No, hellish conditions exist on earth. Hell is of a different order entirely and we need to understand and remember that.
There is nothing in this world that is as bad as hell. Not even close…
Hell is the total absence of honeycomb toffee yoghurt.
Dear gc. Joking about our faith is something I can never do,I hope one day you will understand,God bless
Thanks again for the engaging reply. I’m understanding what you’re getting at better now, based on what you’ve just written. It seems like we are getting into separate questions now. So, there could be a Hell, and souls could even enter it. But whether it will eventually be emptied of human souls is a separate question. It seems to me that that is what some Catholic thinkers advocate. So, it’s not a denial of Hell, per se. It’s a denial of the everlasting nature of it. It’s a denial of the injustice of the everlasting nature of the punishment and simultaneously an advocation of the everlasting mercy of God. Again, mercy trumps judgment. Love is a higher good than justice. And God IS love.
You once again assert that Hell eventually being emptied makes Christ’s sacrifice in vain. But I don’t see an argument for that. Have you made one? God’s grace extended to us via Christ’s sacrifice creates the possibility for any salvation whatsoever. No one denies that. It seems that you are somehow claiming that if the number of those who are eventually saved (the whole world) extends to the total number of all humans who have ever lived, then somehow this cheapens the sacrifice?? I don’t get your line of reasoning. God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice were the necessary grounds for anyone’s salvation. Suppose it turns out that the number of all humans saved from the whole of human history (ie, in Heaven) is, say, 10,000,000,000. And you’re ok with God saving massive numbers of people. What would be the problem of increasing the number? How does that cheapen Christ’s sacrifice?
Again, the position advocated by these folks (who, btw, were elevated to the levels of Cardinal and Bishop AFTER they expressed their views on Hell being eventually emptied) does not necessitate that there be no Hell (place of self-inflicted torment). The position is that there is no everlasting condemnation. Christ spoke of Gehenna, a place of torment. But, in reality, purgatory itself would be a place of torment and suffering. But no one believes that purgatory has an everlasting nature to it. Why would Hell have that everlasting nature? Christ died for all. His grace extends to all. And Hell itself needs a reasonable explanation for it without grossly violating a common sense view of justice. Everlasting punishment for finite offenses is plainly unjust. Atheists know this. Why don’t we? Every attribute of God is infinite, including his love.
I might want to remind someone who may want to believe those kinds of supposedly “Catholic thinkers”, that every single heresy that has ever plagued the Church over the past 2000 years has come from the minds of “Catholic thinkers” like them, whether they were Priests or Bishops, from Arius, to Nestorian, to Martin Luther, and many, many others over the centuries. They were all dead wrong.
True enough but also a red herring. That point doesn’t address any of the arguments I’ve raised.
"eternal punishment/torment in Hell is actually an offense against justice"
This kind of reasoning might be treading on seriously dangerous ground, because it calls Divine Justice into question. Basically, you’re passing judgement on God and accusing Him of being unjust “if” Hell is eternal. That’s not really something that a creature of God has any right to do.
"Mark 3:  But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, shall never have forgiveness, but shall be guilty of an everlasting sin."
Remember, one sin of disobedience against God was all that it took to banish Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden, which cursed all the rest of creation as well. It was also what caused death to enter into creation, which was never intended to happen. So, every sin that a human being commits is a serious offense against God.
"Matthew 18:  And if thy hand, or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire."
"Matthew 25:  Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels."
and, once more:
"Matthew 25: And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting."
If you’re willing to take Jesus at His word and believe that the just will enjoy "life everlasting", why would you think that the cursed should not also receive “everlasting punishment” in Hell? Why would you question God’s Justice?
It could only be calling “divine” justice into question if divine justice necessitates everlasting separation from God as a form of punishment for finite wrongs. But that’s the whole question that’s being discussed. (Let’s not beg any questions please.)
"God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want ‘any to perish, but all to come to repentance’ " (CCC 1037)
And I don’t derive my sense of justice from divine revelation (nor do you, nor does anyone). Justice itself is a human virtue, derived from living experience in the world. It’s a part of what Catholic theologians refer to as natural law (that which we cannot not know). If you believe that finite wrongs can justly entail an everlasting punishment from which there is no escape and no rehabilitation, then what I am calling into question is YOUR sense of justice. I know that it is comforting to think that your mind aligns perfectly well with the mind of God, but that is not always the case (obviously). And, as I said before, you have not addressed any of my arguments against the imbalance involved between the crime and the punishment.
