Hell – My View

Well, I certainly do not support universalism. I came across Alister McGrath’s thoughts on this subject and I think he makes a fairly solid argument against universalism. Most universalists love to scream at those who support the existence of Hell as denying God’s love or teaching a wrathful God (which I certainly do not teach). In addition to that, they think if you believe in Hell, you therefore believe in eternal torment and the absence of love. Again, not true. Indeed, it is the universalists who hold to a position of rejecting God’s love. As Alister McGrath notes:

The doctrine of universalism is actually a denial of God’s love. … Love is about the reciprocal response of two individuals. A loves B freely, and B loves A freely. (Studies in Doctrine, 178)

Alister McGrath doesn’t stop there. He makes note of the romantic novels that we see following along the line of this plot:

A loves B, but B loves C, and C loves B. A discovers that the father of B has committed some dreadful secret sin, and threatens to expose and ruin him unless B marries him. So B marries A–but she still loves only C. (178)

So where is Alister McGrath going with all of this? Well, universalism follows along a very similar pitfall trap and most universalists don’t even tell those who are like myself that they are wandering into this trap. In fact, most universalists reject that they end up in this sort of trap.

The problem about universalism is that it requires that everyone–whether they like it or not–is forced to love God and be loved by him in return. A fundamental and God-given human freedom is completely compromised. (178)

Then McGrath takes us on another thought experiment.

let us suppose that an individual decides that he simply does not want to love God or be loved by him (178)

And at this point, the universalist usually plugs his ears and contends back to his main card. You are denying the love of God and are saying that he is wrathful. Which no one has yet to say though unfortunately. Indeed, McGrath could not have summed it up any better:

Christianity speaks of God loving us, but universalism speaks of God raping us (178)

So is the universalist god still loving? Indeed, no. This is why I had to reject and reconsider universalism. Most universalists consider the idea of the existence of a Hell to be cruel and a fundamentalist idea but nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it was actually universalism all along that’s actually nothing more than four-point, TUIP Calvinism in disguise. Yet, most universalists try to portray themselves as self-thinking and anti-Calvinist. Which is simply false.

So having summed up that I do believe in Hell, what do I believe about Hell? The duration of Hell I do believe is eternal. Again, following the lines of Alister McGrath, I would have to say that if Hell is not eternal, there is really no such thing as free choice for in order to possess free choice, one must be able to choose something eternally. There is a punishment and this is seen in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” 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. (CCC 1035)

But there is an additional note to make about the subject of Hell. Two additional notes for that matter. The Catechism never states that the eternal fire is literal and I believe there is good reason to say otherwise. In addition to that we must understand that

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. (CCC 1037)

I think Joseph Ratzinger sums up what Hell is the best. He writes that

the loneliness into which love can no longer advance is–hell (Introduction to Christianity, 301)

The now Pope Emeritus continues in his writing on that subject contrasting Heaven with Hell.

As fulfilled love, heaven can always only be granted to man; but hell is the loneliness of the man who will not accept it, who declines the status of beggar and withdraws himself. (313)

Indeed, Russell Shaw’s Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine concludes about Hell that it is

suggests Josef Pieper, the radical posture of those who literally insist on never ‘giving a damn’ (276)

And he further defines that the Church’s teaching is clear that there will also be “the pain of sense…when the bodies of the lost will share in the punishment of their souls” (277). There are two more additional things to remember about the subject of Hell.

The essence of Hell is final exclusion from communion with God because of one’s own fault. (277)


though some may wish to know who in fact is in Hell, the Church has no information about that and is forbidden even to speculate (277)

What about non-Catholics and people who do not know God? Well, I would point to verses like Matt. 12:30, Matt. 25:31-46, Mk. 9:40, Lk. 11:23, and Rom. 2:13 all suggest that not only will some Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and Protestants not make it to Heaven but also that some non-Christians will make it to Heaven provided that for these Christians they fail to love and for these non-Christians they do love. I have seen many non-Christians that I have much hope will in fact make it to Heaven and they do strive for Heaven. We need to work together with other faiths, even if we think/know they have faulty theological systems.


