I continue my quest (and prayers) for truth in the matter of Apokatastasis (Universal Salvation). I say “quest” because I find it difficult to turn from that which the Church has taught as absolute truth for so long. The idea of God sending people into unrelenting torment has been pounded into my head for decades and rests in my mind with the tenacious grip of a rusty old nail driven into petrified wood. Yet I cannot simply turn from Apokatastasis as one would turn from some horrendous and bloody accident. It is rather the depressing vision of an unending hell which I do not wish to gaze upon. So the search continues, seeking to find some “ah ha!” moment which will answer my questions, finalize my belief, and give me rest in an assured knowledge of our heavenly Father’s love which will finally restore all that has been damaged and corrupted by sin and death, especially me.
I have just finished reading a commentary section posted at an Eclectic Orthodox’s blog site regarding Dr. David Bentley Hart’s new book, THAT ALL SHALL BE SAVED. Some of the comments are just downright depressing.
I wonder if Infernalists stop to think of the effect that teaching eternal conscious torment has on a person who spends a great deal of time A.) reflecting upon his constant sinful and failing state in life B.) taking the teaching of hell and God’s angry judgment seriously, and C.) realizing that if all this is indeed true, it is most depressing to think that just about every person you know and every soul that ever lived is in irremediable deep shit. (Dear Reader, I apologize for such coarse language, but the fact is that such a term is not too harsh to describe the reality of 99% of all human beings if hellism is true!)
From a comment at Apprehending Apokatastasis” – Revealing the God Behind the Curtain. The writer well expresses my sympathies and thoughts:
I began to move toward UR before ever getting into Hart and I moved in precisely the terms of the logic Hart argues from – i.e., as I got into thinking through the logic of ex nihilo, the eschatological was right there, along with the problem of evil in its most acute form (eternal conscious torment). It was naturally automatic to ask: What kind of God, who cannot in any conceivable sense need to create, would nevertheless risk the everlasting torment of creatures he would infinitely love were he to create them? No benevolent God would (rationally) do so. So on the supposition that God is love and that he creates freely, it seemed to follow for me (again, this was before I ran into Hart) that not even the possibility of everlasting loss or torment could be part of the project.
How do I love such a God who would consciously and with intent of will create sentient beings capable of suffering, knowing in advance (omnisceince) that the majority of them will spend forever in the most horrendous of torments? This a vision of God which is morally repulsive, and Hart states as much in his abrasive and totally understandable disparagement of the heresy of Calvinism’s gloomy God. In light of my inability to live the kind of sinless and perfect life of the Monks of Mt. Athos – it is also about the most depressing thing I could envision. Yet people talk about such an understanding of God, humanity and hell as reality, and do so without the slightest of concerns for their fellow travellers on this poor, sin-cursed planet. Which leads me to think this:
Where is your love for your fellow man?
If the greatest of all virtues, the crowning glory of man’s existence, and that which is taught by Christ and the Apostles is love – that is, a complete and self-sacrificing love for others as exhibited by Christ dying on the Cross – then how are you not in constant tears for the repentance and salvation of others? How are you not on the streets handing out tracts, knocking on doors, posting on Facebook, or using any means you can to warn people that they are in grave danger of suffering eternally? Do you spend hours in prayer for the salvation of all mankind? It is my opinion that if you are not doing these things, you are showing that you have no love at all for your fellow man, which in turn would lead me to conclude that your comfortable little space of salvation could well be intruded by a reality which will shock you – you didn’t love others, therefore, you get to go to hell and suffer right along with them.
It is depressing to me to reflect upon the possibility that perhaps the hellists are correct – that God is just out to get His revenge on the human race for the high indignity and insult to Him of our sins. It is even more depressing how blithely and without reflection the arguments for Apokatastasis – from St. Gregory of Nyssa to Dr. Hart’s philosophical ruminations – are dismissed out of hand without the slightest concern from those who disagree with the idea that eternal torment is unjust. I get the feeling that those who approach the argument in this manner are quite similar to a discussion which took place at Emmanuel Baptist Church some forty years ago.
