Salvation and Damnation = Incentives for Good Behavior?

Powerball asks an interesting question. Before I get to it, though. Here's a snippet of the article that made him ask it. It was discussed on The Marty Minto Show today.

"Stacy Payne says both of her sons are smart, athletic and well-liked by their friends. But after hearing horror stories of teenage keg parties and drug abuse, she doesn't plan on 'playing stupid.'"

"So she and her husband are offering their 15-year-old and 12-year-old sons the mother of all bribes: $1,000 each at their high school graduation, as long as they don't touch cigarettes, alcohol or drugs before then. "

"Each son has signed a contract agreeing to their parents' condition. And as a reminder of their pact, each wears a leather bracelet inscribed with the word 'BRIBED.'"

For The Birmingham News

So here's what Powerball asks:

"Does God 'bribe' us with the promise of salvation? We talked about it on the show. I want to know what you think. If you were not rewarded with eternal life would you still be a Christian? (Assuming you are) Let me know what you think."

I asked a very similar question in an email I wrote to Marty.

"Isn't the beatific vision in Heaven incentive from God to do as He asks? Answer this honestly: would you follow the teachings of Christ if there was no resurrection of the dead? As Paul says, if there is no resurrection, we are to be pitied for believing and behaving as we do."

"We are God's children. Is Heaven bribery from God? No, but it is incentive. There's nothing wrong with giving children incentive to behave properly. On the other hand, incentives don't work without punishment for improper behavior. "

The punishment I alluded to, in this case, would be eternal damnation in Hell for some and finite pain for others in purgatory.