About newenglandsun

A student. Male. Passionate. Easily offended. Child-like wonderer. Growing in faith, messing up daily.
This entry was posted in Bible, Calvinism, Catholicism, Eastern Christianity, Eschatology, What Happens When We Die?. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Hell – My View

  1. April says:

    Good Evening Newengland and happy veterans day! Interesting articles, both of them. I would have to say I agree that the punishment is the separation from God and that the separation is initiated by us. I don’t think I have ever heard someone say that God hates the people who are in hell. I would have to disagree with that. I think they hate him for loving them. That, along with regret, anger and fury at just being wrong are what I imagine hell to be. I picture it dark and hot, but it will be interesting to see if it is in heaven when we get there. I did read Lewis’s Narnia(being fiction of course) and was reminded of the Dwarfs in the shed at the end… Sitting at the feast but convinced they were eating garbage because they couldn’t accept that they were anywhere but in the dark shed they entered. So overall, between the two articles there were things I would agree with, things I don’t really agree with and some new ideas that I will be interested to find out if they are true or not when we get there. Have a great rest of the week! Good night.

  2. April says:

    ooops, forgot to click for follow-up comments in my email. That’s probably why I don’t get them. 🙂

  3. Pingback: I Was Blocked by James McGrath Today | newenglandsun

  4. April says:

    yeah, I can reason some of it out, but not all of it really seems like it works out with the Bible. It will be interesting to see how it is when we get there.

    • Well don’t try and focus too much on a Biblical literalistic account. When you read the Bible in such a fashion, Psalm 121:3-4 and Psalm 44:23 seem really confusing!

      Psalm 44:23 – Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off for ever! (NRSV Anglicised Catholic Edition)

      Psalm 121:3-4 – He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (NRSV Anglicised Catholic Edition)

  5. April says:

    Although please don’t ask me to elaborate, I won’t have time to do that much deep thinking until after the holidays!

  6. April says:

    I think that to read the Bible literally is to read it in context, including the context of literary style. I would read and understand poetry different than I would read and understand the gospels, or Paul’s letters differently than Solomon’s proverbs, prophesy different than history and so forth. It can be read figuratively where it is written figuratively.

    • I would agree to some extent, however, stating something like “it’s poetry and therefore not literal” while something like Jonah is “written like history therefore not history” is too much of a simplification.

      Take Tolkien’s Silmarillion for instance. Suppose someone bent toward that divying up of the literary style where poetry always equals figurative, not literal and something written like history is always history reads The Silmarillion somewhere like 10,000 years into the future.

      Now all of a sudden you have desperate archaeologists trying to find Mordor and they never will be able to find it.

      Compare to Cradle of Filth’s song, “The Death of Love” detailing the historic account of Joan de Arc being handed over to the English government, betrayed by her lover Guilles. All of a sudden, you have archaeologists looking for Mordor in 10,000 years from now and people believe St. Joan’s story is nothing other than imagination.

      Point is this – poetry is not always figurative. Something written like history is not always history. I think this is actually a sufficient deficiency in a lot of Evangelical Protestant hermeneutics to throw poetry out like that.

      All types of literary genres (even those written like history) contain emotion and figurative expressions in them.

      • April says:

        I did not say that if something is poetry it is figurative. I agree that not all poetry is figurative, and just because something is written like history doesn’t make it history. Historical fiction is one of my favorite types of reading. The point is to determine what kind of writing it is before deciding what it means

      • My apologies for misinterpreting then.

        My dad usually *does* go on this illusion of grandeur commenting on why theologians got it wrong in supporting the Ptolemaic system (not that Galileo was right either) always concluding with “…then we figured out it was poetry and poetry isn’t supposed to be taken literally!”

        It’s generally typical to comment on how poetry is to be taken figuratively and things written like history are history in the Evangelical Protestant world.

        In the Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox, and some other realms of theism though, these comments (on how poetry is never to be taken literally while things written like history are) never come up. I forgot you had experience in other Christian denominations too.

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