One frequent argument I hear from Christians is what I call the “Judge God Argument.” Here, Christians tell me a story about a teen that is speeding, driving drunk, or some other illegal act that teenagers might commit. In this story, we are the teen and after being caught by the police we are brought before the Judge. The Judge, bound by the law and by his need for Justice (The Judge always seems to be a man because… well Christianity is a very male chauvinistic religion) delivers the verdict of “guilty.” As such, he sentences the boy to a fine. Here is the catch. The Judge is the boy’s father and so after he has pronounced the sentence, he stands up and reaches into his wallet and pays the boy’s fine as a loving parent.

So here we have it. The Judge plays both roles and is able to wear both hats separately. As Judge, he tries the case according to the law and sentences the offender. As a loving parent he pays the price for his son’s crime. This is the analogy Christians sometimes use concerning the role of God. As a perfect being with perfect morality Judge God must be strict with the law and pronounce that all human beings are evil sinners and sentence us all to eternal torture in Hell. But as our loving father, God then sent his only begotten son to die for our sins (the equivalent to paying our fine).

It makes perfect sense, right? I mean God wouldn’t be much of a Judge if he let us off the hook just because we are his loved creations, right? God must be perfect in his judgment and that mean that he must sentence us for our sins. That is why he created Hell. But God doesn’t want us to go to Hell that is why he paid our fine in the form of Jesus.

The thing is that God’s Justice system is a little arbitrary. Have you read your Ten Commandments lately? Thou shall keep the Sabbath Holy? Is it really a crime to work on Saturday? Really? And then there are all the other laws that God as made up (according to the Bible) most of which seem completely arbitrary and equally ridiculous to the Commandment about the Sabbath Day. And even if we were able to keep all of those ridiculous laws dealing with everything from beard trimming to dietary habits, we would still be evil sinners in the eyes of Judge God because of “Original Sin.” That is God’s trump card to insure that we are all guilty no matter what.

But aside from God’s Kangaroo Court of ridiculous laws, we also have the “Holy Penal System.” There is only one punishment for every crime, eternal torture! Did you bare false witness when a lady asked you if she looked fat in that dress she was trying on? Eternal Torture! No, you actually told her she looked fat? Well, Eternal Torture anyway, because Adam ate an apple. And once you are found guilty and sentenced to eternal Hell, how long before you are up for parole? Never! There is no parole or reprieve? Eternal Torture!

How could it be possible that our very flawed American Justice System is actually fairer and more just than God’s perfect Justice System? It seems to me that God isn’t a very good Judge at all. And as a Juror and Executor, he isn’t doing so hot either. Clearly an analysis of Divine Justice wasn’t what the Christian had in mind when he or she attempted to use the “Judge God Argument.” It seems that it is rather easy to turn this argument around and instead of God being the Judge it has become us judging God and he looks plenty guilty to me.

Blogger's Note: This is an older blog on Dangerous Talk. Feel free to check out what other people had to say about it HERE.

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Tags: christianity, god, judge

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Comment by John B Hodges on March 1, 2010 at 3:31am
You've made a number of good points. There is a lot more than can be said, about this analogy. For minor offenses, the State may not care who pays the fine, but for any serious offense, where the sentence is incarceration or death, there is no system of justice that would accept one person paying the penalty for another. The use of a scapegoat, i.e. "substitutionary atonement", just doesn't make justice. The practice of using a scapegoat is a relic of the time in early Jewish history when Yahveh was thought of as bloodthirsty, when the faithful were commanded to "make a pleasing odor unto the Lord" by killing and burning animals. (This phrase is repeated many times in Leviticus.) If this Yahveh was angry at his chosen people, he could be placated by animal sacrifice. It had nothing to do with justice, it was about putting the tyrant into a better mood. (Of course, this practice provided the priesthood with a steady supply of meat.)

It has occurred to me that (If you took the Bible seriously) that this could be the purpose of Hell. Hell is not intended as any sort of just punishment, it is simply a means of providing Yahveh with an ever-growing amount of "pleasing odor", i.e. the smell of burning meat.

Another point is that this story is presenting the theology of the gospel of John, that the whole point of Jesus' mission was to die on the cross, to serve as a scapegoat and blood sacrifice for the sins of the people. This does not remotely resemble what he is reported to have said in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in which he is warning of the immanent end of the world and Judgement Day, and essentially saying "Listen, folks, we better get serious about doing what Moses taught, because final exams are coming up!" See my essay at http://www.atheistnexus.org/profiles/blogs/the-ethics-of-jesus

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