Why does God punish people for sins they don't consciously decide to commit?

Instead of a metaphor that will not be perfect why don’t you just ask about a specific instance of God punishing people for sins they did not know were sins? The title makes it sound as if you are accusing God of being unjust?

I am not accusing God of being unjust.

We’ve already said that he doesn’t punish anyone for sins they couldn’t know were sins. I don’t see how we could state it any plainer for you. :shrug:

So are you saying that God is incapable of “cleaning” someone up?

Are you also saying that someone’s sins go beyond the Mercy of God?

Have you ever actually given any thought to torture, beyond your wildest nightmares, going on forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and think that this is Justice?

Have you ever given any thought to the fact that since God is Omniscient, God knew before creation itself that this person would never repent and then still created this person to be in absolute and utter torment for ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and didn’t come up with some kind of Plan so that this would not be?

I can not and do not believe in such a petty, vindictive, unmerciful god such as you think of god to be, God has all of the bases covered so that, ultimately, we will all go home.

When Jesus took our sins upon Himself on the cross, I believe that He did it for a reason, I do NOT believe that He did it for only part of a reason.

Ok so you state a negative sentence. Of something you are not doing. Can you state a positive sentence of something you are doing?

In other words:

What are you saying?

Non sequitur. St. Thomas teaches that while God’s existence can be known by human reason, not all can attain to this. It’s not necessarily someone’s fault if they don’t believe in God. There are all kinds of obstacles that may impair their ability to come to this knowledge by natural means–that’s why St. Thomas says that revelation is necessary even for those things that in principle can be known by reason.

To sum up: everyone on this thread is agreed that people are not damned for things they did not choose. The difference of opinion is whether atheists are necessarily damned because they reject the knowledge of God which is available through natural reason.

It seems pretty clear to me that the Church does not teach this.

Edwin

I don’t think that’s true, as a matter of fact. We do not generally consider pardons to be unjust, unless they have some corrupt motive (like bribery or fear). If they are motivated by mercy, we generally applaud them–at least I do.

For the sake of argument, let’s compare sin with a crime.

Is it just for a judge to punish somebody for a crime they didn’t know was a crime?

No. Everyone has agreed on this. Why repeat the question? What makes you think that God does this?

Edwin

I am struggling with INFINITE punishment in Hell as being a just judgment for all mortal sin, say coveting another’s wife for example. That is a mortal sin. But eternal punishment is just for this? Maybe for murder. But why are all unrepented Mortal sins punished at the same degree?

Another compared God’s judgement to the way we treat crimes here on Earth. Crimes deserve punishment. True. But do ALL crimes deserve the same punishment…the WORST punishment?

Is shoplifting food equivalent to murder and deserving of the same penalty? I really want to understand God’s justice and submit to it, but it seems from my admittedly small human mind that some of this judgement isn’t logical, and is very fear-based. Does God want us to love him out of Fear?

It is not within our competence to determine whether any individual is going to hell. While sins may be objective, culpability is not. And only God can judge culpability.

So there is no hell…whoopie!! :bounce:

I was struggling with your same question for some time.

Here is the way to consider it…

Forget about comparing God’s judgment with earthly crimes and try to put human concepts behind you.

We really don’t know how God will judge ANYTHING. Oh sure we have some rules and regulations for good behavior as well as common sense and natural reason…but what will happen when we stand before God is…well… unknown.

Will God condemn a person to eternal damnation for a transgression that seems extremely minor to us humans?..We just don’t know.
Will God forgive a Hitler…as humans we would hope not…but we just don’t know what God would do.

Theologians can lay out a chart of degrees or seriousness of different sins. Scripture lists many…but in the end it is always up to God.

The Church recognizes and canonizes saints. But never proclaims that someone has been damned. We just don’t know. Does God send someone to “INFINITE punishment in Hell”??? Yes he does. And when does that person knows exactly why and understands completely.
God’s judgement is completely fair and just. Maybe confusing by our simple human reasoning…but as far a Eternity is concerned…it is really God’s call.

In the long run…all we can do is the best we can. Obey His rules, help others and love God.
Remember He calls the shots.

True. But I think many people seek God without even knowing so themselves - be it the Buddhist who seeks enlightenment, the member of an indigenous people who seeks to calm the spirits, or even an atheist who seeks goodness. Still, I think culpable ignorance is more common among the latter group, since most atheists are located in traditionally Christian countries. But then again, some of those countries are secularized to an extent that in my view makes inculpable ignorance completely possible. I guess the main point is that it’s impossible for us to decide whether anyone really seeks God, and hence whether they will be saved.

So it boils down to whether Heaven or hell is the bigger place. Since I like to believe God actually won the battle against the devil, I also like to believe hell is minuscule in comparison :slight_smile: Which could just be me being secularized and soft, because I don’t like thinking that otherwise good people will perish. Of course the Church has an obligation to warn about the possibility of hell, towards the faithful as well as everyone else, because Feeney could be right (but I doubt it), and Origen is probably wrong (but I wish he’s not). But then I never saw one single conversion out of fear of hell; certain Protestant groups are for some reason more successful with that strategy. So there are a lot of perspectives that need to be balanced, theologically as well as pastorally.

Also true. And I’m sadly convinced we reject Him more often than we follow Him. Which then means it all boils down to whether or not people can receive the graces of the Sacrament of Reconciliation without having access to it. To which there’s no obvious answer, and there has always been a vast array of theological opinions on this - the Church doesn’t seem to be able agree with Herself. And perhaps it’s better that way. I would say Mystici Corporis Christi kind of tips the scales in favor of an “inclusive” view, though.

It’s also a question of just how different God’s reasoning is from ours. After all he created us in His image. As rational animals, we should be able to grasp Him to at least some extent, be it small or large. I like to think His ways are not completely alien to us, but as with everything else, I could be wrong.

