Christian ethical theory has seen various changes over the centuries, but I believe that one of the reasons why some think that we need to teach the idea of final rewards in order to make obedience important owes to the dominance of “divine command theory” in the modern era. Divine command theory teaches that we must do something simply because God told us to do it. On the surface, that may seem well and good, since we should do what God tells us to do. Still, one of this theory’s underlying premises is that there is not necessarily a reason for what God has commanded. This principle is very easily illustrated with the common experience of parents and children. When a parent instructs a child to clean his or her room, the potentially endless questions that the child may ask about why they should obey may eventually prompt the parent to conclude, “Because I told you so.” Although that is not wrong in itself, it may suggest that the instruction is a bit arbitrary. I think it is the case, however, that evangelicals have in many ways thought that God worked the same way as a frustrated parent. At the end of the day, many evangelicals think that the ultimate reason for pursuing various good deeds is simply because that is what God told us to do.
… I believe that the Scripture offers other reasons that undergird the Christian pursuit of godliness, which means that the prospect of final rewards is not the defining motivator for sanctification. Specifically, being made in the image of God entails that we were made to be a certain way and work towards certain ends, namely in this case to reflect the good character of our holy God. Without entirely disregarding a place for divine command theory, this vision for Christian holiness rests upon an understanding of virtue ethics. Read more»
Harrison Perkins, “ Virtue is Its Own Reward,”The Mod, September 8, 2020 .