I was pondering divine punishment and whether it was possible that both retibution and restoration could be joint reasons for it. In so doing I considered the limit case of Hell. I presumed that sin warranted eternal conscious punishment but mentioned in passing that I was not convinced that it did. Ryan asked me to comment more.
So I will.
As far as I am aware there are two different justifications given for eternal conscious torment.
Reason 1 (the Anselmian tradition). As I recall, it looks something like this.
1. God has infinite glory and honour.
2. Any sin against God (which is, in the end, all sin) is an insult to his infinite honour.
3. To insult God's infinite glory brings about an infinite de-merit.
4. An infinite de-merit deserves an infinite punishment.
So any sin against an infinite God deserves an infinite punishment.
Maybe so ... and yet ... and yet ...
The standard objection to this is simply that no sin that a finite creature could commit could warrant a never-ending punishment. And whilst debate still swirls around this neighbourhood I must confess that this simple objection seems to me to be exceptionally powerful.
One unhelpful consequence of the Anselmian view is that all sins - from stealing a pencil to torturing children - are made to be the same (i.e., infinitely bad). This seems not only massively counter-intuitive but also massively unbiblical (as the Bible seems happy to consider sins to come in differing degrees of seriousness). On top of that the suggestion that all sins deserve an infinite punishment is not an argument given in the Bible.
So whilst the Anselmian tradition might be right my theological instincts claw at me like scared cats when I start to consider it. But my post was an attempt to ask the question: if the Anselmian tradition is right is it possible for divine punishment to be both retributive and restorative? I was wondering if perhaps it was.
Reason 2: the (?) tradition.
Here sins do not incur infinite demerit and do not deserve infinite punishment. God punishes sinners in Hell because they deserve it. However, having rebellious hearts, they react to this punishment with yet more hatred and rebellion. By so doing they incur yet more punishment. This, in turn, brings about further punishment and so on ad infinitum.
This avoids the problems with the Anselmian tradition but it, in turn, raises problems of its own. The chief problem is that God is effectively maintaining ongoing sin in his creation for all eternity! Nay, not only maintaining it - provoking it! That seems ... very odd.
But let's suppose that this model is right. We can ask, Could such divine punishment be retributive and restorative? I think so. As soon as the sinner repents (because I don't see why divine punishment has to compund sin rather than reveal its true nature) the Spirit unites the sinner to Christ in his death and resurrection and they are liberated.
Of course, against the mainstream Christian tradition Hell could be conceived as annihilation. Annihilation is not compatible with restoration - it would have to be purely retributive. So if annihilation is the final destiny of some then it is not the case that all divine punishments are simultaneously intended to be retributive and restorative.
I am not certain whether all divine punishments have this double-warrant. Perhaps some are simply restorative or simply retributive. Perhaps some are both. I guess I am just wondering whether all might have such a dual-rationalle.