Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hell and Justice

One of my present "projects" is writing a longish paper on Hell. It is very much speculative theology and may in fact brand me a dangerous revisionist in the eyes of some, I suppose. Indeed, I freely acknowledge I could be wrong, although I am trying to remain within the bounds of Holy Tradition and am happy to submit my thoughts to the judgement of the Church. To start that process I am linking to a preliminary excerpt from the paper. I would welcome feedback here.


Albion Land said...


I am sure your final draft will include biblical citations and commentary, as for now you are speaking only of Fathers and Doctors.

I have always been touched by John 6.39:

"And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day."

Of course, you can't have John 6.39, without John 6.40:

"For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

And there is so much more, especially Matthew 25. 31-46.

I fall into the camp of those who believe that God's judgment is preordained (not in a Calvinist sense), sort of like fixed sentencing: accept me and you are saved; reject me and you are damned. We decide ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Kirby,

I liked your paper, and I have a question.

Can an Anglo Catholic agree with the following quote from Bishop Timothy Ware?

"Hell exists as a final possibility, but several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God....we must not despair of anyone's salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception. No one must be excluded from our loving intercession. 'What is a merciful heart?' asked Isaac the Syrian. 'It is a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation, for humans, for birds, for the beasts, for the demons, for all creatures.' Gregory of Nyssa said that Christians may legitimately hope even for the redemption of the devil." (The Orthodox Church, New Edition., p. 262)

This is an acceptible theological opinion in the Eastern Church, but the Athanasian Creed speaks of everlasting fire, and the St. Louis Affirmation says that we fully receive and believe the three creeds "in the sense they have had always in the Catholic Church."

What does "in the sense they have had always in the Catholic Church" mean?

Must we believe in endless, conscious torment?

Must we believe in literal fire?

Must we believe that those who don't have "The Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son" in their Creed (i.e. the Eastern Orthodox) are destined for this fire?

Some of those in the western Church have undoubtedly understood the Athanasian Creed to imply such things in the past (and probably believed that hell was under the earth.)

Must we (as Anglo Catholics) "fully receive and believe" every clause in the Athanasian Creed in the sense such clauses were popularly understood by the medieval (western) Church?

Anonymous said...

Father Kirby,

I found the info on mitigation interesting, and I have a question concerning the degree to which the pains of hell may eventually be mitigated.

It's never made sense to me that a loving God (who knows the end from the beginning) would create creatures for whom He knew existence would ultimately be a curse.

I know that's not a problem if you believe in annihilationism, but is it permissible to believe that (after "successive mitigations of the punishment of the lost") the pains of hell may be so reduced that the curse of existence will be removed?

That (though denied the beatific vision) even the lost (assuming they continue to exist as fully conscious individuals) may ultimately have some reason to thank God for their creation?

I don't know if what I'm suggesting here would be a form of universalism, but would it be an acceptible theological opinion?

And what of the universal hope suggested by that quote from Bishop Timothy Ware?

Does our communion's acceptance of the the three creeds "in the sense they have always had in the Catholic Church" (given the damnatory clauses in the Athanasian Creed) preclude a faithful Anglican Catholic from sharing the good Bishop's hope (or holding a theory of mitigation similar to the one I suggested)?

Please reply.