Denny Burk wrote the biblical and theological case for Eternal Conscious Torment in Four Views on Hell: Second Edition. In this post I’ll start engaging with his conclusion.
The Bible teaches that God has created the world for the purpose of exalting the glory of his own name (Isa. 42:8; 43:7).
Denny Burk, page 42
everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory 1, whom I formed and made.”
Isaiah 43:7, ESV
I think the Bible’s teaching is more nuanced. I think that the Father created everything through and out of love for Jesus:
For by him [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Colossians 1:16, ESV (cf John 1:3, Romans 11:36)
The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.
John 3:35, ESV (cf Hebrews 1:2)
And that out of love for the Father, Jesus brings back everything to Him:
but I [Jesus] do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.
John 14:31a, ESV
Then comes the end, when he [Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
1Corinthians 15:24, ESV (cf Philippians 2:6-7)
I think Jesus loves the gift (creation) that the Father has given Him and that the Father loves the gift (creation) that Jesus gives Him. So much so that God gives Himself to ransom/restore/reconcile/save creation:
and through Him [Jesus] to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross—whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Colossians 1:20, HCSB
Heaven must receive him [Jesus] until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.
Acts 3:21, NIV
This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all. This was the testimony at the proper time.
1Timothy 2:3-6, NABRE
So I think it makes sense that this other focused love is also the telos of creation―our purpose given by God.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us [which includes loving]. They will reign over [care for] the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
Genesis 1:26, NLT
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
Matthew 22:37, NIV
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
1John 3:11, NIV
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children [a reflection] of your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:44-45a, NIV
Anyway, I agree with Burk that God deserves all glory and will receive it. Although I think it will be freely given. The Father freely gives Jesus glory, Jesus freely gives the Father glory, and one day all humanity will freely give God glory. To me, this makes more sense of how Jesus spoke about glory:
Jesus answered, “… But I do not seek my glory; there is the one seeking and judging. … If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my father glorifying me, whom you say that ‘He is your God.'”
John 8:49a-50,54b, Apostolic Bible Polyglot
I realise that’s a lot of commentary about one sentence by Burk but our beliefs about our purpose―what God intended―significantly affects the rest of our theology 2. However, moving on to Burk’s next sentence:
He means to manifest both his justice and his mercy in his disposition of sinful humanity (Ex. 34:7).
Denny Burk, page 42
He continues to show his love to thousands of generations, forgiving wrongdoing, disobedience, and sin. He never lets the guilty go unpunished, punishing children and grandchildren for their parents’ sins to the third and fourth generation.”
Exodus 34:7, GWT
I agree, although encouragingly the punishment in Exodus 34:7 is significantly less than the love and forgiveness―thousands of generations vs four generations, which is actually reduced to one in Ezekiel 18:20!
The person who sins will die. A son will not be punished for his father’s sins, and a father will not be punished for his son’s sins. The righteousness of the righteous person will be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked person will be his own.
Ezekiel 18:20, GWT
Back to Burk:
Those who follow Christ are “vessels of mercy” who show forth “the riches of His glory” (Rom. 9:23). Those who do not follow Christ and go to judgment are like Pharaoh, whom God raised up “to demonstrate My power in you and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth” (Rom. 9:17). In short, God is glorified in both mercy and justice, and the existence of hell serves to demonstrate eternally the glory of God’s justice in his judgment on sin.
Denny Burk, page 42
I agree that God is glorified in mercy and justice, although I don’t see those two in opposition. God’s mercy isn’t unjust, nor is His justice unmerciful. Both work together towards his purpose of realizing love between everyone.
I agree God is just in His judgment on sin. However, sin is an impediment to the harmonious relationships that God made us for. Therefore, now that Jesus, on the cross, has overthrown the power of sin, I think God is working towards eradicating all sin, through conversion and sanctification. Once all sin is gone, I can see no need for any ongoing judgment.
For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.
1 Peter 3:18, HCSB
I cannot imagine anything more glorious that seeing God justly bringing everything that has ever been created, to freely, wholeheartedly, and eternally love and worship Him as He deserves and intended.
1. Most English translations seem to skip the Greek word ‘en‘ (usually translated ‘in’), which seems to change the meaning. e.g. Apostolic Bible Polyglot translation is ‘For in my glory I carefully prepared’
2. See also Why Did God Create Man?
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