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infinite mercy is incompatible with perfect justice.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/21/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 832 times Debate No: 56961
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (9)
Votes (1)




it is my contention that absolute mercy is incompatible with any justice and absolute justice is incompatible with any mercy. similarly, even if they are, I still contend that absolute justice and absolute mercy could not coexist.

justice: equal, impartial and fair treatment of those who done wrong
mercy: kind/forgiving treatment of those who have done wrong
perfect justice: knowing what the most fair retribution of a wrong, having the power to enact that retribution on the wrongdoer, and doing so.
perfect mercy: knowing the most fair retribution of a wrong, having the power to enact that retribution on the wrongdoer, and either not doing so, or carrying out a lesser punishment.

(note: that as far as I'm concerned, perfect mercy and justice do not require omnipotence nor omniscience, but they do require all knowledge pertaining to their subject matters (the judgement of people), and the power to enact decisions related to their judgements

also, retribution is used in the sense of giving back what was stolen, not in the eye for an eye sense. (a subtle but important difference))

the burden of proof is mine in this debate. my opponents job will be to analyze my arguments and explain why they perceive it as wrong.

  • -if my opponent does not believe my definitions accurately reflect the concepts being addressed, then they may present alternative definitions, but they must explain why their definitions are superior to my own.
  • -if my opponent provides alternative definitions, he/she must number them, (Def1,Def2 etc) otherwise we will assume we are using my definitions.
  • -first round is for my starting argument and my opponent's counter. from then on we shall debate back and forth until we run out of rounds. the winner will be the one who was most persuasive.
  • -the winner will be the one who is most persuasive.
  • -sources will not be counted for this debate.

(note: assume I am using judge outside the legal sense unless otherwise specified)

mercy and justice are very similar. they are both related to judging a persons actions as wrong, and determining what punishment is most appropriate. in the case of justice, someone tries to the best of their abilities to punish someone in the most fair way given their crime.

for example, if someone stole some amount of money,one may judge that that person must either financially reimburse the victim for money and time lost or be detained for an amount of time that is considered proportionate to the duress caused. given that judgement, a just person would follow through with it. a merciful judge would instead reduce the penalty in some way or give the wrongdoer a sufficiently longer amount of time to reimburse the victim than the more strict judge would. such a judgement cannot be considered whole just, in a sense, it is antithetical to the more just action.

expanding this to the highest cases, their can be no room left for mistake. both the perfectly merciful entity and the perfectly just entity know what the most just action is to take and have the power to take that action, but one chooses to perform that action (the just) and the other chooses to go a softer or kinder route (the merciful). as one cannot perform a perfectly just action and simultaneously perform a perfectly merciful action, it is impossible to simultaneously be perfectly merciful and perfectly just.

put in a slightly more formal form:
  • 1)perfectly just implies perfectly reprimanding wrongdoers (def. of perfect justice)
  • 2)perfectly merciful implies not perfectly reprimanding wrongdoers (def. of perfect mercy)
    • 3)x can be both perfectly merciful and perfectly just (assumed indirect proof)
    • 4)x both does and does not perfectly reprimand wrong doers (1,2,3,contradiction)
  • conclusion) x cannot be both perfectly merciful and perfectly just

or for the normal case
  • 1)justice implies a full attempt to reprimand a wrong doer fairly and and impartially (def. of justice)
  • 2)mercy does not imply a full attempt to reprimand a wrong doer fairly and impartially (def. of mercy)
    • 3)in a given situation x is both merciful and just (assumed indirect proof)
    • 4)in a given situation x both does and does not fully attempt to reprimand a wrong doer (1,2,3,contradiction)
  • conclusion) x cannot both be merciful and just in the same situation.


I take the position that infinite mercy is compatible with perfect justice

I will only say that 1 definition doesn't accurately reflect the concept being addressed, so i presented an alternative:

Def. 4 - Perfect mercy: knowing the most fair retribution of a wrong, having the power to enact that retribution on the wrongdoer, and either not doing so, or carrying out a lesser punishment or no punishment at all

Perfect mercy like perfect justice is that which executes mercy to the fullest extent.

If the merciful judge has someone to recompense for the crimes of the offender, perfect justice and Def. 4 of perfect mercy would be in harmony.
Debate Round No. 1


my opponents counter was rather brief, and thinking on my opening this may be due to a misunderstanding. I had said in the rules that the first round was for my arguments and for my opponents counter. If my opponent thought that I meant simply stating the counter position I apologize for my ambiguity, as I meant specifically counter arguments. I will however treat his opening as it was an argument and retort as such.