It was after the morning worship service and I found myself in a conversation regarding the fate of those who had never heard of Christ or the Good News of God’s forgiveness. The tenor of the answer was that going to hell would be their own fault – and perfectly right for God to do to them – for being pagans. As I exited the church, the thing that struck me about the answer was the comfortableness with which it was given, as if, “I got my salvation. If you turn down Christ and go to hell, well, too bad for you.” It is an attitude akin to that loathsome little ditty I once heard, “O Happy Fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer. “
Happy Fault??? Really?? A fault that results, according to Roman Catholic saints and “visionaries” in almost all of humanity going into eternal suffering? Not a “Happy Fault” at all for the 95% of all sinners who are going to bust hell wide open and suffer forever, according to St. Leonard of Port Maurice. I cannot think of a more utterly selfish and despicable saying. Sure, it’s a “Happy Fault” for you – you selfish little bastard! But for all those who are howling in misery (according to your hellist beliefs) I don’t think it was all that happy an event. And as my again apologetic use of coarse language indicates, it makes me quite angry!!
And then it just depresses me. IF it is true, if the supposedly “infallible Church,” and the “infallible councils,” and the infallible pronouncements of popes and bishops, East and West, are all true, and eternal, conscious torment is true, then it is most depressing. How can it not be, unless you are a person who doesn’t think on such things. My mind works like a spring-loaded Rube Goldberg invention, one sequence of questions and answers triggering the next and the next and the next.
If hell is true, then God created us with that in mind and with full intention that this be the ultimate end for millions – depressing!
If hell is true, then the character of God cannot possibly be within the normal definition of love, i.e. to care and act only for the good of the other – depressing!
If the character of God is therefore not love, then how do I approach such an august and fearful Being with confidence that I am loved and forgiven – depressing!
If hell is true, then I am going there because I am so full of faults and sins that at the Judgment Seat of Christ, I will probably only find condemnation – depressing!
If hell is true, then why would God allows us to be deceived by Satan, false teachings, false religions, and our own corrupt natures, all of which He allows to work on us day and night to trip us up so that we end up condemned – depressing!
The odd part is how utterly happy the hellists are with their vision of millions suffering without respite. How blithely they write off such suffering with statements such as, “They deserve it because of their sins and offenses against God.” Perhaps these happy hellists have not a real vision of the depths of their own sins and a fear of sin for themselves. It is said of the saints of Mt. Athos that they live in a state of repentance, such as St. Sisoes:
When St Sisoës lay upon his deathbed, the disciples surrounding the Elder saw that his face shone like the sun. They asked the dying man what he saw. Abba Sisoës replied that he saw St Anthony, the Prophets, and the Apostles. His face increased in brightness, and he spoke with someone. The monks asked, “With whom are you speaking, Father?” He said that angels had come for his soul, and he was entreating them to give him a little more time for repentance. The monks said, “You have no need for repentance, Father” St Sisoës said with great humility, “I do not think that I have even begun to repent.”
After these words the face of the holy abba shone so brightly that the brethren were not able to look upon him. St Sisoës told them that he saw the Lord Himself. Then there was a flash like lightning, and a fragrant odor, and Abba Sisoës departed to the Heavenly Kingdom.
Repentance? Pfffffffttttt!!! Not the hellists who so determinedly pronounce doom upon the human race. They have prayed their Rosaries, they have “Asked Jaaaaaayzuz into their hearts as ‘personal Lord and Savior'” (an act which is surprisingly not found anywhere in Scripture nor the Early Fathers), they have done their Brown Scapulars, Green Scapulars, and every First Friday and Saturday they can, (also not found in Scripture or Fathers) and through all this, are no doubt absolutely assured that they are going to at least make Purgatory (or in the case of non-purgatorial Protestants, get the Daily Express directly to St. Peter), and therefore such musings on hell, the acts of God, and the fate of others, really don’t concern them.
When you think you yourself have it made, it is hard to care about the morality of leaving others behind to suffer their fate. Be glad you got out, be happy you have a wonderful Savior, and for the rest – meaaaaah…….too bad. It’s kind of like the rich in this country. They talk all piously about their concern for the poor, but do they actually sacrificially give to help the poor? Fat chance! They have theirs, the world is a good place, and how dare you suggest that they don’t need a personal reserve wealth of several million (or billion) dollars!!
Yet hellists will tell you, with a straight face – and apparently utter sincere intent – that this God they have conjured up is just. This God in which they believe is completely just in creating in foreknowledge a humanity that is doomed from the moment of conception to an existence of utter despair, pain, and sorrow, without any chance of remediation or repentance.
Sorry. I’m not buying it.
And it depresses me to no end to be put under the pressure of being a “good Catholic” or a “faithful Christian” or just to avoid being a heretic, I must believe in this unjust concept of God which is as far from a loving heavenly Father as black is from white.