[quote=Hitetlen]I think you are splitting hair here, and you are definitely in contradiction to the words of the Bible. The words are eternal flame, the worm that never sleeps, gnashing of teeth (as if souls could have teeth, but let’s let this ride) - definitely a gruesome and painful place.
Figurative speech employed to convey the seriousness of the pain endured by those who experience the immediate presence of God and are then deprived of it. This is not a contradiction of the Bible but an understanding of it rooted in apastolic tradition and handed down by the Church.
From the Cathechism:
1035"…The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs."
This is what the Church teaches.
As for hair splitting, no. There is a decided difference between torture (willful acts by another intended to cause pain and suffering) and torment, which can arise from the realization of guilt.
The characters in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Telltale Heart or Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment are classic examples of this type of torment. They experienced internal torment brought on by their own actions that manifsted in physical torment.
In hell, after having been in the presence of God for judgement, the full realization of the consequences of separation from Him will come to those who have rejected Him. The torment of that, of the consequences of their own choices and realization it could have been otherwise, will be beyond that of any physical torture that could be inflicted. God is simply respecting the choices of the individual.
[quote=Hitetlen]Even if that were true, that would also be in contradiction with the Bible, where it was death as a punishment for the original disobedience.
I never said that death wasn’t a punishment. What I was calling into question was your perception of death’s severity as a punishment. For an atheist, yes it’s the ultimate punishment. However, within a Christian worldview, it is a minor punishment bacause we understand that death is only temporary.
[quote=Hitetlen]And - according to many believers - that is when the physical torture will begin. In a sense you sound as some newer, liberal members of the clergy do, when they downplay the concept of hell.
What I have been saying is completely in line with Church teaching. I have hardly been downplaying it. The torment of hell will be horrible, but it is the natural consequences of the choices made by the individuals there and God’s respect for their free will.
The position I am taking here is hardly limitted to newer liberal theologians. I have a book titled My Catholic Faith by Bishop Louis Morrow first published in 1936. My copy is from a 1961 printing. Pre-Vatican II. On page 175, he writes, “The wicked in hell know what they rejected and lost: God. This pain will be the greatest torment of hell, for the human soul is made for God.”
The emphasis is in the original, just as I have written it, both bold and itallicized.
[quote=Hitetlen]I would be inclined to agree with you (if I were a believer) because the concept of eternal punishment for a finite “misdeed” is not only very repulsive to me but it is in dire contradiction to God’s alleged “loving” nature, not to mention his also alleged “just” nature. I cannot fathom how is it possible that some people do not see the horrible injustice in giving an eternal punishment (whetever that precisely means) for a finite misbehavior.
Again, it is a matter of God respecting the free will of those who have demonstrated they do not want to be with Him. God does not assign people to hell, they choose it for themselves.
This is one of the meanings of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man ignored God and His instruction. He chose to live without God, so after death, God respected that choice and sent the rich man to live without Him.
God has given us plenty of warning and instruction. He has sent servants. He has sent His Son. It is up to us to accept or reject these things. Where we spend eternity is our choice.