In the first half of this musing, I brought up my general dissatisfaction with the Roman Church and how She has mistreated the Scriptures over the last century and made up doctrines which were not known by the Apostolic Fathers.
I recently came across yet another Facebook RC Traddie posting which seems to take a certain delight in the prospect of sinners roasting forever in the flames of hell. Here is a bit of what he posted, a snippet from a “vision” that was had by St. Anthony Claret.
First, the fire is all-extensive and tortures the whole body and the whole soul. A damned person lies in Hell forever in the same spot, which he was assigned by divine justice, without being able to move, as a prisoner in stocks.
The fire, in which he is totally enveloped, as a fish in water, burns around him, on his left, his right, above and below. His head, his breast, his shoulders, his arms, his hands, and his feet are all penetrated with fire, so that he completely resembles a glowing hot piece of iron, which has just been withdrawn from an oven. The roof beneath which the damned person dwells is fire; the food he takes is fire; the drink he tastes is fire; the air he breathes is fire; whatever he sees and touches is all fire….
But this fire is not merely outside him; it also passes within the condemned person. It penetrates his brain, his teeth, his tongue, his throat, his liver, his lungs, his bowels, his belly, his heart, his veins, his nerves, his bones, even to the marrow, and even his blood.
“In Hell,” according to St. Gregory the Great, “there will be a fire that cannot be put out, a worm which cannot die, a stench one cannot bear, a darkness one can feel, a scourging by savage hands, with those present despairing of anything good.”
A most dreadful fact is that by the divine power this fire goes so far as to work on the very faculties of the soul, burning them and tormenting them. Suppose I were to find myself placed at the oven of a smith so that my whole body was in the open air but for one arm placed in the fire, and that God were to preserve my life for a thousand years in this position. Would this not be an unbearable torture? What, then, would it be like to be completely penetrated and surrounded by fire, which would affect not just an arm, but even all the faculties of the soul?
Does this at all bother you, this description which seems to be more in line with the actions of some pissed-off pagan “god” than that of our heavenly Father, of whom the Bible says He is love? I don’t doubt that love has a good and sometimes severe spanking as one of its remedies for a rebellious child, but any father who would strap his child’s hand to a stove, turn on the flame, and leave it there as a punishment for misdoing would be summarily thrown in prison as an child abuser. Yet this is the picture of God we get from the minions of the Roman Church. And some of these folks seem to absolutely delight in this, as if this is a good thing for God to do to His wayward children.
So in response, I posted the following in the thread:
Thinking out loud. Just wondering.
1. If this picture of hell is true, then why is the Old Testament simply silent about the existence of hell? Why did God not warn Cain before his murder of Abel that if he did so, he would be in an eternal fire of torment? Did God love the people of the OT less than those in the NT who have heard all these warnings?
2. Where in the Scriptures does it say that a offending (sinning against) a man of great stature. honor, and power deserves a greater punishment than doing the same sin against a poor beggar? I thought the Scriptures stated that God is no respecter of persons. How then does sin committed in a finite state deserve an infinite punishment?
3. If this truly is the end of all who persist in sin, and if God loves all mankind and wills that all be saved, then how is it that God allows the devil to tempt, trick, and triumph over mankind to our personal destruction? Why does God not give to all mankind, to every human being, a personal knowledge of Himself that would bring people to Himself? Why even allow temptation if it will result in damnation such as stated in this article?
4. Why did a great number of the saints of the Early Church teach that hell would have a restorative purpose to cleanse the soul and that hell would eventually come to an end? Why is there no mention of hell in the original Greek languages, nor any mention that the place of torment (Sheol) will last forever?
5. What does this picture say about the character of God? The God of this man’s visions sounds more like Zeus than Jesus, who is the God who came and incarnated Himself to save mankind.
6. If Hell lasts forever, then the devil wins, doesn’t he? I mean, if God is unable to eventually, through means not known to us, chastise, cleanse, and bring all souls to repentance and to Himself, then His power to save is not as great as that of the devil’s to damn. Have you ever considered this? If I was the devil in hell with billions of souls I had stolen from God and gotten to hate Him forever, cursing Him forever in the pit of hell, I would be bragging to God and rubbing it in His face that He was not omnipotent after all.
7. If sin and death will be finally defeated and no longer exist in the New Jerusalem of the Kingdom, then how can there be a hell where people continue to sin by hating God and cursing Him and His very existence? Doesn’t make sense to me.
8. How do I love such a fearful God who would do such things to poor human creatures? I am but a terrible sinner myself, and despite my best efforts and going to the Sacrament of Confession, I continue to sin. This vision gives me no hope and certainly does not make me feel like I have a loving heavenly Father.
I received the following reply, to which I have put in my current commentary in red
Edward: 1. Dahlia posted a link below regarding this.
The link was to another site which gave a vacuous and atrocious excuse for apologia regarding the idea of an eternal hell. The author simply threw up verses of scripture without any exegesis or explanation of them, to which I would love to see a rebuttal based on the fact that the Greek in the NT doesn’t say anything of the sort. The Greek word “aionios” does not mean “eternal.” Yet all English translations, which are rooted in the Latin of Augustine, who admitted that he hated the Greek language and didn’t understand it, have this Greek word saying eternal. Is this then really the “Word of God” when the very meaning of the original language has been changed?
2. This has more to do with rejection of earthly authority, which leads to rejection of heavenly authority. If you look at the Ten Commandments, the first few deal with how to respect God, but then we get to Honor thy Father and Mother, which deals in part with earthly authority. Hierarchy on earth teaches humility and respect to mimic the hierarchy in heaven where one must also have these traits.
