A Hell from Hell

August 5, 2006

Reading up on the subject of Hell yesterday ( I always think it is worth finding out about a destination before you make a journey) I discovered that Catholic theologians don’t always agree on what is in store.
Pope John Paul 2 explained that the images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us show the “complete frustration and emptiness of life without God.” Eternal ‘frustration and emptiness’ ? I guess I can handle that if means the sort of empty and frustrating experiences I’m used to, England scraping a nil nil draw with Lichtenstein, the bottle of Chardonnay turning out corked, Windows Eternity still crashing and that sort of thing. But where’s the fire and the brimstone, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the flames and the devils with their toasting forks? Fortunately, other experts hold to a more robust view of Hell and positively rub their hands in glee at the thought of the fate awaiting sinners. “In hell” gloats one, “there is no society—only individuals. They stand in disarray, like an abstract painting, formless and void of meaning; they feel no sympathy, they receive no compassion. All are heaped into a pile of misery, each is equally alone in the company of solitaries. Hell is a mockery of society: the damned are together but cannot communicate, cannot love, cannot pursue a common good.”
I see a hand raised timidly at the back of the class: ” Is it possible to suppose that God might at times, by way of exception, just to show His compassion sort of thing, liberate a soul from hell? Here the full wait of the church is lowered like the proverbial ton of bricks: “Hell is for ever, otherwise it would rob His threats in great part of their efficacy, Without the fear of hell, hell itself would be far more crowded. ” Well, we wouldn’t want that, would we?

Another timid voice pipes up: “What happens to someone who is relatively good in this life, but who does not have faith?” The answer is clear- you’re bound for Hell, buddy. “In theory this person could be the best person who ever lived (except Jesus, who was without sin). The problem is that by not having faith, they do not have the connection through which God will take care of their remaining sin.” This view has the full support of that well known advocate of religious tolerance, Mr Mel Gibson, who appears to have advance knowledge that his wife was bound for Hell. Interviewed by the Herald Sun in Australia, the star said. “There is no salvation for those outside the Church. “Put it this way”, he elaborated: “My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.” There’s a warning for you- go to Heaven and look who you risk running into down at the local hostelry.
Another bright spark asks”Couldn’t God bring all these sinners to repentance by the time they die, so we can interpret the warnings of the scriptures as If someone did this then he would go to hell; but in fact, nobody does?” Again there is a stern answer: ” It would be cruel of God to warn people they may go to hell, and let them be afraid of this, when it has no chance of happening.” Hmm, slightly less cruel, I would suggest, than eternal damnation.
David Watt, in his ON BEING MORE TENDERHEARTED THAN GOD HIMSELF gives us further inklings of the workings of God’s mind. “God could arrange for everyone to accept Christ. However most Christians believe that if everyone ends up choosing God, human existence is a sham: God loaded the dice to such an extent that there were no real human decisions. ” So, the only decisions are whether to be good or bad? What about the really important decisions like whether to have the stuffed foccaccia and latte or the blueberry cheesecake?
The other possibility would be for Him simply to destroy everyone who does not accept Christ. “Most Christians also believe that a part of us is immortal. For God to destroy it would be an interference in the created order that would seriously violate its integrity.” So we’re stuck with immortality whether we like it or not. Time to watch that England-Lichtenstein video again.


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