It is true that any sin is in some sense serious, but the question here is the whether any sin can warrant Everlasting punishment. And you quote Matthew chapter 18, but I would assume you have never cut off a hand or foot or plucked your eye out. If not, and the overwhelming a majority of all Christians of all times have not either, then it is clear that what our Lord was using there was a type of hyperbole. To make his point. Matthew 25 could have the same sense of hyperbole, no? To emphasize the seriousness of his point that we must help the needy.
The Scriptures make plain over and over that mercy trumps judgment. Love over condemnation. Christ says, “Go find out what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”
Jesus is Divine, correct? The Son of God? Second Person of the Holy Trinity? And, He was the one that said in, “Matthew 25:  And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.”, correct? So, you are, in fact, calling Divine Justice into question, whether you believe it or not.
If you would, could you please define “finite wrongs”, and explain to us all what other kinds of “wrongs” there might be? Since we are all finite, I don’t see how there could be any other kind that we would commit, which could be judged by God. Anyway, the point that you seem to keep skipping over, is that our sins are all offenses against an Infinite God, so we can never atone for any of them on our own. We all deserve to go to Hell for all eternity for any single sin we might commit. The best we can do is beg for God’s Mercy and try hard to avoid sin. But, when we multiply that single sin by the thousands of other sins we commit in the course of a lifetime, that’s a whole lot of offense that just keeps piling up between us and God.
That’s why Jesus had to come into this world and offer Himself to the Father, as a pure sacrifice for our sins, because no other means offered by us could ever wash away any of our offenses. But, we still have to ask for God’s Mercy and make an effort to follow the Commandments that He gave us, to the best of our ability. On the other hand, if we refuse the Gift that Jesus offers us and choose to continue to live a life of sin, then why should we expect Him to save us, when we’re not interested in being “saved” from our sins?
(Let’s not beg any questions please.) What’s that supposed to mean?
How do you interpret CCC 1037? Obviously, if one commits a mortal sin and refuses to turn away from that sin, then he is willfully turning away from God. In God’s Mercy, He will not interfere with the choice of that soul who has willfully turned away from Him, and refuses to ask for forgiveness. That’s what free will is all about. What you seem to be misunderstanding, is that souls are not sent to Hell by God. They willfully go there because they don’t want to be with God for all eternity. Why would you want God to force them to be with Him in Heaven, forever, if they hate Him? Believe it or not, people turn away from God because they love living in their sins more than they love God. They knew the consequences and made their own choices for themselves.
Hi there. To your last point, that is the CS Lewis idea that I mentioned in my initial post here. “The door to Hell is locked from the inside…” I can accept that. It’s easy to see this sort of thing in this lifetime even (i.e., ppl having emotions of disgust when in the presence of good people). And you could say that those people are bound for Hell bc they cannot stand the presence of good people. So, I grant that. I also grant that there could be a Hell. I just don’t see any good reasons to believe that it won’t one day be emptied. Yes, people can willfully turn from God. We all sadly do it from time to time. However the last portion of that CCC quote is what I wanted to get your reaction to. Why do you think the Church would (through the liturgy and prayer) implore the mercy of God if there were no real hope for those who have willfully turned away? That sounds like an exercise in futility if there really is no hope for their salvation.
And again, you’re simply assuming that your sense of justice aligns with the justice of God. And then you state that I’m attacking divine justice. You quoted Matthew 18 to me, in which our Lord is evidently using hyperbole to make a point. (He does not want you to actually maim and disfigure yourself.) You followed that quote with a quote of Matthew 25 (sheep and the goats). For some reason, you’ve applied a hermeneutical principle of taking Christ figuratively in Matt 18, but you want to take him quite literally in Matt 25. On the basis of what do you apply these differing hermeneutical approaches? What makes Christ speak figuratively in Matt 18 but literally in Matt 25? It seems clear to me that in one Christ is emphasizing the seriousness of sin and in the other the seriousness of helping others in need. If Christ means to say that Hell is everlasting punishment (and Matt 25 does NOT give us the idea of CS Lewis—it absolutely makes Hell the place of punishment to which the strict judge sends one forever), then I wonder why you haven’t yet cut off your hand (Matt 18)?