Totally does not answer the question I asked. Show me a place in Scripture where it says that someone who offends a king is to be punished with a different and more severe punishment than someone who has offended a commoner. In the Bible, if I steal a sheep from you, I am required to pay it back, along with a certain addition for loss of the sheep’s productivity. No mention is mentioned in the Levitical laws of whether that sheep belonged to a king or a pauper. Yes, there is rebellion against authority, but that is a different class of crime with a different punishment. There is punishment for defiance and rebellion against legitimate authority, but that was not what I was talking about here. I was talking about proportional punishment for sin.
3. If you’re on a deserted island with your wife, can you boast of her faithfulness? No, because she has no alternatives to you. God permits temptation because triumph over temptation breeds virtue and greatness.
One of the Top 10 WORST answers I have ever heard in my life!!! Did you forget that we are not talking about some minor crime and punishment here. We are speaking about being tricked into eternal torment. Eternal. It doesn’t end, Bozo!!! That is far, far different from being tricked out of a ten dollar bill by a street corner con artist. The Scriptures state that God wills the salvation of all mankind. ALL. If eternal torment is true, to allow the devil to trick and deceive me into damning my soul is in no way the actions of a God who wills that all be saved – and the Calvinists are right. That vision of God is an ogre who arbitrarily chooses some to be his slaves forever (love is not in the Calvinist paradigm) and damns others for His own glory. That is paganism as I see it, not the God of love who died to save all mankind.
4. Please cite sources for which saints actually said this.
St. Issac the Syrian for one. Here’s a list of the writings and Early Fathers who preached Patristic Universalism. Do your homework and stop being so lazy. It is profoundly lazy to allow others to think for you and then sit there and parrot what they teach. Anyone can do that. I did that myself for 25 years as a Protestant before I got up off my duff and actually read some Early Fathers and realized that Protestantism cannot be found in any of the Early Church writing.
5. God is perfect justice. Zeus didn’t punish people with eternal fire, so I think your comparison is stretching. Sinning against God, who is all good and in Whom all good is contained, merits great punishment. It may seem excessive to us, but if it is revealed to us through scripture and saints that this is what sin deserves, then that means we must reform our consciences and intellects to this will of God instead of whining like petulant children that it is too hard.
Exactly. Perfect justice, which does not hang a child for stealing a loaf of bread. Perfect justice is outlined in the Bible, and through those writings, God shows us that lex talionis, the law of retaliation, whereby a punishment resembles the offense committed in kind and degree, is the proper and just way to punish for offenses. Eternal burning fire that never ends is not lex talionis. It is someone venting their spleen in anger and getting even, often way out of proportion to the offense which was committed. Such is neither a worthy description of our heavenly Father, nor descriptive of His impassibility. He is unchanging, therefore such passions as men have do not belong to Him.
6. The devil does not win over God because he is doomed to suffer for eternity. Not only that, but he has no power to damn because souls damn themselves. Is it winning to be the eternal king of the dung heap with the greatest of sinners as your subject?
Missed the entire point that I made. Even in eternal hell (if such as you believe exists) the devil would gloat over the billions of souls which rightfully belong to God, but which he stole from under His nose. If I as your enemy were to destroy your mansion with fire and you rebuilt only one room and then lived in its semi-destroyed state for the rest of your life, who won? Mankind – that is, all of us who would ever exist – were cursed by the Fall. If mankind, all of us who would ever live, were not somehow redeemed and brought back to our original purpose, that is, divinization, then the devil wins. It’s that simple.
7. Sin and death will be destroyed in the New Jerusalem. God is perfect humility. Sinners completely removed from Him in hell cursing His name doesn’t grate on Him the way it would to our prideful selves. You are thinking as man, not from His greater perspective.
Exactly the point I made earlier. God is immutable. He is not about getting His revenge. He doesn’t sit on the edge of His heavenly throne with fire in His face, growling in anger, offended, barely restrained by the hands of Jesus and the Virgin Mary from coming down and whuppin’ our butts. That isn’t God, but you Romans and your eternal hell and visions of God are the ones who are thinking like man and putting ideas of mankind to God. He isn’t like that.
8. We do not get to make God in our image. If there is an all-powerful and all-good being who reveals to us that eternal pain is the only alternative to Him, then we must strive to live in Him and not be distracted by excusing the bad behavior of others because we disagree with the perfect omnipotent Creator. The problem is us in that instance, not God. If He did create the universe and author all life, we should be willing to concede that He may be able to see and know things that we don’t and give Him the benefit of the doubt.
I don’t even understand the point you are making here, but I will address the first sentence. It is not I who is making God in man’s image. God Himself has given us His image in Christ Jesus. God has told us that He is love. You are the one not dealing with that.
Does love seek to gain revenge, the kind of revenge of which the eternal hellists speak, or does love seek to restore after justice has been done? Some people are never satisfied with mere revenge. Look at the stories of men who have dug up enemies, long since dead, and burned their bones before scattering them on the river. That is the kind of thinking that the hellists have.
In closing, take this passage from 1 Corinithians 13 and see if you can really apply it to the torments of eternal hellfire which are so popular among Western Christians:
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
Charity never fails. Can it fail to bring to repentance even the most stubborn of sinners?The Early Fathers didn’t think so. Only the Roman Catholic Church, with its saints who had visions of almost all mankind going to eternal hell, thinks this way.
These are just my thoughts today, which is what a blog is – a place to vent, to publish what I think, and encourage conversation. I would like conversation on this subject, but only if you can give me some deeper thoughts than what I encountered on Facebook. I am worn out from fielding vacuous nonsense trying to pass itself off as deep thinking.