My opponent suggests something similar to what was talked about in the comments between me and lostInTheEcho. As the debate is between me and my opponent those comments will be mostly irrelevant to what is spoken of. if my opponent or the readers would like to see me put the following argument slightly differently, you may go to the comments. However, readers should not take the conversation in the comments as counting toward or against any of my points. if anything in the comments becomes relavent to the debate, me and my oponent must state so in the debate.

For brevity, I will call my opponents counter A1 and I will call the person the merciful judge has for recompense the scapegoat.

As justice is to judge the wrongdoer of their crimes fairly, and perfect justice is the faultless and perfect fulfillment of that justice, punishing the scapegoat would be unjust. The scapegoat committed no crime and therefore deserves no punishment. Punishing the scapegoat would not only be unjust toward the scapegoat but would be merciless. Also, whilst punishing someone else equates to not punishing the wrongdoer at all, and therefore is technically merciful, it is still unjust, as you are not fulfilling the punishment for the wrongdoer.

Another problem with A1 (though perhaps not a major one) is that it does not explain explicitly how it refutes my position and arguments for them. For any argument, claims should be followed by demonstrations in order to make apparent how the reasoning of the claim works. That way one side can address any faults seen in the reasoning of the other and vice versa.



The goal of justice is to restore that which has been damaged or violated. Whether there is a "scapegoat" or not, as long as justice is served to restore order, it suffices. Bear in mind that the offender may also not be able to defend himself in this situation due to mental illness or inability to reason. If the scapegoat willing pays for the damages done, there would be no need to punish the offender severely. Pardons and forgiveness are permissible within the justice system under certain circumstances.
Debate Round No. 2


The offender’s ability to defend themselves is irrelevant to this debate. In instances of murder or rape it would be unjust to punish a scapegoat for the transgressions of the offender, as the scapegoat has committed no to be judged for. It would also be unjust to not punish the offender, as an absence of retribution would be an absence of the application of justice. If it is found that the most just punishment for a handicapped person is different than for someone without that handicap that is not a matter of mercy, rather it relates to how justice is measured per person. the idea of power correlating to responsibility.

If the purpose of justice is to restore that which has been damaged or violated, than how does one restore a murder? How does one restore the damage to a person’s life and psyche that occurs because of rape or child molestation? Restorative justice may be relevant to crimes relating to theft or to damage of property, but it has no function with relation to crimes of a more personal nature, crimes where there is nothing the criminal could ever do to fix what was destroyed. Restorative justice has its place, but so does retributive justice. However, this debate is not about which justice system is preferable, or should be in place. My opponent will also notice that the definition for perfect justice and perfect mercy were defined referring to retribution not restoration. (and whilst restoration can be a retribution, it is not the only retribution)

My opponent mentions a justice system, but the debate is not about institutionalized justice, it is about justice as an ethical concept, like morality and responsibility. Specifically, the debate is about whether or not perfect justice (as defined in my opening) is compatible with perfect mercy (as defined in my opening or as defined by my opponent). My job is to defend that contention and I have presented arguments doing so. My opponent has not yet addressed this point and my arguments.



Truth_seeker forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


my opponent has forfeited the round. I shall wait for my opponent to respond before posting any further arguments.


Truth_seeker forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


it is a shame that my opponent was not present for the last two rounds. I was looking forward to a more involved debate, none the less this is the last round. I still ask the audience to judge the debate on how convincing either side was. I ask that you grant me the point for conduct, but still grant the other points as you would if my opponent had participated in the debate the whole time. I am more interested in seeing how convincing my arguments were.

to my opponent, I thank you for participating in this debate. it was short, but enjoyable.


Truth_seeker forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by crazedAtheist 3 years ago
Truth seeker, your def4 seems to have a redundancy

Def. 4 - Perfect mercy: knowing the most fair retribution of a wrong, having the power to enact that retribution on the wrongdoer, and either not doing so, or carrying out a lesser punishment or no punishment at all

either not doing so ... ...or no punishment at all. they say the same thing. and without the last part, it is identical to my own:

perfect mercy: knowing the most fair retribution of a wrong, having the power to enact that retribution on the wrongdoer, and either not doing so, or carrying out a lesser punishment.
Posted by dsjpk5 3 years ago
I think it comes down to application. I think both properties can exist, but the question is, can the being that possesses them apply them to each situation, or does a decision need to be made by that entity as to which will be applied to a given situation?
Posted by Geogeer 3 years ago
5 rounds is just too long...
Posted by crazedAtheist 3 years ago
lostInTheEcho: im not so much saying that normal mercy and justice are incompatible or mutually exclusive, but i do think one cannot be as merciful as is in their best ability and simultaneously as just as is in their best ability. i think that at some point on some scale, mercy and justice diverge. too much mercy (say, not punishing someone at all or giving them a negligible penalty) and justice isn't served. fulfill your justice to the best of your abilities, and you have forgone mercy. so if you are only a little merciful, you are still not completely just, and if you are a little just you are still not completely merciful. they seem to be inversely correlated.