Sorry, I forgot to answer your question about finite sin. Yes, of course the only sins that we could possibly commit are finite in nature. And that is the exact point of the charge of injustice. How could it be that any finite sin eventuates in infinite punishment? The very idea is incoherent. So, for example, our US Constitution has an amendment that prohibits the employing of cruel and unusual punishment. Of course, what underlies that prohibition is our universal understanding of justice. A punishment must fit the crime. There has to be a proportionality there. But there is no coherent way of arguing that an everlasting punishment follows from a finite offense. And everything that you say about God’s grace applies to both of our positions. God‘s grace is what saves anyone, no matter whether hell is everlasting or not. It’s just that I think God‘s grace goes farther than you are willing to admit. God’s grace goes so far that one day hell will be emptied.
I am not assuming anything. I’m in full agreement with the teachings of the Church. According to the CCC teaching you quoted, we all do implore the mercy of God for those who have turned away from God (i.e. mortal sinners) to be converted in this life, while they still have a chance to be forgiven and redeemed by Christ. Once they die, there is no turning back, and no longer any chance for redemption. By their own actions, while living on this earth, they have already separated themselves from God through exercising their own free will. True repentance is the key that needs to be used by them to unlock God’s mercy. He cannot give it to someone who does not ask for it, or even want it. That’s the point that I was making, and also the point being made in the CCC. Of course God wants everyone to be saved, but He will never force anyone to accept the free gift that He offers them. Ultimately, it really is their own free choice to decide for themselves. Choose God or choose evil. Those are the only two choices we have. Sadly, many people have no intention of ever choosing God. Just ask any atheist, if they had a choice, would they ever want to choose God?
All of the quotes that I posted from the Bible, were references to the everlasting nature of Hell. While Jesus may have been using hyperbole by saying “it would be better to cut off…” etc., He was always speaking literally in reference to Hell being eternal, which is why I chose all those quotes. That’s also why He said all those things that sound so absolutely ridiculous, because they would all be better than going to Hell, because Hell lasts forever! That was His point! So… why would you think I should cut off my hand?
BTW… Justice absolutely is a Divine Attribute. That’s where human beings get their own sense of justice through the natural law, but Catholics are also reinforced in that natural sense of justice, through the teachings of the Church.
The punishment, itself, has more to do with the nature of the sins we commit in this life, every day, as well as the eternal choice we make at the time of our death. The reason Catholics believe that the punishments of Hell are eternal, is because Jesus said they were, plain and simple. Those who choose to separate themselves from God, in this life as well as in the next, is because they never want to be with Him. They do not love Him. On the other hand, even though God does not wish to forever punish those who so choose, His Justice demands reparation be made for all of the offenses that those souls commit during their entire lifetime, which also includes their choice to remain separated from Him, forever. In effect, they make their own punishment eternal by choosing to never be with God, which is an offense against God’s Mercy and His Love that never ends. So, it is very appropriate that their punishment is eternal. They make the same choice that the fallen angels made, “I will not serve.”.
I hope that helps.
I have been reading through all the responses and back and forth dialogues in the thread, and everyone has put a lot of thought into the issue. Very impressive. I do, however, think that more progress might be made toward agreement if we adjust our perspective a bit.
It is easy to get bogged down in questions of justice and fairness when our focus is on ourselves and what we deserve or don’t deserve. Even if we think we are concentrating on the issue of divine justice, it can’t help but reflect our own preoccupation with ourselves. As fallen creatures, we are necessarily inclined toward self-regard and that image in the mirror. When we think of Heaven, ninety-nine times out of a hundred we are not thinking of how we could please God there, we are thinking of our own pleasures: of seeing deceased loved ones, of eternal glory, of our reward for having suffered here, etc. This is what distinguishes the great saints from the rest of us: we create God in our own image, but they mortify all desires and cries of the ego, submitting them to God’s will. When we try to forget ourselves and look at the question from God’s point of view, Telstar’s point about God not wanting to force our choice and thus undermine our free will becomes crystal clear. He wants our love, pure and simple, and if He does anything to try and compel us to love Him, then it just isn’t love, it is some kind of masquerade of affection over the truth of involuntary and unwilling submission to a stronger will. The value of our love is in it being freely chosen. it’s just like in our daily life, actually. If I have fallen profoundly in love with someone, but she doesn’t even notice me, and I somehow gain the magic power to compel her to love me and I do so, her love is worthless by the very fact of its having been compelled. It’s like the old Woody Allen line that when a comedian gets laughs from a drunkard, that doesn’t count because the drunkard laughs at everything anyway.
