Can Catholics Accept a Metaphorical view of fire in Hell?

I have been wondering about this for a while now…

I know the Catholic Church teaches that Hell is either a place or definitely a state in which a soul is depraved of God and seperated from Him.

Many people also hold that Hell is a place of material fire and torture.But what I want to know is this:Can or does the Church allow and can Catholics accept a metaphorical view of the fire that is in Hell?

There are 2 main views of a metaphorical fire:

Hell being a place of pure shame.

Hell being a place of spiritual fire or dissolving of the soul because the soul has chosen an identity based on other things then God.

Now,can Catholics accept these two views as well?

I know certain Church Fathers speak of a metaphorical view of Hell,but does the Church allow Catholics to believe these 2 views above or that the fire in Hell may be metaphorical?

From the The Catechism ccc.scborromeo.org.master.com/texis/master/search/?sufs=0&q=hell&xsubmit=Search&s=SS

This priest who had a near death experience described hell as having fire and being 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Sounds a lot like literal fire. Let’s not forget the terrifying vision of hell that Our Lady of Fatima showed to the three children in Portugal.

You forgot to add the reference. I think you were refering to Fr Jose.

EWTN Mass Fr Joseph Mary [/FONT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeQNdXu-Uvc

In the Gospels, whenever Jesus spoke of spiritual things, He spoke in two ways: symbolically through parables, which He sometimes explained and sometimes did not, and factually, though the meaning of these statements were true in a somewhat mysterious sense.

For example, Jesus says “I am the bread of life.” Whenever Jesus begins speaking in parables, He generally uses the words “is like” (ie, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed, etc), or some form thereof. When speaking factually, He just states it as it is.

The statement is mysterious because, for example, we know Jesus is flesh and blood, He’s a man (not to mention His divinity). But it’s not a symbolic statement, like a parable. So, how do we understand it?

In all such statements, it can be revealed that God is the true [ENTER DESCRIPTOR HERE]. He is the true vine, the true bread, etc. God the Father is the true father. That is, these images we have on earth, bread, vine, fatherhood, etc., these are all shadows, images of the truth. We tend to think the other way around. We think that when we call God “Father” we are anthropomorphizing. It’s the other way around. God is the true father, and whatever fatherhood we have on earth is but a shadow of Him. We share in His fatherhood.

Likewise, He is the true bread of life. What is bread? It’s food. It’s something we bring into ourselves, make a part of ourselves through the digestive processes, in order to sustain our lives. Well, that is God, in truth. He gives us life. When we accept Him into ourselves, He transforms us into Himself, and gives us life. He is the true bread of life, and all earthly breads, all earthly foods are but an image of that, and image of Him.

So, what about Hell? Jesus speaks the same way about Hell as He speaks in other fact statements. He doesn’t say, “Hell is like…”. **Mark 9:43-48 **“And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

Jesus simply says about Hell what it is: a fire that is not quenched. There are at least a couple of ways we might understand this.

Question: when you finger gets burned, does only your body suffer, or do both your body and soul suffer the pain of fire? The answer is both. Humans are not merely bodies, nor merely spirits, nor even a spirit trapped in a body. Rather, we are a body/spirit union, so that whatever the spirit does, the body does, and whatever the body experiences, the spirit experiences. So, the pain of Hell is certainly the pain of being burned by fire, but does that mean there is a literal fire?

We might ask, is Jesus literally a vine? Or literally a loaf of bread (excluding His presence in the Eucharist). Or did God the Father produce a son in the same way we might? No, no and no. So is this another question of trying to understand the underlying truth about the nature of fire, and seeing that this is true also of the fires of hell? Perhaps it is.

So what is fire?

But how would literal fire harm a being that has NO body? As we are taught after our death, our earthly body dies and rots, only our soul enters the afterlife.

Regarding torture in Hell, Ive heard alot of scary things about hell too, but WHO/ WHAT would be inflicting the torture? If the answer is demons, that would be wrong, as Hell was SPECIFICALLY created as a place of punishment for the demons and satan, so they would be in pain and agony here, and in no position to be torturing anyone else. Im so tired of people that see hell as some place where Satan literally rules over and controls everything that happens LOL That could not be further from the truth, first off, Satan and the demons are not even in hell yet…they were cast down to earth, wont go to hell until after the second coming, and since we know NOTHING can come and go from heaven or hell, it would be impossible for them to enter hell and then leave again.

Im not sure what hell is like, but if separation from God is the main punishment here, well, alot of humans live their entire lives without God in it, so I doubt this would be much of a punishment for them, just an extension of their earthly lives. and really, since hell was created SPECIFICALLY for satan and the demons…how could punishment for an angel and a human be the same? Humans and angels are completely different types of beings, I doubt a punishment for one would apply to the other.

finally, we know for a fact hell was created for satan and the demons, the bible makes this very clear…why would God create ONE place for fallen angels and put human souls there as well? God can do anything he likes, it only makes sense that he would create a different place for human souls.