i guess you could say that mercy = 1/justice. as mercy increases justice decreases and vice versa. and as mercy approaches zero, justice approaches infinity and vice versa. you can even switch justice and mercy with a given humans highest potential for justice and mercy, and the same would seem to apply. as you approach someones highest potential for fulfilling justice, you approach their lowest potential for being merciful, and as you approach the highest potential for mercy you approach the lowest potential for fulfilling justice. this is in some way, why i said not only are the two in their absolute form incompatible, but absolute justice is also incompatible with any mercy at all, and absolute mercy is incompatible with any justice at all.
Posted by LostintheEcho1498 3 years ago
Lol I just noticed what you said in your first sentence. It was not a crazed choice of words there.
Posted by LostintheEcho1498 3 years ago
Hmm that puts a few more spins on that. Let me see about the rapist first. Let us assume as you did that Life in prison is the equivalence of rape. Then Justice is served because he is sent to prison. I know in California that going to life in prison is not entirely pleasant. The way that we serve mercy is that we allow them several things. They are well fed, the exercise, are educated, and can see friends and family. They are also allowed to get time off for good behavior. The problem i can see here, though, is that you ask for infinite justice and mercy. This is why I wisely decided not to take this. I believe that justice and mercy can coincide quite well but not infinitely so. This is one of the greatest things we are given in law religion wise. The Jews were given the Law of Moses which called for Justice and was basically an eye for an eye. Later, Jesus came with the higher doctrine of forgiveness which said to forgive those who have wronged you and love your neighbor. Since then, we have struggled to find a good point to meet in the middle and we continue to try to do so today.
Posted by crazedAtheist 3 years ago
lostIntheEcho: i have heard this idea echoed before, the scapegoat, but i am not sure that the example fulfills the justice entirely (at least with crimes not dealing with debt). i don't know if the debtor situation can be said to be analogous to other moral breaches.

take for example a rapist. if the theoretical 'perfect retribution' for the rapist is say, life in prison, would you think it just to instead give life in prison to someone else (even if they volunteered)? would it be merciful? i don't see how this could be fair or just when the perpetrator gave no reparation nor sustained any retribution.

in the debtor situation the loan giver loaned his money to be returned at a later date. the trespass of the debtor was a breach in contract. he did not fulfill a promise. the scapegoats function is to fulfill some conditions of the promise, but the scapegoat cannot ever fulfill the inherent condition that the contract was to be fulfilled by the debtor. the scapegoat may alleviate the economic injustice, but it cannot alleviate the personal injustice performed.

the debtor is also then made indebted to the scapegoat, the only difference between the debt to the scapegoat and the debt to the loan giver is the time limit. the scapegoat does not set a specific time limit, so justice is technically put on hold indefinitely. however, though justice is prevented from ever occurring, it is still never fulfilled.
Posted by LostintheEcho1498 3 years ago
This is actually one of the greatest things in religion that Protestants focused on in the Reformation. There was actually a parable about this. Here it is:
There once was an average man. He wished to make a loan in order to purchase land for a farm. He would have his own house, what was in it, and the land for crops. The debtor was given a date by which he must return the money. He lived happily and carefree of the due date sure that he would be able to pay it and that it was far in the future. Soon the day came that he was to pay back his debt but had not made enough money to pay it back. The debtor called for mercy, and to extend the date. The man who gave the loan demanded justice because the day had come and the dues were not paid. They could not solve their problem alone. A third was needed. A man who was a friend of the debtor came and paid the debt for him but told him that he would have to work hard to pay him back. Thus mercy and justice were satisfied. Here, we are the debtor and God the loan shark with Jesus as the mediator. When the second coming is upon us, there is no way to enter heaven unclean but we are imperfect so Jesus paid for our debts. We were to do our best here on Earth and Jesus would satisfy justice and mercy.
I will not take this debate because of my own beliefs but this is definitely a good topic. I hope a worthy challenger takes this.
Posted by LifeMeansGodIsGood 3 years ago
God showed His absolute justice in pour out His wrath against sin on Himself, showing His mercy when He rose from the grave proving it was your sin he executed Judgement on for your mercy if you will believe on Him as the payment for your sins.

God's absolute justice and his absolute mercy can meet only in one place where you can find God's justice against your sin and his mercy to pardon your sin after He paid for your sin and rose from the grave to justfy you if you will accept His offer of pardon, the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Otherwise you will prove that God's justice offers you no mercy, and all of the mercy you will ever know is whatever comforts, however small they may be, you may find in the world and it ends suddenly.

Good debate topic
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by dsjpk5 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Ff