When we (try to) look at it from God’s perspective, then it becomes clear, at least to my way of thinking, that the issue of free will is thus all-important. If, as Telstar correctly reminds us, the choice is quite simply between being with God or separating ourselves from Him, then we must cease thinking of the question of justice or otherwise to us and our desires, and realise once and for all that the question is actually of justice (or otherwise) to God. We are not important except in so far as God loves us, which He does with an infinite love. To reject that love, a love that is the deepest desire of every human soul if only they knew it, a love completely unmerited coming from the Being who created us, is an act of such breathtaking ingratitude and selfishness that eternal punishment seems almost too lenient, considering the magnitude of the offense against Him.
Thanks to both of you. I really do appreciate the interaction. I don’t want to nitpick anyone’s response, so I’ll say a few things.
Both of you seem to adhere to what is known in philosophy as a libertarian view of free will. As it turns out, this is a very difficult view of freewill to defend within the realm of secular philosophy itself. I would also say that the greatest minds of the Church, from St Thomas to Fr Garrigou-Lagrange have argued against it. We are not nearly as free as we’d like to think we are. Arguments for determinism are philosophically (and theologically) much stronger than libertarian freewill arguments. If you try to rest a lot of your justification for your belief in an everlasting Hell on the absolutely free choice you make with regard to God, you’re skating on thin ice. You are much more determined by forces outside of yourself (and even within your self!) than you’d probably like to admit. From brain chemistry to hormones to habits to the ppl in and out of your lives to formative evens in your youth…the list goes on… All I can recommend is that if you haven’t already, you should engage the secular lit and especially orthodox Catholic theologians on this issue. I havent brought this point up frankly bc we’ve been bogged down in other nuances. But since you both marshal that point as justification in your belief in an everlasting Hell, I thought I’d broach the subject now. Not bc I’m trying to Crest another rabbit hole to go down I just really wanted to bring it to your attention.
That being said, let’s see what else to address. Telstar, you claim to be in full agreement with the teachings of the Church. I don’t doubt that you are. But that amounts to little more than “I believe every line in the CCC.” What I suggested to you is that you believe your mind on this issue is perfectly aligned with the mind of God, which is a very different matter. You suggest that I am contesting Christ’s own words. When I’m reality, as I’ve made plainly clear, I’m contesting your interpretation of his words. You want to interpret Matt 18 figuratively but I don’t know why. You want to interpret Matt 25 literally. Again, I don’t know why. You haven’t provided any reasons. But maybe you think that you aligning yourself with every joy and tittle of the CCC is good enough. I don’t have any issues with that! Have at it. It’s safe territory.
Telstar, you say, “Once they die, there is no turning back, and no longer any chance for redemption.” That is an example of the question-begging I was trying to avoid. You’re merely asserting your position on this topic as if it’s resolved. Whether there is a chance of redemption after death is the very issue under discussion. But after that, I follow and agree with everything you say about repentance and God’s mercy.
I would only challenge that in the case of those faithful Catholics who commit a mortal sin one night, then get killed commuting in a car accident the next morning (before they could make it to confession) and so end up everlastingly separated from the God they’ve loved for most of their lives, that if this is as far as you think God’s mercy extends, you have a sadly truncated view of his love and mercy. To hold such beliefs is not to merely hold beliefs that are an offense against justice, they are an offense against reason! It is irrational to hold that such a person is deserving of everlasting separation from God.
And Kill, you very eloquently state, “We are not important except in so far as God loves us, which He does with an infinite love. To reject that love, a love that is the deepest desire of every human soul if only they knew it, a love completely unmerited coming from the Being who created us…” I’d like you to just stop right there and consider those comments, which are right on point. God loves us with an infinite love, you say. And it’s the deepest human desire to be united with that love, you say. My points EXACTLY!!