No my brother the scripture is pretty clear that it’s a literal hell
Pain like no other our Lord mention hell a lot
A a wrathful vengeance one full of fire St. Paul tells that for those who reject the gospels

Do you remember the rich man and Lazarus story? Luke 16:19-31 let’s not forget it’s Jesus the one who will judge all souls, telling the story.

The rich man, Lazarus and Abraham are all spirits at this point yet they are recognizable people, that have memory, intellect, and will. They remember this life they had vividly. And they are able to think and communicate and process information. AND they have feelings. Looking at both cases, which one would you rather be in? One is clearly in torment, the other is not even though they are without bodies…so how does that happen?

As for bodies, there will be the resurrection of the dead someday. At that time regardless of whether a person was good or terrible, body will reunite with the soul on that day. If a soul is in heaven they will be body and soul in heaven. If a soul is in hell they will be body and soul in hell. Both places are forever. Purgatory, which is temporary, is meant as a place of purification before a soul enters heaven, will cease to exist because there will be no more births of humans. Souls in purgatory at the end of the world will automatically go to heaven.

Read the story again of the rich man and Lazarus. Does the rich man look and sound like he’s having a good time? Multilpy his torment by infinity. He knows he won’t be getting out of his state. Imagine that? Even though the next life is outside of time, imagine a person in hell, a billion years from now, and nothing has changed. A trillion years from now, nothing has changed. People in hell would love to die and have it over with, but it won’t happen. They are there forever!

While in this life, even the worst human being one can imagine, has the advantage of God’s grace surrounding them. It won’t be that way in hell.

Who are you trying to convince… Yourself?

Yes, but we are beings with free will, we are also immortal beings, I doubt God would ONLY give us free will while alive on earth…I believe anyone, at any time, living or dead, COULD call out and ask God for forgiveness. It would not make sense if all of our God given ‘benefits’ only applied for a very short amount of time (normal human lifespan).

I think the demons will torture people. I mean they torture people on earth
Everyone on earth is with God. God fills the heavens and earth. He might not be dwelling in the person, but he is still present on earth. He is not in hell. All goodness, love, happiness, etc comes from God so to be completely away from that is unbearable
I’m sorry because it sounds like the idea of hell having demons scare you, but all of the damned Angels and humans are going to the same place. Jesus said in the bible that at the end of time he would tell the damned to depart from him and go into the place prepared by the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:31-45). I too am annoyed by the concept of Satan ruling over hell,

Once you die your will is set for all eternity. The damned don’t want to repent.(as crazy as that sounds). They would continue in their wicked ways for all eternity if they could. We have our free will in the afterlife, it is set in one way or the other.

Absolutely. Blessed John Paul even stated directly that heaven and hell are not literal places but simply spiritual states of being. A state of being can not be in a physical place which would require physical fire. Hell has also been described by many of the best theologians as simply being the complete absence of God’s presence, no torture, no demons, just complete absence of God, which is worse than any torture.

The answer is that fires of hell do not need to be accepted as literal. The CCC just says that the church confirms the existence of Hell, not that there is fire there.

One place that I think ‘fire’ comes from is from things like this from the OT (Numbers 16)

31As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; 32and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. 33So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

And of course, they had volcanoes all over that area, so they knew that the inside of the earth was ‘fire’. So there is a strong association with bad guys going down into the ground where there is ‘fire’.

I have never been to Hell so I don’t know if there is fire there. I am just saying that the church does not require that you believe there is fire there. But there well may be.

Here in this life is where all the tests occur. On earth we are imperfect. Once a soul is in heaven, they are perfect. The tests are over.

hell = punishment forever. There is no forgiveness, no sorrow, no reversal, just grinding and gnashing of teeth forever.

If we die in mortal sin, we descend to hell immediately. 1035 It’s not just the CCC that teaches that but also scripture. If you want the scripture passages I’ll be happy to post them for you

one’s belief needs to be based on reality not their own wishful thinking or imagination.

Was the burning bush metaphorical or real?

The fire of Hell may not be exactly the same as fire that we see on Earth but it is REAL. If it causes “wailing and knashing of teeth” then it is REALLY something that you don’t want to experience!

Actually, I believe that verse states 'to depart from him and go into the place prepared FOR the devil and his angels…The verse DID NOT say ‘a place prepared for the devil and his angels, plus humans’…?? Why would God send human souls to a place prepared for an ENTIRELY different type of being?

So I assume you expect that there are two heavens one for humans and one for angels

Exactly Jesus is telling people, human beings to go away from him and go into a place that was prepared for the devil and his angels there is only one place

Why would you need to tell humans you are sending them to a place with other humans? Isn’t that implied

Well said

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.