I often hear many people say that God punishes His children. I use the masculine noun for God here because I am going to be referring to the (beautiful) picture that the Scriptures paint of God as a Father. Although it should be noted that God is also refered to as a mother as well as given other feminine attributes throughout scripture.
Often this idea of God as the Father is in the forefront of some's logic when arguing for an eternal conscious torment theology.
God is a Father, and Father's discipline/punish their children. Therefore,Punishment in the form of eternal conscious torment in hell makes sense and is justified.
Fair enough. It is true that Fathers do discipline/punish their children.
But, in keeping with this logic, WHY do we discipline our children?
My little girl is going through her "terrible two's" right now, even though she is four. Her mother and I are currently learning some lessons in "discipline".
What works. What doesn't. What she responds to, and what she doesn't. It's very hard and very challenging for us right now.
However, one thing we know for sure.
We discipline her because we want to restore, correct, and transform her. That is our motivation for disciplining. We want to discipline in such a way that she comes through the process a changed person.
It's not simply to punish her for the "hell" of it or to hurt her in any way so that she will merely be sorry for her actions. It's not simply to make her regret what she did and then there being no hope of ever correcting her actions. What good would that kind of discipline/punishment be? What kind of parents would we be?
Throughout the scriptures, it seems that God is in the restoring business. People experience the wrath of God, or are "given over to their own sin", or are even handed over to Satan... in order that they might be saved. There is a purpose, and a plan.
Being tortured for an eternity with no hope, no grace, no mercy, just doesn't seem to fit in with what God is doing throughout scripture. It doesn't fit in with the rest of the narrative.
And It surely doesn't fit in with the role of God as the Father.