A friend (who comments here under the name w1re) sent me the following questions, and I haven't had the chance to respond. I have some thoughts on the matter, but I thought it would be nice to see what others have to say before I chime in.
1) It has been said that God's actions correspond to His moral excellence, or His "holiness", and that He does nothing that is out of His character. It is also said that His actions, for example the act of atonement on the cross, can embody seemingly contrary ideas such as mercy and justice. Would you say that His actions are ALWAYS manifestations of ALL His character?
2) A strange idea occured to me the other day as I thought about the role of hell at the End of Time. As you know, after Adam and Eve sinned, God drove them out of the Garden of Eden and sent an angel with sword of flames to guard the tree of life. He did not allow them to continue in His full presence, but neither did He condemn them to hell (yet). It can be said that that act was an act of both justice (because they sinned and the sin demanded justice be served) and grace/mercy (He clothed them and promised that the woman's Seed will one day crush Satan's head). Would you say that hell would one day serve as an act of "mercy" (if only by that one means that a sinner being fully exposed to the presence of God is more intolerable than being exposed to the total absence of God)? The reason is that, since these sinners have demonstrated that they are utterly depraved and incapable of eternal fellowship with God, and have resolved to be consciously hostile towards God, then it would be better not to expose them to eternal joy (because to them it would be intolerable).