Edit: typo

The only justification for eternal punishment would be eternal sin. Even though you quite clearly mention unrepentant mortal sin, I don’t know that you’re fully thinking through the ramifications of what it means to be eternally unrepentant. It’s not coveting another man’s wife, in and of itself, that damns someone to hell. It’s coveting another man’s wife and never being sorry for it.

God has the power to forgive ANY sin, no matter how heinous. He’s God, after all. But because he respects our free will, God will not forgive any sins we do not want him to forgive. If a sinner eternally refuses to ask for forgiveness and eternally remains without sorrow for their sin, then an eternity in hell seems quite logical to me.

All sin is not punished equally. Only unrepentant mortal sin carries with it the worst punishment. Venial sins do not carry the worst punishment. Mortal sins for which we repent do not carry the worst punishment.

Shoplifting food is not necessarily mortal sin. There are three requirements for a sin to be mortal. First, it must be a sin of grave matter. While stealing is always a sin, if the quantity of food that is stolen is small then it may not be grave matter. In addition to always being a sin of grave matter, mortal sin is always committed with the knowledge that it is wrong. God does not punish those who are ignorant. And finally, the sin must be committed freely without coercion. If coercion is involved, such as threats on the part of another, or the person is impaired due to mental illness or addiction or something else that impedes free will, then they are not fully culpable for what they do. Depending on the extent of the impediment, they may not even be culpable at all.

If a single one of those three requirements is lacking, a sin is venial rather than mortal. And even if a sin is mortal, it only results in the eternal punishment of hell if the sinner never asks God for forgiveness.

Not if they believe they cannot in good conscience worship a particular God. And let’s face it, there are many versions being developed by people who are of the same faith.

A mortal sin is an act incompatible with charity–with love of God and neighbor.

If you cling to it and refuse to let it go, you cannot enjoy the presence of God.

It’s really as simple as that.

Edwin

You seem to be saying some things that are not at all Catholic beliefs.

The only justification for eternal punishment would be eternal sin. Even though you quite clearly mention unrepentant mortal sin, I don’t know that you’re fully thinking through the ramifications of what it means to be eternally unrepentant. It’s not coveting another man’s wife, in and of itself, that damns someone to hell. It’s coveting another man’s wife and never being sorry for it.

One cannot be “eternally unrepentant” You only have this life to “repent” for sins. You cannot repent at some distant point in eternity after you have died. This is illusrated biblically by the parable of the rich man and lazaris. Not only that but the Church is crystal clear that after death there is no opportunity to “repent”

Shoplifting food is not necessarily mortal sin. There are three requirements for a sin to be mortal. First, it must be a sin of grave matter. While stealing is always a sin, if the quantity of food that is stolen is small then it may not be grave matter. In addition to always being a sin of grave matter, mortal sin is always committed with the knowledge that it is wrong. God does not punish those who are ignorant. And finally, the sin must be committed freely without coercion. If coercion is involved, such as threats on the part of another, or the person is impaired due to mental illness or addiction or something else that impedes free will, then they are not fully culpable for what they do. Depending on the extent of the impediment, they may not even be culpable at all.

?? Can you cite the dollar about or “food quality scale” that the Church uses to determine mortal sin in the case of theft?

If a sinner eternally refuses to ask for forgiveness and eternally remains without sorrow for their sin, then an eternity in hell seems quite logical to me.

Again, you are misunderstanding the Church in regards to forgiveness. Beyond this life, there is no mechanism for reconciliation with God. You are mistaken in your idea of eternal punishment for eternal refusal.

You cannot commit a mortal sin by accident. They are ALWAYS deliberate.

I have not said that there is no hell, what I have said is that if one were to wake up in hell, so to speak, they will come to the realization that they not only built the hell that they are in but that they put themself in their custom built hell.

When Jesus took everyone’s sins upon Himself, Jesus went to everyone’s hell and in so doing “won” the “keys” and will use these keys in due time, God’s Time, for those that make any detours.

Do you think that there was only the “physical” going on at the cross?

But you implied that God would call everyone “home” so are you saying that Hell will not be populated?

That seems to fly in the face of Jesus own words regarding hell. Why would he speak so often of something that was not going to be anyone’s fate?

My apologies, I thought I was being clear. When I said eternally unrepentant, my intent was to express the idea that the souls in hell will never repent, using similar language to what the OP was using in the hope that it would help him understand better. I did not mean the souls in hell could change their minds or be forgiven at some point. They don’t want to be forgiven, so God will not forgive them.

If I have given anyone else the wrong impression, once again I offer my apologies.

Of course not, because God and his Church are not legalistic. He gives us the natural law in our heart, articulates the natural law via moral principles through his Church to help us understand them better, and then asks us to apply those principles to real situations using our reason. As tempting as it is to want a pat answer that covers all situations, moral questions entail the application of principles to specific situations.

The only pat answer with regard to theft is that usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner is always sinful. But how sinful is a specific incident of theft? That’s where we have to apply moral principles.

Someone who steals a single loaf of bread can hardly be said to be committing a sin of grave matter on that fact alone. They are clearly committing a sin, but more information is needed to know if it’s grave matter. Circumstances can make a sin more sinful, say if it’s the last bit of food being taken from a starving person. Circumstances can also make a sin less sinful, say if the bread is in a large and prosperous grocery store and the thief is an immature person who has never stolen before. Addiction can lessen guilt, say if the thief suffers from kleptomania. A minor theft committed with anger or callousness in one’s heart can increase guilt and make what would otherwise be venial sin actually grave matter.

It’s not simply a matter of, “What’s the monetary value of what was taken?”

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