In speaking of God’s Love in the context of orthodox theology, with its insistence on eternal punishment, one must ask when and how God’s love ends. If God supposedly loves everyone, at least initially, but ultimately condemns many to eternal punishment, then either God can love and eternally punish simultaneously or His love must cease prior to punishment. The first possibility seems ludicrous on the surface. That leaves us with the option of understanding how God’s love can end.
I have heard people say that pondering questions of this sort is unnecessary and they just don’t worry about such things. It is a mindset that those in religious control love, needless to say. No questions asked mean no answered needed. Silence is golden as they say.
Of course, if, in the secular realm, human curiosity and the desire to learn were so cavalierly dismissed as unnecessary and even possibly wrong, then all human advancement would have been prevented. We don’t encourage others to accept “facts” in the physical world without pondering the inherent questions, implications, and underlying causes. If we did do so, the result would be the end of all technological development.
So, I continue to ponder the issue of how God’s Love operates. Interestingly, when the Bible defines love it does so with an operational definition, one which lists how love works. This definition is given in I Corinthians Chapter 13. Among the operational aspects of love is its “unfailingness”. One can see unfailing as indicative of totally successful and as unending. A Love that is always successful cannot cease before it is successful, and after success what could be the reason for ceasing? I Corinthians 13 provides no basis for a love that ends and fails.
If, then, I can’t conceive of how unending Love can sanction eternal fiery torment, I am obliged to re-think my theology. That theology may have a long history and according to my church teaching may be sound biblically; but, when simple, obvious questions and observations challenge that theological understanding, it’s time to lay aside our traditions in favor of rigorous re-evaluation.