufficiently imposing, but I’d suggest that a God who works without interruption or setback to accomplish His will, undeterred by Satan, man, or any other power, is the much more so. That is the picture of God that imposes on my mind a real sense of reverence and awe, unlike that produced by traditional theology.