Conformity to God’s Will: Why Punishment Doesn’t Work

Church history is replete with examples of power plays and fear tactics to induce people to conform to what some particular authority believes is the will of God.  Sadly, these efforts have resulted, at times, in brutal physical, spiritual, and psychological terror.  Some people never seem to learn the lesson that one cannot be forced to obey God against his or her will.  Perhaps the most famous campaign to terrorize people into correct living and correct believing is the Inquisition, where the church used unspeakable torture or threats of torture to produce conformity.  In this blog post, I want to examine the three ways that social psychologists posit that conformity can be stimulated and relate it to the subject of following God’s will in discipleship.  I hope to demonstrate that the fear of punishment, still ever so popular in many Christian circles, is not effective in producing life-changing results. Continue reading