There is a very old philosophical dilemma known as the Euthyphro Dilemma that goes back to Socretes. It is really a theological question and it goes like this…
“Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?”
The problem is that either whatever God says is good, happens to be what God wills and therefore goodness is arbitrary because it just happens to be God’s “preference” so to speak. Or goodness already exists in the universe and God chooses goodness, except that would mean that there is something above God. This is a major problem when considering the Christian God! However the only answer that makes sense to me is from John where he says “God is good” not that God does good things but that God and goodness are one. This mean that what God’s will is and what goodness is are always the same because they are the exact same thing, they can never be separated.
Now let’s apply the same question to justice.
Is what is just commanded by God because it is just, or is it just because it is commanded by God?
So basically what we are asking is, “is justice one in the same as God’s will?” The answer must be “yes” or else we would have the same problem as above, that there is an objective Justice above God that He must follow. Now I think we all know that God desires everyone to go to Heaven, but if you need proof…
1 Timothy 2:3-4
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
So if Gods will is that all men would be saved and Gods Justice is the same as his will, then Hell cannot be necessary for the sake of divine Justice. That is not to say that Hell does not exist and I’m not sure that this argument alone proves conclusively that no one goes to Hell, however it gives good reason to hope all are saved. What it does prove though is that we cannot say that eternal punishment is a necessary for Gods Justice. Gods Justice is different from our fairness, and we should not confuse the two. It means that divine mercy and divine justice are much closer than we can comprehend.
There does seem to be a need for punishment still, however I would argue our only punishment is clinging to things that are not God. So purgatory is necessary but the punishment of purgatory is simply the pain we feel being ripped away from something you love but that is destructive to your soul. For example we are ripped away from our attachment to power and the amount to which we cling to power is equal to the pain we feel. Hell would be if we continued to cling to that power but we would have to cling to it for all eternity. Is it possible for us to cling to something that is not God for an infinitely long time? We certainly cannot say yes because we have no concept of an infinite amount of time. Also, I say we are ripped away because our free will is torn between what we want and what we want to want. We want power, though we know what we really need is God, so we desire to want God even when we want power still. In eternity that leaves us torn but over a long enough time span we always eventually come to God. Therefore our free will and Gods Justice (in other words his mercy) do coexist.
Quotes from Brilliant Minds
Here are some quotes to back me up…
When you punish the wicked, it is just since it agrees with their merits; however when you spare the wicked it is just…. because it is befitting your goodness. – St. Anslem, Proslogium ch. 10
Balthasar says that justice is “subordinate to divine mercy, indeed, must be virtually a mode of this mercy.” – Dare We Hope ch. 11
Only hope is able to comprehend the reality of God that surpasses all antithesis, to know that His mercy is identical with his Justice and his Justice with his mercy. – Josef Pieper On Hope