What parent among us, if we love our children and our children in response spurn our love would then say, “oh well, I’m cutting off that kid for the rest of his life. He’s dead to me. Let him wallow in the suffering that will come from his having rejected my love…???” How about…, none of us? No parents (except maybe 0.00001%) would react that way. No, we would continue to pursue, to reach out, to do ANYTHING we could to reach our children and reunite with them. Reminds me of Christ’s words, when he says, “if you, being evil, know how to gift good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give…?”
But, if you cannot make this move in your mind, if you cannot accept that mercy always trumps sacrifice, that love is a higher good than justice, then I guess we’ll just have to shake on it and call it a day. Thanks to you both!
I am glad you took this tack, as it is one I agree with completely. The image of God as a loving and concerned Father is sometimes given short shrift by well-meaning apologists, and I am happy to be able to engage on this turf.
I agree with your statement that a loving Father, in your words, would ‘do ANYTHING…to reach (His) children and reunite with them.’ A truer word was never spoken, and in my view, God has exactly this attitude toward us. The problem is, the ANYTHING to which you refer has already been done. When millennia of repeated attempts on His part to right the wrongs which we brought into existence, attempts that included the destruction at one point of the majority of human life on earth, failed to produce any reasonable semblance of righteousness and desire for unity with Him in the general populace, He made the supreme, heartbreaking and almost incredible sacrifice of incarnating as a Man amongst us, and allowing Himself to be mocked, reviled, jeered at, tortured and ultimately killed, all for the sole purpose of bringing us, whom He loves with such an inexplicable love, back into the warm embrace of His arms. Is there yet more He is supposed to do than that? If so, what could it possibly be? To incarnate Himself yet again, and go through it all over again? What purpose would that serve? He has already done it once. Would you have Him, guiltless, sinless and full of the most wonderful love for us, go through all that again, simply because we were too indifferent to Him the first time round to pay Him any mind? And if He does do it again, how if we show Him the same indifference? Must He then repeat the process a third, a fourth, a thousand times, and on into infinity? Do you see how this becomes ludicrous? At some point the nonsense must end, the trump must sound, and the self-made trash that infects the light of Creation with its diabolical vanity, pride, arrogance and selfishness must be swept up and disposed of. There is neither injustice nor cruelty in this, but rather justice and mercy of the most loving sort. Justice to those souls who have said Yes to Christ and allowed Him to dwell in their innermost beings, never to depart. Mercy to those souls who, having chosen their eternal fate for themselves, will not be compelled to face the light and warmth of eternal love that they have rejected.
That’s a very good articulation of the love of God, well said. You’ve managed to capture a slice of the infinite magnitude of God’s love for us while simultaneously pointing out the extreme nature of sacrifice of the Son. Reminds me of Philippians 2:5-8, which is probably my favorite of all of Saint Paul’s articulations of the same. And we know that the letter to the Hebrews articulates very well why there is one sacrifice for all. That sacrifice cannot and never will be repeated. So there are two dynamics here at play, or maybe just flip sides of the same coin. You’re quite right in stating that God‘s love for us is infinite. I would only have you consider the extreme nature of the sacrifice and whether it too might have infinite extent. So, the idea of Von Balthasar is that because of the infinite nature of God‘s love and mercy, the sacrifice of Christ took the Son all the way to the very limits of godforsakeness, which would extend to hell itself. So, again, the idea is not that there is no hell. The idea is also not that there are currently no occupants of hell. The idea is that the infinite love and mercy of God extends all the way to the limits of God forsakeness with the purpose of drawing back to God and therefore fulfilling the desire of God for the salvation of all.
I will make a couple more points. There is a compelling nature to love. Anyone who has been in a romantic relationship or even any child would attest to the compelling nature of love itself. Love does not leave the beloved absolutely free. Rather, love does compel you to respond to it. That fact is worth considering in this context. Also, as I said, there is no good reason for following the existentialist and believing that there some sort of absolute (tabula rasa) feedom that you enjoy. You are determined and compelled by all kinds of forces internal and external for every moment of every day of your entire life. Whatever freedom you may have is rather limited. I would go so far as to say that a libertarian view of human free will is philosophically indefensible.
One final point is that the argument that Saint Thomas Aquinas gives for why someone could never leave hell is psychological in its thrust. It is a rational argument, but I think that from what we know of epistemology these days, the argument it’s not as strong as it may have been in the middle ages.