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.